What is holiness?
The word holy in Hebrew is kadosh and it has the primary idea of cutting off, separation or set apart. In the New Testament the Greek word hagios has come to include purity, especially relating to ethical holiness. Just as a man is a triune being, holiness can be manifest in the physical/ceremonial, ethical/emotional and spiritual holiness.
Physical and Ceremonial Holiness
In the previous article 'Are Christians required to keep Kosher?' holiness and food seem to be linked in Leviticus 11. “Be holy for I am holy” as quoted (Lev 11: ;19:1; 20:7; 1Pet 1:16) is a call by God for man to reflect the Divine nature. The Hebrew language is very down to earth and concrete, taking what is physical and giving it deeper meaning and significance. The most basic physical human need is food. Here God separates what animals are clean from those which bring defilement and the loss of holiness. As we are obedient in this most basic drive we learn to be obedient in controlling other basic drives like the sexual drive to keep holy!
We can see this significance in the physical realm where objects are set apart to be holy, as with the items in the Tabernacle and Temple that all have great spiritual importance. So just as we are called to keep food clean, so we are to keep all other areas of our lives clean. As we walk in physical cleanness we are set apart from the rest of the world.
This applied to the Levites and the Nazirites being set apart for service to the Lord. The whole of Israel, the Land and the Jewish people were to be set apart as holy to the Lord. To maintain this separation they had to keep from any defilement as defined in the Torah. What clothing they wore, what food and drink they had and how they behaved all had an impact on holiness. What we do in the physical has an impact on the soul and spirit of man. The separation of man from what defiles ceremonially is but typical of the holiness that is also ethical and spiritual.
Sadly, the New Testament has been understood as a purely Greek document and interpreted with a Greek world view by much of the church. This has led to a dualistic view of the Scriptures where the physical has been separated from the spiritual. This has lead to the physical requirements of the Torah having been ignored and only the ethical requirements been upheld such as the 10 Commandments (excluding the 4th commandment).
“Be holy for I am holy” plainly implies an ethical conception. In Mark 7:19-23 Yeshua says, “This is because it does not enter into his heart, but into the belly, and goes out into the waste-bowl, purging all the foods. And He said, That passing out of the man, it is the thing that defiles the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, pass out the evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, greedy desires, iniquities, deceit, lustful desires, a wicked eye, blasphemy, pride, recklessness. All these evil things pass out from within and defile the man. “ (LITV). It is what enters the heart of man that defiles. So we need to guard our hearts and minds in Yeshua by the power of the Holy Spirit. Notice Yeshua includes greedy desires in this list which relates directly with the flesh and to what we eat. Food is what led Adam and Eve to sin and loose their place of being holy!
God does not want us to conform to the ways of the world (Rom 12:2), but to conform to the image of His Son (Rom 8:29) by obeying His mitzvot, commandments as given in His Word. In Yeshua's prayer in John 17:16-17 He says, “They are not of this world just as I AM not of this world. You must now make them holy (hagiazo) by means of the truth: Your Word is truth” (One New Man Bible). The Torah is TRUTH and even the food regulations are truth.
God is distinctly different from His creation and His call is for men and women to resemble Him in His holiness. His essential attributes besides holiness are love and justice. This is summed up in the two greatest commandments to love God and one another. How are we to obey this in our every day lives? Moses in Deuteronomy 16:20 states “Tzedek tzedek tirdof” - "Justice justice you shall pursue". Another way to translate this sentence is “Righteousness, righteousness you shall pursue”. The repeating of the first word is made for emphasis and may be to show that we must be righteous towards God and righteous towards man. This is a call to go beyond just following the letter of the Torah but the spirit. As Yeshua stated in Mat 5:40 -42 “And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
” We are to pursue right ritual and right relations. This means approaching God in the right way with a humble and contrite heart. The way we relate to our neighbour then needs to reflect this humility in all our dealings with one another. This is reflected in the story of a man coming up to his rabbi and asking if milk could be used in place of wine for the Shabbat meal. The rabbi responds by giving him $200 and tells him to have a good Shabbat meal with his family. The students of the rabbi are amazed and ask the rabbi why he gave some much. The rabbi says that if the man could not afford wine for Shabbat, he could not afford meat for his family.
This is all part of our journey to holiness that makes one different from those who are not in the Kingdom of God. As David Pawson has stated in Unlocking The Bible , “If God saves you He expects you to be like Him; He expects you to live His way and to be holy as He is Holy.
Psa 119:29 Keep me from being deceitful, and be kind enough to teach me your Torah.
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