The actual meaning of the term “holy” means “set apart,” separated to, or “sanctified.” In the Morresh Bible Dictionary, we read of the word “holiness”: “Holiness has been described as “a nature that delights in purity, and which repels evil.”  Adam and Eve were ‘innocent,’ not holy; for though they might have delighted in purity, they did not repel the evil of Satan”.  Now, with reference to God Himself, we express the term in its purest and most excellent sense, reflecting God’s absolute perfection, and thus with this understanding, there is only One who is holy, and that one is God. I’ll share the second verse of Hannah’s prayer as an example: “There is none holy as the LORD: for there is none beside Thee: neither is there any rock like our God.” (1 Samuel 2:2). Similarly, we read in Isaiah 30:15 that God Himself is called “the Holy One”: “For thus saith the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel…”. Now, our Lord Jesus Christ, being part of the Trinity, is true God dwelling among men, or Emmanuel (God with us) co-existent and co-equal with the Father and with the Holy Spirit, God the Son. Thus, our Lord Jesus is rightly called “the Holy One of God”. We see this fact In Mark 1:24, and again in Acts 3: 14.

But now, I believe the thrust of your question has to do with what we call “practical holiness or sanctification through the Word of God”. As you might realize, when a person believes on the Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit enters the believer’s heart, and that person is given a new nature, which is of God. From that point on, God sees us in terms of the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ as sanctified or holy, even though our practical walk may not always reflect this. So, what could cause a born again Christian not to walk a holy walk while in this world? The answer is sin. I heard a preacher once say of the Bible, “This Book will keep you from sin; but sin will keep you from this Book”. We Christians need the daily washing of the Word of God by the Holy Spirit in order to grow to the image of Christ Jesus, which is God’s will for us. The Apostle Paul talks about the old and new natures…how that our old nature battles against the new (Romans 7:23-25). Thus, there is a tendency, if we are not daily in the Word of God, that sin and carelessness of reading the Scriptures will pull us back to our former lusts. As an example of born-again Christians who were not walking a holy walk, we might consider 1 Corinthians 1:2 where we see the believers at Corinth addressed as “sanctified in Christ Jesus”, and thus are they seen by God, those who are saved by the blood of Christ. And yet, there was plenty that was wrong in their daily walk.  Paul notes “divisions” among them (1:11) and in chapter 3 he calls them “carnal”. Those in Corinth who were truly saved were saved indeed, and their carnal walk didn’t change that fact one bit; however, all such “ungodly” behavior is never consistent with the calling of true Christians, and thus they needed correction. In 1 Corinthians 1:30, Paul has to remind them that they are in Christ, and thus called to a higher plane of behavior, more consistent with the Word of God and of His will for His children.

 But I say again that the believer is eternally “sanctified, or “set apart” to God by the shed blood of Christ through faith in Him, regardless of how our practical walk might reflect this fact; and still, it is the will of God that we walk a holy (Christ-like) walk in this world, and this is the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts through the Word of God. The Holy Spirit, from the point of salvation, and in conjunction with the consistent study of the Word of God by the believer, works to conform the saved individual more to the image of Christ over time. In Ephesians 5:25-27 we read: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it; That He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish”. Thus, we see that while the believer might be sanctified eternally by the blood of Christ, we are “sanctified” in a daily, practical sense by the working of the Holy Spirit in our hearts as we read and are “washed” by the Bible, the Word of God. While in this world, we have the new nature which cannot sin, we also have the old nature which can sin. In Christ Jesus, through faith in His finished work on the cross, our sins are all forgiven; and yet, we need the daily washing of the Word to help us to walk in the manner in which God has called us to walk. In John 17:17-19, the Lord Jesus prays to His father to keep us while we are yet in this world by the Word of God. In chapter 7 of his book, SAILING WITH PAUL, H. A. Ironside says: “The sanctification by the Holy Spirit is the beginning of the work of God in one’s soul, separating him from the world and follies he once loved, turning his heart to God, exercising him about his sinfulness, and leading him to personal faith in Christ. To this agree the words of the apostle Peter in 1 Peter 1:2. Sanctification of the Spirit is there shown to be the divine means used to lead the guilty soul to the blood of sprinkling. Having trusted in the work of Christ, the Spirit dwells personally in the believer and it is His blessed work to lead the soul on in the ways of Christ”.

Now, it is sadly true that while in this world, the believer will not obtain perfect holiness because we yet have the old nature—perfect holiness will not happen until the return of Christ Jesus to take us to be with Himself. However, we are encouraged to strive for the goal of holiness (Christlikeness) through the study of the Word of God, by the working of the Holy Spirit through submission to the will of God while in this scene. The Apostle Paul speaks about striving for this goal in Philippians 3:12-14, and this is probably the best example of the Christian striving for practical holiness that I can come up with: “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”  (SF)  (526.1)