Good For Who?

Set Apart

For I am the LORD your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy: neither shall ye defile yourselves with any manner of creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.  (Leviticus 11:44)

We are right in the middle of the Lenten Season observed by many mainline Protestant denominations and different varieties of Catholic churches (Roman, Greek, Russian, etc.). Beginning with Ash Wednesday (this year observed on February 10, 2016), the faithful observe 40 days of “fasting” in preparation for Easter. (I prefer calling it Resurrection Sunday.) Celebrants observe the season by giving up something “sacrificial” for Lent. The sacrifice could be anything like giving up TV, Snickers candy bars, eating meat on Fridays, not going to movies or anything equally superfluous, but prior to the season of deprivation, celebrants indulge in a day of depravation known as Fat Tuesday. They stoke up on enough indulgence to last through the 40 days of deprivation.

If it sounds as if I am making light of the observance, please understand that I know many who are sincere in the practice, and that is admirable; however, there are more who observe the season by rote without taking into account the significance. However my theme here is not about Lent, but rather it is about holiness. Would it not be better to live a godly lifestyle consistently as a matter of practice rather than trying to force upon oneself a token meaningless act that, if kept, lasts for a short time and then is forgotten? Indeed, God would have us conduct ourselves in holiness all the time.

I have addressed this topic in the past perhaps because the older I get, the more I recognize my own deficiency in this area. I also see the growing invasion of “worldliness” spreading in our churches, including our more “conservative” evangelical churches. I attribute much of this to a general lack of biblical literacy, especially with regard to Old Testament teaching regarding the Mosaic Law.[1] To many modern Christians, only the New Testament applies to us because we are living under “Grace,” not under the “Law.”[2] That, I believe, comes from a misunderstanding of both Grace and Law.

I recently read through the book of Leviticus, and it once again became apparent to me that many of the laws given had no other purpose than to distinguish the “people of God” from the goyim (Gentiles/nations) among whom they lived. The phrase “be holy” is repeated some 29 times in the Pentateuch, and whether applied to objects used in worship or to the people themselves, it means to set that thing apart for a special and unique purpose. Our leading verse instructs the people to “sanctify yourselves,” i.e. consecrate or set yourselves apart. Where the implements of worship were concerned, they were not to be used for common purposes. Every object used in the Tabernacle (and later in the Temple) was dedicated only for the purpose it was designed. If a platter held the showbread, it could not be used for any other purpose. It was “holy” – dedicated, consecrated, sanctified, set apart for one purpose only.

The people likewise were to be set apart. “Ye shall be holy: for I the LORD your God am holy” (Leviticus 19:2, emphasis mine). For what were they to be holy? “And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation” (Exodus 19:6, emphasis mine). God’s purpose for His people has not changed in that regard. Note John’s description of the risen Christ in his address to the churches: “Unto him [the Lord Jesus Christ] that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen (Revelation 1:5b-6).  Just like the nation of Israel, the Church of Christ (not the denomination that takes that name) is to be holy – set apart – to be a kingdom of priests to the world around us.[3]

As kings and priests, we should exemplify the Law of God. We do not obey the Law in order to obtain our position as kings and priests, but because we have obtained that position through Grace. In order to obey the Law, we must first know and understand the Law, and that understanding comes from studying the Law that God gave to Israel in the Old Testament. Granted, much of particulars, such as dress code and dietary laws do not apply to us, but the principle of distinctiveness from the “world” remains.

One example that came to mind was the prohibition from wine that was given to the priests. “And the LORD spake unto Aaron, saying, Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations: And that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean” (Leviticus 10:8-10, emphasis mine). Notice that the prohibition was limited to their going into the Tabernacle (later that applied to the Temple). Now consider what Paul said to the Corinthian Church: “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17, emphasis mine). Not only are we kings and priests, but we are also the Temple of the Holy Spirit, so with regard to “wine and strong drink” Christians should abstain. Yet there are many Christians that will excuse themselves from this prohibition by saying that the Bible only condemns drunkenness and not simply the occasional glass of wine or just one brewski. Well then, what about the fact that we are kings and priests and that we are the Temple of God? We are to be “holy” in all things. “Be ye holy” was not only meant for the Israelites; it applies to us as well. “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16, emphasis mine). That archaic word “conversation” refers to one’s life-conduct; so in every manner in which we conduct our lives, we should be holy.

More examples could be cited. What about the prohibition against tattoos (Leviticus 19:28)? Yet we have many Christians following the pattern of the world rather than being distinct from the world. But the point here is not so much about following an arbitrary set of rules, but following the One who put those rules in place. Over 73 times in the Pentateuch God emphasizes “I AM the LORD.” Forty-five (45) of those (62%, almost 2/3) appear in the book of Leviticus. Might God be trying to tell us something – “Do what I say because I AM the Lord!”

In closing, let me stress that this is meant for God’s people. One does not have to keep the Law to become a child of God. But as any good son desires to please his father, should not God’s children desire to please their Heavenly Father? And how does one do that? One does it by following His laws. He gave them to us as a pattern for our life conduct. Can we do that perfectly? I know I can’t, but that does not mean I don’t try. Nor should it be something over which we fret, because He has given us His Holy Spirit to help our weakness. “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20, emphasis mine). The faith “of the Son of God” is our source of strength. We live holy lives for Him and by Him.


[1]  See “Is the Law Sin?”

[2]  See “God’s Laws”

[3]  See “Kings and Priests”

1 Comment

Filed under Apologetics, Bible, Christianity, Easter, Religion, Theology

One response to “Good For Who?

  1. Simple definition of Christian “holiness”:
    We are vessels that have been set apart unto God … not to be used for any other purposes than His.
    Wow! I hadn’t ever seen that before! Talk about “falling short”!