Iniquity of the Holy Things
September 14, 2010
David Cloud, Way of Life Literature, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061
“And thou shalt make a plate of pure gold, and grave upon it, like the engravings of a signet, HOLINESS TO THE LORD. And thou shalt put it on a blue lace, that it may be upon the mitre; upon the forefront of the mitre it shall be. And it shall be upon Aaron's forehead, that Aaron may bear the iniquity of the holy things, which the children of Israel shall hallow in all their holy gifts; and it shall be always upon his forehead, that they may be accepted before the LORD” (Ex 28:36-38).

Exodus 28:38 speaks of the “iniquity of the holy things.” This refers to the fact that believers are impure even in the holiest things that they do, and we can be accepted only in Christ. Not for one moment or in one act can we find acceptance in ourselves. The very holiest duty we perform must be sanctified by Christ’s blood. It reminds us of John’s statement, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves” (1 Jn. 1:8). I have heard some say that they can go for weeks without sinning.

Charles Swindoll says, “You can actually live several days without sin, perhaps a week or more” (
The Grace Awakening, 2003 edition, p. 124).

But this is nonsense. One glorious day we will be saved from the very presence of sin, but that day is yet future. In this present life, the “old man” is with us even as we serve the Lord. God requires holiness in thought and motive as well as deed, but we are not that holy. We continually fall short of the glory of God. Christ is the New Man that we are to put on; it is His image to which we are to be conformed; but in daily practice we do not yet bear His perfect holiness.

James Gray [pictured left] comments on this passage as follows:

“The ‘holy things’ are described in the context as the sacrifices and offerings of Israel. Whatever they presented to God in worship were holy in the sense that they were consecrated to and appointed by Him. And yet these things themselves had iniquity. When the worshipper brought his bleeding victim as an offering for his sins his very act of bringing it had in it additional sin which required to be atoned for. ... We are by nature children of wrath, and now, although as believers on our Lord Jesus Christ we are regenerated by His Spirit, still in our flesh there dwelleth no good thing (Rom. 7:18; 8:7). ... In every act of our worship there are imperfections and defilements, because there is present in that act the old evil nature along with the new. ...

“Bishop Beveridge said: ‘I cannot pray but I sin; I cannot hear or preach a sermon but I sin; I cannot give alms or receive the sacrament but I sin; no, I cannot so much as confess my sins but my very confessions are still aggravations of them; my repentance needs to be repented of; my tears need washing; and the very washing of my tears needs still to be washed over again with the blood of my Redeemer.’ ...

“The application of this truth is wide-reaching.

“In the first place, it enhances our appreciation of our Savior and the value of His merits for us. It helps us to see how deeply we need Him, and how great is the sovereign mercy and the boundless grace of God towards us in Him. The high priest in the tabernacle typifies Him, and the service he rendered for Israel, even int he iniquity of their holy things, typifies the service Christ has rendered and is rendering for us in a like case. For if there is iniquity in our holy things, thank God there is also atonement for it accomplished, and full, and of instant efficacy (1 John 2:1-2)!

“In the second place, it opens our eyes and broadens our vision as to the relative meanings of sin and holiness. In the light of this text, what Christian can question--musth less deny--the application to him at all times of the words of the apostle John: ‘If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8)? Who can talk about sinless perfection in the light of this truth? ... So deeply indeed is the truth of this text imbedded, as a living principle, in the experience of true and enlightened Christians, that the more devoted they are the more it is felt. It is indeed a test o four nearness to God to have a Christian conscience so cultivated as to appreciate our daily and hourly need, and at the same time our daily and hourly completeness only in Christ. This is the way to feast upon Him richly. If our faith, considered as an act, does itself require to have blood sprinkled upon it, then as we appreciate that fact shall our faith itself sink down more and more upon Christ for all that He is to us, and rest upon Him with the very rest of heaven.

“In the third place, it furnishes a momentous warning to the unbeliever and the unregenerate man. If there is no such thing as a Christian’s self-righteousness, if there is no such life-long goodness as that of Paul, how impossible must all this be to the man who has not received Christ! If no Christian who is himself personally accepted in Christ can put forth one act which does not need forgiveness, what can he do to commend himself to God who is unwashed in redeeming blood, and on whom even now abideth His condemnation?

“The iniquity of the holy things!
What Jesus is, and that alone,
Is faith’s delightful plea;
Which never deals with sinful self
Nor righteous self in me”
- (James Gray’s Commentary).

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