Really… Washing in the Blood?

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Devotional Word for Thursday, March 11, 2021

In our last devotion, I spent some time reflecting on the manner in which the sacraments of baptism and holy communion are used by the Holy Spirit to confirm our faith.  The sacraments confirm our faith in different ways.  The Heidelberg Catechism addresses both beginning with baptism.  Question 69 asks, “How does holy Baptism remind and assure you that the one sacrifice of Christ on the cross avails for you?”  As we do not typically use the word avail, we might instead ask, “How does holy Baptism that the work of Christ on the cross really has effect for us?”  In short, how does it give us any confidence of the person and work of Jesus FOR US? 

The answer says, “In this way: Christ has instituted this external washing with water and by it has promised that I am as certainly washed with His blood and Spirit from the uncleanness of my soul and from all my sins, as I am washed externally with water which is used to remove the dirt from my body.”  Leaving the personal hygiene of eight-year-old boys to one side, most people understand the importance of washing.  As we go throughout the day, we see the accumulation of sweat, dirt, and body odor.  We bathe to remove any uncleanliness.  Answer 69 helps us understand that Christ institutes this external washing in baptism and has promised that in faith we would be washed by His blood.

Just to make sure that we don’t have a wrong understanding of being washed in blood.  Question 70 asks, “What does it mean to be washed with the blood and Spirit of Christ?”  The answer says, “It means to have the forgiveness of sins from God, through grace, for the sake of Christ’s blood which He shed for us in His sacrifice on the cross, and also to be renewed by the Holy Spirit and sanctified as members of Christ, so that we may more and more die to sin and live in a consecrated and blameless way.”  First and most obviously, we are not physically washed in the blood of Christ.  Rather, by faith, the blood of Christ which was shed on our behalf is graciously applied to us.  It is applied to as though it was our blood which was shed.  Because of that, ours sins (and the stains they cause) are removed.  We are just as if we had never sinned. 

Christians are not just washed by the blood of Christ.  Baptism points to a washing with the Spirit of Christ.  In this way the answer to question 70 reminds us that believers are not just washed with the blood of Jesus but are washed with the spirit which results in our dying more and more to sin and living more and more by following the Lord.  Lord willing, we will continue looking at baptism in future devotional times.  As we close today, it is important to remember that baptism is a sacrament which means it is a holy sign and seal.  It directs Christians to the Lord and the removal of sins by grace through faith in Christ, but it does not in itself grant the salvation.