What does it mean to be holy? It seems that the church has become confused about the meaning of the word. They define it as being “set apart,” which is a good definition based on the Greek root hagias and the related word hagiazo, meaning sanctified. Indeed it does mean to be set apart.
But the question then becomes What does it mean to be set apart? This is not a superficial expectation God has of his children. It is not a superficial “being different” from other people and things, whatever that means. Holiness and sanctification are radical, a total break from the norm. The Evangelical Dictionary of Theology describes holiness as being completely clean and morally fit before God. This is not superficial at all, but radical.
The end of holiness is perfection. To be made holy is to be perfect. To be holy and perfect are commands of God found in his Word. Therefore they are unavoidable in the Christian life if you are truly surrendered and seeking God’s will for your life. They are expected of us. But we are not expected to live self-righteously and earn our salvation as by works. God himself has given us the power to live these things because of Christ in us (2 Peter 1:3). We have a part to play, a responsibility to obey the commands of God. Yet his power has given us every tool we need to be able to fulfill our responsibilities to obey these commands. And if God has given us everything we need, then what’s stopping us from obeying completely? Selfishness? Rebellion? Fear? It’s time to step up and do as you have been commanded. “Be holy because I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16).