God is holy (Leviticus 11:44-45, 19:2, 20:26, 21:8; 1 Peter 1:15-16). This means He is spiritually separate and set apart from sinners. God wants his people to be holy too (Leviticus 20:7, Numbers 15:40, Romans 6:19-22, 2 Corinthians 7:1, Ephesians 1:4, 5:27; 1 Thessalonians 3:13, 4:7; Hebrews 12:10). Holiness is our ultimate purpose as converted believers. It’s the spiritual promise of imago dei on this earth. Holiness will come to its fullness when our bodies are transformed into the image of Christ at the resurrection of the dead (1 Corinthians 15:49-54, Philippians 3:21).
Whenever God makes a covenant with an individual, family, or people group in the Bible he spiritually sets them apart, cutting them off from the world. Rainbows, circumcision, Passover, and water baptism are all signs of divine covenants. The Hebrew word for covenant (bĕriyth) means “to cut.” Covenant people are “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, [God’s] own special people” (1 Peter 2:9). They’re called to be spiritually, sometimes culturally, different from unbelievers surrounding them. In this way, they “proclaim the praises of him who called [them] out of darkness into his marvelous light” (2:9).
God delivered Israel from slavery in Egypt to make a covenant of holiness with her (Exodus 19:6). After Israel had dwelt in Canaan a few hundred years, she decided she didn’t want to be different. Instead, the people told Samuel that they wanted to “be like all the nations” (1 Samuel 8:20). The Israelites were done with King Jehovah and his judges. They wanted a human king to judge them and fight their battles (8:5-6, 19-20). God knew his people had rejected him, so he gave them Saul – a wicked king (8:7, 9:15-16).
Little has changed. Spiritual darkness is covering the earth and its people (Isaiah 60:2). Things that were unmentionable 20 years ago are often in the news now: bestiality, cannibalism, incest, infanticide, pedophilia, polygamy, and same-sex marriage. Most things are on the path to legalization. This evil state of affairs is preparing the way for the anti-Christ.
What is the church doing? Instead of praying and witnessing, she’s playing and sleeping. Rejecting holiness, she has decided she wants to “be like all the nations.” The church conducts church like a business while spiritually and culturally conforming to this world (Romans 12:2).
As the bride of Christ, we’re called to be different. But so many “Christians” today dress, talk, and act like this sinful, unbelieving world that I can’t tell the difference. What happened to holiness and spiritual separation? Why did we abandon the call to be set apart? We need to start cutting ties with the world and repent of our sinful ways, or we won’t be ready when Jesus returns. He’ll just leave us behind. Without holiness, no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).
“Be holy, for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44-45; 1 Peter 1:16). May we repent and obey.