“I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren.” (1 Thessalonians 5:27)
There is probably no word more misused—even abused—than the word “holy.” In our day and age, it usually conjures up an image of sanctimoniousness, or even hypocrisy, and thus often becomes a term of snide ridicule.
Nevertheless, it is a biblical term of highest significance, most often used in connection with God Himself, the Holy Spirit. Since it is also used in connection with things (“the holy place,” as in Hebrews 9:12), it does not in itself necessarily have a moral connotation. Its basic meaning is evidently “set apart” and can refer either to people or objects that have been dedicated to God and His service.
Christians are all “holy brethren” in this sense, regardless of their individual behavior. They are all also called “saints” (same word as “holy” in the Greek—e.g., 1 Corinthians 1:2, even though many of the “saints” at Corinth were far from Christlike in their actions).
By all means, however, we who are called “holy brethren” ought to try, by God’s grace, to bring honor to such a name rather than ridicule. “Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus; Who was faithful to him that appointed him” (Hebrews 3:1-2).
The term “saints,” or “holy brethren,” applies both to men and women, of course, and to believers of Old Testament times as well as New Testament. Peter, for example, mentions “the holy women” who honored and served the Lord “in the old time” (1 Peter 3:5), and also the “holy men of God” through whom God gave the Old Testament Scriptures (2 Peter 1:21). The eternal admonition of God to all believers of every age is, “Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16). HMM
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