Though I wrote about the topic of holiness very recently (see What is Holiness? How Does the Bible Define Authentic Holiness? Sept. 10, 2021), I feel strongly that I should write about it again.

Too many people feel drawn to Jesus and the Christian faith, but don’t know what to do after they say yes to it. Often, they don’t get enough instruction on next steps and how to truly become a new person and one that increasingly resembles Christ.

I have been in a conversation with a man who is in prison. He says, “I am a Christian,” yet he used drugs for years, lied, cheated, stole things, and ultimately murdered to gain those drugs. Finally, he is saying, “I don’t know how to follow Jesus!”  Though not as extreme in their behavior, I think a lot of people don’t know what the next steps are after choosing to follow Jesus. They need discipling and they need this question answered, “What is holiness in the Bible?”

What Does “Holiness” Mean?

What is a simple definition of the word holiness?

As very simply stated in an article by Bethany Verrett called “What Does it Mean to be Holy?” holiness is the opposite of sin – [it’s] goodness, love, and wisdom. Using the model of Jesus and His characteristics, she goes on to say that He sets the bar high. Jesus is “faithful, loves righteousness, is humble, innocent, honest, and obedient.” For each characteristic, a scripture is given.

And she adds, “These traits are only a few of the many wonderful characteristics of the Savior.” In other words, “What is holiness in the Bible?” can be answered with a long list of characteristics which are the opposite of sin – generosity, faithfulness, sexual purity, and integrity, for example.

A holy person does their work thoroughly with excellence, doesn’t cheat, cut corners, carry grudges, nurture offense, or gossip, etc. Holiness incorporates so much and is not just looking pious and virtuous on a Sunday morning at church only. It is looking like Jesus round the clock.


what is holiness in the bible

What Does “God is Holy Mean?”

God is absolutely perfect. He is completely good without any flaw.

The Bible says:

“Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?” (Exodus 15:11 ESV)

“There is no one holy like the LORD. Indeed, there is no one besides you. Nor is there any rock like our God.” (1 Samuel 2:2 NASB) (two verses from the site article on holiness)

God is separate and above, different from all others because of His perfection and goodness.

Is Being Holy Possible if Only God is Holy?

We cannot be God but we can move in the direction of holiness with greater intensity as our lives go on. Actually, becoming holy is the work of God in us! The One we need in order to continue to cleanse our hearts and grow more pure in our motivations is the Holy Spirit. He will transform us from the inside out.

Jesus said, “if you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever – the Spirit of truth…you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” (John 14:15-17 NIV)

How does the Holy Spirit cause holiness?

Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would remind us of all He (Jesus) had taught us. Jesus said that, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you,” power to be His witnesses or representatives.

Paul wrote that the fruit of holiness would be formed in us by the Holy Spirit – love, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

All of this begins with an event known as the “baptism of the Holy Spirit.” But, the Apostle Paul advised, “keep on being filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18)

So, the Holy Spirit works to bring about our sanctification (getting holy) and makes us increasingly look like Jesus. He works from the inside out and we continue to desire new and more holy things because of Him.

(More resources about the Holy Spirit are listed at the end of the article.)


what is holiness in the bible

How Can I Live a Holy Life?

1. One of the first things we need to do in order to live a holy life is to allow the Holy Spirit to work in us as described above. Saying yes to Jesus and praying, “Come Holy Spirit,” puts us on a beautiful journey of transformation.

I love the story of a man named Billy Bray who was born in 1794 in Cornwall, England. I have heard his story told while participating in the Alpha Course.

Holiness was formed in Billy Bray

Billy was an immoral man, a drunkard. He worked as a miner. He was always fighting either with other men or at home. But, at twenty-nine years old, he became a Christian, and he told his wife, “You will never see me drunk again, with God’s help.” And she never did see him drunk again.

I have encountered a number of people who tell me, “When I met Christ and was filled with the Holy Spirit, I lost all cravings for drugs.”

Billy became a preacher. Crowds of miners would come to hear his electrifying preaching. Many men were converted and Billy was involved with some remarkable healings. This is all evidence of the infilling of the Holy Spirit. Power comes by the Spirit. Holiness and complete transformation come with the Spirit.

Holiness comes from disciplines

2. Read and study the Bible. Discover all you can about the topic of holiness. It is said that there are some 900 references to the words holy or holiness in the Bible. If you need a teacher, a small group, or a mentor to help you understand, find one.

3. Commit your heart to becoming more holy. To do this, you need to be repentant and submit your life to the Lord. You need to make up your mind that you really want to live like Jesus and live for Him.

4. Nourish your personal relationship with Jesus through prayer and worship. If you seek to know Jesus as Friend and Savior, you will hunger to not disappoint Him or put anything between the two of you.

5. Learn what the “fear of the Lord” is and grow in it. It simply means reverence and holy awe for God. When we have that, our driving purpose is to please Him and stay in union with Him.

Five Benefits of Seeking a Holy Life

Finally, what are the benefits of seeking to live a holy life? Will we simply be bored?

NO! The truth is that a holy life does not have the drama, heartache, and chaos of a life lived in disobedience to God. A holy life’s hallmark is internal peace. Yes, there may be troubles all around, but living close to Jesus means inside, there won’t be turmoil. There is a peace “that passes all understanding to guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)

More of the blessings from holy living

And, this lifestyle brings us into:

1) deeper intimacy with God, a profound awareness of His love and refreshment.

2) We gain the ability to freely serve God without guilt or shame blocking our way. The holy life shaped by the Holy Spirit is full of power, miracles, and adventure.

3) We gain the capacity to influence others and draw them to God. We do become incredible witnesses for the Lord.

4) Our life is full of stability as we know we will always go to the righteous position of choosing God’s way to do things as our default position. We are not “blown and tossed by the wind.” (James 1:6 NIV)

5) God blesses the righteous person. “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.” (Psalm 37:25 NIV)

Helping others to know the Holy Spirit and discipling people in how to live following their acceptance of Christ is the great need of the moment! Let’s all do our part to help.


What is Holiness in the Bible


Further Resources:

Who is the Holy Spirit and what does He do?

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Part I

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Part II


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