What Does It Mean To Be Holy Unto The Lord?

We have been studying the book of Leviticus at Ladies Drawing Nigh for the past few weeks.  And as I’ve read, I’ve noticed the word “holy.”

A lot.

In fact, the word “holy” appears 94 times in this book!  That’s almost twice as many times as the book with the next highest word count of 56, the book of Isaiah.

As you can tell, a huge part of the message of Leviticus is holiness.God commands the Israelites to be holy, because He is holy.

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Speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say unto them, Ye shall be holy: for I the LORD your God am holy.  Leviticus 19:2

And we know that this command also applies to us today, for God repeats it in 1 Peter 1:15-16.

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.

So, obviously, God cares about holiness. 


But what does it mean to be holy?

I have for a long time been a little perplexed by this idea of holiness.  After all, I know that holiness is a characteristic of God.

And I’ve wondered if it was even possible for me to be holy, like God is.

Maybe you have, too.

The thing the Lord showed me as I’ve looked more at this subject this week is that I’ve been wrong all these years.  My understanding of what it means to be holy was not quite right. 


First, the Lord showed me what being holy does not mean.

For many years I’ve had the idea that “holy” meant sinless.  But that simply is not correct.

Holiness is not sinless perfection!

Holiness is not even about sin.

Else, how could a garment, or oil, or a day be holy?

The Bible speaks of many things as being holy…the altar, days, offerings, a field, a house, tithe, and perfume.  We are told about the holy place, crown, convocations, sabbaths, and gifts.Things don’t sin.

Therefore, “holy” cannot mean sinless.

Holiness is not sinless perfection!

When God commands that we be holy, He is not commanding that we be sinless.  The only sinless man was and is the God-man, the Lord Jesus Christ!

Sinless perfection will never be an attainable goal for us in this life.

God is not commanding the impossible from us.  According to the scriptures, men (people) can be holy!

For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.  2 Peter 1:21 

Which leads to something else the Lord taught me about what being holy is NOT


Holiness is not impossible!

It IS possible…for me…and for you…to be holy!  According to the correct definition of what this word means. 


So now, what does it mean to be holy?

Leviticus 27:21 gives us a good synonym for the word “holy” that would apply to both people and things.

But the field, when it goeth out in the jubile, shall be holy unto the LORD, as a field devoted; the possession thereof shall be the priest’s.

Being holy, then, means being devoted for God’s purposes.  Set apart for God’s use.


Holiness, then, has to do with being separate.

God is holy in that He is separate from all else.

Things are holy when they are separated from the day-to-day ordinary uses and devoted, or dedicated, to the special purposes God has given.

People are holy to the extent that we, as believers on Jesus Christ as Saviour, separate ourselves from the world’s ordinarily accepted views on life, and instead, dedicate ourselves for God’s purposes for our lives.  Letting God’s Word, and not the world, tell us what our lives should look like.

Leviticus 20:24-26 gives further insight about what God means when He speaks of something or someone as being holy.

But I have said unto you, Ye shall inherit their land, and I will give it unto you to possess it, a land that floweth with milk and honey: I am the LORD your God, which have separated you from other people.

Ye shall therefore put difference between clean beasts andunclean,…which I have separated from you as unclean.

And ye shall be holy unto me: for I the LORD am holy, and have severed you from other people, that ye should be mine.

Separating ourselves from the world around us involves separating ourselves from the evil practices of the world.  And because of that, there is, after all, a moral sense to the definition of the word “holy”…as it applies to people.

For more help growing in your walk with God, you’ll want to be sure to check out all these Practical Ways to Get Closer to God Today!

Previous to the above verses in Leviticus 20, God gives many commands to Israel (and to us) to not commit the grievous sins of the Canaanites—such as child sacrifice (20:2), sorcery/witchcraft/psychic readings (20:6, 27), cursing parents (20:9), adultery (20:10), homosexuality (20:13), bestiality (20:15-16).

And ye shall not walk in the manners of the nation, which I cast out before you: for they committed all these things, and therefore I abhorred them.  Leviticus 20:23

God wants us His people to be different from the world.

Set apart.

For Him.

And ye shall be holy unto me:  Leviticus 20:26a


Holiness Begins in the Heart

Although the word “holy” is not synonymous with “sinless,” it does, when applied to people, carry a certain connotation of a cleaner life. A person no longer living to please men, but rather God, will naturally have less sin in their life.

Also, for us to be holy unto the Lord, requires that we have a clean heart and life.  Not sinless perfection, but a dedication to God and to striving for a clean life that God can use.

We cannot devote to God a dirty life for His use.  God does not use a dirty vessel.  (2 Timothy 2:21)

In this sense, holiness is a heart issue.  For dedication and commitment to God starts in our hearts.  Else, we are no better than the Pharisees, that Jesus called hypocrites, who appear on the outside to be committed to the service of the Lord.  But are instead just a lot of outward show.  Which did not please God in the least.


Learn more about how to be holy with this Free Holy Unto God Checklist! Spend a few minutes looking at what God says pleases Him.

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Holiness, then, is not something that can be faked.  God knows our hearts and knows whether we are genuine in our desire to be holy unto Him.

Others can tell, as well.  Those watching our lives know whether we are “real,” or not. 

Would you say that you are holy?  Now that we’ve taken a closer look at the meaning of the word?


Drawing nigh to Him,


This post is part of our Leviticus Bible Study.

Study Journal available >> HERE!


Has there been a time in your life that you consciously committed yourself to God, to live your life for Him?  We’d love to hear about it, if you’d like to share.

If you haven’t yet, won’t you do that today, and begin to live a life that is pleasing unto God and that He can greatly bless?

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