Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 8, 1954
NUMBER 9, PAGE 1,14b

Baptism And The Blood Of Christ -- How Related?

Roy E. Cogdill

In the letter to the Romans (5:9) Paul declares that we are justified by the blood of Christ. This is that which saves, justifies, and cleanses us from sin. The same idea is set forth in the letter to the Corinthians, "Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified 'in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Cor. 6:9-11).

But how can that be? someone asks. Is it not the blood of Christ that cleanses and sanctifies? To be sure it is. But the blood of Christ must be applied by the authority of the Great Physician himself, in accordance with his directions. And the blood of Christ is applied in the act of "washing."

How "Washed"?

Let us study that word "wash" for a moment. How are we washed of our sins? The question is often raised. The answer is that the true remedy for sin is the blood of Christ; nothing but the blood of Christ can take away sin. But how does one apply the blood of Christ? When does one reach the saving power in that blood? The Apostle Paul gives the simple answer, "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" (Eph. 5:25,26) How is the church cleansed? How are her members made clean? "By the washing of water by the word." This is the "washing" to which Paul refers in the passage quoted from 1 Corinthians, chapter 4.

How "Cleansed"?

If we study the word "cleanse" in all its New Testament usages, we find the same pattern emerging. Paul teaches that we are "washed," "justified" and "cleansed" by the blood of Christ. The "washing" takes place when we are washed in water "by the word." But what about the "cleansing." The writer of the Hebrew letter refers back to the cleansing that took place under the law of Moses when the ashes of a red heifer were mixed with certain other properties to provide the "water of cleansing." Paul declares that if that water of cleansing back there, the ashes of a heifer, should sanctify unto cleanness 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 (Heb. 9:13,14) ? What is it that cleanses me? It is the blood of Christ. But when does the blood of Christ cleanse my heart? The very next chapter of Hebrews gives the answer:

"Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; And having an high priest over the house of God; Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water" (Heb. 10:19-22). When am I cleansed? Why, I am cleansed when my body is "washed with pure water." That is clean water — water which is not mixed with the ashes of a heifer and the other things necessary for Old Testament cleansing. In contrast with that Old Testament "water of cleansing" we are simply to use "pure water," that is water by itself with no other element added to it. When our bodies are washed in this pure water, prescribed by the authority of Christ, then it is that our hearts are sprinkled from an evil conscience by the blood of Christ, and cleansing is the result. The washing and the cleansing take place at the same time.

What Is The "Action"?

But suppose one wants to know what the particular "action" is that washes the body with pure water. What actually takes place when the body is "washed" with pure water? Peter gives the answer to that, "The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 3:21). Peter was talking about the salvation of Noah from the destruction of the flood and from the old world of sin; Noah was transported into a new world, a world cleansed from sin by the waters of the flood. Thus Noah was saved by water. And Peter declares that that salvation is a type of our salvation. Noah was saved by water; so are we. "Not the putting away of the filth of the flesh"; baptism is not simply a bath to cleanse the outside of the man; but rather it is the answer of a good conscience toward God. It is the answer of the man who seeks to have a good conscience, purified, before God. That's what the act of baptism is, and that is what it is for. When an individual goes down into the waters of baptism and there washes his body by being baptized in pure, unmixed water in obedience to the will of Christ, he is raised up, having come into cleansing, saving contact with the blood of Christ. He is raised up cleansed and purified. That is the reason Peter said we are redeemed by the blood of Christ "in obeying the truth" (1 Peter 1:18-22).

It is baptism, a washing of the body in pure water, that brings us into contact with the blood of Christ. His blood can be reached in no other way at all. There is no substitute.