Regarding God as Holy

Text: I Peter 1:13-19

But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy’”(I Peter 1:15-16).

It is not enough to say that God is holy. God requires that His followers imitate His nature. If we accept that God is holy, then we must become holy as well. If we don’t we will never see God. “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).


Paul tells us to be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks; so, how would you explain “holiness” to one of your friends?

Dictionary Look-up:

What does “sanctification” mean?

How does it fit into the idea of holiness?


Look up each of the following passages and explain what we must do to be holy?

  • II Corinthians 7:1
  • I Thessalonians 4:3-7
  • Titus 3:8
  • Philippians 2:15-16
  • Jeremiah 7:9-10

Our Bibles are filled with stories from the lives of people who lived before us. Some fill us with admiration for the person’s faith and courage, but others leave us wondering what the person was thinking to act so dumb. “Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (I Corinthians 10:11-12). If we walk away thinking “I would never do such a thing!” we missed the whole point of the story. The fact is that the people in the Bible are people just like you and I. They are no different than your friends or the people in your neighborhood. It is not enough just to know what happened. We need to know why it happened. Then, when we are faced with a similar problem, we might have a chance to act properly.

Let us consider what happened to Nadab and Abihu: “Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them. So fire went out from the LORD and devoured them, and they died before the LORD. And Moses said to Aaron, "This is what the LORD spoke, saying: 'By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; And before all the people I must be glorified.'" So Aaron held his peace” (Leviticus 10:1-3).

A moment’s thought:

Why did God kill Nadab and Abihu?

The obvious answer to the question above is that they broke God’s command by using a method and type of fire that God didn’t authorize. But have you wondered why the source of fire mattered to God? Fire is fire, isn’t it? But take careful note of verse 3. God told Aaron that by their action they did not treat God as holy. There was something about the fire that they used which did not treat God as holy.

Most of your Bibles call the fire “profane” or “strange.” “Profane” means treating something as common, ordinary, or contemptible.

A moment’s thought:

Later, God tells the people the fire for the incense was to come from the altar of sacrifice (Leviticus 16:12). What is it about the fire there that would make it holy?

Assume for the moment that Nadab and Abihu just used some coals they had on hand to light their household fires. Would such a source be holy? Why?

Yet, there is more to this story. You could almost feel sorry for Nadab and Abihu. God punished them for using the wrong fire, but He didn’t explain in detail where the fire was supposed to come from until after they died (Leviticus 16:1, 12). A hint is found when God gave further instruction to Aaron right after his sons died. “Then the LORD spoke to Aaron, saying: Do not drink wine or intoxicating drink, you, nor your sons with you, when you go into the tabernacle of meeting, lest you die. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations, that you may distinguish between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean, and that you may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the LORD has spoken to them by the hand of Moses” (Leviticus 10:8-11). We cannot be absolutely certain, but from God’s remarks, it appears that Nadab and Abihu were “under the influence” of alcohol when they went in to work that day. Alcohol impairs a person’s judgment. It interferes with a man’s ability to decide between right and wrong. Yet, priests were expected to be careful to distinguish between holy things and unholy things.

You see, when Nadab and Abihu went into the tabernacle, this was not the first time that Israel ever offered incense to God. The tabernacle has been around for years now. Nor was this the first time that Nadab and Abihu served in the tabernacle. They knew from past practice that the fire for the incense was taken from the altar of sacrifice. However, this time they didn’t bother to walk back out to get the fire. They decided just to use the coals that they already had on hand. Perhaps because of the alcohol, they made a serious error in judgment. They replaced something that was holy with something that was ordinary.

Let me be clear, the fire itself was not different from any other fire. What made the fire holy was its dedication to the service of God. It was set apart by God’s command and, therefore, it became special.

God is pleased when sacrifices are offered that He has hallowed. (Hallowed refers to something set apart as special or holy.) When a person offers God something that He has not commanded, that person is placing his own personal preferences before God’s choices.


Read the following verses. What had the Israelites done wrong? How had their choices impacted their relationship with God?

  • Malachi 1:6-10
  • Malachi 1:11-13
  • Jeremiah 11:15
  • Isaiah 1:10-20

A doctrine that has gained popularity is to say that everything we do is worship to God. However, this cannot be. Worship is a special time when we approach God. It is a holy time because it is set apart for doing something special that God commanded. Remember that God did not condemn Nadab and Abihu because He did not like the scent of their air freshener. He was offended at their attempt to worship Him with things He did not set apart as holy. The worship of God is only acceptable when we offer sanctified gifts in holy ways to God.

Class Discussion:

  • The Lord’s Supper was instituted as a special meal to remember Jesus and his death (Luke 22:19-20). Paul criticized the Corinthians for profaning this meal (I Corinthians 11:17-27). How had the Corinthians caused the Lord’s supper to not be holy?
  • God has sanctified certain elements to be used in the worship of Him, such as singing and prayer (Ephesians 5:18-20; Hebrews 13:15).
  • Would the offering of burnt meat or incense be acceptable today? After all, they were holy and acceptable under the law of Moses.
  • Instrumental music was sanctified under the Old Law (Psalms 150:3-6). Does it remain acceptable under the law of Christ? Why?
  • Sometimes a person will say, “I just know God would be pleased with _______.” Why would anyone expect God to be pleased with something for which He did not ask?
  • There are denominations which vote on what they will or will not accept. What is wrong with men voting on what is acceptable? How do the following verses apply: Isaiah 45:9-12; Jeremiah 18:1-6; Romans 9:19-21?
  • Could the way we dress for worship impact whether we are treating God as holy?

Class Activities:

  • Find songs which speak of worship being a special or holy time. Ask some of the boys in class to lead a song.
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