In that day shall there be on the bells of the horses, HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD…
These words indicate that the great design, and ultimate result, of the diffusion of the Gospel is to promote holiness. In the view of many, salvation is simply deliverance from punishment. But salvation is a character as well as a condition, and the two can never he really divorced. Christianity is a life as well as a creed. The bestowment of forgiveness is not the great end of the Gospel, but only a means to the higher end of lifting men from their degradation and making them in heart and in conduct, as well as in name, the sons of God. To rest in pardon is a mean and contemptible thing, displaying a disposition of the grossest selfishness. When salvation is really possessed, it is a living character, produced by the grace of the Holy Spirit, and rooted in the simple faith which the soul is exercising in Jesus Christ.
I. WHAT HOLINESS IS. What precisely do we mean when we say of a man that he is holy? We imply not simply that he is virtuous, but rather that his virtue has a special and peculiar quality. In our common speech there is a recognition of the distinction between virtue and holiness. The virtuous man regulates his conduct by moral principles alone, while the holy man maintains a close and constant fellowship with the living God. The one gives you a lofty idea of his own excellence, the other makes you feel the greatness and purity of God. The scriptural significance of the term is "consecrated to Jehovah." Holiness, so far as it is an inward principle, is the maintenance of close communion with God: and so far as it is an outward manifestation, it is the consecration of the life to God. Holiness is a disposition lying back behind all virtues, and giving to each of them its own distinctive peculiarity. Holiness is an inward, all-regulating principle.
II. HOW THIS HOLINESS IS TO BE ATTAINED. Clearly, it is not possessed by every man. No man has it naturally, and as a thing of course. Indeed, the very reverse is true. Men do not like to retain God in their knowledge. How is all this to be changed? Not by the individual himself. From an unholy soul nothing but that which is unholy can proceed. By no mere process of development, or natural selection, can the unholy man train himself into holiness. Neither can this change be accomplished by means of external rites. The Scriptures state with the utmost explicitness that we are regenerated by the power of the Holy Ghost. If we inquire into the mode of His operations, we get no reply. If we ask how He can work in and upon a man, while not infringing on his free agency, we are not told. Though silent as to the mode, Scripture repeatedly asserts the fact. The other element of holiness is consecration to God. But the essence of sin is self-will, and so it is impossible that a man can dedicate himself to God until sin within him has been crushed. In order to holiness, the sinner needs to be reconciled to God, and to he made like to God. But these are the very things which are to he accomplished through his belief on the Lord Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Ghost. As to consecration to Him, the sight of the means by which his guilt and depravity have been removed, produces in the believer's soul a deep feeling of personal indebtedness to God. He cannot lay claim to himself after God has redeemed him to Himself by the precious blood of Christ. His gratitude takes the form of self-dedication. It follows, also, that we must seek to have faith, strong and abiding, in the Lord Jesus Christ as our Redeemer, and in His death as the propitiation for our sins. This is a view of the Cross which is too seldom before our eyes.
III. WHERE THIS HOLINESS IS TO BE MANIFESTED. It is to characterise the believer's life in all occupations and under all circumstances. Under the New Testament we have no holy places, or holy persons. To the Christian there should be nothing purely secular. Wherever piety is genuine, and our consecration unreserved, we shall seek in all things to glorify God.
(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: In that day shall there be upon the bells of the horses, HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD; and the pots in the LORD'S house shall be like the bowls before the altar.