I started studying out the word holy in the Old Testament and concluded in the New Testament. Using some sound hermeneutical principles; I went with the law of first mention, often mentioned, and well the law of not to mention. (Not sure how scientifically accurate all my laws are, but basically I just used a Strong’s Concordance and looked up every use of the word holy.
The conclusion I came to was; both the O.T. and N.T. “to be holy” or “holiness” seems to be summed up in two words, “set apart”. At first I thought this was a great discovery. It confirmed what I had already believed and had been taught about holiness. However, the joy of confirmation rapidly faded into the mirky waters of my brains depleted thought patterns, and caused more questions to come to mind.
“Set apart” from what or who? I know to whom we are “set apart,” but from what and from whom has me thinking again. Does it imply that we are to be secluded; having no contact with the unbelievers of this world. Does it suggest that we are not to do the things that unbelievers do, or not go places where unbelievers go? What exactly are we “set apart” from or set apart too?”
Then I was challenged with the question from another missionary friend, Jason Holt. Who asked, “does holiness have anything to do with missions?” He was asking me, to challenge me to think about the relationship between God’s command “to be holy” and God’s command to take the gospel to the utter most places of the world.
So, I started my search to find out how the two commands relate to one another, and I came to the conclusion that the two are best of friends. The answer to the relationship between the two also answered the earlier questions I had about being set apart.
The work of the missionary is a set apart work. The missionary has been set apart by God and to God and from the world and from the church; to do a special work for the Lord. This is the way the Bible says it in Acts 13:2 speaking about Paul and Barnabas, “As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.”
This verse gives some insight into the relationship between holiness and missions. They are both the work of the Lord. We think of being holy as some self-righteous work of piety that we accomplish in our own strength to please the Lord in some way. The truth is, holiness is a work of God’s grace in our lives in which he sets us apart for his service. Holiness is just as much a work of God’s grace as salvation is.
The same is true about missions. Missions is a work of separation, but the separating is done by the work of the Holy Ghost in our lives. The separating work that is done is to the Lord and not from any particular person or thing. As we yield ourselves to this separating work God places us in the work that he wants us.
Now, before you try to use this as an excuse not to be involved in missions by saying “well, the Lord has not set me apart or separated me for anything” let me assure you he wants to.
Notice the two things that are previous to the separating work in Acts 13:2: 1) they were ministering to the Lord 2) they were fasting. In other words they were in a place to allow the Lord to work in their lives. They were not doing these things in order to receive a special calling nor receive some special honor. They were just doing what they knew to do.
You want to know how holiness and missions relate; well just get involved in your local church and give yourself to the Lord and see what happens. I’m willing to say that many, most, maybe even all who do this will find that the Lord will “set you apart” and “separate” you unto work the he has prepared for you.
Written by Jamie Smithey