STUDY ARTICLE 48
“You Must Be Holy”
“Become holy yourselves in all your conduct.”—1 PET. 1:15.
SONG 34 Walking in Integrity
1. What counsel did the apostle Peter give fellow believers, and why might his advice seem impossible to apply?
WHETHER our hope is heavenly or earthly, we can benefit from considering the counsel that the apostle Peter gave anointed Christians in the first century. Peter wrote: “Like the Holy One who called you, become holy yourselves in all your conduct, for it is written: ‘You must be holy, because I am holy.’” (1 Pet. 1:15, 16) From these words, we learn that we can imitate Jehovah, who is the supreme example of holiness. We can and must be holy in our conduct. That may seem impossible because we are imperfect. Peter himself made a number of mistakes; yet, his example shows that we can “become holy.”
2. What questions will we consider in this article?
2 In this article, we will consider the following questions: What is holiness? What does the Bible teach us about Jehovah’s holiness? How can we become holy in our conduct? And what connection is there between holiness and our relationship with Jehovah?
WHAT IS HOLINESS?
3. What concept do many people have of holiness, but where can we find accurate information?
3 When people think of someone who is holy, many imagine a joyless person who wears religious garments and always has a pious look on his face. But that cannot be accurate. Jehovah, who is holy, is described as “the happy God.” (1 Tim. 1:11) Those who worship him are called “happy.” (Ps. 144:15) Jesus condemned those who wore distinctive garments and practiced their righteousness in front of men. (Matt. 6:1; Mark 12:38) As Christians, we shape our view of holiness by what we have learned from the Bible. We are convinced that our holy and loving God would never give us a command that we could not possibly obey. So when Jehovah tells us: “You must be holy,” we have no doubt that this is possible. Of course, before we can become holy in our conduct, we need to understand what holiness is.
4. What do the words “holy” and “holiness” mean?
4 What is holiness? In the Bible, the words “holy” and “holiness” basically refer to moral and religious cleanness or sacredness. The terms can also convey the idea of being set aside to serve God. In other words, we will be considered holy if we are morally clean, if we worship Jehovah acceptably, and if we have a close personal relationship with him. The very thought that we can have a personal relationship with our holy God is enough to take our breath away, especially when we consider what the Bible teaches us about Jehovah’s holiness.
“HOLY, HOLY, HOLY IS JEHOVAH”
5. What can we learn about Jehovah from faithful angels?
5 Jehovah is pure and clean in every way. We learn this from a description of him that was given by seraphs—angelic creatures who are close to his throne. Some of them testified: “Holy, holy, holy is Jehovah of armies.” (Isa. 6:3) Of course, in order to have a close relationship with their holy God, the angels themselves must be holy—and they are. In fact, the mere presence of an angel of Jehovah could render a place on earth holy. That is what happened when Moses was at the burning thornbush.—Ex. 3:2-5; Josh. 5:15.
6-7. (a) According to Exodus 15:1, 11, how did Moses emphasize God’s holiness? (b) How was God’s holiness called to the attention of all Israelites? (See cover picture.)
6 After Moses led the Israelites through the Red Sea, he emphasized to them that their God, Jehovah, is holy. (Read Exodus 15:1, 11.) The conduct of the worshippers of the gods of Egypt was far from holy. The same was true of those who worshipped the gods of Canaan. Their worship included child sacrifices and depraved sexual practices. (Lev. 18:3, 4, 21-24; Deut. 18:9, 10) In contrast, Jehovah would never require his worshippers to do anything that would degrade them. He is the essence of holiness. This was made clear by the inscription found on a gold plate on the turban of the high priest. Engraved on this plate was the statement: “Holiness belongs to Jehovah.”—Ex. 28:36-38.
7 The message on that plate would assure anyone seeing it that Jehovah is truly holy. What, though, of an Israelite who was not able to see the plate because he could not approach the high priest? Would he miss this vital message? No! Every Israelite heard that message as the Law was read before men, women, and children. (Deut. 31:9-12) If you had been present, you would have heard these statements: “I am Jehovah your God, and you must . . . be holy, because I am holy.” “You must be holy to me, because I, Jehovah, am holy.”—Lev. 11:44, 45; 20:7, 26.
8. Why should we be interested in considering Leviticus 19:2 and 1 Peter 1:14-16?
8 Let us focus on one statement recorded at Leviticus 19:2 that was read to all. Jehovah told Moses: “Speak to the entire assembly of the Israelites and tell them, ‘You should be holy, because I, Jehovah your God, am holy.’” Peter may have been quoting from that statement when he urged Christians to “become holy.” (Read 1 Peter 1:14-16.) Of course, we are not under the Mosaic Law. Still, what Peter wrote confirms what we learn from Leviticus 19:2, that is, Jehovah is holy and those who love him should strive to be holy. This is true whether we hope to live in heaven or on a paradise earth.—1 Pet. 1:4; 2 Pet. 3:13.
“BECOME HOLY . . . IN ALL YOUR CONDUCT”
9. How will we benefit from considering Leviticus chapter 19?
9 Because we want to please our holy God, we are eager to learn how we can become holy. Jehovah provides some practical advice on how we can do so. An excellent source of this advice is Leviticus chapter 19. Hebrew scholar Marcus Kalisch wrote: “This remarkable chapter is perhaps the most comprehensive, the most varied, and in some respects the most important section of Leviticus, if not of the Pentateuch.” Let us note some verses from this chapter that contain valuable lessons about aspects of our daily life. As we do so, remember that these lessons follow the opening statement: “You should be holy.”
10-11. What aspect of holy conduct is highlighted in the opening words of Leviticus chapter 19, and how should we view this direction?
10 After stating that the Israelites should be holy, Jehovah added: “Each of you should respect his mother and his father . . . I am Jehovah your God.”—Lev. 19:2, 3.
11 Clearly, we ought to take to heart God’s direction to honor our parents. Recall the occasion when a man asked Jesus: “What good must I do to gain everlasting life?” Part of Jesus’ answer was that the man needed to honor his father and his mother. (Matt. 19:16-19) Jesus even denounced the Pharisees and scribes for scheming to avoid giving that honor. Thus, they “made the word of God invalid.” (Matt. 15:3-6) “The word of God” included the fifth of the Ten Commandments as well as what we read at Leviticus 19:3. (Ex. 20:12) Once again, bear in mind that the direction found at Leviticus 19:3—to respect one’s mother and father—comes right after the statement: “You should be holy, because I, Jehovah your God, am holy.”
12. In harmony with the counsel found at Leviticus 19:3, what question might we ask ourselves?
12 In harmony with Jehovah’s counsel to honor our parents, we might ask ourselves, ‘How am I doing in this regard?’ If you feel that you should have done more in the past, you could decide now to make improvements. You cannot change the past, but you can be resolved from this point on to do more with and for your parents. Perhaps you could arrange to spend more time with them. Or what about offering them more support materially, spiritually, or emotionally? Doing so is in line with what Leviticus 19:3 says.
13. (a) What further counsel do we find at Leviticus 19:3? (b) How can we today imitate Jesus’ example, as recorded at Luke 4:16-18?
13 Leviticus 19:3 teaches us something else about becoming holy. It mentions keeping the Sabbath. Christians are not under the Law, so we need not observe a weekly Sabbath. Still, we can learn much from how the Israelites kept the Sabbath and how they benefited from doing so. The Sabbath was a time to rest from normal labors and give attention to spiritual matters.b Fittingly, on that day Jesus would go to the synagogue in his hometown and read from God’s Word. (Ex. 31:12-15; read Luke 4:16-18.) God’s exhortation recorded at Leviticus 19:3 to “keep [his] sabbaths” should move us to buy out some time from our day-to-day activities so that we can give more attention to spiritual matters. Do you feel that you should make some adjustments in that respect? If you regularly set aside time to focus on spiritual matters, you will develop a warm, personal relationship with Jehovah, which is essential to become holy.
STRENGTHEN YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH JEHOVAH
14. What fundamental truth is emphasized throughout Leviticus chapter 19?
14 Leviticus chapter 19 repeatedly mentions a fundamental truth that can help us to remain holy. Verse 4 concludes with the words: “I am Jehovah your God.” That phrase or similar wording is found 16 times in this chapter. This calls to mind the first commandment: “I am Jehovah your God . . . You must not have any other gods besides me.” (Ex. 20:2, 3) Every Christian who wants to become holy must ensure that nothing or no one comes between him and his relationship with his God. And because we bear the name Jehovah’s Witnesses, we are determined to avoid any actions that would disgrace or profane his holy name.—Lev. 19:12; Isa. 57:15.
15. The verses found in Leviticus chapter 19 dealing with sacrifices should move us to do what?
15 For the Israelites, recognizing Jehovah as their God involved keeping many laws. Leviticus 18:4 says: “You should carry out my judicial decisions, and you should keep my statutes and walk in them. I am Jehovah your God.” Chapter 19 includes some of those “statutes” for Israel. For example, verses 5-8, 21, 22 deal with animal sacrifices. Those were to be made in a way that would not ‘profane a holy thing of Jehovah.’ Reading those verses should move us to want to please Jehovah and to offer him acceptable sacrifices of praise, as Hebrews 13:15 urges us to do.
16. What may remind us of the distinction between those serving God and those not serving him?
16 To become holy, we must be willing to stand out as different. That can be a challenge. Sometimes schoolmates, business associates, unbelieving relatives, and others may pressure us to get involved in activities that would interfere with our worship. When they do, we have an important decision to make. What can help us make the right choice? Consider an interesting principle found at Leviticus 19:19, which says in part: “You must not wear a garment made with two sorts of thread mixed together.” That law helped to distinguish Israel from the surrounding nations. Today, we do not object to garments of mixed materials, such as cotton and polyester or wool and rayon. But we do object to being like people whose beliefs and practices conflict with Bible teachings, even if these individuals are schoolmates, business associates, or relatives. Of course, we have natural affection for our relatives, and we show love for our neighbors. Yet, when it comes to important aspects of life, we are willing to be separate as Jehovah’s people. Recall that being set aside for God is part of being holy. That is vital if we are striving to become holy.—2 Cor. 6:14-16; 1 Pet. 4:3, 4.
17-18. We can draw what valuable lesson from Leviticus 19:23-25?
17 The phrase “I am Jehovah your God” should have helped the Israelites to give priority to their relationship with Jehovah. How? Leviticus 19:23-25 reveals one way. (Read.) Consider what these words would mean for the Israelites once they entered the Promised Land. If a man planted trees for food, he was not to eat the fruit from these trees for three years. In the fourth year, the fruit was set aside for use at God’s sanctuary. It was only in the fifth year that the owner could eat the fruit. This law should have helped the Israelites to understand that their interests were not to come first. They were to trust in Jehovah as their Provider and give priority to supporting his worship. He would make sure that they had enough to eat. And God encouraged them to make generous gifts at the sanctuary, the center of his worship.
18 The law recorded at Leviticus 19:23-25 reminds us of Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount. He said: “Stop being anxious about . . . what you will eat or what you will drink.” Jesus continued: “Your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.” God will provide for us, as he does even for the birds. (Matt. 6:25, 26, 32) We trust in Jehovah as our Provider. And we discreetly make “gifts of mercy” to help those in need. We are also quick to contribute toward congregation expenses. Jehovah takes notice of such generosity and will repay us. (Matt. 6:2-4) We are thus showing that we understand the lessons from Leviticus 19:23-25.
19. How have you benefited from considering this portion of Leviticus?
19 We have examined just a few portions of Leviticus chapter 19, noting ways in which we can be like our holy God. By imitating him, we strive to ‘become holy in all our conduct.’ (1 Pet. 1:15) Many who do not serve Jehovah have been eyewitnesses of that fine conduct. In fact, it has moved some to glorify Jehovah. (1 Pet. 2:12) But there is much more that we can learn from Leviticus chapter 19. The following article will address additional verses in that chapter and will help us to discern other areas of our life in which we can “become holy,” as Peter urged.
SONG 80 “Taste and See That Jehovah Is Good”
a We love Jehovah very much, and we want to please him. Jehovah is holy, and he expects his worshippers to be holy. Is that really possible for imperfect humans? Yes, it is. A careful consideration of the apostle Peter’s counsel to fellow believers and of Jehovah’s instructions to ancient Israel will help us learn how we can become holy in all our conduct.
b For a discussion of the Sabbath and the lessons we can draw from it, see the article “‘There Is an Appointed Time’ for Work and for Rest” in the December 2019 issue of The Watchtower.
c PICTURE DESCRIPTION: An adult son spends time with his parents, brings his wife and child to visit them, and makes it a point to keep in contact with them.
d PICTURE DESCRIPTION: An Israelite farmer examines some fruit on the trees that he planted.