Diffuse Reflections
Comments 15

The Word is for Washing

“Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” ~ John 17:17


In Jesus’ (High Priestly) Prayer for His disciples, recorded for us in John 17, He prayed for their sanctification through God’s truth (i.e., God’s Word).   Sanctification is the process by which someone/something becomes Holy: exclusively set apart unto God for His service.

Mosaic law instructs that an item or a person must go through a sanctification process that typically involved washing and/or anointing, followed by a dedication ceremony in order to be ready to serve God. Only after sanctification could that item be used in the worship ceremony or that person approach God to serve and/or worship Him.

By His grace, God imputes His Holiness to us to enable us, imperfect as we are, to serve Him. However, God also prepares us for (ever greater) usefulness by cleansing (sanctifying) us with His Word (truth).

…Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. ~ Ephesians 5:25b-27

A Believer is washed by The Word of God as he/she studies it. And as the Believer studies God’s Word his/her mind is renewed (Romans 12:2; Ephesians 4:23), into the very mind of Christ. And this enables the believer to know the very Will of God, which is necessary to effectively do the Work of God.

“Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.” ~ Psalm 119:9

Consequently, if we fail to study His word, if we do not avail ourselves (our minds) to be washed clean by it, then our spiritual growth will be stunted. We will struggle through life, spiritually immature and carnal: trapped by the base desires of our sinful nature, not growing into the full stature of the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:13).

By mercy and truth iniquity is purged: and by the fear of the LORD men depart from evil. ~ Proverbs 16:6

Believers must study God’s word; there is no other way: this is the method that He has chosen for us, His disciples/church, to grow. It is foolish and futile for us to moan over our lack of spiritual growth if we are unwilling to apply ourselves to the study of God’s Word. We will never be prepared for service without studying God’s word. Just as it would be foolhardy for a hospital to hire doctors who don’t study medicine, we cannot expect God to employ those who don’t study His Word.

Jesus had just spent three years teaching His disciples, but without the ongoing sanctification with Gods truth, without the constant washing with the Word, He knew that they would fail in the mission He was about to send them. Certainly, we are no greater than they.  Therefore, without the conscientious, careful and constant study of God’s Word we will fail too.

Finally, these words were a part of Jesus’ prayers for His disciples. This was not a teaching given to a multitude. Therefore, this message is for those who are committed to working in the Kingdom of God. This message is not intended for Christians “in-name-only”, those who practice their own unique version of a faith based on the most convenient parts of the Scripture. This message is not for those who use Christianity as “fire insurance”: who do not feel constrained to work in the Kingdom of God though they (think they) are in it.

Jesus’ prayer was for those who would “Hunger and thirst after righteousness” (Matthew 5:6), those who are willing to respond to the call to serve in the Kingdom of God.

If we indeed intend to heed God’s call to service, let us then commit ourselves to sanctification: to being washed by His Word. Let us determine to study God’s Word that He might set us apart unto Himself, for His use ONLY. For as God sanctifies us, as we grow in Him, the devil will not be able to trick us into serving his unholy purposes. Neither will we seek our own agenda. No, we will be available to God, exclusively, for work in His Kingdom.

“Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.” ~ John 15:3

And, let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work. Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. ~ 2 Timothy 2:19b-22

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. ~ 2 Timothy 3:16-17

15 Comments

  1. Pingback: Compound Cure for a Dangerous Disease: Purging Prescription for Iniquity Infection | Reflections in The WORD

  2. Awesome! Maybe you can help me out with something. I’m trying to talk with some church of christ believers who think water baptism is “essential” to salvation. They like to use Eph 4.5 as proof and I like to point out that water isn’t mentioned. They’ll turn to Eph 5.25-27 and say, “See, we are washed by the word which means water baptism.” How do you address this issue? You don’t actually explain the “water” portion in here. Of course, you know 1Pt 2.2 refers to it as milk and Jesus says it is bread, but how do you connect it to the Word. That would be helpful to me. Thanks for sharing!

    • Hi Mike,

      First, many thanks for stopping by and for sharing your thoughts.

      Second, not all disagreements/questions can be resolved through debate, God will have to prepare the hearts of your friends to receive the truth in His Word.

      Nevertheless, here some thoughts that I pray will help: The verse says:

      “That He [Jesus] might sanctify and cleanse it [The Church] with the washing of water by the word,” ~ Ephesians 5:26

      1.) The “water” mentioned in the verse is a sanctifying and cleansing agent, NOT a salvation agent.

      2.) The “water” mentioned in the verse is a sanctifying and cleansing agent PRODUCED/OBTAINED from The WORD. i.e., The Word produces the sanctifying and cleansing agent (the water) that Jesus applies to the Church so that the church will be “a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:26).

      3.) Water Baptism does none of these, otherwise Paul would have written “baptism” instead of “washing of water by the word”.

      Here is another useful verse:

      “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.” ~ John 15:3

      Finally, it was deduced that water = Word, because Jesus prayed the disciples would be sanctified with truth (John 17:17). And in the Mosaic law, sanctification always involved washing of some sort. Hence, truth = word = water. This inference through comparison might be debated by some; and i am open to correction, if necessary.

      If you are interested, here is another article specifically on baptism that might be useful to you: https://reflectionsintheword.org/2015/01/15/is-baptism-required-for-salvation/.

    • Very useful stuff. Ok, mind one more? How do you factor 1John 5.6-8 into the equation? I always link it to John 3.5,6 but (have you realized this too) most Christians (and I mean 90%) think the water in John 3 is water baptism. It frustrates me how blind they are. Anyway, how do you tie those two passages into your definition of “water?” BTW, I agree with the sanctification part, but wouldn’t you agree that sanctification, along with justification, is part of the salvation process (Heb 5.8)?

    • Well, let’s look at what these verses say:

      “This is He that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth.
      For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.” ~ 1 John 5:6-8

      “Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” ~ John 3:5-6

      First, you are correct, the phrase “born of water” in John 3:5 does refer to human birth, NOT baptism. Indeed, John 3:5, 6 constitute a parallelism (which is characteristic of Biblical literature) in which vs. amplifies and defines the terms in verse 5.

      Second, i find 1 John 5:6-8 rather challenging to understand, so i would be extremely careful in its application. Nevertheless, in the context of this discussion, there are some interesting points:

      1.) A Christian is identified by three characteristics: water (human birth); blood (Salvation through the Blood of The Lamb, Christ Jesus); and Spirit (the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit)

      2.) The water speaks to our humanity (we are created beings, created by one greater than us); The blood speaks to our depravity/culpability (we are unable to save ourselves, because we cannot of ourselves escape our sin nature, we have no righteousness); The Spirit speaks to our inability (we need God to sustain us, teach us and empower us: even after He redeems us, we are unable to walk in His will on our own)

      Finally, you mentioned Hebrews 5:8; I am not quite sure that i understand the applicability of this reference. i am sure it’s a good one… its just that i am not “getting it”.
      However, regarding sanctification, justification and salvation: Justification occurs simultaneously with salvation and then is re-imputed every time we confess our sins (1 John 1:9). Sanctification is the process whereby we are transformed into the persons God intends for us to be. So sanctification can (and often is) defined as freedom from the power of sin. While Salvation is freedom from the penalty of sin, and by Biblical definition is a one-time event, rather than a process (like sanctification) or a repeated event (like justification).

      Hope i have addressed your points.

      THANKS again for sharing.

    • Sir (I’m assuming as I don’t know your name), thank you immensely! You have been a great help. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who reads the OBVIOUS parallelism in John 3.5-6! Your comments made me also think of 1Pt 1.23 that says we’ve been born again through the Word of God (i.e. birth by water-Word). Never saw it that way. That said, I hate to do this as you have been so gracious and kind: but I’m going to do two things I hate to do. One is plug another post for you to read. This one is LONG (10 parts) but it talks about the second thing I don’t want to do- disagree with you. But you are obviously biblically literate and can easily correct me where you think I’ve gone wrong, I just hate to get all this good stuff from you and then tell you this. I just hope you don’t dislike me or think I’m a heathen for saying it.

      Ok, first I’m an idiot and gave you the wrong verse: it was Heb 5.9 that says Jesus is the source of salvation for all who OBEY Him. What I’m about to write is a short summary of what the 10 part blog post elaborates on. I don’t expect you to read it, but it’s at the bottom if you have time.

      You wrote that justification is reputed every time we confess our sins (are you Catholic?) That’s not what the Bible actually teaches. You know the verses, I”m sure, but 2Cor 5.21 tells us that God made Jesus sin for us, all of us who “sin” and are born of Adam (Rom 5.12-14). “For as in Adam ALL die, so in Christ ALL will be made alive” (1Cor 15.22). Rom 3.23 tells us that “all sin” and 24, a parallel again, tells us that these ALL are “justified freely by His grace.” ALL sins of ALL people are justifed. 1John 2.1,2 says that Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for NOT ONLY our sins but the sins of the whole world.

      I know what you are thinking, “he believes everyone is saved then since ‘justification’ saves us from sin.” Did you know that the Bible doesn’t anywhere tell us that we go to Hell for sins? Rom 6.23,24 says that sins’ wages is death but (another parrallel) the gift is eternal life in Jesus. I know people always say you have to receive the gift, but that’s false. If I UPS you a gift and it gets lost or you reject it, it is still a gift- your action doesn’t change its definition. The gift is given to all who sin whether they receive it or not.

      So why do people go to Hell? 2Thes 1.8,9 tells us that it’s because they do not know God and do not obey His gospel. Lots of explaining there, that’s why it took 10 parts, but to summarize, the Holy Spirit, the seal of our salvation, teaches us to know God (John 14) and obey Him.

      And He (the Spirit) is the agent for sanctification (2Thes 2.13). He is also the seal of our salvation (Eph 1.14), and without Him, we cannot understand God’s Word (1Cor 2.11-16) nor even call ourselves a Christian (Rom 8.-15). You can’t be a Christian without the Spirit and His job is to sanctify us, so sanctification is part of salvation.

      Please correct me where I am wrong. Looking forward to the discussion. And please don’t hate me for not only linking on your comments, but making this long statement, and disagreeing with you after you’ve provided me such wonderful feedback!

      https://mikewarren4gzus.wordpress.com/2015/03/18/are-we-limiting-the-grace-of-god-10-last/

    • Hi,

      Don’t worry about it. I don’t mind being disagreed with… i am very aware that i am not perfect, so i try not to pretend that my views/thoughts are perfect. i will try to read your posts tomorrow, as it is late… Also, might invite a few friends more knowledgeable than me to join in the discussion.

      Regarding justification, if we are justified as a one time event, then it seems to me that we would not ever need to confess our sins and ask for God’s forgiveness. If one is permanently justified, then by definition one remains in a permanent state of sinlessness regardless of one’s actual conduct. This seems incongruous with the teachings of God’s Word. And no, I am not a Roman Catholic.

      Regarding sanctification, the logic leading to your conclusion seems flawed. Your premise is correct. But remember that the Believer receives the gift of The Holy Spirit after salvation. Consequently, it is conceptually jarring to extend salvation to include the work of The Holy Spirit after salvation. Moreover, Jesus’ teachings (e.g., John 6:47) indicate salvation to be a singular event. Likewise, the tense used in Ephesians 2:8-9, also articulates the singularity/discontinuity of salvation.

      Nevertheless, we can continue praying about it and seeking Godly guidance.

      In closing, you can make your statements as long as you like and link to your blog as much as you like. My sole requirement is Godly comportment. And you have comported yourself well thus far.

      God Bless!

    • Definitely agree that salvation is a singular event! hope I didn’t say differently! I believe in God’s election as Eph 1 and Rom 9 both explain- that’s the single event, no some prayer we uttered. Paul specifically calls the Holy Spirit our seal of salvation so if we are sealed after we are saved, that seems to lack logic. You would imagine you’d be sealed (or receive the deposit (1Cor 1.22) when you are saved. Regarding justification- what you are talking about is reconciliation. Take this example: my kids are justified-always forgiven in my sight but when they offend me, I want them to reconcile with me by confessing their wrong and repenting of their actions. I never don’t forgive them nor do they stop being my kids. The point is reconciliation (2Cor 5.18-20 and Mt 18.15-20).

    • Odysseus says

      Hello Mike

      We do not agree with the “Church of Christ” denomination which takes the passages as they actually stand, but then turn them into a series of mechanical steps. Indeed, common to all true Christians is the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone. For this reason baptism is not absolutely necessary for salvation because saving faith has been worked in Christ crucified for sinners there exists forgiveness of sins.

      And yet, Baptism was prefigured through all the Old Testament cleansing rituals, especially in the purification of the ashes of the heifer in the lustral water. All of these were moving forward toward that grand promise of the New Covenant given to Judah when they were yet in exile:
      ‘Then will I sprinkle clean (Heb. = pure) water upon you and you shall be clean (pure); from all your filthiness and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you, and Iwill take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my stautes, and you shall keep my judgments and do them’. (Ezekiel 36: 25-27).

      That Ezekiel wrote of baptism should be evident from the words, but that it spoke of baptism is made abundantly clear by the writer to the Hebrews when he quotes from this passage in connection with our baptism and our resultant cleansed conscience:
      ‘Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an
      evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.’

      To understand the import of these words we must consider why the writer made this reference to Ezekiel 36. In chapter 9, the writer to the Hebrews reminded his readers that: ‘If …the ashes of a heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ … purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? Hebrews 9:13, 14.

      The BLOOD of the heifer along with its body were burned with fire to ashes.When a purification was needed a little of the ash was placed in the water and sprinkled on the people. And so in this way THE BLOOD was applied to the people in order to purify them.

      But now in Hebrews 10:22 the writer points to the promise of the New Covenant in Ezekiel 36:25-27. This promise looks back to the purifications of the Old Covenant and looks forward to the Baptism in the New Covenant. It is critical to note that the writer says “HAVING … OUR BODIES WASHED WITH PURE WATER”. When were our bodies washed with pure water?

      This statement is an allusion to ezekiel 36 and a clear reference to Christian baptism. But why is it called “pure water”? We know that many baptisms were taken in the Jordan river, and that river was a dirty river (2 kings 5:12). It is called pure (Gk Kathari) according to the same expression used in the Hebrew text of Ezekiel 36 for a single reason. Note also the ancient LXX Greek Old testament uses the same Greek word.

      The reason for the use of the term “Pure Water” is because God himself is the one who perfoms the cleansing in Ezekiel 36. He states “Then will I sprinkle CLEAN (PURE) WATER upon you, and YOU SHALL BE CLEAN (PURE): from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, WILLI CLEANSE (PURIFY) YOU. It is called clean or pure water because God himself is the one who cleanses us in Baptism. In fact it is Christ, the second person of the Trinity who speaks in this passage in Ezekiel.

      This is made abundantly clear by the passage in dispute in Ephesians 5:26, 27
      ‘ CHRIST also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That HE might sanctify and cleanse
      (Greek = purify) it with the washing of water by the word’

      So it is Christ himself who purifies hid church in the water of baptism, exactly as he promised in Ezekiel 36. How does he do this cleansing, this purification? God promises remission of sins through faith in Christ. It is always faith and faith alone that saves us. It is not faith + works. It is not faith + baptism that saves. It is not faith + anything that saves. So how and in what way can baptism save? The answer is very simple: God has attached the promie of remssion of sins to Baptism.

      It is for this reason that Peter so preached on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:38).
      ‘Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins,
      and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.’
      Peter did not invent a new doctrine here. No. Peter’s words are exactly analogous to the words of Ezekiel 36.Baptism for the remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. It was to Peter that Lord in reference to our baptisms said, ‘If I wash you not, you have no part with me.’ (John 13:8). And peter never forgot this. Peter later wrote (1 Peter 3:21):
      ‘The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the
      filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God …’
      Peter’s words here convey the identical idea contained in Hebrews 10:22. It is the body that is washed in baptism, but it is the soul that is purified through the Word of God. In other words, baptism does the thing that it says it does. It washes away sins.
      ‘ arise, and be baptized, and WASH AWAY your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.’

      And why should it surprise us that God attaches the word of promise to outward means?We have precisely this very thing pictured to us in the washing of Namaan the Syrian (2 kings 5:10-14). Mere water could never wash away leprosy, just as mere water could never wash away sins. But God has given us the cleansing of Namaan the Syrian as a picture and type of baptism to helpus to understand. In Namaan’s baptism in Jordan, he was called to wash 7 times. 7 is the number that signifies the divine operation of God. It was God himself that cleansed Namaan and he did it by His word of Promise. But God attached his Word of promise to the outward element of water. And so it is with Christian baptism also. God has not commanded us to make “altar calls” or”decisions for Christ”. He has not commandedus to lead sinners through “sinners prayers”. He wants all men to belive on the Lord Jesus Christ and has commanded us to be baptised FOR THE REMISSION OF SINS and promises we will recieve the gift of the Holy Spirit.

      This connection between the Word of God and Baptismis seen most clearly in Ephesians 5:25, 26. If God had commanded us to do some great thing, would we also not have done it? How much more when he says, “Wash and be clean”?

      This exposition of these passages was held by the early church fathers and it is the position of the Orthodox lutheran Church today. Sadly not all Lutheran Christians are Bible Believers as they should be. I counsel caution in seeking a truly orthodox church in faith and practice that teaches righly on all doctrines including baptism.

      polymathete@gmail.com

  3. dantheman says

    First of all Kudos to both of you for conducting a logical and respectful discussion about a subject as touchy as religion. This is truly internet history! Your argument at this point seems to have boiled down to semantics. With three primary words being key to this conversation Justification, Reconciliation, and Sanctification. Justification means an acceptable reason for doing something : something that justifies an action. (Merriam Webster) Reconciliation means : the act of causing two people or groups to become friendly again after an argument or disagreement. (Merriam Webster) Sanctification means: to purify or free from sin. (Dictionary.com) Isaiah 64:6 says “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags;…” Meaning that on our own we can never reach Justification in our actions. Romans 3:23 says “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” This means that we can also never reach reconciliation on our own. For both of these things to occur we need sanctification. 1 John 1:9 says “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:7 says “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” My translation of all this is that although sanctification happens at the initial confession like 1 John 1:9 talks about it also requires that we continue to “walk in the light” Like 1 John 1:7 talks about to continue that sanctification and if we stumble to confess our sins and get resanctified. At any rate thats my two cents for what its worth thank you for reading this.

    • Renee says

      In the process of sanctification the believer is being conformed into the image of God-an on going process. It’s a continual change, worked by the Holy Spirit in us-freeing us from sinful habits and forming Christlike virtues in us.
      There are 3 phases of sanctification:
      Positional, progressive and ultimate.
      Positional-emphasizes God’s work in us . Possessed by every believer from the moment of his conversion (through our standing in Christ through faith).
      Progressive-A daily process. The daily growth in grace, becoming in practice more and more set apart for God’s use.
      Ultimate sanctification- Glorification! The final stage in the salvation process. Realized when the believer is transformed into the likeness of Christ and presented to the Lord as Holy..

  4. great article 🙂 I’m in a season of learning how to strengthen myself in the lord, and the phrase “washing with the word” has come up in a few different peoples teachings, so I found your article, Thanks for writing!

  5. Victor Utedzi says

    We need to help people by pointing out that the washing of the word touches the whole person: first the spirit and together the soul and the body. This contribution is meant to emphasize the washing of the word to keep our bodies free of spot, blemishes and wrinkles! The church as a whole is without blemish when individually it’s members are free from sickness and disease. Salvation does not end with the rebirth of the spirit and the constant renewal of the mind. It touches the whole person … bodies included.

    Here are some few verses …

    “But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you (spirit, soul and body) holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—”
    ‭‭Colossians‬ ‭1:22‬ ‭NIV‬‬

    “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
    ‭‭1 Thessalonians‬ ‭5:23‬ ‭NIV‬‬

    “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.”
    ‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:11‬ ‭NIV‬‬

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