By the way, I started wondering about this in a Bible study/group, in which we watched an R.C. Sprout series about the holiness of God. You can watch/hear the particular lecture here
, actually. He makes the following statements: "The primary meaning of the word 'holy' means 'separate'.", "That which is 'holy' is that which is 'other'.", and "The simplest way to discuss this is that that which is 'holy' is that which is 'different'."
mattrose wrote:After all, how could 'holy' mean 'set apart' if we believe God was holy before creation (before there was anything to be 'set apart' from)?
Yes. Just what I was wondering. What was/is God "separate" or "different" from? In what sense will we be "separate" or "set apart" for all eternity? I actually thought about how they ("they") often say that death means "separation" and now they say that "holy" also refers to being separate or separated.
mattrose wrote:If 'theology' books are part of the problem here, perhaps 'theology' is also part of the solution. .... But if holy means devotion, God could have been devoted to God's self (Father, Son & Spirit) before creation.
Additionally, Jesus (I think we'd all agree) was holy. But this didn't cause Him to remain separate from sinners. Quite the opposite. His holiness caused Him to connect with sinners (though without sin). So I think a better case can be made that holiness is devoted love. Holiness IS perfect love. Perfect love sets itself apart from sin because sin is unloving.
So when talking about holiness, we shouldn't start with the DO's and DON'Ts (the set apart definition). We should start with allowing God's perfect love to fill our hearts. Then, from the inside-out, the DO's and DON'Ts will take shape because some acts are loving and some are unloving.
That is well said and I appreciate it, but ... well, yeah, it is a bit too theological for me. It's similar to what R.C. Sproul and others say; it's not that I disagree at all, it's just that I'm not sure that it isn't just made up because it sounds good or it makes for a good sermon or meshes with some other theological system, you know. I hope that doesn't sound mean or belittling! I'm often more analytical than practical.
steve wrote:When I say that the word "holy" means "set apart," I am thinking of the idea of "distinctive," or "distinctively the Lord's." That is, "not like others." Of course, this can translate into behavior, but it has primary reference to distinctive status, which then calls for distinctive behavior.
The word "devoted" actually has the identical meaning, if it is used in an objective, rather than a subjective, sense. If something has been devoted to God, it is now distinctively, set apart for Him. It is of a distinctive status. "Devoted" is then an adjective.
Since the word "holy" is often applied to non-persons (e.g., places, offices, a tent, furniture, lamp oil, etc.), this seems to require, primarily, an objective status. The Jewish high priest was, objectively, "Holiness to the Lord"—that is, distinctly set apart for God's service. This "holy" man was supposed to behave appropriately. Though many of them did not behave rightly, they still wore the label on their forehead.
If we use "devoted" subjectively, it is a verb, rather than an adjective. It is something one does—"I have devoted my children to God," or "I have devoted myself to God." Snuffers and spoons do not subjectively "devote" themselves to temple use, but when someone has devoted these things (objective), the word devoted becomes an adjective, meaning "set apart" for God's service.
That helps me understand your thinking. I would say that, based on the usage and dictionary definitions, "holy" clearly has a
meaning of "set apart for the Lord's use
(as you say)." But I see no evidence yet that it means simply
"set apart" or "different" or "other", as R.C. Sproul states. In other words, a thing that is "set apart" can be good or bad, but the words translated as "holy" in the Bible never, to my knowledge, mean anything but "set apart for God". That is, "holiness" is always a good thing, and so any expanded definition should include that fact (unless I'm mistaken), I think.
Is that a huge distinction? Maybe not, but I'm puzzled about the motivation (if any) behind this simple "other" definition (unless it's actually what the Hebrew and greek words mean, which I'm not seeing).
(There is also the question about what sense God Himself is "holy". Perhaps we fall back to saying that there are two different definitions - 1) "set apart for God's use or service" and 2) "pure and righteous".)
willowtree wrote:Good question. Having been raised in a holiness church, I was often of the impression that it took two trips to the altar to get the full salvation package. Trip one gave me justification - forgiveness of sins, and trip two (entire) sanctification - cleansing of the 'old man, the carnal nature. Simplistic, perhaps, but a lot of substance here as well.
Then I read in the Bible, "Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts..." 1 Peter 3:15, and this puts a whole different complexion on this. A large component of the holy aspect is our setting things (people,situations, God Himself) apart in our lives for God's divine purpose.
This is not the only verse that calls us to participate in this 'holy' process.
Still trying to work this out.
Yes. "Setting things (people,situations, God Himself) apart in our lives for God's divine purpose" Interesting 1 Peter 3:15 reference. That's a verb form, I guess - "to make holy" or "to hallow". Same as in the Lord's prayer.
Thanks for the responses all! I was pleased to read them.