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Be Ye Holy
Chapter 1:
Holiness – The Foundation of Separation

Intrinsic Holiness

William Shedd offers a clear explanation of the idea of intrinsic holiness: "Holiness in God must, consequently, be defined as conformity to His own perfect nature. The only rule for the divine will is the divine reason; and the divine reason prescribes everything that it is befitting an Infinite being to do. God is not under law, nor above law. He is law."17 Holiness is essential to God's character. This is seen from several statements in Scripture.

Holy Name

The Bible repeatedly declares that God's name is holy. Statements such as "whose name is Holy" (Isa. 57:15) and "For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name" (Luke 1:49) are representative of many passages which declare that Godís name is holy.

"Holy One"

One of the names by which God is known is the name "Holy One." This name is used of God in several places (Job 6:10; Pss. 22:3; 71:22). In a special sense He is the "Holy One of Israel" (Isa. 1:4). This title apparently refers to the holiness which resides in His very character.

Separate from Evil

That holiness is inherent in God's character is further seen by the fact that Scripture declares Him to be free of all sin and evil. Habakkuk forcefully states this fact: "Art thou not from everlasting, O Lord my God, mine Holy One? We shall not die. O Lord, thou hast ordained them for judgment; and, O mighty God, thou hast established them for correction. Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity: wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously, and holdest thy tongue when the wicked devoureth the man that is more righteous than he?" (Hab. 1:12-13). While discoursing with God about the coming judgment of Judah, Habakkuk makes "a statement of faith in the Lord's covenanted justice."18 He grounds his hope in the holiness of God. His trust is that God will not permit the nation to die but that the Chaldeans will be used only to execute His judgment. Because God is holy, He cannot tolerate evil. His holiness constitutes a purity which cannot countenance evil and treachery (v.13). This fact plainly indicates that God is intrinsically holy.

Jeremiah was overwhelmed by the Lord "because of the words of his holiness" (Jer. 23:9). In direct contrast to God's holiness, he saw the land characterized by adultery and swearing. Jeremiah said of sinful men that "their course is evil, and their force is not right" (Jer. 23:10). Unlike sinful man God is holy, free from evil. Jeremiah saw man in contrast to God as profane (Jer. 23:11). Malachi also states that by sin "Judah hath profaned the holiness of the Lord" (Mal. 2:11). The word "profane" connotes the idea of "defiled, polluted."19 God, by contrast, is free of all evil. Separation is revealed as a fundamental concept of holiness at this point.

Swearing in Holiness

The intrinsic holiness of God's character may be seen in the oaths He makes. Twice God states that He has sworn in His holiness (Ps. 89:35; Amos 4:2). Once He states that He has sworn in His truth (Ps. 132:11). At least four times Scripture teaches that God has sworn by Himself (Isa. 45:23; Jer. 49:13; 51:14; Amos 6:8). John Randolph Jaeggli, comparing Amos 4:2 with 6:8, draws a conclusion which is reinforced by the other Scriptures cited. He says, "The parallel structure of these two phrases draws the interpreter's attention to the equation of God's holiness with the essence of His personality."20

Perfect in Work

God's holiness of character is further seen by the fact that His works are perfect. Scripture teaches that "the Lord is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works" (Ps. 145:17). His power is declared to be holy (Ps. 98:1). His judgment is holy (Isa. 5:16), and His holiness is revealed in salvation (Isa. 52:10). Although he does not use the word holiness, Moses seems to summarize the fact that God's work is holy when he says "his work is perfect" (Deut. 32:4). The New Testament quotation of that statement associates holiness with God's work (Rev. 16:5).

Perfect in Virtue

Scripture not only describes God's work as holy, but also describes His virtues as being holy. The Bible declares His righteousness (Isa. 5:16) and His truthfulness to be holy (Rev. 6:10).

The Standard of Holiness in Man

From the fact that God is intrinsically holy another truth logically follows. If holiness is a part of God's character, then He alone is the standard of revealed holiness. His holiness sets the standard of conduct for men. In other words, actions are holy or unholy as they are consistent with or in violation of God's nature. Strong forcefully states, "God is holy in that He is the source and standard of the right."21

This fact is revealed in Leviticus 19-20. The passage begins with the demand for holiness in Israel and the affirmation that God is holy (Lev. 19:2). Then follows a long list of required actions and prohibited actions. Fifteen times in Leviticus 19 this list is reinforced with the statement "I am the Lord." God affirms His own holiness, and the reason given for a commanded or forbidden action is simply "I am the Lord." One must conclude that the action commanded reflects God's holiness and forbidden action is contrary to His holiness. This quality is both positive and negative. "Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be ye holy: for I am the Lord your God. And ye shall keep my statutes, and do them: I am the Lord which sanctify you" (Lev. 20:7-8).

The reason witchcraft is wrong is because it is contrary to God's holiness (Lev. 20:6). The reason that God's statutes are to be obeyed is because they reflect His holiness, and He set Israel apart to be holy unto Him. The same truth is reiterated in verses 24 and 26.

The holiness of God was not only the standard for human conduct for Israel, but it is also the standard for Christians. This timeless principle is repeated in the New Testament. It transcends dispensations. God's character is unchanging. "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" (I Pet. 1:15-16).

In short, God is holy in His character, and His holiness becomes the standard which determines right and wrong in human conduct. This is what Watson calls "primary holiness."22


Be Ye Holy: The Call to Christian Separation. By Fred Moritz. ©1994. BJU Press. Reproduction prohibited. This work is available for purchase at the Bob Jones University Campus Store (phone: 1-800-252-1927; web address: Please note, due to browser limitations, the Hebrew and Greek words are not displayed in their original languages.

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