Merriam Webster offers the following definitions:
- holy – exalted or worthy of complete devotion as one perfect in goodness and righteousness, divine
- sacred – made or declared or believed to be holy
IMHO … in modern society, we have lost the sense of what is sacred and what is holy.
Within both the Old Covenant (Leviticus 11:44-45) and the New Covenant (1 Peter 1:16), through scripture God challenges us “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
Apart from God, holiness is an unreachable goal for mankind.
But God has always chosen to give us a glimpse of His holiness by dwelling among us.
He lived and walked and talked with Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden until …
Through the Old Covenant, He once again began to dwell with man through the tabernacle…
And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst. Exodus 25:8 (ESV)
And God came down to the temple in Jerusalem …
As soon as Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple 2 Chronicles 7:1 (ESV)
In New Jerusalem, God once again declares that His dwelling place is among men …
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. Revelation 21:3 (ESV)
Through the sacrificial lambs offered by the people for their sin in the tabernacle and the temple, they got a sense of holiness and the seriousness of holiness. The priests who served in “the Holy Place”, “the Most Holy Place” … the Holy of Holies … embraced a healthy fear of God and in their service to the Lord got a glimpse of His holiness. We can’t even begin to imagine the volume of sacrifices and the amount of bloodshed as a temporary payment for sin.
But note how the holiness seems to be restricted to a place …
Even as Christianity spread through the centuries, man kept returning to this concept of God and His holiness being found in a place … typically He was found in the places dedicated as a sanctuary in the church buildings … and this practice continued well into the 20th century and beyond.
As an impressionable child, I remember being taught about the holiness and sacredness of the church sanctuary … it was not a place for a child to play around. While in recent years I have found that was a misguided lesson, nevertheless, in that lesson I did get a sense of the holy and the sacred. But the modern church, in many cases, seems to be moving away from the sanctuary concept … and toward a more biblical teaching of worship … note the dialogue between Jesus and the Samaritan woman:
Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:20-24 (ESV)
Jesus makes it clear … worship will no longer be about a place … it will be about spirit and truth!
Want to worship God? Well, wherever you go, there you are.
Through the sacrifice of the Lamb of God … Christ Jesus … God made it possible for the Spirit of truth … the Holy Spirit to dwell not simply with us … but within us (John 14:17)!
Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 (ESV)
You are God’s temple!
God’s Spirit dwells IN you!
God’s temple is holy!
You are God’s temple!
We (as the Church) are God’s temple!
In this world, in the New Covenant, IN Christ Jesus … we are to be the sacred and holy.
And as a royal priesthood … a holy priesthood, what is our act of service before the Lord?
As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious,you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:4-5 (ESV)
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Romans 12:1 (ESV)
Oh Lord, forgive me for my lost sense of the sacred and the holy …
May our God and Father and our Lord Jesus make us increase and abound in love for one another and for all so that He may establish our hearts blameless in holiness. (from Paul’s prayer in 1Thessalonians 3:11-13) AMEN!