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People usually define holiness as being set apart. The more I study holiness I see the set apart piece as more the result of holiness than the definition of holiness. It is like equating a car with the road. Cars are meant to be on roads but cars aren’t the road. Holiness is sacred. It is pure. The result of that purity is that holy things find their own space where the impure and immoral things have to be kept at a distance. The result is holy things and holy people are set apart.

3 Responses

  1. Another great emphasis when “holy,” “holiness” appear throughout Leviticus (and a theme also in Hebrews) is fitness to approach the ALTOGETHER-HOLY ONE, namely God–and especially to approach him as a priest bearing sacrifice or offering. Although Jesus alone can bring the acceptable sin offering of his own faithful human life lived in loving relationship with the Father, we are also priests who bring sacriifices of praise, thanksgiving and good works (Heb 13:15-16). a holy nation and a royal priesthood as Israel.was called to be, Holiness is not static but is a qualification for priestly ministry.

  2. I’ve had some questions bouncing around my head for awhile related to the “set-apart” part of how we usually define “holy” as it relates to God. I’m not sure how this meshes with your question of “set apart” as holiness or as result of holiness. =)

    I can start with “Holy” God as unfathomably pure, unstained, immeasurably good, limitless love, unrestrained beauty.

    But the “set apart” part has recently become confusing to me, especially when used to describe God. And even more when used to explain why penal substitutionary atonement theory is equated with the answer to “what is the gospel?”: [God is so holy (set apart) and we are so sinful that he can’t be near us unless Jesus takes the punishment for us]

    If Jesus is supposed to be the lens through which we see and come to know God, then the ”set-apart” definition gets fuzzy for me. Jesus spent so much time with sinners, broken people, folks who definitely fell into the impure and immoral category, so if Jesus is how I should see God, shouldn’t I conclude that God is already able to be among the broken, the messy, the impure? (Instead of far-removed until that particular atonement theory is satisfied?)

    In the God-is-holy-set-apart-can’t-be-near-us-until-Jesus-takes-our-punishment thinking, it almost feels as if God’s holiness isn’t quite strong enough, and we think our unholy brokenness and sin might be contagious and rub off on him.

    But what if it’s his supreme loving Holiness that allows God to be close to sinners without any diminishing of his Holiness? That is Holiness is so unfathomably HOLY that it’s his holiness that’s contagious and might start to rub off on us?

    Now THAT matches up with the Jesus I see in the Gospels.

  3. Alan & Rachel,
    Thank you for a most intriguing comment! Is the view of God as too Holy to associate with sinners (in spite of His continued love and acceptance of Israel as shown in the prophet Hosea) one of the things that makes people adopt a “holier than thou” attitude toward sinners. As you point out, this attitude is diametrically opposite of Jesus. Yet, Jesus said, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.”

    Most intriguing!

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