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TEXT: I Corinthians 6:9-11
SUBJECT: Before and After #2: You Were Washed
Today, with God's blessing, we will move on in our series called, Before and After. You all know what 'before and after' photos are: on the left side, there's a lonely, sad girl with dull stringy hair. On the right side, you have the same girl, but now popular and happy because her hair is shiny and full. Before and After.
Most of these ads don't live up to their promise. Maybe the shampoo will make the girl's hair better than it was, but, turning an ugly duckling into a beautiful swan? That takes more than shampoo!
What the before and after presentations promise, the Gospel delivers. It changes people-and not just their hair! It is-
The power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.
In the Gospel, God exercises His Almighty power to change us from the sinners we used to be to the saints He has called us to be. It transforms us from the likeness of Adam to the image of Christ. The promise does not apply only to the select few-to Christians specially fixed on the glory of Christ and the good of their neighbors-but to the rest of us as well. The Gospel-I just told you-is the power of God for salvation to-
Everyone who believes [it].
This means: you don't have to be the person you've become. You don't have to live inside the box of resentment or fear or lust or envy, or whatever box you're presently in. The believer can become what he is-a child of God, a disciple of Christ, a temple of the Holy Spirit.
But it takes more than 'trying harder'. It takes faith in what God has done for you in Jesus Christ. Is faith a duty? It is-He commands all to believe the Gospel, and to keep on believing it. If faith is our duty, that's not all it is: it is also the Gift of God, a gift he will give to anyone who wants it.
Do you want it? If you do, ask Him for it, and don't quit asking till He gives it. Don't worry, either, our Father in Heaven is not like some fathers on earth-hard hearted men and stingy in passing out their favors. He delights in mercy, and if you want it, you'll have it.
In I Corinthians 6:9-10, Paul gives the Before picture of the Corinthians. The founding of the church is described in Acts 18, where we learn it was a mix of Jews and Gentiles. The Gentiles lived in gross sin and were not ashamed of it. The Jews were ashamed of the vice all around them, but they shared in it too-
All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.
Jews, Gentiles, worldly people, church people, we're all in on it.
First Century Corinth-like every town in every age, had its particular set of sins. Paul names the ones that first came to mind-
Fornication, idolatry, adultery, homosexuality, theft, covetousness, drunkenness, reviling, [and] extortion.
The list is more familiar than we'd like it to be. It looks very much like the sins of our time and place. Love of pleasure, love of money, love of gossip.
Not everyone in Corinth were guilty of these things. Paul says-
Such were some of you.
Not all. But if some were not fornicators, and so on, every single one of them had fallen away from God, and were liable to His justice. In another place, Paul says-
Every mouth is stopped, and all the world is guilty before God.
Every one of us once belonged on the left side of the screen-on the Before side. And, when we were there, we were not going to-
Inherit the kingdom of God.
We were not enjoying the rule and blessings of God in this life, and in the life to come, we were not going to heaven.
That was then. But through the sufferings of Jesus on the cross in our place, and by the Gift of God's Spirit, we are now something else. We are-
Washed, sanctified, justified.
I should repeat now what I said last week. The three words are in the passive voice, and this means, we didn't wash, sanctify and justify ourselves, but we were washed, sanctified, and justified.
It is God who justifies.
I am the Lord who sanctifies you.
Then I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean.After Easter, we'll see what it means to be sanctified and justified, but for now, let's have a look at His work of washing.
THE REASON FOR WASHING
Why do you wash your dishes, your clothes, your hands or your teeth? Unless you're an obsessive-compulsive person, you do it because they're dirty.
This, in part, is the imagery Paul uses here. Fornication is dirty. Dirty movies are not about people rolling around in mud! Reviling is dirty, and in the old days, mothers washed theirs kids' mouths out with soap for doing it. Back in the 1930's-I think-Martyn Lloyd-Jones saw a former spirit medium converted to Christ. For years, she had consorted with spirits-she said-and when asked the difference between them and the Holy Spirit, she replied,
He is a clean Spirit.
Sin is dirty, both sins of the body and of the soul. If we're going to be clean of them, we've got to be washed, and the sink isn't deep enough to do it-and neither is the baptistery!
This is the ordinary meaning of the word, 'unclean', but the Bible normally uses it in a different way. The 'unclean' things in the Law, for the most part, have nothing to do with dirt or germs or body odor. For lack of a better word, we call them ceremonially unclean, ritually unclean. In other words, they're things that are forbidden in God's service, or when they are allowed in, they must first be washed.
This-I think-is what Paul is getting at in v.11. Our sins have made us unclean-not acceptable to God. We will remain this way until He washes us.
THE HISTORY OF WASHING
Washing things for God's service has a very long history in the Bible. In fact, we first read of it in its second verse. The world was created under water-
Darkness was on the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
Not yet infected with sin, the world is still too dirty to be in the Lord's Presence, and so He washes it.
When the world fell into sin and evil threatened to poison the whole human race, what did God do? He sent the Flood, and washed away the filth, so that Noah and his family would become the new human race, a clean race.
That didn't last long, so God called Abraham out of Mesopotamia to occupy a land far to the west. If you know your Greek (or look at a map), you know 'Mesopotamia' means 'between the rivers'-Abraham couldn't go into the Holy Land until he bathed, and he and his family and livestock did just that when they forded the Euphrates River.
In Egypt, the Jews were an underclass, but the day they left it, they became the People of God, and the first thing the Lord did for them is wash them in the waters of the Red Sea.
When they reached Mount Sinai a few weeks later, they received the Ten Commandments, but that's not all they got there. They also got the Tabernacle, the place where God would meet His people. Out in front of the Tent there was a thing most Bibles call, the sea. And, no, this does not mean 'the ocean'! It looked like a big copper dish, and what was it used for? Washing. No one could approach the holy places till he had bathed in the sacred water.
If priests and Levites and Israelites had to be clean to be in God's Presence, so did pots, pans, tapestries, clothes, everything had to be clean. If God is clean, the people and things in His service must be clean.
This explains baptism. Under the Old Covenant, to join the people of God, a Gentile had to submit to circumcision and a ritual bath. But when John the Baptist came, he demanded the washing-not only of Gentiles-but also of the Jews. They, too, were unclean; impenitent, they were no more qualified to be in God's service that the filthiest pagan! This is why the common people flocked to John, and why the Pharisees and Sadducees didn't. If a man thinks he's clean, we doesn't like someone commanding him to take a bath, but if he knows he's dirty, he's eager to jump it.
Christian baptism is not identical to the baptism of John, but the some kind of language is used of it. The newly believing Saul, is ordered to-
Arise, be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.
Did baptism itself wash him clean? Of course not! But it was a fitting symbol for what happened to him three days before, when God washed the filth of pride and fanaticism, torture and murder off him.
The Bible ends in the Book of Revelation, where millions of people are standing before the True Temple in heaven, and every one of them is clean. John sees a River of Life flowing down from God's throne, satisfying every thirsty soul, and washing the whole creation clean enough to be with God forever!
THE AGENTS OF WASHING
The picture is magnificent, and the best thing about it is: it is only a picture, and the thing itself is better than the picture!
God's People have been washed! The sufferings and death of Jesus on the cross did something for us: it washed our records clean.
Is there an adult here who doesn't have something in his past he's ashamed of? Maybe it's a crime everyone know about, or a secret sin that is haunting you. Whatever it was, you wish you hadn't done it, but you did, it's on your record and always will be.
No one can change the past-we all say-but we're wrong. The Lord can change the past, He can blot out our dark deeds-and this means 'scrape them off the paper and let the wind blow them away'. He can put them behind His back, walk away from them, and never come back. He can bury them under the sea, and you can't get more lost than that. And, He can swallow them up in His infinite forgetting
I did not choose my words randomly. The Bible not only says God can, do these things, but that He will and that He has! Read Revelation, guilty people are in heaven, but they're not guilty any more because they have been washed-
They have washed their robes white in the blood of the Lamb!
If the cross our Savior suffered and died on washes our dirty records clean, the Gift of His Spirit washes our lives. The Spirit's work in us is not as quick as the Lord's work for us, but it's every bit as sure. The One who began the good work in us, will continue it until the Day of Jesus Christ.
One day, our lives will be as clean as the life of Christ, for they will be one and the same thing. Jesus is the first Man to rise from the dead and enter the Life of Heaven, but He won't be the last. We will join Him one day.
When I was a boy, the thing I most wanted to be was seven feet tall! I fell about fourteen inches short of my wishes, but now that I'm a man, I'm fine with my height. What I most want now is to be clean. I won't fall short of this hope, for God never promised to make me or anyone else seven feet tall, but He promises to make all believers clean.
God keeps His promises. The prophecy will come to pass, and no power of earth or hell can prevent it-
Though your sins be as scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they be red like crimson,
They shall be as wool.
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