The Real Meaning of Holiness


February 13, 2022

1 Peter 1:13-16 NIV

13 Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”


How did holiness get such a bad rap? 

The word usually gets associated with people who are uber-religious, dour, prudish, judgmental, and otherwise the kind of Christians no one would ever want to be.

So I ask again, how did holiness get such a bad rap? Because everything I just described has absolutely less than nothing to do with holiness. So what exactly is holiness? This is one of those places where the Sunday school answer is exactly right. 


Holiness is Jesus. All of his ordinary human nature and all of his extraordinary divine nature and all of this inextricably intertwined together in an indivisible mystical union—holiness is Jesus. And because holiness is Jesus it should have the best possible reputation imaginable. 

Holiness. . . It’s Jesus wrapped in strips of cloth and laid in the feeding trough because there was no room in the inn.

Holiness. . . It’s Jesus standing in the river with his cousin, hearing the voice of his Father in the river, “My son. My beloved. With you I am well pleased.” 

Holiness. . . It’s Jesus saying things like love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

Holiness. . . It’s Jesus contributing 750 bottles of fine wine to a wedding party run dry.

Holiness. . . It’s Jesus breaking all the religious regulations and casting out demons on the Sabbath in the synagogue.

Holiness. . . It’s Jesus showing up at a magic fountain to heal a man waiting thirty eight years for a cure. 

Holiness. . . It’s Jesus filling two boats to overflowing with fish for fishermen who fished all night and caught nothing. 

Holiness. . . It’s Jesus putting his healing hands on a leper when a word would have sufficed. 

Holiness. . . It’s Jesus showing up for dinner at a banquet filled with tax collectors and every other kind of person who had been cancelled by the culture.

Holiness. . . It’s Jesus walking on water and later filling a bowl with it and washing his disciples’ dirty feet. 

Holiness. . . It’s Jesus forever sharing his reputation with people who had forever ruined theirs. 

Holiness. . . It’s Jesus mocked, stripped, rebuked, beaten, crucified, saying, “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.” 

Holiness. . . It’s Jesus, raised from the dead, brandishing radiant scars and unlimited redemption. 

Holiness. . . It’s Jesus, seated at the right hand of the throne of God, pouring out the Spirit of Holiness on all who would receive him, and making them uncannily and irresistibly holy as he is holy. 


Jesus, you are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. You are the Holy One of God. There is none like you and yet you have so shared yourself with us that anyone can become like you. Thank you for showing us what holiness most truly is; for cutting through all the pretense and posturing and hypocrisy and showing us that holiness is love and love is holiness. That’s what I want. The holiness that is you. It’s what I long for. It’s all I need. Holy Spirit, make it so. Praying in Jesus’ name, Amen. 


What has been your understanding of holiness? Why? How is that changing and growing? 

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt

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Comments and Discussion

3 Responses

  1. My understanding of holiness is the action of having been set apart for kingdom service. This was what I was taught to be the correct answer. What is changing is the growing desire to understand how that is to play out. I’m beginning to see how God uses trials, circumstances, and other Christians to facilitate His purpose in making us holy, to cause us to become more like Jesus.

  2. Beautiful perspective on holiness!

    Here’s my perspective on holiness: Holiness is “Christ in you, the hope of glory. It’s daily following and obeying the risen Jesus and allowing Him continually to live in and through you.

  3. Just listen to the podcast the fresh and the new. Holiness is the life of a fully surrendered child of God. Filled with only one objective and that is live and move and have our being for him alone, for his praise and Glory. Lord, show me where I still hold tightly to my own resolve. Prove me, test me until I am holy thine.

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