What Does It Mean to Be Holy

What does it mean to be holy?

God has plans for us. The core of these plans is to make us whole and holy, by His love. “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” (Ephesians 1-4)

But what is holiness? Holiness is not something austere, spiritually elite, and rather severe, like giving up worldly pleasures, innocent things such as sugar, music, or fishing, living an entirely spiritual life, praying a lot, being a very good person.

Biblical Definition and View of Holiness

But what is the Biblical definition and view of holiness?

Holiness is, most of all, an internal condition of the heart. Once we are spiritually birthed in Christ by the Holy Spirit, we receive the righteousness of Christ. It is then up to us, enabled by the power of the Holy Spirit, to learn to live holy and godly lives.

Holiness means that our external matches our internal; this is a condition of outward and inward purity. To be holy means doing the will of the Father and teaching others to do so. (Matthew 5:19-20, Matthew 7:21) It means to have healthy eyes and to live like light and salt, a natural and unpretentious life.

To be holy means living a natural and unpretentious life, doing the will of the Father, and teaching others to do so. #holy #Biblestudy #bgbg2 Click To Tweet

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7 Characteristics of a Holy Life

We find 7 key characteristics of a holy life in Matthew chapters 5 and 6.

#1 Relational Integrity

The first characteristic addresses directly the condition of the heart in a relational setting. Interestingly, Jesus addresses first the condition of our hearts towards our brothers and sisters.  (Matthew 5:21-26) He wants us to have hearts free of anger, bitterness, and resentment. Instead, we are instructed to have forgiving hearts that don’t harbor hatred and offense, but instead nurture forgiveness and strive for reconciliation.

“But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.” (Matthew 5:22)

#2 Purity in the Personal Life and Marriage

The next characteristic deals with our reaction to temptation and personal purity. It deals with our inner thought life, desires and motivations. (Matthew 5:27-30) We are to think pure thoughts and guard our eyes.

Jesus’ call to holiness is so strong that he says that it is better to lose one part of our body than for our whole body to be thrown into hell! (Matthew 5:29). Holiness matters to God. Maintaining purity in our thoughts and motivations is an essential part of the Christian life.

This inner purity and integrity should be transferred to marriage too. Jesus takes a harsh stance on the topic of divorce saying it is equal to committing adultery. God values faithfulness and keeping the marriage covenant.  (Matthew 5:31-32)

Maintaining purity in our thoughts and motivations is an essential part of the Christian life. #purity #Biblestudy #Compeltraining Click To Tweet

#3 Integrity and Character

The next characteristic of a holy life points to integrity and character. (Matthew 5:33-37) The Lord expects us to be people who keep their words and do what we say. Our actions should match our words. We don’t need to swear an oath but to say simply “yes” and “no”, and act accordingly.

“All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” (Matthew 5:37)

#4 Love and Generosity

The fourth characteristic of holiness is again a relational one, based on a lifestyle of love, forgiveness, and generosity. (Matthew 5:38-42) Jesus again instructs us not to harbor resentment and desires for revenge but rather to be meek and patient, enduring suffering. Not only this but we are to be generous with our love, giving to others, and loving them abundantly as we are loved by the Father.

“Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” (Matthew 5:42)

#5 Love Towards the Enemies

The call to love spreads also to our enemies. (Matthew 5:43-48) To live a holy life is not enough just to love our neighbors, we are called to something more challenging – to love our enemies. Such pure condition of the heart free from offense, hatred, and resentment is only possible by the power of the Holy Spirit, who cleanses us and enables us to love others with the love of God.

“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:44-45)

#6 Vibrant Prayer Life and Relationship with God

One of the most important characteristics of a holy, unfeigned life is a vibrant prayer life and relationship with God. This is a life that takes place behind closed doors, in the unseen. (Matthew 6:5-18) It doesn’t make a show or an attempt to prove something. God calls us to be transparent and authentic with Him in our homes, in our cars, in our workplaces, when nobody is watching us.

“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:6)

God calls us to be transparent and authentic with Him in our homes, in our cars, in our workplaces, when nobody is watching us.  #holiness #encouragement Click To Tweet

#7 Heart focused on Seeking God’s Kingdom and Righteousness

The last characteristic of a holy life is a heart focused on seeking God’s kingdom and righteousness first. God and His Kingdom are to become our priorities, integrated into our everyday lives. When we put God first and seek to know and do His will, we naturally exhibit His character and start living holy, godly lives.

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)

Deeds in the Name of the Lord Jesus

We find very practical instruction on how to live holy and godly lives in Colossians. “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:14)When we ask ourselves the question, “Can I do this in the name of Jesus or can I say this in the name of Jesus?” before we act or talk, we have a very good filter to guide our decisions and to enable us to live in holiness.

Another guiding principle is doing everything through the prism of love. “And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (Colossians 3:14) 

What Does It Mean to Be Holy Printable

I have prepared a printable of these 7 characteristics of a holy life and the accompanying Bible verses to help you meditate on them. Click on the image to download it.

More Resources on How to Live a Holy Life

If you need more resources on what holiness means and how to live a holy life, I can highly recommend these books. Check them out.

Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots by J.C. Ryle

The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges

Growing in Holiness: Understanding God’s Role and Yours by R.C. Sproul

Rediscovering Holiness: Know the Fullness of Life with God by J.I. Packer

Holiness, Truth, and the Presence of God: A Penetrating Study of the Human Heart and How God Prepares It for His Glory by Francis Frangipane

HOLINESS – God’s Plan for Fullness of Life by Henry Blackaby

The Hole in Our Holiness: Filling the Gap between Gospel Passion and the Pursuit of Godliness by Kevin Deyoung

Holiness: The Heart God Purifies by Nancy Leigh DeMoss

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Your Turn

Which of these characteristics do you need to develop in your life? Share in the comments and on social media if you have found this article helpful. Thank you!

When we put God first and seek to know and do His will, we naturally exhibit His character and start living holy, godly lives.  #holiness #Biblestudy #bgbg2 Click To Tweet

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20 Replies to “What Does It Mean to Be Holy”

  1. Love this …

    “Holiness means that our external matches our internal; this is a condition of outward and inward purity. To be holy means doing the will of the Father and teaching others to do so. (Matthew 5:19-20, Matthew 7:21) It means to have healthy eyes and to live like light and salt, a natural and unpretentious life!

    Beautiful post sweet sister! Thank you … ❤

  2. Thank you for sharing everyday examples of holiness. Too often, I picture holiness as something too lofty to aspire to. With the help of the Holy Spirit, inner transformation is possible and can be reflected in my outward actions.

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Lisa! Yes, you are absolutely right: inner transformation is possible by the power of the Holy Spirit and it is reflected outwardly too.

  3. I once told someone in a Job Interview that my goal was to live a Holy life.
    I did not get that job. Looking back, I recall the man actually smirked and laughed at my response.
    I do remember walking out of there thinking that it was sort of sad that he found such a goal to be something to laugh at.
    And, praying for him.
    At that time, Holy Living was something that I thought I would never mention again to anyone. It was a personal choice.
    As I have matured, it has become evident to me that when the world hears the word Holy; it is confused. People do not know how to respond to Holiness.
    I have been going along thinking that it really is not that complicated. For me, it is living as if I have been set apart from the World for Our Father.
    Not allowing myself to be conformed to the world, but seeking to submit to transformation based on the Word.
    I do appreciate you taking the time to break it down into characteristics of life and posture towards the world and those who are in it with us.
    Whether or not people have faith or understanding today to understand what it is to be Holy; is not as relevant as the personal choices that we make that transform our relationship with Our Father and our fellow persons on earth.
    I think you did a fine job of describing this more fully.

    1. Thanks so much for sharing your story and thoughts on how to live a holy life. I like how you define holiness: to live as set apart from the world and allow God’s Word to transform us. I am glad that you found this article helpful. Blessings to you!

    1. Thanks so much, Patti! Yes, it is easier to understand holiness when we study the different aspects shown in God’s Word. Blessings to you!

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