Meditations in Colossians: 2: We are holy?
Col 1:2 To the holy and faithful brothers in Christ at Colosse:
How often, I wonder, do we pass over words in the Bible and accept that we really don’t know what they mean? The word ‘holy’ comes up over 580 times in the Bible but what does it mean and what are its implications? Paul writes to holy people at Colosse, so why are they holy? What does that mean? We’re going to have to do a study here rather than just ponder on the word.
Essentially holy means to be utterly different. But how? The first (and only) reference to the word ‘holy’ in Genesis is, “God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” (Gen 2:3) i.e. he made it special and different which in that case meant a day of rest, a day without work.
But then we find in Exodus it is used over 30 times, the first one being at the place of the burning bush where the Lord tells Moses, “Do not come any closer. Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” (Ex 3:5) That is interesting because what we know of that was that God’s presence was being manifest there so He could talk to Moses, and something strange was happening – a bush was burning without being destroyed. The presence of God seemed to make that place holy and because of His presence almost anything could happen!
Later at Sinai, the Lord said to Moses, “Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Ex 19:5,6) Again the implication is at the least, a different and special people, but it is only when we get into Leviticus that we find, “I am the LORD your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy,” (Lev 11:44) and we realise that holiness is a description of God and wherever He manifests Himself in our midst, that place is also holy. This is repeated in Lev 19:2 and then a little later on is expanded: “Consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am the LORD your God. Keep my decrees and follow them. I am the LORD, who makes you holy.” (Lev 20:7,8) and if we hadn’t got the message, “You are to be holy to me because I, the LORD, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own.” (Lev 20:26) and then, “Consider them holy, because I the LORD am holy–I who make you holy.” (Lev 21:8) This idea of making people, places or things holy is conveyed a number of times more in Leviticus especially.
But is not only the Lord Himself who conveys holiness, it is also His angelic representatives: “The commander of the LORD’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.” (Josh 5:15) Later in the incident of the ark being returned from the Philistines, we find, “the men of Beth Shemesh asked, “Who can stand in the presence of the LORD, this holy God?” (1 Sam 6:20) Now if it hadn’t come through very clearly before in the verses we looked at, at least, the sense comes through now that because He is holy, there is an ethical or moral dimension added that implies He is perfect morally and anyone who gets close to Him to should be the same, complying utterly with His Law or His will, His design for mankind.
Yet when we start looking at the character or nature of God we find that His ‘utterly different-ness’ is more than just moral perfection because Jesus taught, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect,” (Mt 5:48) and the word ‘perfect’ means complete or whole. God is complete and whole and lacks nothing. He is also love and He is also good (those are also attributes spoken of Him in the Scriptures). This is brought into New Testament teaching by the apostle Peter, “just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (1 Pet 1:15)
Now let’s ponder on all this because of course we need also to remember that we are now those who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. It is His presence within us that makes us utterly different and we find that we are being changed by Him into His likeness (2 Cor 3:18). Thus He seeks to work His wholeness into our lives, His love, His goodness, His ethical perfection. Put like this there is no room for dodgy dealings, bad language, questionable relationships or whatever else the rest of the world might be into.
But even as we noted with the burning bush incident, where the Lord’s presence is (and He is within us), then anything is possible! Do we limit Him I wonder by our unbelief, by our not realizing or taking hold of these things? I AM holy. He DOES live within me. He IS changing me into His likeness. Anything IS possible with Him. These things do not apply just to one or two very special people, the Mother Teresa type of people; this applies to all of us who call ourselves Christian. All the people who formed the church at Colosse were holy. All of your church are holy. If only we will realise it!