What does the word ‘holy’ mean?

Image: What does the word ‘holy’ mean?

It's a word Christians use, but do we really understand it?

Batman and holy

I can’t hear the word “holy” without thinking about the old Batman TV show from the 60s. Each week, Batman and his youthful side-kick Robin would fight the colourful criminals of Gotham City. And each week Robin would exclaim some variation of his catch phrase: "Holy Fate Worse Than Death", "Holy Mechanical Marvel" ,"Holy Diversionary Tactics".... It just wouldn’t be a good episode if Robin didn’t use the word “holy” so often you’d think he was getting a commission. But what does the word actually mean?

The Bible and 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)

The Bible tells us that our God is a holy God. He is the very definition of holy. So looking at God will tell us something about the word “holy”.

God is the creator of the universe. There is nothing in existence that God didn’t create. Because there is nothing that God didn’t create, no one made God. He has always existed. There is creation and there is God. They are connected but separate.

Our God is a good and just God. He is not responsible for sin and evil – God wants nothing to do with it. We have been promised a day when Jesus will return and evil will be destroyed. There is evil and then there is God. They are separate.

What holy means

When we talk about the holiness of God, we’re talking about his separateness. That is, God is set apart from this world. He is set apart from the evil acts of a sinful people. Leviticus shows us that priests would need to be “cleaned” from sin, through ritual and sacrifice, before they could meet with God. The holy and the unclean could not co-exist.

As God’s people, living on this side of the cross, we have been cleansed from our sin. The sacrifice of Jesus has made us clean in the sight of God. We have been made holy through Jesus. We can interact with God because of this great gift.

Living a holy life

So because we have been made holy, we need to act like we’re holy. We are to be set apart from the world. We are to stop acting like sinful, unsaved people. We are to hate sin and steer clear of sinful situations. We are to honour God with our every breath and our every thought. That’s what it means to be holy.

Being holy means being set apart for God. In what ways can you be holy in your everyday life?

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