Holiness and Sanctification

By Tim Greenwood

I used to attend an Old Covenant church.  And at first I tended to carry a lot of that Old Covenant baggage over into the New Covenant.

I see a lot of evidence that theologians have tended to do the same thing in the form of Old Covenant Hebrew definitions being carried over into the New Covenant Greek resulting in the application of Old Covenant ideas to New Covenant terminology.

For example the word "holy."  The difference between "holy" in the Hebrew and the Greek is subtle yet important and revealing.

The Hebrew for "holy" is "qodesh": Sacred or dedicated (ceremonially or morally), like God, or an angel or a special place or thing.

To help us get a better grasp of what it means to be "holy" in the Old Covenant, let's look at the related word "Sanctify."

The Hebrew for "sanctify" is "qadash": to make, pronounce or observe as holy or clean (ceremonially or morally), to dedicate, appoint, consecrate, keep, prepare or purify.

In the Old Covenant, if something was not inherently "holy" like God was holy - it had to be made "holy" through a ceremonial process, after which they were kept, and observed as holy like God is holy.  The Temple and all it's furnishings were kept and observed as holy.  In like manner the Priests of the Temple were ceremonially dedicated, purified and appointed to office and were observed as holy like God was holy.  Also, the 7th day of the week was just another 24-hour day of that seven-day creation week, but was ceremonially dedicated by God as a day of rest -- which in Hebrew is "shabbath" or Sabbath, which simply means "rest."

Now in the New Covenant Greek, the word "holy" takes on a subtle difference -- pointing us towards Jesus and His role in making us "holy."  Here is what I mean.

The Greek for "holy" is: "hagios" meaning Sacred, pure, blameless or a saint.  Then in the definition of its usage we are pointed to the combination of two other words: "hagnos": innocent and "chag": sacrifice. 

The Holy Spirit through Paul teaches that we are to become a "holy living sacrifice."
Well who was The Living Sacrifice, pure, innocent and blameless?  Jesus!  Jesus is that living sacrifice!

So let's go back to the Greek word "hagios" or "holy."  Holy has now taken on a new application to mean sacred, pure and blameless as the innocent sacrifice that Jesus was.  Or, more simply put, to be "holy" is to be like Jesus!

Now how do we become "holy?"  Do we have to be dedicated to the priesthood at birth?  Do we have to go through ritual purification and cleansing?  Let's look at the word "Sanctify" again but this time in the New Covenant Greek.

The Greek for "sanctify": "hagiazo" is simply: to make holy.

To see HOW we are made "holy" as Jesus is holy, let's look at Rom. 11:16.

Rom. 11:16 - For if the first fruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches.
Paul is referring to something Jesus Himself said.

John 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine (the root); no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
John 15:5 I am the vine (the root), ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

What this is saying is that if we abide, remain, stand in Jesus, the vine or the root, we are the branches.  And if the root or vine is holy WE the branches are made holy too.

However, unlike righteousness, which is an out and out gift, holiness is a quality decision, followed by action.  We have to WANT to be holy -- like our living sacrifice Jesus is holy, and then we must step by step follow Him and become like Him.

Throughout the New Covenant, the believers are called "saints." 

1.    Are a believer and have received Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior
2.    Have received Jesus as the Living Word of God
3.    Abide in Jesus
4.    Follow Jesus' example
5.    Dedicate yourself to become like Him
…Then YOU TOO are one of the saints!

Guess what the New Covenant Greek word is for "saint"?  "hagios" or "holy!"   You have been made holy!