You shall be Holy

Malcolm Baker delves into Scripture to understand the true meaning of holiness

“You shall be holy to me, for I the Lord am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine” (Leviticus 20:26). This verse from Leviticus explains that to be holy, one is not necessarily morally pure, as many suppose. Scripture shows that God sometimes required the prophets to act beyond or even contrary to the Law. Elijah was required to eat unclean food (1 Kings 17:2-6); Hosea to marry an adulteress (Hosea 1: 2-3; 3:1); and Isaiah to appear naked in public for three years (Isaiah 20: 2-4). Holiness is that one is separated from all other peoples, by the Lord, to the Lord. We are His possession.

The verses in Genesis 2:2-3 do not contain any anthropomorphic expressions. This teaches us, particularly in the account of creation, how great the gulf is between the Creator and the created. The verb wayyišbōth has been translated or interpreted incorrectly as if to signify ‘to rest’ or to ‘cease work’ . There is no mention of rest or refreshment in this particular portion of Scripture. It is rather, ‘and He abstained from His work.’  God is separate from His creation.  When history began, there was only one holiness in the world, holiness in time.  The first thing God made holy was a portion of time, the seventh day. God separated the light from the darkness.

Genesis 1:6 should not read, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it separate (wᵉyabhdēl) the waters from the waters” – The text is wīhīmabhdīl – and ‘let it be a separator’ , meaning ‘and let it be the means that I shall use for the purpose of separating the waters from the waters’ . Again, it is not called holy. God is the subject, not the firmament; and God is doing the separating. The Cross is the Separator that God uses to separate mankind/humankind. We see in the New Testament that the sheep are separated from the goats (Matthew 25:31-46) – light is separated from darkness.  See also, “…. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14).

Separated from – Separated unto

Fundamental to a person becoming a believer in Yeshua HaMashiach is holiness – We are separated unto God, holy to the Lord. We are to be separated from sin, Satan, the world and the flesh. “For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son” (Colossians 1:13). We are to have no other gods before Him.

Gentile believers are grafted into the cultivated olive tree, and if the root is holy the whole tree is holy (Romans 11:15-16). Only God can do that. He says in Leviticus 20:8, “I am the Lord, who makes you holy.” God alone is intrinsically holy; anything or anyone else derives its holiness from God’s holiness when they are set apart in an exclusive relationship with Him, and consecrated for His service.  “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Colossians 3:12.

God commanded His servant, Moses, to speak to the whole assembly of Israel, “Be holy because, I, the Lord your God, am holy” (Leviticus 19:2). This verse gives a rationale for the commandment: Israel must be holy because God is holy. To have and to remain in a close relationship with Him, the people must, in New Testament (B’rit Chadasha) language, walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16). “The Spirit of truth goes out from the Father” (John 15:26). The Spirit enables believers “who walk according to the Spirit” to fulfil the righteous requirements of the Torah (Romans 8:4), which is “holy, righteous and good” (Romans 7:12). If we live in the court of the King we can walk in the Spirit of the King, the Spirit of holiness (Romans 1:4) and glorify Him in our lives.  Both the Torah and the Spirit are holy and they call forth holiness in the people of God. The Torah was written by the “finger of God” (Exodus 31:18), a Hebrew idiom for the “Spirit of God” (Luke 11:20; Matthew 12:28).

Made in God’s Image

There is the story in the Gospel of Mark where Yeshua was questioned by some Pharisees.  Trying to trap Yeshua they asked Him if it is right to pay taxes to Caesar or not (Mark 12:12-17). Yeshua asked the Pharisees whose image and whose inscription was on the denarius they handed to Him. “Caesar’s” they responded. Yeshua said, “Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s”. Man is made in the image of God, therefore we should render to God what is His. “Therefore, I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual (reasonable) act of worship.” (Romans 12:1; see also John 4:24). That is separation unto the Lord. “Consecrate (sanctify) yourselves and be holy” (Leviticus 20:7), and the next verse in Romans 12:2 speaks of separation from the world. “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:1-2: Heb. 10:20).  Leave behind the pattern and image of this world. You bear the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26; Ephesians 4:24). You are holy so be holy – “But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do, for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’  Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives in reverent fear during your temporary stay on earth.…” (1 Peter 1:15-17).

Called to be saints

“To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints…” or, ‘called to be God’s holy people’ (Romans 1:7). God’s calling is now extended to the Gentiles. The wild olive branch (consisting of Gentile believers) is grafted by God, into the cultivated olive tree. The root is holy (Romans 1:5); Jew and Gentile are supported by the root (Romans 11:18). Gentile believers, along with the Jews, are God’s possession. We are holy because God is holy. The vessels in the Temple were holy because they were set apart unto God. God’s grace, His redemptive initiative, saves us and separates us from all others; but we in turn are expected to take the covenant responsibility of walking in that distinction, in holiness. “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9). His Spirit sets us apart as a holy people, and keeping His commandments sanctifies us i.e. we are commanded to become that which we are in Him. “Be holy, because I am holy” (Lev. 11:44; 1 Pet. 1:16). 

In Ezekiel Ch. 22:26, we see the opposite of the Hebrew word, ‘kadosh/holy’ .  Ezekiel declares: “Her priests do violence to my law and they profane my holy things.”  ‘Profane’ is the opposite of ‘holy’ . He is saying the priests “do not distinguish (mark off, separate) between the holy and the common; they teach that there is no difference between the unclean and the clean; and they shut their eyes to the keeping of my Sabbath, so that I am profaned among them.”  Similarly, congregations today are profaning God’s name by not distinguishing between the holy and the profane. Examples are where ministers teach homosexuality, lesbianism, transgenderism and transsexualism (Gender Dysphoria) as being normal, natural relationships and behaviours, and are blessed by God if relationships are “loving” and “long-term” . In truth, the sexual revolution and the LGBT movement are manifestations of God’s judgment (Romans Ch. 1). There are 1gay affirming Christian churches and denominations.  God’s name is being profaned by those He has called to be holy, because He is holy. Jesus’ new commandment about love is that we love one another the way He has loved us. It is not a new commandment to love, because that commandment is already in the Torah. Jesus did not change God’s law of love to suit man’s perversion of love. “Loving” homosexual relationships and marriage are not found in the Kingdom of God. Those that believe they do will be like the man at the wedding feast who wore the wrong clothes (Matthew 22:1-14). God’s law of love transcends man’s ideas of love (John 2:3-17).


To live a holy, consecrated life means, becoming that which you already are; that is to live according to the laws of the Kingdom, and walk as King Yeshua did. “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).  To walk in the Spirit is to walk in obedience.

Return to the Lord

Perhaps the greatest challenge and call to the Church today is to: “Pursue…. holiness, without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14; 1 Peter 1:14-16; Micah 6:68).  Does the world see God in you and me?

“Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity” (Hosea 14:1).  Returning to the Lord includes keeping His commandments – Living in His Kingdom in His way (Nehemiah 1:9; Job 22:23).

The Hebrew word ‘kadosh’ has its source in the root word, ‘kadash’ . It means to mark off, to divide, or to separate; it speaks of being unique, different, distinct, or ‘other than’ . God’s holiness is emphasised in Isaiah 6:3, “And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory,” and in Revelation 4:8, “And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, ‘HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is THE LORD GOD, THE ALMIGHTY, WHO WAS AND WHO IS AND WHO IS TO COME.’”

Worship the Lord

“Worship the Lord in holy attire; Tremble before Him, all the earth” (Psalm 96:9).  ‘Behadrath kodesh’ signifies “holy ornaments,” such as the high priest wore in his ministrations. The clothing was for glory and beauty. The High Priest is to put on his sacerdotal garments to bring his minchah (offering), to enter the courts of the Lord to perform his functions.  Galatians 3:27 speaks of those that have been baptised as having clothed themselves with Messiah; while Romans 13:14 says, “Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Yeshua Messiah, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.”





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