"WASH AWAY THY SINS" -
MUST ONE BE BAPTIZED?
by Ed Stevens
Multitudes have believed that the ceremony of water baptism washed away all their sins. It is a common fault among men to search for and cling to some particular verse of Scripture as a standard for preconceived ideas and cherished notions, as though one verse sufficiently contains all that Scripture has to say on a certain subject and withal, failing to carefully note just what said verse actually teaches. Without question the Bible does not contradict itself. Let us read some verses that speak of washing and sin.
". . . I know that thou wilt not hold me innocent. If I WASH myself with snow water and make my hands never so clean; yet thou shalt plunge me into the ditch, and mine own clothes shall abhor me" (Job 9:28,30,31).
"For though thou WASH thee with nitre and take thee much soap, yet thine iniquity is marked before me, saith the Lord God" (Jer. 2:22).
"O Jerusalem, WASH THINE HEART from wickedness that thou mayest be saved. How long shall thy VAIN THOUGHTS lodge within thee?" (Jer. 4:14).
"For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of an heifer (with water, Numbers 19:17-21) SPRINKLING the unclean (one of Israel's 'diverse baptisms') sanctifieth to t h e purifying (cleansing) 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? For the T A W (and its ceremonies) made NOTHING perfect, but the bringing in of a BETTER HOPE DID; by the which we draw nigh unto God . . .without the shedding of BLOOD is NO REMISSION" (of sins, Heb. 9:13,14;7:19; 9:22).
Jesus Christ "loved us and WASHED US FROM OUR SINS IN HIS OWN BLOOD" (Rev.1:5).
"NOT BY WORKS of righteousness which WE have done but according to His MERCY He saved us, by the WASHING OF REGENERATION (being born again) and renewing of the Holy Spirit which He shed (poured) upon us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior" (Titus 3:5).
God hath made us accepted IN THE BELOVED (Christ — not water); in whom we have redemption THROUGH HIS BLOOD, THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS, according to the riches of His grace" (Ephes. 1:7).
In writing to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul, after mentioning some of the vile sins of the unsaved said of believers, "And such were some of you, but ye ARE WASHED, but ye are sanctified (set apart as pure), but ye are justified (declared innocent) IN THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS, and BY THE SPIRIT of our God" (I Cor. 6:11). Notice, please, that the WASHING here could not be mere water baptism as done by man because it was performed "BY the Spirit of our God", just as was the sanctification and justification. It was concerning such SPIRITUAL WASHING that the Lord Jesus spoke as recorded in John 13:10—"He that is WASHED NEEDETH NOT save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit". He said this as He illustrated through washing His disciples' feet with water, both the virtue of being willing to humbly be as servants one to another and, by this object lesson the believers' need of repeated spiritual cleansing (by "the washing of water by the Word", Eph. 5:26) because some defilement will inevitably take place while they walk in this sinful world. Positionally before God, however, they continually remain "clean every whit". There is no hint in John 13 that Christ instituted a foot washing ceremony to be observed by His church.
In Acts 22 we read Paul's account of his conversion. Note this verse:
"And now why tarriest thou? Arise and be baptized and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord" (Acts 22:16).
The account in Acts 9:1-22 describes Paul's conversion in detail. Examining the record shows that Paul suddenly realized that the Christ of the cross was the Messiah in heaven. Then during his three days of blindness in Damascus the matter of his soul's salvation must have filled his mind as he reflected on the O.T. scriptures plus the preaching of "this way" which he had persecuted. Thus when Ananias arrived he must have been quite ready to confess saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Like all the first JEWISH believers, Paul (then called Saul) had TWO BAPTISMS—water and Spirit.
As to the word "baptized" found in Acts 9:18 and 22:16, THE ELEMENT (as in many other cases in Acts) is not designated. By "rightly dividing" and comparing scriptures we can know that Ananias was sent to Saul that he "might receive sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit" (9:17). So it happened that with laying on of hands Saul received sight, and, please note here, to be "FILLED with the Spirit" there must of necessity have taken place the SPIRITUAL BAPTISM which was later explained in Gal. 3:27; Rom. 6:3-5; I Cor. 12:13. Saul was thus spiritually "baptized into Christ" and "into one body", the Church which is Christ's body.
We can also know that Saul, being a Pharisee, had "rejected the counsel of God" against Israel being not baptized with John's WATER baptism (Luke 7:30). Therefore we can know that Saul now must have humbly submitted to this Jewish symbolic rite which Ananias, "a devout man ACCORDING TO THE LAW" (22:12) must have insisted be performed. The exact time of both these baptisms is problematical.
NEVER has water baptism been demanded in the promise of sins being washed away by "calling on the name of the Lord". See Joel 2:32; Acts 2:21; Rom. 10:13; and Luke 18:13, 14. This SPIRITUAL WASHING is performed only by the Lord, not by man in the "works" of water baptism (see above quotations). "By WORKS of the LAW shall NO FLESH be justified" (Gal. 2:16); neither by adding works to faith, as is much taught today (see Gal. 2:21; 3:21; I Cor. 15:1-5).
Through "rightly dividing the word of truth" (II Tim. 2:15), we see that until the close of the Acts period God had not told Israel to cease the Mosaic ceremonial law with its "divers washings and carnal ordinances imposed ON THEM until the time of reformation" or setting things straight (Heb. 9:10). The apostle Paul was chosen to set things straight in his inspired epistles.
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