Holiness is a great word to study because God is holy and He calls us to be holy also. However, this word can be highly misunderstood and misused by many. For example, when I first got saved I thought holiness meant to be perfect. Although being blameless is a step in holiness, perfection is not. That’s why the statement ‘holier than thou’ doesn’t make any sense in the way people use it. Therefore, let’s look at what the word holiness means in Hebrew and Greek.
But first, let’s take a look at the definition of holiness in the 1828 Noah Webster’s Dictionary (emphasis added):
“The state of being holy; purity or integrity of moral character; freedom from sin; sanctity. Applied to the Supreme Being, holiness denotes perfect purity or integrity of moral character, one of his essential attributes.
Who is like thee, glorious in holiness? Exodus 15:11.
1. Applied to human beings, holiness is purity of heart or dispositions; sanctified affections; piety; moral goodness, but not perfect.
We see piety and holiness ridiculed as morose singularities.
2. Sacredness; the state of any thing hallowed, or consecrated to God or to his worship; applied to churches or temples.
3. That which is separated to the service of God.”
All scriptures are taken from NKJV unless otherwise marked.
What Does The Word ‘Holiness’ Mean In Hebrew?
qodesh- sacred place or thing.
This word is translated into the word holy 262 times in the Old Testament. It’s also translated into the following ways:
- holiness (Exodus 15:11)
- holy thing (Numbers 4:15)
- sanctuary (Exodus 36:4)
“And you shall make from these a holy anointing oil, an ointment compounded according to the art of the perfumer. It shall be a holy anointing oil.”
– Exodus 30:25
What Does The Word ‘Holiness’ Mean In Greek?
hagiasmos- state of purity.
Hagiasmos signifies separation to God (1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Peter 1:12).
It’s translated into “holiness” in the following scriptures:
- Romans 6:19
- 1 Thessalonians 4:7
- 1 Timothy 2:15
- Hebrew 12:14
Also, it can signify the word “sanctification.” This is the state predetermined by God for believers. In grace, He calls them and they begin their Christian course.
hagiotes- state of holiness.
“For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness.”
– Hebrews 12:10
hagiosune- quality of holiness.
In other words, hagiosune speaks of the manifestation of holiness in personal conduct. It’s used in the following ways:
- Believers are to be “perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1).
- In reference to the holiness of Christ in the flesh, which makes Him different from all human beings; His resurrection confirmed He was the Son of God (Romans 1:4).
- Exercising love is declared to be the way God uses to develop our likeness to Christ (1 John 4:16).
eusebeia- piety, religious.
Eusebia comes from two different words:
- eu which means “well.”
- seboma which means “to be devout.”
It’s used to describe someone with a Godward attitude who does that which is pleasing to God. It can be found many times in the New Testament, including four times in Peter’s second epistle alone (1:3, 1:6, 1:7, 3:11).
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.“
– 2 Timothy 3:16
Hieroprepes comes from two different words:
- hieros meaning “sacred.”
- prepo which gives reference to, “suited to a sacred character, that which is suitable in a person’s actions, or a thing consecrated to God.”
“the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things—”
– Titus 2:3
“In holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life.”
– Luke 1:75
As you can see, the word holiness describes something that is set apart for God. Take another look at the definition from the first section: “The state of being holy; purity or integrity of moral character; freedom from sin; sanctity.” According to this definition, anyone who is a born-again believer in Christ is holy. That’s because Jesus Christ died in our place, destroyed our sin, and traded us His righteousness.
He gave us a new heart and we are now free of sin and on our way to sanctification. Therefore, once a person is alive in Christ through the Holy Spirit, it’s up to them to continue growing in their faith and holiness. Once again, holiness does not mean perfect. It perfectly describes the new man that is born into when we receive Christ as our savior.
That’s what the word holiness means in Hebrew and Greek. I pray you found this article helpful. If so, please share this content. Also, feel free to share any thoughts in the comments below. Thanks for reading!
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