Note: Have your Bible open as you read this post, so you can look up each reference for yourself.
Peter tells us,
“As obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; 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 1:14-15).
We’ve already learned that to be holy means to be “set apart for a specific purpose.” So my next question was, “Why was I, Anne Elliott, set apart?”
Think about it! God, majestic and mighty and creator of the universe, looked down at all the people on earth, throughout all time, and chose — me?!
Why would God choose me for a specific purpose? I seriously have no idea! I cannot comprehend it.
Isaiah felt like this. He wrote,
“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw YHVH sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said:
“‘Holy, holy, holy is YHVH of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!’
“And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke.
“So I said: ‘Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, YHVH of hosts'” (Isaiah 6:1-5).
God was incredibly set apart, “holy,” lifted high above all mankind and any glory that Isaiah could imagine! Even the angels could not describe Him, saying “holy, holy, holy” three times to emphasize how set apart He was.
The only thing Isaiah could do was cry out that he was “unclean,” just as a leper cries “unclean” when he approaches any other person.
Yet this set-apart and mighty God chose Isaiah and set him apart for a specific purpose (Isaiah 6:8). God cleansed Isaiah with a coal from the altar of sacrifice, and the blood of Yeshua has cleansed me from all sin, too.
“Then the priest shall offer the sin offering, and make atonement for him who is to be cleansed from his uncleanness” (Leviticus 14:19).
“But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Yeshua the Messiah His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
Like Isaiah, God chose me by His Spirit so that I also would be holy, set-apart and clean, to be used for a specific purpose.
“To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints [set apart]” (Romans 1:7).
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy [set apart], acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1).
“That I might be a minister of Yeshua the Messiah to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering of the Gentiles might be acceptable, sanctified [set apart] by the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:16).
“To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified [set apart] in Messiah Yeshua, called to be saints [set apart], with all who in every place call on the name of Yeshua Messiah our Master, both theirs and ours” (1 Corinthians 1:2).
“Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love” (Ephesians 1:4).
“Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see YHVH” (Hebrews 12:14).
“Peter, an apostle of Yeshua the Messiah, to the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Yeshua the Messiah” (1 Peter 1:1-2).
It’s not enough for me to be chosen and set apart. God did it for a “specific purpose.” Can you see what that purpose is?
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Messiah Yeshua for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10).
“Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering” (Colossians 3:12).
“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).
Yes, we are “set apart” to be “set apart,” which seems to mean that we are to do good works.
According to Ephesians 2:8-9, we don’t do good works to become set apart. No, we are only chosen because the Spirit of God did a miraculous work in our hearts, by no effort of our own. God’s Spirit has already sanctified us, or set us apart. However, because He chose us, He gives us the set-apart task of being different from the world, by the good things we do.
Just as the Holy Spirit set us apart so that we would be set apart, the Word of God sets us apart so that we will proclaim the Word of God.
We are set apart by the word of God…
“Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17).
…so that we will proclaim the word of God.
“And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31).
“That I might be a minister of Yeshua the Messiah to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering of the Gentiles might be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:16).
Note that proclaiming His praises by sharing what He has done is our “priestly duty.”
“You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Yeshua the Messiah… But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:5, 9).
We are also sanctified (set apart) so that we will keep the commands of God.
“For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them” (2 Peter 2:21).
“Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good” (Romans 7:12).
“Here is the patience of the saints [set-apart ones]; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus” (Revelation 14:12).
In fact, John tells us that the way others can look at our lives and know we are saints [set-apart ones] is because we keep God’s commands.
“Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked” (1 John 2:3-6).
“Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Yeshua the Messiah Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in YHVH” (Ephesians 2:19-21).
If I am set apart for a specific purpose, then obviously if I go back to my former purpose, I won’t be set apart any more.
If I am not set apart and clean, God will not use me.
If, in my old life, my purpose was to live in wickedness and uncleanness, then my new purpose is to be righteous and clean.
Holiness is to be separated from uncleanness.
“I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life” (Romans 6:19-22).
“If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are” (1 Corinthians 3:17).
“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? ..And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Master Yeshua and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).
“But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints” (Ephesians 5:3).
“…in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight” (Colossians 1:22).
“Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Master Yeshua that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God; for you know what commandments we gave you through the Master Yeshua. For this is the will of God, your sanctification. …For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 4:1-8).
“But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work. Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on YHVH out of a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:20-22).
“Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness” (2 Peter 3:11).
The apostle Peter wrote that it is urgently important for us to be holy.
“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).
Peter says, “It is written,” to remind his readers that he wasn’t making up a new commandment; rather, he was quoting from the oldest part of the Bible, the Torah.
I probably wouldn’t have noticed this myself, except that my Bible has a footnote to tell me where he’s quoting from. The footnotes tell me that he is quoting from Leviticus 11.
“You shall not make yourselves abominable with any creeping thing that creeps; nor shall you make yourselves unclean with them, lest you be defiled by them. For I am YHVH your God. You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy. Neither shall you defile yourselves with any creeping thing that creeps on the earth. For I am YHVH who brings you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy. This is the law of the animals and the birds and every living creature that moves in the waters, and of every creature that creeps on the earth, to distinguish between the unclean and the clean, and between the animal that may be eaten and the animal that may not be eaten.” (Leviticus 11:43-47).
The apostle John wrote something very similar in his first letter.
“Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.
“Brethren, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you heard from the beginning” (1 John 2:3-7).
In Greek, the word message is logos. This same word is also used in John’s gospel:
“In the beginning was the Word [logos], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:1-3).
The “beginning” referred to by John is the creation of the world, which is recorded for us in Genesis, in the beginning of the Torah.
The message of the Bible never changes from beginning to end. The Word, with a capital W, is Yeshua, the logos “made flesh” (John 1:14) and the One who came to live among us, Immanuel, or “God with us” (Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23). Just as Yeshua cannot change (Hebrews 13:8), neither do His commands and teachings change (Psalm 105:8, Isaiah 40:8).
I had often heard as a Christian that I was to live a holy life. However, I was also frustrated by the different opinions of what holiness means. For instance, a simple Google search brought up the following:
- Holiness means to be morally good.
- Holiness means to be unique.
- Holiness means to belong to God.
- Holiness means to live with God.
- Holiness means to be a light.
- Holiness means to be distinct from the world.
- Holiness means to have a right relationship with God.
- Holiness means to study God’s Word and grow in it.
- Holiness means to be a saint.
- Holiness is goodness.
- Holiness is the sum of all God’s attributes.
- “NO man can determine what acts, thoughts and lifestyle are Holy. It is only with the aid of the Holy Spirit we can do this.”
Are you with me that this is as clear as mud?!
Exactly how am I supposed to be holy?
It all seems rather vague…
This is precisely why verses like the following make me pause:
“Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see YHVH” (Hebrews 12:14).
I am guessing I’m not the first person to wonder these things, for in the acrostic poem written to help young Hebrew children learn their aleph bet, the Psalmist says,
“How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word” (Psalm 119:9).
We become holy, pure, and clean by living according to the Word of God. My Google search basically said the same thing, but now I’m wondering if the Torah gives a specific definition of what it means to be holy, pure, and clean.
Let’s start with the passage in Leviticus that Peter quoted:
“Now YHVH spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying to them, ‘Speak to the children of Israel, saying, “These are the animals which you may eat among all the animals that are on the earth: Among the animals, whatever divides the hoof, having cloven hooves and chewing the cud—that you may eat. Nevertheless these you shall not eat among those that chew the cud or those that have cloven hooves: the camel, because it chews the cud but does not have cloven hooves, is unclean to you…
“These you may eat of all that are in the water: whatever in the water has fins and scales, whether in the seas or in the rivers—that you may eat…
“By these you shall become unclean; whoever touches the carcass of any of them shall be unclean until evening…
“You shall not make yourselves abominable with any creeping thing that creeps; nor shall you make yourselves unclean with them, lest you be defiled by them. For I am YHVH your God. You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy. Neither shall you defile yourselves with any creeping thing that creeps on the earth. For I am YHVH who brings you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.
“This is the law of the animals and the birds and every living creature that moves in the waters, and of every creature that creeps on the earth, to distinguish between the unclean and the clean, and between the animal that may be eaten and the animal that may not be eaten” (Leviticus 11:1-4, 9, 24, 43-47).
Again, I was looking for specifics — and this is specific — but… seriously?
My search took me much further, to lists of many more specific things that God defines as “clean,” which we’ll discuss further in an upcoming chapter.
- Touching dead animals is unclean (Leviticus 5:2 and 17:15).
- Women are unclean for a number of days after childbirth and during their periods (Leviticus 12:2).
- Contagious skin diseases are unclean (Leviticus 13:3, 46).
- Clothing contaminated by certain types of mildew are unclean (Leviticus 13:59).
- Homes contaminated by certain types of mildew are unclean (Leviticus 14:33-57).
- Various bodily fluids are unclean (Leviticus 15).
- It is unclean for a man to marry his brother’s wife (Leviticus 20:21).
- Places where people have died (such as graveyards and battlefields) are unclean (Numbers 19:14-16).
- Lips can be unclean (Isaiah 6:5).
- Evil spirits are unclean (Matthew 10:1, 12:43).
- A land where idols are worshiped is unclean (Joshua 22:19, Ezra 9:11, Zechariah 13:2).
God was very, very specific when He said,
“For YHVH your God walks in the midst of your camp, to deliver you and give your enemies over to you; therefore your camp shall be holy, that He may see no unclean thing among you, and turn away from you” (Deuteronomy 23:14).
He obviously took his specific commands of cleanliness seriously!
We find that God’s people knew what God’s definition of “clean and unclean” were, even before the time of Moses. For instance, Job lived shortly after the Flood, and he understood God’s definition of holiness:
“Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? No one!” (Job 14:4).
“They die in youth, and their life is among the unclean” (Job 36:14).
Even before that, Noah understood how to tell which animals were clean and which were unclean:
“Then YHVH said to Noah, ‘Come into the ark, you and all your household, because I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation. You shall take with you seven each of every clean animal, a male and his female; two each of animals that are unclean, a male and his female; also seven each of birds of the air, male and female, to keep the species alive on the face of all the earth'” (Genesis 7:1-3).
It seems likely to me that this knowledge wasn’t passed on from generation to generation, as it should have been, so that by the time of Moses, the godly line of Israel didn’t know what clean meant any more. (Search sometime for how many times Moses told the people to “remember.”)
As John said,
“Brethren, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you heard from the beginning” (1 John 2:7).
Here we are, thousands of years later, and it seems to me that believers have not been taught any specific definitions of holiness. We have been left to do what is “right in our own eyes” (Judges 2:11; 21:25). We’re sincerely trying to obey God — but if the definitions of “clean” in the Torah are correct, we are sincerely missing the mark!
“Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped… A highway shall be there, and a road, and it shall be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean shall not pass over it, but it shall be for others. Whoever walks the road, although a fool, shall not go astray” (Isaiah 35:5, 8).
“The Spirit of YHVH God is upon Me, because YHVH has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound… To console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of YHVH, that He may be glorified… But you shall be named the priests of YHVH, they shall call you the servants of our God. You shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, and in their glory you shall boast… And they shall call them ‘The Holy People,’ ‘The Redeemed of YHVH’; and you shall be called ‘Sought Out,’ ‘A City Not Forsaken'” (Isaiah 61:1, 3, 6; 62:12).
“Yeshua answered and said to them, ‘Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them'” (Matthew 11:4-5).
“But we are all like an unclean thing,
And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags;
We all fade as a leaf,
And our iniquities, like the wind,
Have taken us away” (Isaiah 64:6).
“‘Come out from among them and be separate,’ says YHVH. ‘Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you'” (2 Corinthians 6:17).
Israel was judged because she refused to “come out from among them” and be clean.
“Her priests have violated My law and profaned My holy things; they have not distinguished between the holy and unholy, nor have they made known the difference between the unclean and the clean; and they have hidden their eyes from My Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them” (Ezekiel 22:26).
In fact, these things were given as the reason why the House of Israel was kicked out of the Promised Land and sent into Exile!
“They shall not dwell in YHVH’s land, but Ephraim shall return to Egypt, and shall eat unclean things in Assyria” (Hosea 9:3).
We have learned before that this world lives according to the system of Babylon, a system which God defines as unclean in every possible way.
“And he cried mightily with a loud voice, saying, ‘Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird!'” (Revelation 18:2).
And so Peter wrote to the first-century believers,
“…as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; 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 1:14-16).
“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.
“Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:9-12).
God told Aaron and the priests,
“…that you may distinguish between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean, and that you may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which YHVH has spoken to them by the hand of Moses” (Leviticus 10:10-11).
As a member of the chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and a people belonging to God, I also have a responsibility to distinguish between the holy and the common, between the unclean and the clean. And I must also teach this to others!
God never changes. Even in the millennium, the priests of God will be commanded to “teach my people the difference between the holy and the common and show them how to distinguish between the unclean and the clean” (Ezekiel 44:23, Revelation 20:6).
And at the end of time, in God’s Holy City, a city set apart and pure, we see that “nothing impure [Greek koinoō, or unclean] will ever enter it.”
“But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life” (Revelation 21:27). (See also Isaiah 65:17-66:24.)
I am thankful for the blood of Yeshua, which cleansed me from all my uncleanness:
“For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Messiah, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:13-14).
I have been cleansed, but this doesn’t give me license to do things God calls impure.
“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (Romans 6:1-2).
And so if God’s Word doesn’t change and He is always the same, then Peter’s words make more sense:
“Peter, an apostle of Yeshua Messiah, to the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Yeshua Messiah: Grace to you and peace be multiplied” (1 Peter 1:1-2).
It’s important to know what YHVH commands! It is important to be clean!
All Scripture in this blog post taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.