Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Holiness: Principles or Rules?

  I’ve been pondering a lot on holiness a lot lately. Partly because our church is in the middle of a very in-depth holiness study right now, but also just because it is a subject that has always been near and dear to my heart. The study we are in right now has affirmed what I believe about holiness, but has also opened my eyes to things and aspects of holiness I’d never thought of until now. I wanted to share some of my thoughts and the things I’ve learned over the last few weeks. I’ll probably have one or two more posts on the subject—who knows? ;)


What do you think of when you hear the word holy?  I think of the Old Testament and the Tabernacle. The things and objects in the Tabernacle were made especially for use in God’s house, set apart and cleansed specifically for His purposes. The priests were set apart and lived careful lives, conforming to God’s instructions. I also think of purity, like a bride, having done everything she knows her husband likes and prefers to make herself ready for him.

   According to the Bible, holiness is beautiful! Holiness is something to be excited about.  Below are just a few of the verses where it is extolled, praised, and presented as something to desire and reach for. Holiness should be the goal of every believer.

1 Chronicles 16:29 KJV

Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come before him: worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.

Psalm 229:2 KJV

Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.

Psalm 93:5 KJV

Thy testimonies are very sure: holiness becometh thine house, O Lord, for ever.

Who  doesn’t want to be beautiful? Who doesn’t want to have a beautiful life?  I want to have a beautiful life. I want to live in a way that pleasing and beautiful to Him.

Holiness is worship and gives God glory—the glory that is due to His name.

Many people get their hackles up whenever you begin talking about holiness. Immediately they start spouting words like “rules” “legalism” “PHARISEEEEEE” and such. They begin a spiel about grace and not being under the Law any more, etc. (That is a subject for another post, which I will get to very soon.) So if you are one of those people who when they hear words like “holiness” or “standards” and it gets under your skin, please hang around for a little while and allow me to share what I believe and why, based on Scripture.

{Principles vs. Rules}

Rules—a prescribed guide for conduct or action.

Principles—the reason for which the rule exists.

   I  do really well with rules. If I know what the guidelines are and what is accepted and allowed, I can hit the mark. Rules give definition and I really like that. I feel safe inside boundaries. However, if you have been a Christian for any length of time, you will notice, as I did, that there is not a rule or Scripture for every situation or issue. HOLD IT! I thought you believed in the Supremacy and sufficiency of Scripture, and now you’re saying that it doesn’t hold the answer to every one of our problems?! Heavens no, that is not what I am saying. What I am saying is that there are rules, and then there are priciples. Principles are the basis and reason for rules.

  For example: There is no verse in the Bible that says “Thou shalt not have a television in thy dwelling, for all that proceeds from it is evil.” It’s not there. (And I’m not going to spend much time on TV right now, I’m just using this for an illustration.) However, there is Psalm 101:3. It says:

I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me.

I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes. This is a principle of holiness. I think I can safely say that there are some pretty wicked things on TV. (There are also some good things too, but they are few and far between.) There is not a rule that says do not have a TV, but there is a principle that says we should not set any wicked  or perverse or sinful thing before our eyes and especially our children’s eyes. (I feel another post coming on about this soon……)

Holiness is not just the way that we dress or what we partake of or do not partake of. It isn’t just what we allow of don’t allow in our homes. Holiness is an attitude of the heart. Holiness is wanting to remove any unclean or impure thing or influence from our lives. Holiness makes us want to go to Scripture and see what it defines as acceptable and right in our lives. The hunger for holiness and desire to be like Him will make us give up things and do things that some people may consider to be silly or unnecessary. The way we live does not save us. We live the way we do because we are saved.

Holiness is not intended to be, nor should it ever be, a bunch or rules and regulations. It is a way of life, based on the principles found and explained in the Word of God. It is very easy to become consumed with the rules and not live out the principles. Rules are based on principles. Rules help us hit the mark that principles are pointing us to.


Rules may change, but principles never do.


  We in the  church have gotten into a bad habit of looking at the world, then looking at ourselves and saying “Well, we aren’t doing THAT or we don’t look like THEM, we’re doing good.” We have a tendency to hold ourselves up to the world and see how we measure up. Hmmm, let’s see, I haven’t murdered, committed adultery or gotten  drunk in 30 years, I’m good. No, you haven’t done anything like that, but have you gossiped, lied, been prideful or returned evil for evil? Have you not done good when you knew to do it? (James 4:17)

  The world grows worse everyday. We cannot use the world’s evil to define or set our “good” or holiness. If we do that, then we too will grow steadily worse and ungodly. We cannot attach ourselves to something that is not solid and constant.

  Our standard is the WORD, not the world. As long as we compare ourselves with the world, we’ll look good. Only when we compare ourselves with the WORD will we see ourselves for what we truly are—sinners, saved by His grace and washed in His Blood.


  1. I love this post, Rebecca. We need to compare ourselves to the Word - not the world. I quote Psalm 101:3 to my children..mostly because they (3 of them in particular) would sit in front of the TV all day if I allowed it. And we don't have cable, Dish network or anything like that..we just use our TV for family movies. And we have built up a wonderful library of classics. But how much more of a battle it would be IF we had cable or Dish network! The same can be said for books..or the computer..or whatever will take your eyes off the Lord.
    hope you're having a blessed day,

    1. Mrs. Lisa,
      That's how it was for my family growing up--we didn't have a TV, but we had a wonderful collection of classics that we enjoyed. Thank you for stopping by! Your comments are always an encouragement to me ;)