Holiness and obedience Refs
Back

At 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 know why.
Numbers 6:1–21

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 Testament equivalent?
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 Peter 1:15–16)

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 he was.

The LORD Almighty will be exalted by his justice, and the holy God will show himself holy by his righteousness.
(Isaiah 5:16)

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.
(Exodus 34:6–7)

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.
God’s holiness
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)

The 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 like this:

Sin → faith → repentance → baptism → obedience → forgiveness → holiness

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 easily.

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? Give examples.
4. How did God reveal his holiness to people in the New Testament?
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”, 5 pages.
• The dimensions of a disciple: planning for spiritual growth
by 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?
10. Worship
13. Idolatry
38. Grace

 
TOP
Back