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What Does it Mean to be Holy?


A Vague Term

Holiness. That word is thrown around a lot in Christian circles. People always quote Peter 1:16, "Be Holy for I am Holy". We are told to be like God and to be Holy, but I think that often we do not know what it means to BE HOLY. Often, because the term is somewhat vague to the average believer, we equate holiness with many different things--Perfection, Love, Discipleship, Evangelizing. These understanding of Holiness are not wrong, they are just incomplete and thus, I intend to look at the Greek and Hebrew usage of the word "Holy" to better understand how to live out a Holy life.

The Greek and Hebrew

I normally wouldn't use the KJV, but for the the purposes of using "Strongs Concordance", that is the translation I will be using for the Text portion of this hub.

Qodesh-- The Hebrew word for "Holy" is "Qodesh" (קֹדֶשׁ) and it appears 468 times in the Old testament. It's meaning in equivalent to "apart-ness" or "separateness." The Hebrews did not have superlatives in their language, choosing instead to repeat the word. Therefore every time you see "Most Holy" in the Old Testament its really saying "Qadowsh Qadowsh Qadowsh", or "Holy Holy Holy" (that which is MOST set apart).

Hagios-- The Greek word for "Holy" is "Hagios" (αγιος) and it appears 229 times in the New Testament. It also carries the meaning of being "set apart" or "separate" but more so in the sense of "without sin".


Holiness: To Be Set Apart

Therefore to be Holy is to be set apart. Set apart from what? The World. We are told that we are "in the world" (John 17:11) but that we are not "of the world" (John 17:16). Brothers and Sisters, we have been made for something greater than this earth, we were set apart for the joys of heaven, for complete unity with God!

How do we live set apart? We do not succumb to the temptations of this world, but to the pull of heaven and live in the example of Christ. We set ourselves apart by being wholly Christian, doing that which distinguishes us from the rest of the world. I am not saying we must distance ourselves from unbelievers. I am not saying dancing, alcohol, or playing cards is evil. If you choose to do such things in the name of holiness, in the name of setting yourself apart, that is your prerogative. Rather, I suggest we set ourselves apart by showing our joy, our peace, and our love. All three of these things come fully only from Christ, and thus those who are set apart by Christ and for Christ should be able to exemplify them to those who are not yet in Christ, but still of the World. I believe 1 Peter 3:15 says this succinctly "But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" (NIV).

One more note. Being Holy is nearly synonymous with being "anointed". To be "anointed" means to be consecrated, which in turn, means to be "set apart for a purpose". So what are we anointed, or set apart, to do? To have faith, hope, and love in Christ and in doing so, to be a witness to the world.

Have you set yourself apart today?

© 2010 R D Langr


R D Langr (author) from Minnesota on February 19, 2014:

Thanks! I would agree with that definition. God desires salvation for all people.

Ann1Az2 from Orange, Texas on February 19, 2014:

I loved the Hebrew and Greek definitions you explained. I would add that being holy involves us also being set apart as God's chosen people (all believers, not just the Jewish as in the Old Testament). God calls His own to be holy and He wants all sinners to come to repentance, which means separation from the carnal wants of the world to the spiritual riches of Christ.

R D Langr (author) from Minnesota on March 03, 2013:

Thanks Ron! I believe we need to go back to the sources if we're to understand our faith.

Ronald E Franklin from Mechanicsburg, PA on March 03, 2013:

Good hub. I really enjoy seeing teaching that is grounded in an understanding of the terms used in the text. Thanks!

R D Langr (author) from Minnesota on August 18, 2012:

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Yes! God has given us himself as the necessary tool for Holiness! He would not tell us to be Holy if it was impossible (though it is impossible without him). Thanks for reading.

Reginald Boswell from Huntsville, Alabama on August 18, 2012:

We are well equipped to be holy (the essential nature of God) because the people of God were told to be Holy in both testaments the Jews in the old and Christian in the new. Great subject matter.

R D Langr (author) from Minnesota on August 18, 2012:


Yes, that's another great version of Holiness... it's pretty complex so of course it's going to have many different dynamics. I've read that book and agree that he says many good things in there. Thanks for reading and commenting!

ElleBee on August 17, 2012:

Interesting post. I've always (as in since I first picked up the book less than a year ago...) liked Matthew Kelly's explanation of holiness in "Rediscovering Catholicism" he calls our quest toward holiness a quest to become the best version of ourselves, the best version of who God created us to be. Not sure if I got that verbatim, but the sentiment is there! I highly recommend the book if you've never read it :)

R D Langr (author) from Minnesota on July 14, 2012:

Thanks for the comment. I agree, to be holy we need to always do what is right according to the will of God.

prophet aha wisdom on July 14, 2012:

am so be holy is to hate what God hates.and do the right thing always.

R D Langr (author) from Minnesota on April 16, 2012:

Thank you! I'm glad you found it useful.



Sarah on April 16, 2012:

Thank you- this was really inspiring and helpful!


R D Langr (author) from Minnesota on February 05, 2012:


Thank you for reading. I think the fact that you realize you're not 100% holy, and even that you're thinking about it, puts you ahead of quite a few Christians. Keep on striving for that goal and eventually you will see God face to face!


Charmaine on February 05, 2012:

Heard a message about living a holy life. I've been a Christian for over 20 years and I had to ask myself if I am living a holy life. I believe I do...not all the this has prompted me to make more of an effort to self deny and be mindful of others watching how I respond to different situations. We are called to be holy. We are called to be set apart. Thank you for sharing!

R D Langr (author) from Minnesota on January 09, 2012:


Thank you, and good point! If we want to be holy and set ourselves apart, we have to give up some things that might be "pleasurable" but not necessarily good for us!

Reginald Boswell from Huntsville, Alabama on January 09, 2012:

Good Hub on a subject that many avoid because it involves self denial.

R D Langr (author) from Minnesota on October 29, 2010:

Faithful Daughter,

Thank you! And that is a great summary of what I said. I'm glad you've known what it feels like to be to be set apart for something greater!


Evie Lopez from Sunny Florida on October 29, 2010:

A simple but very straight to-the-point and accurate message. Many people feel that being Holy is about how we look on the outside to the world by doing good works but it is actually about our inner reflection of Christ to the world; the fruits will then follow because of Christ is within us. Have you ever felt that you were not of this world? I did when I was a child. Little did I know at that time that God was calling me and was setting me apart. Great hub!

R D Langr (author) from Minnesota on October 28, 2010:

Thank you SGFR... I think that your hubs are a constant testament that you do indeed strive for Holiness.

schoolgirlforreal on October 28, 2010:

Have I set myself apart today? I try to. yesterday I wrote about abortion, pro life. I like to stick up for righteousness....but I know I'm flawed. I accept everyone, I try to be patient and I love being kind, most of the time! I just want a closer union with God, I get so many people pushing me away, I know I need more church and prayer. I hope I can motivate to do that, and find friends that do that.

Thankyou really. I truly loved this, it was sort of like a homily. God bless you. :) Schoolgirlforreal

R D Langr (author) from Minnesota on October 28, 2010:

Thank you, I'm glad you enjoyed it!

Isaiah Michael from Wherever God leads us. on October 28, 2010:

I really enjoyed this hub, very informative. I spoke with an evangelist, Dr. Johnny Pope some years ago, he said about a friend " he was the holiest man I ever knew", this really got me looking into what it means to live a holy life.

R D Langr (author) from Minnesota on October 28, 2010:

Thanks for stopping by, and the kind words. I'm off to read some of your stuff now as well!

Thomas Silvia from Massachusetts on October 28, 2010:

Great hub I really enjoyed reading it and it is so true and beautifully written. Thumbs up for this hub!!!

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