From the Pastor
The word “holy” has gotten a lot of bad press in the last few years. Many people associate the word with being self-righteous, judgmental, or overly strict about morals. But to understand what it means to say that the church is to be holy we must let the Scriptures inform us.
To be holy is to be set apart for God’s purposes. The first use of the word in the Scriptures is Exodus 3:5 where God tells Moses, “Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” Moses was to remove his sandals because the ground was set apart for God. Likewise, in Exodus 16:23 God commands that one day each week should be set aside for the Lord as a “holy sabbath.” This day is set aside for God’s purposes.
It also means something is set apart as completely different from other things, in a class by itself. The second use of the word bears this out. “Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in splendor, doing wonders” (Exodus 15:11)?
God tells Israel, “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (Lev 11:45). The writers of the New Testament applied it to the church as well (see 1 Th 4:7, 1 Pe 1:15). In a sense the Church is to be holy in each of these ways: the church is set apart for God’s purposes and it is to be set apart as different kind of people.
We can get an idea of God’s purpose for the church from God’s purpose for Israel. Isaiah gives us the clearest example of this, “I am the Lord, … I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness” (Is 42:6–7).
God wanted Israel to demonstrate God’s goodness to all the nations of the world. Doing this would attract the nations and entice them to know more about the God of Israel.
When it comes to the church, people should be able to see the quality of our lives and the way we treat others and want to know more about the God we serve. Holiness is meant to be attractive to a disbelieving world.
John Wesley believed that holy living could be summed up in the Great Commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27). When we live to love God with everything within us and treat our neighbors the way we want to be treated, that is holiness. And that is attractive. It is time for the church to reclaim holiness.