Rather than reading the Bible through the eyes of modern secularism, this provocative six-part course teaches you to read the Bible through its own eyes—as a record of God’s dealing with the human race. When you read it at this level, you will discover reasons to worship God in areas of life you probably never before associated with “religion.”
© Charles A. Clough 2002
Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 6: New Truths of the Kingdom Aristocracy
Chapter 4 – The Historical Maturing of the Church
Lesson 201 – Sanctification in the Church Age (cont’d)
23 May 2002
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
There’s one more chapter that we’re going to cover in the fall, the Rapture of the church. What we’re working on is the outline of the Church Age; we’ve covered the Church Age, some of the topics in it with the idea in mind that if you map the overall motion of the Holy Spirit’s teaching from Pentecost to the present hour there’s a logical development that occurs in church history. Having looked at that, having looked at the fact that the church is not the same as Israel, it’s not a replacement for Israel, the church, unlike Israel, is not a nation, it’s a multi-cultural entity defined doctrinally by those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s not defined racially; Israel is defined racially. The church is not defined racially so the two entities are not the same and therefore when we come to sanctification we see differences that crop up. We’re not going to go through all the differences but we’re going to look at some categories here.
These are the same categories that we covered 2–3 years ago when we were working with David. When we worked with David we worked with the conquest and settlement period in the book of Judges. This is just a way I have of kind of summarizing the areas of sanctification. One of the ways of looking at it is the phases of sanctification. By phases we mean thinking of it in terms of past, present and future. We can orient our Christian life inside that framework, so there are different phases. What we want to do when we think of the past is to think of becoming a Christian. So the past looks at the Christian life from the standpoint of what was given to us in a point in time when we trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ. At that point, when that happened, lots of different things happened, many of which we really are unaware of. You have to go to the Word of God to find out what was going on there. But the things that happened, besides under the broad name somebody got saved, were some specific things.
We’ve already covered some of those because we’ve organized it by what the Father did, what the Son does and what the Holy Spirit does. Some of what they do is not just past but also present, and also future. If we go back to the diagram on page 84, we summarized in one figure God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. This is what constitutes becoming a Christian, and it’s a lot broader than what people normally envision becoming a Christian is like.
We said the Father foreknows, He predestinates, He calls, He justifies and He glorifies, and we added a sixth one, He disciplines. That really isn’t part of the past, that’s continuing in the present. The glorification is partly through regeneration but it’s also future so we’ll kind of separate that and look at these four. Those four things are things that we become aware of at the time we trust in Christ, or we should become aware of because God for all eternity has foreknown us, He has predestinated us, He has called us and He’s justified us. That is the work of the particular person of the Trinity—the Father.
Then we said the Son, figure 6, page 84, historically lived a perfect life on earth and demonstrated what righteousness and holiness looks like by a human being. We said when we were working with the person of Christ that refutes this proverb that you hear in our everyday language, “to err is human.” That’s not true, there was one human who didn’t err, and that’s the Lord Jesus Christ. So when you hear that little proverb you can say there’s an exception to that one, it might be kind of an introductory thing for conversation. The Lord Jesus Christ died and rose again and therefore created a pathway out of the mortal world. He had life in eternal life and He gives that at the moment of salvation to us, to our souls by regeneration, etc. He makes intercession for us, He’s the head of the church and He judges. So as far as the past goes we can at least include the righteousness, His death and resurrection, eternal life that we get, and those constitute things that He has done for us up to that point.
The Holy Spirit, the easy one to remember is RIBS, plus spiritual gifts, plus intercession, and these things are things that He does at the point of salvation. So a lot of work happens at the point of salvation and it’s invisible, we don’t sense it but it’s there. You say well why don’t we sense it, why doesn’t God make it so we detect it? It’s because of the nature of history. If you were a Jew and you were born in the 8th century BC you would not physically sense the Exodus, you wouldn’t physically sense the call of Abraham, but in fact your destiny is controlled by those things that happen, those events, your destiny as a Jew, you’re marked out as a particular human being with a particular destiny, controlled by the Abrahamic Covenant, controlled by the Mosaic Law Code, controlled by the Davidic Covenant, that’s all your inheritance, that happens to you whether you feel it or not. It’s the same thing in the Church Age.
All these things are the basis for sanctification. You’ll notice, if you look through these, there’s not one of them, not one of them that we add to by human merit; they are all independent of human merit. It doesn’t matter who we are, it doesn’t matter how intelligent or how stupid we are, it doesn’t matter what race we are, it doesn’t matter what sex we are, it doesn’t matter because these things are given to us at the point of salvation of by God. They are an asset that is given to us, and we can either spend that asset, or utilize it, or waste it, but the point is, it’s given at the point of salvation.
Then we can come to the present. We want to concentrate on present sanctification and what constitutes that. We’ve already said, if we look at those things that the Father does, the Son does, and the Holy Spirit does, these things are ongoing in the present. So we think of the present as that period of our lives, from that time that we accepted Christ until the time we die or the rapture if we happen to live in the rapture generation, that’s the period of our lifetime. And during that period what happens? If you look at the chart you’ll see why the Protestant Reformation was involved here, because you see the Father justified, and He justified at the point of salvation. That’s past, that’s not part of the present; we don’t get more justified. There’s no human merit, human good works that solidifies that justification action any more than it was solidified a millisecond after it happened at the point of salvation.
In the present what happens? Grace doesn’t stop, God the Holy Spirit continues, the Son continues, and the Father continues. What are some of the things that shape—control—that affect us daily in our Christian life? Let’s go back to the Father. What is one thing the Father does? We’ll get into that tonight a little bit more, the Father disciplines. This goes on in our lives, because unlike John Dewey, he doesn’t believe that children are unfallen and He disciplines us as a father disciplines his children. That’s going on all the time because He is our Father and He runs His family His way; we’re part of His family and we will be disciplined as we grow. That’s one thing the Father does.
We also found out the Lord Jesus Christ is constantly, according to Rom. 8 making intercession for us and that is important because Satan is accusing us all the time before the throne. The book of Revelation tells us that, the book of Job tells us that, so it’s not just that our conscience convicts us of sin, it’s not that we feel like we are unworthy, in fact from a historical point of view were it not for imputed righteousness we are unholy and we are guilty. That transaction of acknowledging us before God’s throne over against satanic accusation is the job of God the Son and that’s the advocacy. That’s why in 1 John 2:1, “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father,” a defense attorney with the Father. So Jesus Christ hasn’t stopped working, His cross work is finished but His intercession work isn’t, that’s continuing, continuing, continuing, it’s happening right now. Somewhere, wherever the throne of God is … and by the way, we can’t get abstruse and overly Greek thinking about this, the Lord Jesus Christ tonight is dwelling in His humanity at a point in space and time because He’s a creature in His humanity and therefore His resurrection body is located somewhere tonight. That location is the throne room of God according to the Book of Revelation, so wherever that is, inside or outside the universe, that’s where this intercession is happening. And it’s going on in a two-way conversation between God the Son, God the Father, and then we have Satan putting in his two cents. So we have Satan making an accusation, the Lord Jesus Christ is making intercession. It’s a dynamic thing, it’s not just static.
Then we have the Lord Jesus Christ is the head of the church, that means He is directing his body just like our brain directs our hands, our fingers, our feet, so the Lord Jesus Christ is directing His church. We’ve seen evidences of this down through church history, how Jesus directs His church. One of the things we’ve learned is that it starts in the book of Acts, continues through the first few centuries of the church, goes all the way up through the Middle Ages, goes all the way through the Protestant Reformation, goes all the way to the last 300 years, the Lord Jesus Christ directs His church slightly differently in each generation, because history is changing. This is a dynamic thing; it’s an active living dynamic thing. The church in the last 200–300 years has all of a sudden exploded in the sense of missions. That wasn’t true, they had some missions before, but that’s new. The church is moving into areas of eschatology. Why’s that? Because we’re facing false pagan total ideas of where history is going; communism was one of them, Islam is another one, Nazism, the Third Reich, that whole thing was another one. So in the last two centuries we’ve had this emphasis throughout the unbelieving world on unbelieving antichristian eschatologies and the Lord Jesus is head of the church, He’s teaching the church, He is making teaching us what we need to know for our era of church history.
The Holy Spirit is another one, His intercession, unlike this one, is between Him and the Son according to Romans 8. So that’s another conversation that is going on constantly and the subject of that conversation isn’t our status before God as far as righteousness so much as He is helping our infirmities with groanings that cannot be uttered, meaning that He is dealing with our individual and personal sanctification because we don’t know enough to make intelligent prayer requests. If our sanctification depended upon our wonderful prayer, we’d never get to first base; the only reason we’re advancing in our life is because somebody better than us is praying for us and that’s the Holy Spirit. That’s some of the stuff that’s going on in the present.
You have to be careful here, you can’t mix what’s going on in the present with what went on in the past. What isn’t happening today is we’re not being re-justified; we’re not being born again and again and again, all that was regeneration so that’s why these phases of sanctification are good classifying devices so when you read in the New Testament or you’re studying the Bible, you’re sitting there reading and it says certain things to you about what a Christian is, what the Holy Spirit has done, the thought ought to occur in your mind, is this past, present or future. Is this sanctification past, is this sanctification present, these are theological categories, just like the tense of a verb, past, present or future, except this isn’t grammatical, this is theological. And it’s a good question, if you don’t get anything out of the Bible you question it, you ask questions of the text and these are the questions you ask: are we dealing here with the past sanctification, are we dealing with the presently going on sanctification, or are we dealing with something in the future as far as our sanctification.
Let’s look at the future. What things happen in the future? The Father glorifies, that isn’t done until the body is resurrected. We are not totally glorified until we are resurrected in our bodies and that’s the work of the Father, the Father is going to take care of that, but not now. Then we have the Son and He judges. So those are at least two things that we can talk about the future. We have to be evaluated by the Lord Jesus Christ as a peer and on page 107 we give some texts for that. Let’s turn to one of those, 1 Corinthians 3 because this is talking about a judgment. There are many different kinds of judgments in the Bible. Every time we see a judgment in the Bible we cannot conclude that it’s always the judgment on the world at the end times.
In 1 Corinthians 3:13–15 what Paul is saying here is he’s referring to a future phase of sanctification where the total value of our lives is recognized. At this judgment, the judgment of believers, because notice what it says, it says: “Each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it, because it is to be revealed with fire; and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work.  If any man’s work which he has built upon it remains, he shall receive a reward.  If any man’s work is burned up, he shall suffer loss, but he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire.” There’s one very explicit thing that says this is not a salvation judgment, this is a rewards type judgment. They are not the same, you can’t conclude hastily every time you see the word “judge” that’s the final judgment. This is talking about an evaluation so that when we start off, so to speak, in the eternal realm we will have our temporal lives evaluated. And there will be surprises, things we thought were great probably turn out not to be and things we thought weren’t so hot maybe were. That’s up to the Lord to evaluate that. The closest you can come to it now is going up against standards of Scripture and trusting that you see the Scripture clearly enough to do that and not that. But in the final analysis He has the last word and that’s what’s going on here. It’s explained in 2 Corinthians 5:10ff that the Person doing this judging—doing the evaluating—is the Second Person of the Trinity, God the Son.
That’s the phases of sanctification. You can talk about sanctification in terms of phases. This is most useful in thinking in terms of a text. Probably the most useful part of breaking things down in this tri-fold categorization is as a Bible study tool; to think about what does this text say. If you’ll do that it’ll save you from some confusion.
Next we’re going to look at the aim of sanctification. This has not changed but we do want to remind ourselves of a passage in Hebrews 2:10, this is something we covered when we went through the life of Christ, but it’s always good to remember this because sanctification is often thought of negatively. Sanctification is often thought of as getting rid of sin, and historically we have had emphasis at certain times in church history among certain groups of (quote) “separation from the world.” The problem with this is it’s not possible to separate from the world, we are in the world whether we like it or not, we breathe crummy air, we live in a fallen universe, we live in a fallen society, we live in bodies that are under a death sentence, we live with souls that share the fallen nature of Adam, so how do you separate from the world? What these people try to do, and it’s a right motive, they’re trying to say there ought to be a difference between our lives and the world’s lives. They’re trying to say that but in doing it they often lock up on a few of these do this and don’t do this, do this and don’t do this, do this and don’t do this, etc.
I remember almost a generation ago in New England the legalism among some of the fundamentalist churches was so bad. I mean, if a woman dared to wear lipstick you were a fallen witch. If you played cards that was a major sin; they pick out these little things. You can always find interesting things about this because where you have these legalistic things usually if you look at them carefully enough they’re always things that any unbeliever could do. It doesn’t require the power of the Holy Spirit to not play cards, or comb you hair with a fan or something. Unbelievers can mimic that. The motive was originally good. “Be not conformed to the world” is what we’re trying to say and it gets somehow awkwardly twisted and perverted into a legalistic set of dos and don’ts. Of course there are dos and don’ts, but the point is, sanctification is more than just putting away sin.
Hebrews 2:10 is a stunning verse because this verse says that Jesus Christ in His humanity had to be sanctification. Now isn’t that an interesting use of the verb sanctify. “For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings.” Jesus Christ had to undergo sanctification and Jesus Christ we know didn’t have a sin nature. Well then, sanctification cannot be just getting rid of sin; it can’t be just a subtracting process, apparently it’s an adding to process as well as the subtractive process. So the aim of sanctification, we have to think about that for a moment. The same sanctification has a plus and there’s a minus. For Jesus it only had a plus and that was He learned… learned obedience. It did not come with the virgin birth. Jesus learned obedience! And He learned it by obeying, He chose to obey. He had must as much temptation as we do but He chose to obey. So it was active choosing. He chose, chose, chose, chose, chose, chose, chose, and He learned and learned and learned and learned and learned, a very rapid learner because He didn’t sin, He didn’t get all screwed up so He learned very rapidly but He learned.
That’s the point of this verse and there’s a parallel verse, Hebrews 5:7–8, “In the days of His flesh, when He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and who was heard because of His piety,  although He was a Son, “notice this, “He learned obedience from the things which He suffered.” Jesus learned and He learned like so many of us always learn and that is we don’t learn until the heat comes on, until the pressure comes on, till some disaster falls, and then we learn. That’s learning the hard way. Jesus didn’t learn the hard way in the sense He was disobedient but it does say He learned through sufferings. So Jesus had to learn obedience.
We have to not only learn obedience but we have another problem, we have to unlearn disobedience. So we have, because of our fallen natures, we’ve got the other side of the story. For example, in Romans 8 it talks about mortify the deeds of the flesh, etc. the verb there is to kill, it’s to mortify, put to death the patterns of sin. Why does he use that language? Theologians have debated about it, but it’s interesting to think about in terms of what we now know about our central nervous system and that is that in our body, after you practice doing something, I think somebody once said it takes 7,000–8,000 repetitions of something to ingrain it so it becomes automatic. You can see this in athletic training, the athlete trains and trains and trains. Why does he bother to train? Obviously he must be bothering to train because he’s getting better because people have learned down through the centuries that you can train yourself and the more you train the more automatic it becomes.
So what does that say? It says you’re kind of programming the system. Every time you do something you’re programming the system. It’s like a self-learning computer, wouldn’t that be great, a computer that actually learns. I know about artificial intelligence and sometimes artificial intelligence is artificial stupidity if you’ve ever worked with it. The problem is that they’re trying to make a computer learn things in an elementary way. We, with our God-given brain and God-given nervous system, we learn things and it becomes to the point where we don’t have to consciously think, it automatically happens. We walk; a baby doesn’t know how to walk, a baby has to learn how to walk. A child learns how to ride a bicycle, they fall off the bike 500 times and then they finally learn how to ride a bike. Then you get on a bike and you never think about gee, am I balancing right, is my foot in the right place, am I too far forward; you don’t think about that, you just do it. Why? Because it’s become automatic.
I think the same thing happens to sin patterns, that when we disobey, disobey, disobey, disobey, disobey on a certain track it becomes automatic and it’s very difficult to undo something that we’ve learned and that’s why sanctification takes time and takes a concerted decision to “mortify” the deeds of the body by replacing them with some more godly alternative. It doesn’t happen the first time you obey and not do that, or the second time you obey the Word of God and not do that, or the third time you obey the Word of God and not do that, it takes dozens and dozens and dozens of times, if not hundreds of times before it begins to click. So this is no small task, this takes time.
One of our problems as Americans is we don’t like anything that takes more than two and a half minutes, and this is why we wind up taking pills for this and pills for that. It’s amazing, if you’d read the history of medicine what doctors did 200 years ago. To listen to the modern person you’d think the doctors 200 years ago didn’t do anything. Doctors 200 years ago knew an awful lot about the human body. The Greeks knew about the body, they did anatomical studies of the body. They had medicine 200–300 years ago but it was slow acting. Some of those alternative medicine things are still going on today; they’re unpopular because they take time. One of the things I was reading about one time was hot and cold therapy on a place on your body that has a wound or is healing. It’s been known for years, and I asked my son, taking medical school, and he said oh yeah, they did that, I covered that in my medical history book. Everybody reads about it but nobody thinks about it. What is it doing? The heat is expanding the capillaries, expanding the blood in the tissue, then the cold contracting, and you’re forcing circulation in the tissue and healing speeds up. But the problem is, it takes time to do it and you have to do it every day until the healing takes place. Well, I don’t want to do that, give me a pill.
So the pressure is always on [for a quick fix] and we carry that over into the Christian life. Instead of pills we go to the latest book on the secret of the Christian life and that’s the new “book pill” and we’re going to read that. Of course while we’re reading that we’re not reading the Word of God and we don’t get into the text of the Word of God. So all kinds of things happen here but the bottom line is Jesus had to be sanctified, we have to be sanctified, we got a double problem in that we’ve got to unlearn as we learn. The ultimate goal is to love God with all our hearts, and minds and souls, the first commandment. And there’s no quickie way to do it, there’s not spiritual pills that happen, it just comes by time and choice.
Now we want to go to something else and that is a third thing of looking at sanctification. We want to get into some of the texts. I use the word “dimensions” because what I’m trying to distinguish is two kinds of actions or two dimensions of sanctification, better to say two dimensions. Let me illustrate what I’m talking about by dimensions. Let’s imagine we have a graph, x y graph, we have some curve like this. That’s what you hope your stock portfolio is doing. At any given point the line is going up or down. Over an extended period of time, if x = time, let’s say, you’ve got growth. The growth is the accumulation of all those little points going up and down, up and down, up and down, the up ones are greater than the down ones but that’s growth. That’s what we mean by one of the dimensions, we’ll call long-term growth. That focuses on what we normally associate with growth, is this person growing spiritually, etc., etc., etc. Is this person a mature Christian?
One of the things the Bible says, an example where growth becomes an operational practical issue is what is one of the requirements for holding an office in the church. You don’t put babes in leadership positions. That’s Scripture, and it’s not knocking a young Christian any more than it’s saying you don’t have a baby go out there and try to earn a living doing something. That’s not appropriate for his stage of growth. Well it’s not appropriate for young Christians to be holding offices in the church. It does harm to the church but it does harm to them because they haven’t had time to pass through the growth period.
Children often do that, particularly children who have been in a home and their parents die, and the poor little kid has to assume the role of a father very early on, he never gets a chance to go through the things a kid goes through and that’s a scar that lasts the rest of his life. The same here, you can’t force the growth, it just takes time. People that work with discipling people in prison, it takes time; it sometimes goes on month after month and year after year, but it happens, growth happens. Sometimes it happens so slowly when you’re on the scene you don’t see it. Sometimes to see growth you have to almost leave the place for three or four months and come back and then oh, wow, look what’s happened here. That’s growth, that’s one dimension of sanctification. That’s what we call the accumulation dimension.
But there’s another dimension to growth and I want to concentrate on that because that’s where the choosings happen and the disobedience happens and the obedience happens, and this other dimension is at any given moment the line is going up or down, we call that the either/or, either at a given moment we’re doing what God wants us to do or we’re not. So we have to distinguish those two, and the easiest way of distinguishing them is to think of a verb, just an action word, a verb. Verbs have different moods in the Bible, they have it in all languages but for Bible study purposes we’ll talk about two moods so we can get the contrast of what we’re talking about. If you were a grammarian you’d talk about the indicative mood. A verb in the indicative mood states a fact or something, “the sky is blue,” or “Sue ran down the street,” that’s a verb that’s in the indicative mood, it indicates, indicative, indicates what in fact is going on. It could be fantasy but it’s a fact about the fantasy that’s going on.
In distinction from an indicative mood verb there are imperative moods. “Get up,” “sit down,” “go to the store,” “come here.” Imperatives! Think about it. How many different kinds of responses can you have to an imperative mood? Two, binary response, you either obey it or you disobey it. So implicit in these imperatives is this either/or-ness. Now we want to go to what that looks like, as either/or-ness, 1 John and we want to deal with something we didn’t cover when we would take a promise and talk about the faith-rest drill and we’d say here’s a promise, Romans 8:28 for example, “All things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are called according to His purpose,” or “Casting your care upon Him for He cares for you.” What we were trying to do is just grab a promise, part of the sanctification process to remember a promise so that we could apply it. Or remember an attribute of God, God is omnipotent; He is “able to do exceedingly abundant above all that we ask or think.” “For God so loved the world He gave His only begotten Son,” etc. Whatever the Scripture is, that was applying it.
Now we want to add to that faith-rest drill another approach. This is the approach of recovering spiritually. It’s our spiritual first-aid and we’re going to use it and use it and use it and use it and use it again. In 1 John 1 we want to deal with that and that’s the whole issue of restoration. So what we’re talking about on that curve is we have it going down, we’ve disobeyed the Lord, things are getting kind of crummy, and we want to turn things around. So what happens at that little point? Take a microscope and look at that point where things change around. We want to deal with that; we called it conviction, confession and restoration when we were dealing with David, David being a key example. We want to look at that in 1 John 1.
When we talked about fellowship, we went through 1 John and I hope I convinced you that it’s written to believers, and if it’s written to believers and not a mixed congregation it means the imperatives are imperatives addressed to believers. It means then that believers cannot follow these imperatives, can disobey the imperatives. The cluster of imperatives in this first chapter of 1 John starts in verse 6. This is the background, verse 6, he’s talked about God is light, verse 5. He says  “if we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth;  but if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.  If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. [2:1] My little children, I am writing these things to you that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;  and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.”
There’s a series of conditions in this verse. Verse 7 speaks of “if we walk in the light as He is in the light.” The obvious thing is the ultimate condition is we don’t walk in the light. But he says if we do walk in the light “the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” In verse 7 there’s a dilemma that has caused exegetes of this epistle all kinds of problems over the years and it’s that phrase at the end of verse 7, the clause, the verb, “if we walk in the light … the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin.” Aren’t we forgiven when we become Christians? So there’s been a whole group of people that study 1 John and say therefore verse 7 must not be referring to Christians either walking in the light or not walking in the light, it must refer to regeneration, it must refer to being saved. And they argue on the basis of the fact that how can it be that if you walk in darkness you’re saying the blood of Jesus doesn’t cleanse us from sin. What’s this cleansing thing? Yet verse 8 says that “if we say we have no sin,” we deceive ourselves so that denies perfectionism. It can’t be perfection, there’s no such thing as a sinless person, verse 8 says so; if we say we’re without sin we deceive ourselves.
Verse 9 says “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” There’s the cleansing. Verse 9 suffers from the same fate as verse 7 historically, namely people see that cleansing and they say oh, if it’s cleansing it’s got to be being saved so verse 9 must refer to believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, that must be what that confession there means. John is very consistent, from his epistles to His Gospel. Let’s turn to his Gospel and see how John uses cleansing. In particular let’s turn to John 13, same word. One of the principles of Bible study is you look in the immediate context for nuances of meaning. If you can’t find it in the immediate context, go to the whole epistle. If you can’t find it in the whole epistle, go to other writings by the same author, not just any other writings but writings by the same author. So we’re going to the Gospel written by the same fellow who uses his vocabulary in very, very similar ways.
So we turn to John 13, this is the Passover Feast and in verse 4 Jesus “rose from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, girded Himself about.  Then He poured water in the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which he was girded.” This was terribly embarrassing for several reasons. It’s embarrassing for the disciples because at this point in time people didn’t have paved sidewalks, didn’t have paved streets; it was just dirt and dusty streets. The donkeys go by and defecate and a few other things, you can imagine what happens when you walk all over this stuff. So people used to have a custom; when you came in the door you washed your feet. When you go to Japan, one of the things I saw when I went to Okinawa, the first thing you walk in a Japanese house there’s always shoes; they don’t want people walking all over their carpet with your shoes, you take your shoes off, that way they keep the carpet clean. That’s smart, the Japanese got a mark there, it reduces the housekeeping load. They have all the shoes sitting there in the front.
In this time and era they had a bowl, a basin, to wash your feet before you came in the house. You’re out there stepping on all the stuff in the street you don’t want to come into the house and track all that junk inside so you wash your feet. It’s interesting that these guys were already in the house; nobody had bothered to wash their feet so the Lord Jesus Christ did it. From the human point of view you can imagine what might have happened. Here’s Jesus and He knows the lesson He’s going to teach them. So he looks around and hmm, it’s interesting today, not any guy that walked in this room bothered to wash his feet; good lesson, so now I’m going to wash their feet and I’m going to show them what cleansing means. We’re going to have a little lesson about getting cleansed from sin by getting our feet washed.
Verse 6, “And so he came to Simon Peter.” Simon Peter reacts, as you remember from the story, “‘Lord, are You going to wash my feet?” Verse 7, “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘What I do you do not realize now,” watch this, this is typically Johannine. John’s Gospel is loaded with this kind of stuff and every time you see it what you want to think about is when was the Gospel of John written? It was written long after the other Gospels. It was written deeply into the Church Age... [blank spot] …“but you shall understand hereafter,” in other words, there’s coming a time when you will understand this. The time has already come for John, He’s looking backwards to this event that happened years and years ago and he remembers, you know what, when that happened the Lord told us that eventually we’d know what He did, we don’t know all about it now but we’ll know. So “hereafter” in verse 7 refers to after Pentecost, after the Cross, after all that gets through and we’re now in the Church Age, you’ll understand it then.
Peter, not taking the hint that it’s going to take some time to learn it, you know, quiet Peter, just listen and watch. He has to open his mouth, and typical of Peter in the Gospels, apparently he had two mouths and one ear, verse 8, “Peter said to Him, ‘Never shall You wash my feet!’ Jesus answered Him, ‘If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” Here are sections is the Greek text that are rooted in the Old Testament text. So we want to do a little excurse here on the exegesis of this verse.
In John 13:8 two verbs are used. One verb in verse 8, “if I do not wash you, you have no part with Me,” the verb to “wash” in verse 8 when He says “if I do not wash you, you have no part…” is a verb that means to bathe. This is the idea of a complete and total washing. So “if I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” Verse 9, “Simon Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.” Verse 10, “Jesus said to him, ‘He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet.’” The new translations have distinguished those two verbs. The first verb is bathe; the second verb is to wash the feet. One is louw (louo) and the other is niptw (nipto). And these two verbs, wash and bathe, are true in the Greek but not in the Hebrew.
I’m going to take you to the Old Testament where this cleansing thing really got started under the Mosaic Law Code. We’re going to look at the Hebrew text. But what’s interesting is when in the 2nd, 3rd century, whenever, when the so-called LXX, the Seventy, the Septuagint version of the Old Testament was translated, this is the version which is very, very important to the study of Greek because it was this version that shows how Jews in Jesus day and immediately before Jesus day understood the Hebrew text. They had certain interpretations of that Hebrew text and they brought it over when they translated it from the Hebrew into the Greek. So if the same Hebrew word is translated by two different Greek words, that difference in translation tells you what those translators thought about that Hebrew verb. In other words, in a certain context they translated it one way, and in other contexts they translated it another way. The difference, if it’s rigorously and consistently applied, tells you that Jews in that day had a nuance to that Hebrew verb, so even though the Hebrew only had one verb, the Greek has two verbs; that Hebrew one verb had two different meanings that was used selectively. Just like we have words and we use them selectively.
Now where we want to go to where this came from, so let’s turn to the washing under the ceremonial law of the Old Testament. Turn to Exodus 29. We’re going to go back into the Law Code, which was part of the temple rituals. The reason we go to this particular area of the Law Code is this was the cleansing that was necessary in order that they dwell and walk in the light. What light? What was the light in the Old Testament of the presence of God? The Shekinah Glory. Where did the Shekinah Glory dwell but in the Tabernacle. And what was the issue about light and dwelling in the light? The high priest going into that Tabernacle. So if we turn to how the high priest was cleansed, maybe we can get a little tip on what the translators were doing, where they started this business of translating this Hebrew word to cleanse two different ways.
Let’s go back to Exodus 29:4. Here’s a high priest coming into office and the priest has to be cleansed. What would happen if he wasn’t cleansed and tried to just trot in? He’d be pulled out because he’d drop dead. God would not permit people who were unclean, ceremonially unclean, to come into that place. You say what’s the deal? Because He was teaching them something. He’s saying that I am a holy God and you just don’t waltz in with all your crud in My presence. Sorry, high voltage here. Put on an insulator. Here is My holiness. So in Exodus 29 here’s the installment. Verse 1, “Now this is what you shall do to them to consecrate them to minister as priests to Me…. Verses 2–3, it’s all these priestly things that are going on in this section of Exodus.
In verse 4 here is the use of that Hebrew word to “wash” and it’s translated in the Septuagint as the word to “bathe.” “Then you shall bring Aaron and his sons to the doorway of the tent of meeting, and wash them,” bathe them, “with water,” from head to toe, this was total washing. Verse 5, then “you shall take the garments, and put on Aaron the tunic and the robe of the ephod,” etc. They had to be completely washed from head to toe. That’s bathe, that’s the word that is used in John 13 when Jesus says “he who has been bathed needs not wash except his feet.”
Now that we’re in Exodus let’s see if we can find a use of the word for wash the feet. In verse 4 we have just noticed an incidence of the verb to take a bath, total immersion. Turn to the next chapter, Exodus 30:18, we deal with the issue of washing the feet and cleansing. Out in front of the tabernacle they had a place, once the guy had been washed, he was installed as the priest, now verse 18-20 say before he goes into service look what happens. “You shall also make a laver of bronze, with its base of bronze, for washing; and you shall put it between the tent of meeting and the altar, and you shall put water in it.  And Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet from it;  when they enter the tent of meeting, they shall wash with water, that they may not die….” But notice it’s not a bathing, it’s just washing their hands and their feet.
So there are clearly two different kinds of washing going on here in the ceremonial aspects of the Levitical system. The Septuagint translators picked up on this and that’s why when they turned the Hebrew into Greek, they made this distinction. With that background now we come back to John and we look again at John 13. What Jesus is doing here, particularly in John 13:10 is He picks up this difference in these Greek verbs and He makes a very, very interesting point. He says “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you,” meaning Judas Iscariot of course.
So the Lord Jesus Christ distinguishes two kinds of cleansing. Aha, so every time you see the verb cleanse it doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be salvation cleansing, it can be temporal cleansing. How do we know that? Because the ceremonial law is structured that way. So now we have cleansing number one and cleansing number two. Cleansing number one—salvation cleansing, God forgives us our sins, credits Christ’s righteousness to our account, over an instant of time at the point of regeneration and justification. But cleansing two is that which occurs during time because we have personal sin that happens that has to be dealt with and fellowship with God is broken. Just as Aaron the high priest, Aaron and his sons, couldn’t go into the Tabernacle without cleansing, so what Jesus is arguing is that if you’re dirty, the fellowship is ruptured here. And all this stuff that He’s teaching them in John 13 is preparatory to John 14 when He’s talking about the indwelling Holy Spirit.
What’s He talking about in chapter 15? He’s talking about… here’s one of these imperatives now that requires an either/or response. He’s talking about abiding. This abiding, we either abide or we don’t abide, and it’s given to the disciples. So very quickly we see this abide thing, “Abide in Me,” [verse 4] he says, remain in me, in fellowship with Me. In verse 10, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in my love; just as I have kept My father’s commandments and abide in His love.” So He’s telling them … because listen to who the audience is. Who is hearing John 15? It’s not a mixed multitude here, He’s talking to disciples. So He’s saying to these men “Abide in me.” This is John’s background, this is the vocabulary of the author of 1 John so now we go back to 1 John because we’ve looked a little bit, just in a preliminary way, at what he reported about this wonderful occasion in the life of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now he picks up on this and he’s talking about cleansing. In verses 1-3 we already argued that this epistle is not written to a mixed multitude, it’s written to believers, just as Jesus ministered to believers in John 13–15. Therefore what is the cleansing that is going on here? It’s the cleansing of fellowship. And John’s issue as he says in verse 1 and verse 3, he says I’m proclaiming this “that you also may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with” the Lord Jesus Christ. So in order to have fellowship there has to be cleansing and verse 9 gives the condition. The condition is “if we confess our sins,” which gets us back to the model that we saw in the Old Testament, same thing with David.
So when we have this growth thing and we go into a spiral down, what is the recovery point? The recovery point is confession before the Father of our sin. This is repeated in dispensation after dispensation, and I’ll give you the verses because we’re running out of time, but take these verses down. This is a verse chain where this confession issue happens again and again and again. It’s not just in 1 John 1:9. Going back in the Old Testament, I’ll try to give these the order in which the Old Testament books are written, I always like to give verse chains in the same order so you don’t go flipping back and forth, so I’ve rearranged the verses according to the canonical sequence, not according to the order temporarily. Nehemiah 1:6 is an occasion. Psalm 32:5, that’s the second one. The third one, Psalm 38:18. Fourth one, Psalm 51:3-4. Fifth one, Proverbs 28:13. Another one, Daniel 9:4; some don’t use the word “confess,” but you’ll see in the context that’s what it’s talking about. Now the next one everybody should know because every communion service this one is trotted out, 1 Corinthians 11:31, “if we judge ourselves we would not be judged.” What’s that talking about? It’s talking about evaluating ourselves, finding out if we have sinned or not, and if we have we confess it to the Father. 1 Peter 4:17 is another.
So the confession is there, not because there’s something meritorious in the confession. The confession is not meritorious, the confession is just the turning point where the sin is acknowledge and that’s what God the Father wants us to acknowledge is when we sinned. We have to understand what the word “confess” means here. It’s the same word that if you were in a trial, what does it mean in a trial when it says someone confesses to a crime? They may confess with great emotion, terribly sorry that they did it, or they be the kind of personality that isn’t too emotional, just says yeah, I did that. I’m ashamed of myself and I did that, but they’re not crying tears down to their shoes. That’s a person variable and the problem we have is that we take something that’s personal variable and miss out on the guts of the thing.
The whole point of confession, maybe it’s the wrong word, but it has religious connotations that I’m trying to get away from; the word “confession” means that I recognize factually, on the basis of Scripture, in other words I’m not doing this to get merit before God. That’s what I’m trying… I’m trying to break out of this; confession has acquired a false meaning, particularly in some areas of Christianity, where the confession, we’ll say the confessional intensity, the emotional intensity of the confession somehow is thought to give merit. This generates merit and on the basis of that generated merit, because of the intensity of my emotions, therefore that’s why God forgive me. And that’s wrong! God doesn’t forgive on the basis of your tears or anything else. God doesn’t forgive on the basis of human emotion. God forgives because we acknowledge that we are truly guilty of that infraction, and that’s what He wants us to admit.
I’ve often wondered why does God want us to do that; in one sense it’s so tremendously simple but in another sense it’s not tremendously simple because you know very well that when we get out in the toulies the last thing we want someone to do is point out where we are. We don’t want the Holy Spirit doing it; we don’t somebody else doing it. The problem is the Holy Spirit has to keep pounding us on the head, maybe saying okay, if you want to walk on a toulies trip here, it’s a long walk and a short war and I’ll catch you, so that process happens. But somewhere on down the line, ding-doing, the light goes on, oh yeah, okay, all right, the game’s over, now I’ll confess I’ve done that. I’ll confess that I turned against You there at that point. That’s the confession, but the confession itself doesn’t have any more merit than believing in the Lord Jesus Christ had merit. God didn’t save you because you just believed so hard, and that intensity of belief got points with Him. Rather, faith is what … Francis Schaeffer used to say it’s the empty hand reaching out to receive what God is giving. And in confession it’s the admission, factually and objectively of true guilt before God. That may or may not have emotions with it. That’s not the point.
The point is that the confession meets the condition of 1 John 1:9. And the idea here is that if this is us as believers and this is God, and God is righteous, God is just, what has He given to us in the person of Jesus Christ that maintains the pipeline between Himself and us? Let’s think about that for a moment. Imputed righteousness. God imputed Christ’s righteousness to you and to me at the point of salvation. Because of that God looks down on us and what does He see? All the little gooey things that we do, or does He see that we are credited with Christ’s righteousness? He sees that we are credited with Christ’s righteousness. And the reason for the pipeline and the blessing is not because of something we do, it’s because of something He did for us. And because He gave us Christ’s righteousness, He imputed and credited that to our account, that’s the basis of the relationship. What He wants us to do is to confess our sin so that we acknowledge, it’s a teaching device in one sense. It’s a teaching device because in order to confess our sin what does that remind us of? Guilt! What does guilt remind us of? The finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
So confession, although it looks simple is actually a profound thing that drives us right back to the gospel. It forces us to go back again and again and again to the atoning work of Jesus Christ. And there’s no other thing that can do this. He could have said jump through hoops 500 times, or hit yourself, and people do this in religious areas, whip themselves 150 times if you sin this and do it 250 times if you sin that, and 300 times if you do that. That’s bologna. If you did it 1,000 times that doesn’t have enough merit to forgive. What forgives is He wants us to admit and go back to the cross again and again and again and again. It’s that simple. People make a big thing out of confession and all the rest of the stuff. I mean, come on! Let’s look at it in its simplicity here.
The priest went and they washed their hands and their feet and that was it; then they went in and did their thing, and God wouldn’t let them do it, He made an issue out of it. Yes, only washing your hands and your feet but I’m going to make an issue out of it. Well you mean it’s just confess sins? Yes! But I’m going to make an issue out of it. So that’s it stands and we’ll finish it off next week and finish with the enemies of sanctification.
Question asked: Clough replies: The problem with emotions, I mean, we’re not denying that there can’t be bona fide emotions. In most cases there is. The problem with emphasizing them is that somehow they always get construed that the emotions are merit generating. [same person says something] But I think one of the problems that we have in this area of confession, and I think it’s going to plague the next generation a lot more, is that the whole presumption in understanding true guilt is that there’s an absolute reference point. To a generation who has been raised in relativism and pluralism, they’re going to have a real difficult time understanding what guilt is because what they understand and what they call guilt tends to be “I wasn’t true to my own convictions.” No, that’s not guilt. That would be like a criminal saying well gee, I murdered him and I meant to do it to him. That’s not what the whole issue is about, but it becomes so terribly confused when you don’t have your standards. And you don’t have your standards if you don’t have a clear picture of who God is. So the confession really gets screwed up if the profound theology of who God is is all fouled up. You can’t have this.
Question asked or statement made: Clough says: It’s pedagogical, it’s teaching, but of course it’s also in a sense, it becomes an absolute requirement as the [blank spot] Old Testament, His priests could not… you know, gee, I forgot to wash today and go in there. I’m sorry, it didn’t work that way, because God is who He is. He’s also righteous, He loves us, but He’s also righteous and He has a standard and we have to hit the standard. How do we hit the standard when we’re sinners? We can only do it if He forgives us. That’s the interplay in this confession.
The big idea about it, it’s not some profound new thing, I mean this has gone on; if you look at that verse chain you’ll see it implicit in the whole Bible. Of course the greatest example is David and what’s interesting in David’s case, to further substantiate this problem about emotions and getting the standard right, is isn’t it amazing to read in Psalm 51, for a man who committed adultery and murdered, to say “Against Thee and Thee only did I sin.” Isn’t that strange language, “Against Thee and Thee only did I sin.” Now I’m sure David is not being … I mean, he must have been heartbroken when he realized he’d just killed one of his top officers, Uriah. Here’s a guy he sent out into war and deliberately engineered the tactics to kill this guy. He lost a trooper, a real good guy for him, and I’m sure he realized later, I mean the first baby he had by Bathsheba died, and then he had that awful trauma with his sons, one raped a sister and the other one killed a son and then Absalom started the whole nation in a revolt against him, it was just a mess, a continual mess that happened. So David’s not saying that he’s indifferent to the consequences, but what he is saying in Psalm 51 is that the sin ultimately is against God.
It helped me understand this, and I don’t know why I didn’t see this before, but years ago I was on a jury, and the lawyers were picking out the jury, questioning you about this and that, and I forgot what was the problem, the judge had the lawyers explain the nature of an infraction of law. What they pointed out was that so and so had done something to so and so, but the crime was against the State of Texas. And I got to thinking, the crime against the State of Texas—wait a minute—I thought the crime was against the victim. No, the crime is against the lawgiver. So our sins are a crime against the Lawgiver. Yes, they hurt people, but the crime is against God, not against the people. It is a crime socially, I mean, I’m not denying that, but I’m saying to understand what David’s driving at in Psalm 51 when he says “Against Thee and Thee only have I sinned,” he’s excluding Uriah, he’s excluding Bathsheba, he’s excluding the families involved. You’re saying is he making light of that? No, he isn’t making light of it but he’s acknowledging the focal point.
So that Psalm 51 verse in that sequence of chain that I gave you, that Psalm 51 verse is very important because it defines the nature of confession. The confession is a confession of guilt against God. That’s not saying not to go and try to make it right with the person you’ve offended, but that act of going to try to make it right with the person you’ve offended is not the confession that’s mentioned here.
Also notice something else, there’s not any intermediary in the confession. You don’t confess to somebody else who represents God. There’s no intervention of a priest. That’s interesting from the New Testament point of view because who are believers said to be in 1 Peter? You’re “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood,” so there’s the priesthood of the believer. And that was one of the doctrines that split Europe in half in the Reformation. You can imagine the power this had, if you think about it. Imagine yourself having been raised all your life to believe that you had to go to confession to the priest or you could have no fellowship with God. Now just imagine you were brought up this way, you did it, you saw your mamma do it, you saw your daddy do it, year after year after year after year, you did it and then all of a sudden one of these Protestants comes up to you and tells you about, you don’t have to go to a priest, you can go to God directly. As a Christian who is it that indwells you? The Holy Spirit. Who is praying for you to maintain that grace pipeline? The Lord Jesus Christ. Whose righteousness causes you to have status anyway? It’s His righteousness, it’s not yours. So you exercise your priesthood, your individual personal priesthood by making confession for your own sin. That’s a monumental breakthrough. That’s what was so liberating and freeing. And that’s what so scared church authorities because religious establishments are sinful like any other kind of establishment and one of the things every establishment does, at least every one I’ve been associated with, always tries to perpetuate itself. Well how do you perpetuate yourself? By getting a lock on the customer, on the market. How do you get a lock on the market religiously? By putting yourself as the mediary between God and man.
So the Protestant Reformation was a devastating blow to this, when they dared to say that men and women could come to God privately in their own priesthood and make confession of sin. What a mind-blowing thing this was. That’s what was so scary about the Protestant Reformation. That doctrine alone, the priesthood of the believer at this point of confession, broke the stranglehold of the Roman Catholic Church in Europe. And this was the focal point.
Question asked, something about growing the church through adversity, would you characterize that as poor judgment on our part and the Lord’s going to work in spite of it or is it too soon to tell. Clough replies: I think partly the first and partly the third. I don’t think it was a screw up, I mean it was a screw up in the liberals that made the screw up, but there were a lot of godly people that saw the handwriting on the wall and they were just out maneuvered. It wasn’t like people didn’t stand up, I mean that was precisely what really irritated the liberals, there were so many people standing up. The problem was, and this is a lesson why … you’ve heard this complaint I’m sure in recent years, why is it that the Christian groups can’t get together and do something corporately?
I think there’s a reason for that. I think there’s a residual suspicion that if we create some sort of super unified thing we’re going to lose it again, because it’s that falling out, that memory of what happened in the 19th century when churches cooperated, they had city rescue missions. I mean, all the social work done in the cities of America in the 19th century were done by Christians. Come on, you know, there wasn’t any social welfare programs by the government at that point so much as it was Christians doing social work. And Christian churches united to do that social work. What fractured that? What fractured it was that the liberals were very skilled, they came in and they cut off the leadership. They did not bother to convert the pew, what they did is they perverted the educational process for pastors. They took over the seminaries. We lost all of our major seminaries. They’re gone, all the books, all the historic materials, boom, gone, they wound up with it all.
So it was a takeover, and I think the lesson the Lord taught in those things is don’t be so proud of your church institutions … it was almost a lesson that we Americans had to learn about the church that the Jews had to learn about their king, that their kings in the Old Testament, apart from the work of the Holy Spirit, were corrupt men, and they suffered at the hands of the king. Their own king, not the Gentile kings, their own kings became corrupt and I think we’ve had to learn in this country, because in the Colonial period we honored the institutionally. The church was given a place of honor in the community. In New England the church was the meeting place of the town. If you had a town meeting, where did you hold it? It wasn’t the fire department, they didn’t have fire departments. You had a church meeting. People honored that and it was always taken, so people were always members of this and Aunt Tilda went to the church and Uncle Joe went to it and I went to it, and we’ve given $50,000 of our family inheritance to the thing and we don’t want to leave it.
That was one of the arguments that the fundamentalists caused. They came in and they started rupturing the missionary movement, because they said we’re not going to support missionaries on the field that deny the deity of Jesus - come on! Well, wait a minute those guys are doing good works out there in Lower Slobbovia. If they don’t believe in the Lord Jesus Christ they don’t get my bucks, sorry! Well, you’re being divisive, now that’s not being Christian, you’re upsetting the good works they’re doing there. And you’re making this doctrine an issue and you’re rupturing a social program because of a doctrinal issue, how divisive of you. See, bigoted, narrow minded, and I think the Lord used this to wake up the church to the fact that doctrine counts and you’ve got to watch out for counterfeits. Sorry, yeah, it’s disruptive and a lot of good ministries went down the drain because of the splits that were caused by this. People were hurt by it; lots of people were hurt by it. I think the whole country was hurt by it, I think that’s why we had a great depression because of the fallout of that stuff that went on. I can’t prove it but that’s my own opinion.
So I think the true dimension of what went on is like all of history, you have to get a few centuries away from it to see what really was going on. But I think we’re far enough away from it now to see, like I said, that’s why I brought in those writings last week to read to you, so you could hear what these guys were saying for yourselves.
Question asked: Clough replies. Evolution is another one that’s dividing churches, but every time the division happens, it’s interesting because the people who are accused of dividing the church are always the people holding on to the historic position. Remember the quote I quoted from the Harvard professor, Dr. Kirsopp Lake, what an incriminating quote, where here’s the professor of history at Harvard University that says well, the fundamentalists differ from us, but I’ll tell you one thing, it’s us who have departed from the historic faith, not them. What an admission for a historian from Harvard University to admit that the fundamentalists were the ones that held on to it. Now if we’re holding on to something that the church held onto for centuries, how is it we’re the ones that are divisive. But it was such a slick job, politically and socially it was slick, they put a spin on it and we turn out to be the bad guys. I mean that’s happened before in church history. So it’s a lesson, I always bring that up somewhere in the teaching because I like us all to remember where we are in our country. I can’t speak for other countries but in America we had a big revolution and we’re still experiencing the fallout from it.
Next time we’ll hopefully finish up.