Does Holy Mean what our Culture Says it Means?

This month, I wanted to take a break from our image problem articles and look specifically at one word.  In our modern day world, current trends and fads determine the definitions of words.  This is a grave mistake in my opinion, but social engineers have done a great job in skewing the definitions of words and dumbing down our civilization – divided & conquer technique.  Our current society is engineered to be abstract where everyone struggles to be on the same page.  In order to determine the definition of a word, we must first do something very important.  We have to go back to the time period and look at the historical and cultural meaning in which that word was used.
For example, how is it possible for Republicans and Democrats to read the same exact words of the constitution yet come to totally separate interpretations?  The answer lies in three aspects: the culture in which the word was used, the historical period in which the word was used, and the context in which the word was used.  When defining the Scriptures, we must add one more aspect.  That aspect deals with the first usage of the word in scripture.  In other words, the first time a word is used in the Bible is usually its concrete meaning in which other renderings that follow will be closely associated and related.  For example if we were looking for the concrete meaning of the word holy, we must go to the first place that word was used in order to determine the scriptural definition of the word.
Without looking up the word holy, how would you define it?  Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines this word in multiple ways.
  1. Properly, whole, entire or perfect, in a moral sense. Hence, pure in heart, temper or dispositions; free from sin and sinful affections. Applied to the Supreme Being, holy signifies perfectly pure, immaculate and complete in moral character; and man is more or less holy as his heart is more or less sanctified, or purified from evil dispositions. We call a man holy when his heart is conformed in some degree to the image of God, and his life is regulated by the divine precepts. Hence, holy is used as nearly synonymous with good, pious, godly.
  2. Hallowed; consecrated or set apart to a sacred use, or to the service or worship of God; a sense frequent in Scripture; as the holy sabbath; holy oil; holy vessels; a holy nation; the holy temple; a holy priesthood.
  3. Proceeding from pious principles, or directed to pious purposes; as holy zeal.
  4. Perfectly just and good
  5. Sacred
These are good definitions but still miss the mark of Biblically defining the word holy.  If I were to ask you who was the first person in Scripture to be called holy, what would your answer be?  Adam, Able, Noah, Elijah, or others possibly came to your mind.  Nobody in the Old Test. or New Test. were ever called holy.  I will eventually explain later.  Do I have your attention? This is why concretely defining words in the Bible is so important.  This is also why we get into error when we abstractly define words based on current trends, fads, and culture.  Before we define the Biblical definition of holy, let us look where this word is first used in Scripture.
Genesis 2:3 Then YHVH blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.
The word translated sanctified is also translated as holy.  Before I define this word take a look at this verse again.  There are many believers who believe any day can be a Sabbath.  That isn’t what Scripture teaches because right out of the gate YHVH takes this day and separates it or sets it apart from all the other “common” days.  The reason has to do with it being special and having a specific purpose.  Here is our concrete definition.  Holy means consecrated, set apart for a specific purpose, and removed from common use.  Is it starting to make better sense now as to why the other six days can’t be Sabbath’s?  The holy and common can’t be mixed and there are plenty of Scriptures instructing us about that.
Let me explain why based on our cultural definition no man/woman was considered holy in the Bible.  There are two places that actually use the word holy to describe a person.  The first is in 2 Kings 4:9, and if you read the original text, it says, “I perceive this man is of the Holy God.”  This is contrary to saying this is a holy man of God.  The second place it is used is Mark 6:20 when referring to John the Baptist.  When you take this word back to the Hebrew using the Septuagint, you will find it means set apart or consecrated.  This totally makes sense because John the Baptist was of priestly decent and separated himself from the corrupt leadership of the temple in his day.  In other words, John the Baptist set himself apart from a corrupt system in order to not defile his moral and ritual status as a priest.
1 Peter 1:15:16  but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
If nobody in Scripture was called holy then what is this Scripture talking about?  This word becomes clearer when used in picture form.  Most families have one common set of dishes and then have their prized china dishes.  Normally, the china dishes aren’t in the same cabinet as the regular common dishes.  These china dishes are usually placed in a china cabinet.  In other words, these dishes are consecrated and set apart in order to only be used on specific occasions.  They aren’t holy in that they have never sinned or obey God to the letter of the law.  They have a specific purpose and are used when that purpose comes about.
Toothbrushes are excellent examples, also.  Do you let someone else or a stranger use your toothbrush?  I’m willing to bet no.  So your toothbrush is holy.  It is set apart and separated from common use where you are the only one who uses it.  The list goes on and on.  The point I want to finish with is that holy doesn’t necessarily mean what our culture says it means.  We are instructed to be holy. We are to be set apart and removed from the common by consecrating ourselves through obedience to God’s instructions.