As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy."
The idea of mankind reaching holiness can be quite a daunting conundrum. First we are told that we are in a constant unalterable sinless state (Jeremiah 17:9), but then we are required to be holy (Leviticus 11:44). Could it be that holiness is not about being sinless? What could or should a man do to attain holiness?
Let’s use the Sabbath for example. Why is it holy; why is it sanctified? Does it possess any properties than differs it from the other days of the week? Does the Sabbath day have two suns or two moons? Does creation stops its work on that? Is there some sort of ‘magic’ that fills the air on the Sabbath day? No! The Sabbath day is a day like any other day; it is holy/sanctified on the sole authority of the Word of God who made it holy by His commandment to be holy.
The words ‘holy’, ‘hallowed’, or from the Latin root ‘sanctified’ all come from the Hebrew ‘kadosh/kodesh’ which present the idea of being ‘set-apart’ or ‘separated’. The Sabbath day is separated from all the other days of the week solely because of a command that proceeded out of the mouth of the Almighty. It is holy simply because God said so. In the same manner therefore we are separated by the commandments of God.
The injunction to be holy is mentioned as the conclusion of the dietary laws in Leviticus eleven. No other reason, health or otherwise is given to us in the Torah for following these food rules but to be holy. I am not saying that holiness is solely in following the dietary laws, but on a general level someone’s culture and even of fellowship boundaries are largely defined by what they eat and how they eat. In the same manner our dietary laws often separate (sanctify) us from society at large who is not always biblically particular about they eat.
The solution the holiness conundrum could then be found in the most common of Jewish Hebrew blessings which refers to the Almighty as the One, ‘asher kideshanu bemitsvotav’ meaning: ‘Who has sanctified/separated us by His commandments’. Then, all that makes us holy is not some form of ascetic lifestyle, an ability to extreme self-denial or the performance of miracles, but simply obedience the commandments uttered by the mouth of God., and His commandments are given to us because of His grace and mercy, not because of our works or worth. Simplifying the equation further, we are holy solely because of His mercy and grace.