17 July 2023

What is holiness?

Lieutenant Liam Beattie

Lieutenant Liam Beattie reflects of the theme of Together 2023 and examines what it means to be 'wholly holy'.

Key texts

The focus of Together 2023 was on what it means to be Wholly Holy. Holiness is a theological concept that has long been privy to debate and exploration among the faithful.

One thing to consider about holiness is that it is impossible to compare, contrast and quantify spiritual experiences against each other. We as God’s children have been ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’ (Psalm 139:14). The unique qualities that make us so different from one another correlate to how we individually walk with God. What is possible, however, is to keep ourselves accountable for our own spiritual journey.

In Galatians, Paul mentions the fruit of the Spirit: ‘Love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control’ (5:22 and 23). How does this apply to being wholly holy? All these attributes are found in Jesus, and holiness is Christlikeness.

We are called to have integrity in our faith, and to exhibit the fruit of Christlikeness. Exploring the fruit of the Spirit is therefore of great consideration. To be wholly holy will require us to deeply consider which of these qualities are more prominent and which are not.

Pause and reflect

  • What do you identify as the most prominent – and the least prominent – attribute of the fruit of the Spirit in your life? Why?

Whatever revelation this question evokes, it is important to act upon it. What enables us to strive towards being wholly holy is our willingness to be teachable and to grow in faith.

Photo shows ripples spreading out as someone lightly touches a pool of water with their middle finger.

Galatians 5:18

But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

Read Galatians 5

The Holy Spirit helps us discern our faithful journeys by producing in Christians the positive attributes of godly character, all of which are evident in Jesus. Therefore, we need to allow him to work in and through us, as an instrument of his word and a vessel of his Spirit.

Pause and reflect

  • Consider the things in your life that are important and cannot be measured.
  • What effect do they have on you?

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul directs readers to think about ‘whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is admirable’ (4:8). It serves as a constant reminder that what we allow to occupy our hearts and minds will determine our speech and actions. These are words of Scripture we are encouraged to hold close to, because they can have a positive influence not only on us but also on those around us. If people are blessed by how we conduct ourselves, this will bear fruit.

You will notice that attributes such as rage, frustration, anger and aggression are all absent from the attributes of fruitful living. Such behaviour is contrary to fruitful living and being wholly holy.

Pause and reflect

  • Paul writes: ‘Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good’ (Romans 12:21).
  • How is this reflected in your daily living?

We are called to be God’s messengers and his reflectors of holiness, although this is not always easy in the face of challenge and drudgery. For example, while using communal laundry facilities, one day, I discovered that someone had heaped my wet laundry on the top of the washing machine because they wanted to use it. I was annoyed. In that moment, I had a choice to make – should I get revenge or should I show them kindness?

Choosing the latter, I purposely waited until their washing had finished drying, then I chose to open the door, fold the clothes neatly and place them on the table. In this act, the perpetrator felt the impact of Christian kindness testimony as well as the discomfort of having their clothes handled.

I share this experience because we all have choices to make. Do we compromise ourselves through impulse and frustration or do we choose to lavish love? How is the fruit of the Spirit evident in our actions towards other people?

In exploring how to be wholly holy, we must consider the scriptural concept of being transformed into the likeness of Christ.

As Paul writes: ‘And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit’ (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Pause and reflect

  • Why is being transformed into the likeness of Christ considered a lifelong experience?

Many of the psalms speak of a pilgrimage of faith. In our own journeys of faith, there is much blessing to be absorbed along the way. We are called not only to share our faith but also to grow in it. Anyone who wishes to have a simple A-to-B journey will miss out on vital opportunities to be blessed.

Dehydration isn’t solved by a single drink of water. To prevent dehydration, we must continually keep ourselves hydrated.

The same applies spiritually: if we are to be wholly holy – to grow as people and develop a holy life – we need to be intentional in being transformed into the likeness of Christ over time.

Bible study by

Photo of Liam Beattie.

Lieutenant Liam Beattie

Corps Officer, Leicester West

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