first glance, holiness and obedience seem to be two completely
different topics. But are they? These two characteristics
are intimately entwined and it is important that believers
Taking a Nazirite vow was serious. Whether male or female,
the vow of separation had to be considered carefully as the
rules were strict: abstain from anything that comes from the
grapevine, don’t cut your hair and don’t go near
a dead body. It was not easy for an Israelite to do these
things. As water was often contaminated, wine was a better
option; lice and fleas were difficult to control so keeping
hair short was most practical; and the frequency of disease
and pestilence made keeping away from dead bodies difficult.
1. Why would a person voluntarily make a vow of separation?
2. What was the point of these rules?
3. Why is the Nazirite vow called a vow of separation?
4. What was the importance of keeping the hair long? What
ramifications would this have?
5. The vow of separation was voluntary. Is there a New
6. During the time of separation, if a person became unclean,
the previous days of separation were not counted
(v12). What does this reveal about the character of God
and our relationship with him?
7. The Nazirite was to be holy and consecrated to the Lord.
What does this vow show about being holy and obedient?
“I am holy”
But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you
do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (1
What does holiness really mean?
|It is easy to talk about being holy, but unless we really understand what it means, the talk is futile. Here are a few words to describe what it is to be holy: sanctified, consecrated, blameless, pure, set apart and sacred. However, some of these words are more difficult to understand than the original word “holy”. Can you put in your own words what you think it means to be holy?
It is difficult for us to comprehend holiness because we are
not naturally holy. God acknowledges our limitations and reveals
his holiness through actions rather than words. By seeing
God’s response to good and evil, we gain a glimpse of
his holy character which is so different from ours.
God’s dealing with Israel is a good example. This chosen
nation experienced the wrath of God’s righteous judgement
again and again—the death of all the disobedient over
the 40 years in the wilderness, the forced exile in Babylon,
and the dispersion of the Jews throughout the world. In contrast,
God shows righteous love for his people through the blessings
poured on Israel at the time of David, Ezra and Hezekiah.
By lovingly disciplining and blessing them, God revealed who
The LORD Almighty will be exalted by his justice, and the
holy God will show himself holy by his righteousness.
Through this little nation we can understand that holiness
is much more than being blameless or set apart; holiness is
God’s perfect character. Moses realised this when God
proclaimed his name to him:
The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow
to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining
love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and
sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes
the children and their children for the sin of the fathers
to the third and fourth generation.
|The word “holy” appears in the scriptures over 500 times. It is important, so it is stated over and over again. Most of these passages speak of God’s holiness—God wants us to know that he is holy, very holy.
|Exodus 15:11; Leviticus 11:44–45; 19:2; Isaiah 5:16; Ezekiel 28:25; 36:23; 37:28; 38:23; 39:7,27; Habakkuk 1:12; Luke 1:49; 1 Peter 1:15–16; Revelation 4:8; 15:4.
Holiness of Israel
|Exodus 19:6; 22:31; Deuteronomy 14:2; 26:19; 28:9; Jeremiah 2:3; Daniel 12:7; Zechariah 2:12.
Holiness of the Sabbath
|Genesis 2:3; Exodus 16:23; 20:8,11; 31:13–17; Jeremiah 17:22– 24,27; Ezekiel 20:20; 44:24.
Holiness of the temple:
|Psalm 15:1; 24:3; Isaiah 64:11; 66:20; Ezekiel 43:12; Jonah 2:4,7; Micah 1:2; Habakkuk 2:20; Zechariah 14:20–21; Matthew 24:15; Ephesians 2:21.
Holiness of the prophets
|Acts 3:21; 2 Peter 3:2.
Holiness of the law
|Deuteronomy 4:8–9; Romans 7:12.
Holiness of Jerusalem
|Isaiah 52:1; Daniel 9:16,27; Joel 3:17; Obadiah 16–17; Zechariah 8:3; Matthew 27:53; Revelation 21:2,10.
Holiness of believers
|Leviticus 11:44–45; 19:2; 20:7,26; Ephesians 1:4; 2:21; 4:24; 5:3,25– 27; Colossians 1:22; 1 Thessalonians 3:13; 4:4,7; 2 Thessalonians 1:10; 1 Timothy 2:2,8,15; 2 Timothy 1:9; 2:21; Titus 1:8; Hebrews 2:11; 10:10,14; 12:10,14; 13:12; 1 Peter 1:15–16; 2:5,9; 2 Peter 3:11.
Am I holy?
God said “be holy, because I am holy”. Leviticus 11:44 There is
only one way we can become holy—by God’s
grace. If we respond to his message and obey the commandments
of Christ, then God promises to forgive our sins and make
us holy. Paul wrote,
Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to
make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water
through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant
church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish,
but holy and blameless. (Ephesians 5:25–27)
covering by Christ’s blood is the only way we can be
blameless in the eyes of God. This gift of holiness is God’s
guarantee that we will be raised incorruptible, immortal and
truly holy. 1 Corinthians 15:50–54 Without this gift
there is no hope: “without holiness no one will see
the Lord”. Hebrews 12:14
The progression of a sinful person to a holy person goes something
Sin → faith → repentance → baptism → obedience → forgiveness
Sometimes people focus on faith and forgiveness and almost
ignore obedience. Without obedience, there can be no forgiveness
and God will not deem us holy.
Am I obedient?
Obedience is our response to God’s message. Jesus said,
If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will
love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.
He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. (John 14:23–24)
As we get closer to God, obeying God becomes much easier because
we want to please our Father. The diagram above shows that
obedience comes as a result of faith and repentance. If we
are faithful, we want to be obedient. And if we fall, God
is there to catch us—he will not give up his children
Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be selfcontrolled;
set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus
Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to
the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But
just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do;
for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”
(1 Peter 1:13–16)
God reveals his holiness through his righteous acts of justice,
compassion and love. By repenting and obeying, believers become
holy in God’s eyes. True believers will be raised to
immortality and holiness.
1. Do you think you are holy? Explain.
2. Read 1 Peter 1:22–23. What does this teach about
holiness and obedience?
3. How is obedience under the old covenant different from
obedience under the new covenant? What similarities are there?
4. How did God reveal his holiness to people in the New
5. What did God mean in Hosea 6:6 when he said “For
I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather
than burnt offerings”? Hadn’t he commanded the
people to offer sacrifices and burnt offerings? What does
this teach about holiness and obedience?
1. Write down a list of examples of God revealing his holiness
to Israel. Do you think Israel understood God’s holiness?
2. (a) Discuss with someone or write down what obedience
means to you.
(b) Find some examples of outstanding obedience in the
Bible (Old and New Testament).
(c) What is the relationship between obedience and holiness?
3. Some people claim that God’s rules need to be
adapted to fit different times and cultures. Discuss this
idea using biblical passages to support your arguments.
• The genius of discipleship by Dennis Gillett (published
by The Christadelphian, 1984). Chapter 11: “Holiness”,
• The dimensions of a disciple: planning for spiritual
Stan Dawes (published by the author, 1993), pages 63–
64. An interesting and practical discussion about devoutness.
• BB Study 11.2
6. What is God like?