What does it mean to be holy?


By BibleAsk Team

To explore the concept of holiness in the Bible is to delve into a profound theme that encompasses both the character of God and the call to moral and spiritual purity for believers. Throughout the Old and New Testaments, the concept of holiness is woven into the fabric of divine revelation, offering insights into God’s nature, His expectations for His people, and the transformative power of His grace. In this exploration, we will delve into what it means to be holy in the Bible, drawing upon key passages from the Bible to elucidate its significance and implications.

The Holiness of God

At the heart of the biblical understanding of holiness is the transcendent purity and perfection of God Himself. God’s holiness is His essential attribute, which sets Him apart from all created beings and defines His moral excellence and absolute righteousness.

Leviticus 19:2 declares, “Speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy'” (Leviticus 19:2 NKJV). This commandment reflects the foundational principle of holiness in the Old Testament, rooted in the character of God Himself. As the holy God, Yahweh calls His people to reflect His moral purity and devotion in their lives.

Isaiah 6:3 offers a vision of the seraphim in the presence of God, crying out, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!” (Isaiah 6:3 NKJV). This triple repetition of “holy” underscores the incomparable majesty and perfection of God’s holiness, which fills the heavens and the earth with His glory.

Revelation 4:8 presents a similar vision of heavenly worship, as the four living creatures around the throne of God never cease to proclaim, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” (Revelation 4:8 NKJV). This eternal hymn of praise magnifies the unchanging holiness and sovereignty of God throughout all ages. The holiness of God serves as the ultimate standard of moral purity and spiritual perfection, against which all human actions and intentions are measured. God’s holiness inspires awe, reverence, and adoration, prompting His people to worship Him in spirit and truth.

Holiness as Moral Purity

In addition to reflecting the character of God, holiness in the Bible is associated with moral purity and obedience to God’s commands. The call to holiness entails living a life of righteousness, integrity, and devotion to God, in accordance with His will and standards.

Leviticus 20:7-8 outlines the importance of holiness in the lives of God’s people: “Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am the Lord your God. And you shall keep My statutes, and perform them: I am the Lord who sanctifies you” (Leviticus 20:7-8 NKJV). This passage emphasizes the inseparable connection between holiness and obedience to God’s commandments. Those who are set apart as holy are called to live in accordance with God’s revealed will, demonstrating their commitment to His covenant and their allegiance to His sovereignty.

1 Peter 1:15-16 applies the principle of holiness to believers in the New Testament era: “But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy'” (1 Peter 1:15-16 NKJV). This exhortation echoes the Old Testament injunction to imitate God’s holiness in every aspect of life. Believers are called to embody the moral purity and spiritual devotion exemplified by God Himself, as a reflection of their identity as His chosen people and heirs of His kingdom.

Hebrews 12:14 underscores the pursuit of holiness as an ongoing process of sanctification: “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14 NKJV). This verse highlights the imperative of actively pursuing holiness as a lifestyle characterized by peace, reconciliation, and moral purity. Holiness is not merely a passive state of being but an active pursuit of conformity to the image of Christ, empowered by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.

Separation from Sin and Worldliness

Another aspect of holiness in the Bible is the call to separation from sin and worldliness, in order to be consecrated to God’s purposes and kingdom. Holiness involves being set apart from the corruption and defilement of the world and consecrated to the service of God and His kingdom.

2 Corinthians 6:17-18 exhorts believers to separate themselves from the influence of sin and idolatry: “Therefore ‘Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty'” (2 Corinthians 6:17-18 NKJV). This call to separation underscores the importance of maintaining spiritual purity and integrity in a world characterized by moral compromise and spiritual darkness. Believers are called to stand apart from the values and practices of the world and to live as citizens of God’s kingdom, guided by the principles of righteousness and truth.

James 4:4 warns against the dangers of friendship with the world: “Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4 NKJV). This admonition highlights the inherent conflict between the values of the kingdom of God and the values of the world. Holiness requires a deliberate choice to align one’s allegiance and affections with God’s kingdom rather than the fleeting pleasures and pursuits of the world.

1 John 2:15-17 exhorts believers to prioritize spiritual values over worldly desires: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:15-17 NKJV). This passage emphasizes the transient nature of worldly pursuits and the enduring significance of obedience to God’s will. Holiness entails a radical reorientation of priorities and affections, focusing on the eternal values of God’s kingdom rather than the temporal pleasures of the world.

Holiness as Wholeness and Dedication to God

In addition to its moral and ethical dimensions, holiness in the Bible encompasses the idea of wholeness, completeness, and dedication to God’s purposes. Holiness involves consecrating every aspect of life to God’s service and glorifying Him in body, soul, and spirit.

Romans 12:1-2 calls believers to present their bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:1-2 NKJV). This passage emphasizes the holistic nature of holiness, encompassing every aspect of life—body, mind, and spirit. Believers are called to offer themselves fully to God’s service, surrendering their wills and desires to His transformative power.

1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 expresses the desire for believers to be sanctified completely, in spirit, soul, and body: “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 NKJV). This prayer reflects the apostle Paul’s desire for believers to experience the fullness of sanctification, resulting in wholeness and integrity in every dimension of their being. Holiness is not a partial or superficial experience but a transformative process that encompasses the entirety of one’s existence, leading to spiritual maturity and conformity to the image of Christ.

Hebrews 13:20-21 invokes a benediction for believers to be equipped for every good work through the sanctifying work of God’s Spirit: “Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen” (Hebrews 13:20-21 NKJV). This passage highlights the transformative power of God’s grace to enable believers to live lives of holiness and service, empowered by His Spirit and guided by His Word.


In conclusion, the concept of holiness in the Bible encompasses theological, moral, and spiritual dimensions. At its core, holiness reflects the transcendent purity and perfection of God Himself, setting Him apart as the ultimate standard of moral excellence and spiritual purity. As recipients of God’s grace and redemption, believers are called to reflect His holiness in their lives, embodying moral purity, spiritual devotion, and separation from sin and worldliness.

Holiness involves consecrating every aspect of life to God’s service, surrendering one’s will and desires to His transformative power, and striving for wholeness and integrity in body, soul, and spirit. Through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit and the empowering grace of God, believers are enabled to pursue lives of holiness and righteousness, glorifying God in all that they do. As the apostle Peter exhorts, “Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless” (2 Peter 3:14 NKJV). May we, as God’s chosen people, strive to live lives of holiness and devotion, reflecting His glory and grace to a world in need of His redeeming love.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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