In Leviticus 19 we come to the heart of the matter. What does God really want from His people? Does He want them to become enslaved to the tedium of ritual law, frozen in petrified ineptness? No. What God wants is holiness.
This statement begs the question, “What is holiness?” When we think of holiness we tend to think of it as synonymous with perfection. The Hebrew word translated “holy” is the word Kadosh. In the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament) and in the New Testament the word translated “holy” is hagios. In both languages the word means “to be set apart for a specific purpose.”
That is what God wants from His people. He doesn’t want them to be perfect by following external rituals. Everyone knows that you can go through the motions on the outside and not be authentically present on the inside. God is not after the externals, He is after the heart. A holy heart is a heart that has been called out from the kingdom and the ways of the world and has committed itself to focus on the Kingdom of God. A heart that is holy will automatically modify the external behaviors. The term “sanctification” is hagiazo, which is the verbal form of hagia. In other words, to be sanctified is the process of being set apart and transformed into the image of God.
When Jesus came He said in Matthew 5 that He did not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it. He did abolish the tedious external laws, because those had become the idol of the Pharisees. They thought they would be made holy by observing a list of “do’s” and “don’ts”. Jesus did not abolish the Law, He intensified it.
He said in Matthew 22:37-40, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Do you see how the entire book of Leviticus is summarized in these three verses? Leviticus 1-10 is all about loving God through sacrifices. Leviticus 11-27 is all about loving your neighbor.
How can we be holy? We can understand that God has called us out of the world for the purpose of knowing Him, being filled by Him, and overflowing with His presence in love for the world around us.
With that understanding of holiness in mind, read the following New Testament verses and see if they have new meaning for you.
1 Corinthians 1:2