God is holy. In fact, He is holy, holy, holy (Isaiah 6:1-4; Rev. 4:1-8). In general, to be holy means to be separated. But how is God separated? From what is He separated?
First God is totally distinct from all His creation. He is transcendent, not only distinct but higher than everything else. But second, and more importantly, holiness is moral. God is totally separate from all sin and evil. He is absolutely pure with no taint of evil. Finally, God has separated Himself to fulfill His plan and purpose. Nothing can distract nor hinder Him from fulfilling them.
So how are we to respond to His holiness. He tells us to be holy because He is holy (1 Peter 1:13-17). Peter is quoting Leviticus. In Leviticus, there are four passages that call Israel to holiness (Lev. 11:44, 45; 19:2; 20:7, 8; 20:26). These passages show that being holy involves purity in all aspects of life. But what does this mean, and how is it possible?
We can learn from Isaiah’s response to his vision of God’s holiness (Isaiah 6:5-8). First, he confessed his sin. God’s holiness reveals our sin. We should respond with honest confession, agreement with God’s analysis of us. Then he received God’s cleansing work. We cannot cleanse ourselves adequately. We must confess and repent of our sin and then trust God to cleanse us through the work of Jesus. Finally, he volunteered for service to God. This reminds us of the two sides to human holiness. It must include separation from sin, but that is actually a consequence of the main emphasis. The primary emphasis is separation to God. To be holy for us is to be set apart to serve God. Then because He is holy, we can only serve Him if we a separated from evil.
That God is holy is a central truth for the understanding of God. But it is also the challenge to us to separate ourselves from sin through repentance and faith in order to give ourselves fully to His service, set apart for His glory. Let us be holy because He is holy.