Is It Holy? Is It Profane?

So, what is holy? What is profane? We often hear that what’s holy is set apart, usually for a specific purpose. And we know that the word profane doesn’t necessarily mean things are evil or wicked; they’re just common or ordinary. In the Old Testament system of temple sacrifices, there was common bread, and there was holy bread (1 Samuel 21:6). There was common oil, and there was holy oil (Exodus 30:31). There was common flesh, and there was holy flesh (Haggai 2:12)

What about in the New Testament system of worship? Is there still an expectation of separation between the holy and the common? I think I see Biblical evidence to suggest that, yes, God still expects holiness.

  • People are to be holy (Romans 12:1; 1 Corinthians 3:17; 7:14; Ephesians 1:4; Colossians 1:22; 3:12; Ephesians 5:27; 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 1:8; Hebrews 3:1; 1 Peter 1:15-16; 2 Peter 3:11)
  • Greetings to each other should be holy. (Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:26)
  • The church should be holy (1 Corinthians 9:13; Ephesians 5:27; 1 Peter 2:5, 9)
  • Prayerful hands should be holy (1 Timothy 2:8)

But it seems that the emphasis of holiness has changed since God denounced the priests in Ezekiel for blurring the lines between clean and unclean. These New Testament examples seem to focus on holiness of person, with far less attention (if any) on the holiness of physical things like bread, oil, or flesh.

When I began typing up this article, I expected to share some thought experiments about green hair and xylophones. (Um, yes… Really.) I still might share those some day, but as I ponder the presentation of holiness in the New Testament, I begin to wonder if those thought experiments are even relevant – at least in the way I intended to talk about them. Green hair and xylophones seem to be far more related to physical things than to the internal, personal holiness that I noticed as I researched for this article.

So, I’m holding off on those for now.

The idea that started this whole series of articles was the danger that those of us with spiritual influence or authority can hurt other people when we misrepresent God. Two ways we can do that — taken from Ezekiel 22: 26, 28 — are to blur the lines between the holy and the profane and to attribute to God something He did not say.

So, what am I missing? As we look into the idea of holiness in the New Testament, what does God expect? What does holiness of person look like? Are there examples of holiness of physical things in the New Testament? Is there another aspect of holiness that I’ve overlooked?

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Leave a Comment below. Share a Biblical observation of what holiness looks like — especially for people who have spiritual influence or authority.

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