What is Holiness


By William Burkett


In Old Testament times when a thing—such as a piece of furniture that belonged to the Tabernacle or Temple—was sanctified, it was considered “holy unto the Lord.” It was never to be used for any other purpose than that for which it was dedicated. To become holy, then, was to become the property of God, set aside for the service of God according to His will.

With inanimate objects the will was not involved, so the process was simple. For instance, the little shovel to be used to scoop the ashes from the atar was formed by the artificer according to the commandment of God. Then it was dedicated to its stated function. That was all.

With people it is different, because we have wills and many complex mental, physical, and spiritual patterns. But up to this point we have a very good example of the principle of holiness: to be separated from the past and recreated from our original state into a person of usefulness to the Lord of glory.

A Definition of Holiness

In 2 Corinthians 7:1 we have a concise definition of holiness: “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”

Holiness Involves Cleansing Ourselves

“Let us cleans ourselves from all filthiness. . . .” the act of turning from the carnal way of life to the way of holiness which pleases God.

Holiness is both a positive and negative process. Our cleansing is from all Filthiness. When this is accomplished, certain results are automatic. In James 4:7-8, we see this principle demonstrated. First “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Second, “Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you.”

It was resistance that caused Satan to leave Jesus after the wilderness temptation. This is an eternal foundation truth: to resist evil voluntarily must precede positive and lasting spiritual inflow. This is meeting the condition for the promised blessing.

In Titus 2:12 Paul set forth the principle of holiness when he said, “The grace of God . . .hath appeared to all men . . . teaching us that denying ungodliness . . . we should live soberly, righteously, and godly . . .” And so you see there is a divine arithmetic in holiness: the subtraction of all that is worldly in our lives and the addition of heavenly qualities.

The next very important thing we need to realize is that all undesirable qualities that may be in us are in the same category in the sight of God— “filthy.” Any affection or lust that tends to turn us away from God must be reckoned as “Filthy” and removed from our lives.


We are to “cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit.” Holiness is not a singular matter, but involves the whole being and the whole spectrum of life

The flesh and spirit are two elements of the fallen man that have become depraved through the disobedience of our first parents. Here, as in other Bible passages, such as Romans 8 and 12, when the flesh and spirit are mentioned together, the flesh is mentioned first. The reason, of course, is that the flesh is our carnality, sold under sin. “The carnal mind is enmity against God” (Romans 8:7). But the Christian has the personal responsibility and the divine enablement to discipline his own body. “I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection,” Paul said.

There are sins of the flesh and there are sins of the spirit. As lust is the expression of the flesh, or of the animal nature in man, so affection is a word of the heart, which is the seat of the spirit. Paul tells us to “mortify” or put to death inordinate affection for earthly things. And once again he puts the initiative to holiness in our own hands: “Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2).

But how shall we achieve these goals of holiness? What we need is a power greater than the things we are rejecting. I have good news! The love of Jesus is stronger then carnal desire and the grace of God is greater than the power of sin. The only thing we want to know now is what can generate, what can create this over powering love and grace in our hearts.


There are two mighty spiritual forces at the disposal of every Christian which bring great bodily control and inner power. One is the Word of God and the other is prayer. My personal holiness will be no greater than my prayer life and my love for God’s word. For these are the divine sources of power to live a holy life. There is no other primary source.

When the word of God is read quietly and faithfully it has a power much the same as prayer does when entered into with faith and purpose. It is God talking to us, and the entrance of His Word gives light and understanding. The effect of sincere prayer and Bible reading are a deep peace and a divine poise in our lives, regardless of external circumstances.

These simple provisions have so much power because they come to us from heaven. Prayer is direct conversation between the believer and the living God and the Bible is God’s revealed Word which shall endure when heaven and earth shall have passed away.

To be saturated with God and His Word and His love is to want little that the things of earth and time can offer. Holiness will be a natural result of such a life.

Sometimes we hear a complaint that there is less holiness among us today than in times past. If this be true, there are three simple ways holiness can return to prominence in our lives:

1 to preach and teach holiness in the pulpits and classrooms of our churches;

2 to pray and read the Word of God with serious intent;

3 to practice honesty of heart and to deal with all matters that the Word or the Spirit may bring to our attention.

Leave a Reply


captcha *