Emma Petersen is the former Executive Assistant for The Anchor. She is a Washington native and graduated from the University of Washington with a B.A. in Classics.
She enjoys teaching Latin and ancient history as a private tutor. In her spare time, she enjoys reading the Bible in Greek, rock climbing, running, and hiking with friends.
Holy—that’s the only word left on the spine of my Bible. It used to say “Holy Bible: Journaling Edition, NKJV” but over years of use, those words have worn off. But, if I had to use one word to describe the Bible, that’s the word I’d choose: “holy.”
Although “holy” is a religious word, we see it thrown around in a bunch of other contexts. We use the word to mark the best of something, like a holy grail of a certain makeup product, or to describe a holier than thou attitude, or to make an exclamation of surprise (“Holy ravioli, Batman!”). But when I use “holy” to describe the Bible, it is not meant that medieval knights are searching for it, it is not to insinuate judgment or impart haughtiness, and it is certainly not to quote Robin.
The spine of my Bible with all the words besides “HOLY” worn off
Dr. Tony Evans defines “holy” as “sacred, separated, and unique; it is to treat as one of a kind, to treat as special.” That’s the definition I’d attach to the word on the spine of my Bible. The Bible is a special and unique work of antiquity. The scholarship surrounding it emphasizes how it is set apart from other ancient works and how it is one of a kind. It will forever be the most sacred book that I own. It is holy — set apart, inspired by God.
What makes the Bible holy?
Why are the Scriptures so special? In looking at what the Bible has to say about itself, we learn that God’s word is:
- intended to teach us, encourage us, and give us hope (Romans 15:4)
- living and powerful (Hebrews 4:12)
- inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16)
- used by God to prepare and equip us to do every good work (2 Timothy 3:17)
The Bible itself is holy, but it is also God’s loving guidebook for us on holiness.
What does holiness look like for us?
The phrase “holier than thou” shouldn’t be a descriptor of what God has called us to be! He calls us to holiness, but he also calls us to be humble and gentle and to love others. In doing so, we are set apart. Living above others doesn’t make us holy — that is pridefulness. True holiness is not self-righteous or judgmental. As Oswald Chambers once said, “there is no such thing as proud holiness.” Jesus was the holiest person to walk on earth AND He was also the humblest. True holiness clashes with pridefulness and judgmentalism. Holiness is a friend to humbleness — they go together.
God’s holiness has to do with justice, morality, and grace.
In the book, Gentle and Lowly, Dane Ortlund writes, “[Jesus’s] holiness finds evil revolting… But it is that very holiness that also draws his heart out to help and relieve and protect and comfort” (pgs. 69-70). God loves us more than we can imagine, which is why He desires to share His holiness with us. Our holiness comes from recognizing and accepting God’s love for us (Romans 5:8). Only Jesus can make holy what is unholy. Thus, Jesus is our way to holiness.
Our holiness is a gift from God.
All we can do is seek and follow God. True holiness draws attention to God because of what he has done for us; it does not draw attention to ourselves. Holiness has nothing to do with how we view others; rather, it has everything to do with how God views us. And we know he loves us. Holiness is the result of following Jesus, whom the Bible calls the Holy One (Luke 1:35).
What does the Bible say about how holiness relates to us?
God wants us to be holy (1 Peter 1:16). Jesus prayed for us to be holy (John 17:17-20). God calls us to be holy (1 Thessalonians 4:7). God makes us holy (1 Corinthians 1:2). We are created to be holy (Ephesians 4:24). We are only made holy because He forgives us fully (Colossians 1:22). Holiness is God’s plan for us from the very beginning (2 Timothy 1:9).
How do we become holy?
Only God can make us holy. He gifts us His holiness through His Spirit, and our holiness is a response to God and His love, forgiveness, and grace. When we place our hope in Jesus, He sets us free from fear, guilt, and shame. He forgives us and declares us innocent. When we invite Jesus into the home of our heart, we also invite His holiness. And it is His holiness that radiates through us. Because our holiness comes from God’s love and forgiveness, it is God who deems us holy. All we have to do is believe.
When we live holy lives, we are living in our calling. We are reaching our potential. We are aligning ourselves with what is right. Holy living is peaceful living.