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Leviticus and the call to Holiness: Thoughts from Leviticus 18-19
Leviticus and the call to holiness
Thoughts from Leviticus 18-19

A couple of weeks ago we took a look at Leviticus 10. In that chapter, on the climactic day of Aaron and his sons ordination ceremony- culminating in an incredible display of the glory of God--, two of Aaron's sons are struck dead for their flagrant and willful disregard of God in front of all the people.

As we explored that passage and event, together we noted these key words in Leviticus 10:3; "Among those who approach me I will show myself holy; in the sight of all people I will be honored" The point being "God is holy and we need to recognize and approach Him as such"

While you may find some parts of Leviticus hard to read the major theme that ties the whole of Leviticus together is this: Holiness. God is holy. We are to be holy.

In Leviticus 19:1-2 it says; "The LORD said to Moses, "Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: 'Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy."

This morning I want to draw your attention to Leviticus 18-19- for these two chapter, in detailed fashion, instruct us as to what practical holiness looks like.


A common question we ask as believers is "Which of the Old Testament commands am I supposed to obey?"

Now, you probably already know that since Jesus fulfilled the sacrificial system that anything to do with the sacrificial system, we are not required to keep, but what about beyond that? "What about the command of Leviticus 19:27 to "not clip the hair at the side of your head or clip off the edges of your beard" or the command of Leviticus 19:28 to "not.... put tattoo mark on yourselves"

FYI: Both of these commands stem from the religious practices of the Egyptians and Canaanites. Within context, such things were essential parts of their false and corrupt worship systems- which God did not want His people to get mixed up in.

A big part of the answer to this question is found in Acts 15. (turn there)

In this passage the church responds to some troublemakers who were insisting that Gentile men who became followers of Christ, be circumcised before they were considered true followers of God.

In response to this, Peter affirms that it is by the grace of our Lord Jesus that any person is saved-- not by obedience to the law (v.11). In saying this, Peter is not saying the Laws of the Old Testament are bad, for they are not; what he is saying is this: You can't come to salvation and peace with God by obeying them. We know this about the 10 commandments. The 10 Commandments are important yet what is it that they do? They can't save us, instead they prove us guilty of sin. In addition to this: They take us to Jesus who perfectly kept them and hence qualifies to act in our stead as mediator between God and man and as a once for all sacrifice for sin.

In concluding his sermon Peter said "It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood" v. 19-20.

Following this a letter written that said...

"The apostles and elders, your brothers, To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia: Greetings. We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul- men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing.It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things?" Acts 15:28-29

CONCLUSION: Laws about mixing of fabrics, tattoos, leaving the edges of our field for the poor to come and pick, or beard clipping are not binding on us as a condition for salvation and peace with God. While not binding as a condition for salvation, some of them and their purpose still merit our attention and thought-- for they were given for a reason.


1. God is holy. We are called to be Holy. This is His command Leviticus 19:1-2

God is holy: He is perfect in all His ways. Everything He is right, just, without error.

We are to take the call to be Holy seriously.

As recipients of the grace and mercy of Christ- the forgiveness of our sins and peace with God- we are to willingly and heart-fully say "yes" to God.

2. The call to holiness entails not living as the people of this world do. Leviticus 18:1-5

This past week many of you read Leviticus chapter 18. This chapter is all about sexual purity. Based on Acts 15, every command of Leviticus 18 applies to us today.

Prefacing the details of what is forbidden in terms of sexual behavior, we have these words from Leviticus 18:1-5; "The Lord said to Moses, 2 "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'I am the Lord your God. 3 You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices. 4 You must obey my laws and be careful to follow my decrees. I am the Lord your God. 5 Keep my decrees and laws, for the person who obeys them will live by them. I am the Lord"

Such is mirrored in Romans 12:1-2 which says; "Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God-this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will."


-Those around us don't care about holiness and what is right and wrong in the sight of God
-Those around us will invite and entice us to join in with them and their evil practice-- and think it strange that we do not join in with them

Because of the sexual sins and lack of holiness of the Caananites they were driven out of the Promised Land and destroyed - Leviticus 18:25. God also warns the Israelites that if they commit the same sins, that they will lose their position in the land as well. Leviticus 18:28.


The Bible talks a lot about sex.

-sex is a gift from God
-sexual expression is something to be enjoyed within marriage between a husband and wife
-Sex is a major area of struggle for most people (whether it be pre- marital sex, extra marital sex, living together outside the bonds of marriage, porn, homosexuality, ones fantasy life, etc)
-Leviticus 18 has a lot to say about sexual purity. Based on Acts 15- everything command about sexual behavior in Leviticus 18 is relevant today.

Interesting: We have to be vigilant as a church when it comes to sexual purity. The Corinthian church (1 Corinthians 5) tolerated and celebrated a man in their church who was having sex with his father's wife. Such is explicitly forbidden in Leviticus 18. Paul rebuked the church and ordered the man be disciplined by the church

Our bodies are not our own. In I Corinthians 6:19-20 it says; "Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies."

As it regards sexual temptation and purity we need to guard our minds -- as it regards what we watch, read, where we surf on the internet, where we go.

Struggling with sexual purity?

Confess it. Pray about it. Put up some guards to your behavior. Destroy whatever you have that is sexually wrong and sinful that you have in your possession.


Skim through Leviticus 19 together

Every day we should be reading our Bible's so that we can be reminded of what is right in God's eyes. Our temptation is to ignore God's Word-- but when we do we slowly drift and drift, bit by bit forgetting how God truly wants us to think and live

In taking a look at Leviticus 19, which seems to be an expansion of sorts upon the 10 commandments we read about

-Not stealing, not lying, not deceiving one another. v.11. Turn this around and what is it that we are saying YES to: working hard, acquiring by moral and legal means, telling the truth

Read some more of Leviticus 19 and note that on the flip side of every restriction and NO that there is implied a YES to something as it regards following God.

Observe: v.31, 32, 33-34

Titus 2:11-14 says; "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope-the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good."

5. Holiness is not something we do by ourselves-- it's in and through Christ Jesus

In and of ourselves we are unholy.

Jesus makes us holy- his righteousness being imputed to our accounts. This explains how we can stand before the Father and be regarded as holy in His sight. (See Romans 5:12-21)

A great verse to ponder

"Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behaviour. But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation" Colossians 1:21-22

Thank God for the grace and mercy of Christ and His saving work. Let's co-operate with God and pursue holiness