Being set apart is a key concept in the Bible that relates to living differently than the world because of our relationship with God. If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: The Bible teaches believers to be sanctified, or set apart, from the world’s ways of living in order to be holy as God is holy.
In this comprehensive article, we will explore the biblical foundations for being set apart, including relevant passages and themes. We’ll cover what it means practically to live a sanctified life, and the blessings God promises to those who choose to follow Him wholeheartedly.
The Biblical Basis for Being Set Apart
Old Testament Roots
The concept of being set apart or holy has its roots in the Old Testament. God called the Israelites to be a holy nation, separate and distinct from the other nations (Exodus 19:6). He gave them commandments, rules, and rituals that were meant to set them apart as God’s special people.
For example, dietary restrictions, rules about ritual purity, and regulations about worship spaces and practices distinguished the Israelites from their neighbors (Leviticus 20:24-26). Being holy or set apart was not just about following rules though; it was about having an inner devotion and love for God that manifested itself in obedience (Deuteronomy 10:12-13).
Jesus’s Teachings on Holiness
In the New Testament, Jesus also taught about the importance of being set apart for God. He emphasized that holiness is a matter of the heart and told His followers to be righteous on the inside rather than just follow external rules (Matthew 23:25-28).
Jesus wants His disciples to be “salt and light,” standing out from the world by living according to Kingdom values (Matthew 5:13-16). He prayed for believers to be set apart by the truth of God’s Word (John 17:17) and sent the Holy Spirit to empower them to live holy lives (Acts 1:8).
Through His death, Jesus opened the way for people to become holy by being cleansed from sin and consecrated to God.
Letters to the Early Churches
The letters to the early Christian churches also contain instructions about pursuing holiness and being set apart from sin and worldliness. For example, Romans 12:1-2 urges Christ-followers to offer their bodies as living sacrifices to God and resist being conformed to the patterns of this world.
First Peter 1:13-16 references Leviticus’s call to be holy, reminding believers that God still wants His people to be holy as He is holy. First Corinthians talks about the importance of sexual purity and fleeing from idolatry in order to be set apart for the Lord (1 Corinthians 6:18-20).
Overall, the New Testament letters make it clear that just as God called Old Testament Israel to be set apart, He wants the church to be distinct from the immoral cultures around them.
Key Aspects of a Sanctified Life
Not Conforming to the World
As Christians, we are called to not conform to the patterns and behaviors of this world (Romans 12:2). This means resisting temptations, fleeing from sin, and not partaking in worldly activities that displease God.
We must renew our minds through God’s Word to discern His will for how to live set-apart lives.
Renewing the Mind
Renewing our minds is crucial for living sanctified lives. As GotQuestions.org explains, this happens by reading the Bible daily, memorizing and meditating on Scripture, praying, fellowshiping with other believers, and practicing spiritual disciplines.
As we immerse ourselves in God’s truth, the Holy Spirit renews our thinking to be more aligned with God’s will (Romans 12:2).
Bearing Spiritual Fruit
Bearing spiritual fruit is key evidence of a transformed life in Christ. As we abide in Christ, staying connected to him through prayer and Scripture reading, our lives will naturally bear fruit such as “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness” (Galatians 5:22-23).
Our fruit indicates if we are walking by the spirit or by the flesh (Galatians 5:16-26).
As sanctified believers, we must continually pursue righteous living. We do this by fleeing sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6:18), putting off falsehood and speaking truthfully (Ephesians 4:25), being quick to listen and slow to speak or become angry (James 1:19), and more.
We must also be wary of pride and self-righteousness, relying on Christ’s righteousness rather than our own efforts.
Promises for the Sanctified
God makes many wonderful promises in the Bible to those who pursue holiness and sanctification in their lives. Here are some of the key promises:
Promise of God’s Presence
God promises that when we set ourselves apart for Him, He will draw near to us. James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” As we seek God wholeheartedly, we can be assured that He will make His presence known to us in fresh and intimate ways.
Promise of Joy
Pursuing sanctification leads to great joy. Jesus said in John 15:11, “I have told you these things so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.” As we walk in holiness, we will experience the abundant life and joy that Jesus intends for us.
Promise of Eternal Rewards
Setting ourselves apart for God’s purposes has eternal significance. Jesus urges us to store up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:20). As we give our lives to honor Christ through pursuing holiness, God promises to reward us richly in eternity (1 Corinthians 3:14).
Promise of Fruitfulness
A sanctified life will be a fruitful life. Jesus said a branch cannot bear fruit unless it remains connected to the vine, which is Himself (John 15:4). As we walk closely with Jesus, repenting of sin and allowing Him to purify our hearts, we will naturally bear the fruit of righteousness in our lives.
Promise of Power
God does not call us to live holy lives purely by our own willpower. When we submit ourselves fully to God, He fills us with His own divine power to overcome sin. 2 Timothy 1:7 declares, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.”
His Spirit empowers us to walk uprightly.
These are just a few of the amazing promises God gives to those who pursue sanctification. As Charles Wesley put it in his classic hymn “A Charge to Keep I Have”, our call is to “give thee all my heart” and when we do, Christ promises to be “always, only, all for me.”
Being set apart for God is a privilege and a responsibility. As we have explored, the call to be holy runs throughout Scripture, rooted in God’s own perfection. When we embrace sanctification, we can claim amazing spiritual blessings and enjoy a deeper relationship with Christ.
However, living differently than the world also comes with a cost. We may face rejection or persecution for our faith. During struggles, we must remember God’s faithfulness and the eternal rewards of walking in holiness by the power of the Spirit.
Our hope rests in Christ alone, who makes our sanctification possible.