The Bible’s answer
To be holy refers to a state of being set apart from defilement. The Hebrew word translated “holy” comes from a term meaning “separate.” Thus, what is holy is separated from common use, or held sacred, especially by virtue of its being clean and pure.
The word “holy” can be applied to anything that is directly connected to God, especially things that are set aside for exclusive use in worship. For example, the Bible speaks of:
Holy places: God told Moses near the burning bush: “The place where you are standing is holy ground.”—Exodus 3:2-5.
Holy events: The ancient Israelites worshipped Jehovah at regular religious festivals called “holy conventions.”—Leviticus 23:37.
Holy objects: Items used in God’s worship at the ancient temple in Jerusalem were called “holy utensils.” (1 Kings 8:4) Such sacred items were to be treated with great respect, although they were never to be worshipped themselves.b
Can an imperfect person be holy?
Yes. God commands Christians: “You must be holy, because I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:16) Of course, imperfect humans could never attain to God’s perfect standard of holiness. Nevertheless, humans who obey God’s righteous laws can be considered “holy and acceptable to God.” (Romans 12:1) A person who strives to be holy reflects this in his words and actions. For example, he or she follows the Bible’s advice to “be holy and abstain from sexual immorality” and to “become holy yourselves in all your conduct.”—1 Thessalonians 4:3; 1 Peter 1:15.
Could a holy standing with God be lost?
Misconceptions about being holy
Misconception: Celibacy makes one more holy.
Fact: While a Christian may choose to remain unmarried, celibacy does not in itself provide a holy standing with God. It is true that those who remain single can give undistracted attention to worship. (1 Corinthians 7:32-34) However, the Bible shows that those who are married can also be holy. In fact, at least one of Jesus’ apostles—Peter—was married.—Matthew 8:14; 1 Corinthians 9:5.