The plan of redemption is amazing – it is not only reactive, but proactive. God not only removes my guilt for sins that I’ve already committed, but he also removes the corrupt dispositions and defective ideologies that have the potential to lead me to further guilt! Where is this process of cleansing described in the Bible? Look at these verses.
“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 4:8 ESV)
“Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.” (2 Timothy 2:21 ESV)
Christians are generally familiar with the fact that the blood of Jesus removes our guilt (forgiveness), but we are less familiar with the purpose of God to remove the precursors to our guilt. The Bible shows us this work of cleansing is needful.
When David was confronted with the horror of his guilt with Bathsheba and of murdering her husband – he longed not only for cleansing from guilt, but from what led to his guilt. Look at his prayer in Psalm 51.
“Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!…Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow…Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalms 51:2, 7, 10 ESV
To recap, the defiling elements of our nature are: 1. our guilt 2. our corrupt dispositions 3. our defective ideologies. Point 1 is dealt with via justification by faith (forgiveness), points 2 and 3 are remedied via sanctification by faith. God’s cleansing agents are: 1. the blood of Jesus 2. the Word of God 3. the Spirit of God. All these three cleansing agents are brought to bear in the experience of justification and sanctification by faith. Now, let’s look at how this happens.
The cleansing agents
The blood of Jesus is the fountain provided by God to cleanse us from guilt. Why? Because his blood was spilt instead of ours. It was spilt because of our iniquities and sins.
“On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness.” Zechariah 13:1 ESV
“In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:14
“Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever…” Revelation 1:5, 6
“Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation (behavior) received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” 1 Peter 1:18, 19
The blood of Jesus does not only remove our guilt for bad behavior already done, but it cleanses us from the sinful moral reasoning or disposition that led to it – thus preparing us to serve God by faith.
“For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” Hebrews 9:13, 14
It is this cleansing the sinner needs for victorious living. But faith in the blood of Jesus for cleansing is nothing without the living Word of God – that declares it so – and the Spirit of God which makes it so. People need to expose themselves entirely to all three cleansing agents to experience complete recovery from sin.
The Word of God has in it the power to affect change. Its principles expose error by truth, and as we come face to face with its teachings our ideologies are confronted, they are challenged and our sinful dispositions begin to lose their strength. As we submit to this process of change, the Spirit of God renews our minds and hearts by faith.
“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12
“Husbands, love your wives, even as 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 5:25-27
Notice the sequence of the Apostle Paul’s words and how justification by faith without works relates to sanctification by faith that works. Notice the transformation achieved by the Holy Spirit in the heart that trusts in divine grace and mercy.
“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.” Titus 3:5-8
Do you see how God saves you? He first saves you without works of your own righteousness, as long as you have faith in Christ and belief in God – you are justified by faith. Paul then mentions that God also washes you, who is saved, and regenerates you by his Spirit. Then he says that if you have believed in God (justification by faith), you should be careful to practice good works. Notice that these works are not to save you, but because you are already saved by grace since you have believed in God.
This is very much like what he wrote in Ephesians.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8-9
- First, you are saved by grace through faith without works (declared righteous)
- Then comes a divine workmanship – you are recreated in Christ Jesus (made holy)
- Then comes good works – not to save you, but because you are saved.
Where is the glory? It belongs to God. Your glory is in the dust where it belongs. There is no boasting. There is not merit but Christ’s. You are declared righteous by faith, you are made holy by faith and it is all because Jesus lived, from the manger to the cross, a perfect life of righteousness and sanctification that God accepted instead of yours.
“That no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:29-31 ESV
~ Gerson Robles