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A word study on washing/cleansing in Scripture

wash 628, 633, 637, 907, 909, 3067, 3068, 3538, 4150
cleanse 2511, 2512, 2513, 2514

Blessed are the pure (or clean) in heart, for they shall see God.
Matthew 5:8

And whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance in order to be seen fasting by men.  Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.  But you, when you fast, anoint your head, and wash your face so that you may not be seen fasting by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will repay you.
Matthew 6:16-18

Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast our demons; freely you received, freely give.
Matthew 10:8

Then some Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem, saying, “Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders?  For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.”
Matthew 15:1-2

From the disciples’ actions and the context that follows this passage it is clear that the washing God is concerned about is internal and spiritual, not external and religious.

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.  Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you doubleminded.
James 4:8

Notice here and throughout our study of Scripture that our washing and cleansing is not just something to which we give passive assent, but something in which we have an active part.

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence.  You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.
Matthew 23:25-26

And when Pilate saw that he was accomplishing nothing, but rather that a riot was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the multitude, saying, “I am innocent of this Man’s blood; see to that yourselves.”  And all the people answered and said, “His blood be on us and on our children!”
Matthew 27:24-25

And a leper came to Him, beseeching Him and falling on his knees before Him, and saying to Him, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.”  And moved with compassion, He stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.”  And immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed.  And He sternly warned him and immediately sent him away, and He said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a testimony to them.”
Mark 1:40-44

And the Pharisees and some of the scribes gathered together around Him when they had come from Jerusalem, and had seen that some of His disciples were eating their bread with impure hands, that is, unwashed.  (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they carefully wash their hands, thus observing the traditions of the elders; and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they cleanse themselves; and there are many other things which they have received in order to observe, such as the washing (lit. baptizing) of cups and pitchers and copper pots.)  And the Pharisees and the scribes asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with impure hands?”…
Mark 7:1-5

Notice here that the religion of the Pharisees is not so very different from the religion of modern medicine.  We might wonder how much of what we are taught about germs is truth and how much is merely the doctrines of a man-made religion.  For it would be easy in light of modern medicine to excuse the practices of the Pharisees as simply observing good cleanliness and hygiene, for indeed we are taught by modern medicine to do the very exact same thing!  And yet the words of Jesus born out in the actions of His disciples would seem to indicate that such is of little importance, at least in relation to the far greater importance of maintaining an inner spiritual purity.  Again, for this reason we might wonder if perhaps the sicknesses we incur that are thought to be caused by pathogens are related far more to the impurity of our hearts than to the germs on our hands.  Indeed, we wonder if the germs on our hands might be related to an inner impurity and not an outer impurity.  For as Jesus stated very plainly, “There is nothing outside the man which going into him can defile him; but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man” (Mk 7:15).

“Do you not understand that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him; because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and goes out into the latrine?”  (Thus He declared all foods clean.)
Mark 7:18-19

And when the days for their (Mary and Joseph and Jesus) purification (or cleansing) according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord…
Luke 2:22

There were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them were cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.
Luke 4:27

Now it came about that while the multitude were pressing around Him and listening to the word of God, He was standing by the lake of Gennesaret; and he saw two boats lying at the edge of the lake; but the fishermen had gotten out of them, and were washing their nets (which would soon be used to catch a large quantity of fish, which typified the catch of men the disciples would make as followers of Jesus; for those whom the Lord would use to draw disciples into the kingdom must be holy and sanctified vessels).  And He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little way from the land.  And He sat down and began teaching the multitudes from the boat.  And when he had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.”  And Simon answered and said, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but at Your bidding I will let down the nets.”  And when they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish; and their nets began to break; and they signaled to their partners in the other boat, for them to come and help them.  And they came, and filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink.  But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus’ feet saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”  For amazement had seized him and all his companions because of the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon.  And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men.”  And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him.
Luke 5:1-11

Now when He had spoken, a Pharisee asked Him to have lunch with him; and He went in, and reclined at the table.  And when the Pharisee saw it, he was surprised that He had not first ceremonially washed (lit. baptized) before the meal.  But the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the platter; but inside of you, you are full of robbery and wickedness.  You foolish ones, did not He who made the outside make the inside also?  But give that which is within as charity, and then all things are clean for you.
Luke 11:37-41

And it came about while He was on the way to Jerusalem, that He was passing between Samaria and Galilee.  And as He entered a certain village, ten leprous men who stood at a distance met Him; and they raised their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”  And when He saw them, He said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.”  And it came about that as they were going, they were cleansed.  Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed (notice that to be cleansed is synonymous with being healed), turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him.  And he was a Samaritan.  And Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed?  But the nine–where are they?  Was no one found who turned back to give glory to God, except this foreigner?”  And He said to him “Rise, and go your way; your faith has made you well.”
Luke 17:11-19

Now there were six stone waterpots set there for the Jewish custom of purification (or cleansing), containing two or three metretai each.  Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.”  And they filled them up to the brim.  And He said to them, “Draw some out now, and take it to the headwaiter.”  And they took it to him.  And when the headwaiter tasted the water which had become wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom and said to him, “Every man serves the good wine first, and when men have drunk freely, then that which is poorer; you have kept the good wine until now.  This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.
John 2:6-9

Jesus is the bridegroom and the people of God are the bride.  At this particular point in history after men are drunk with the old wine Jesus brings forth the new.  At this the beginning of His ministry this sign signifies that the new wine is now being brought out.  It is significant that Jesus turned the water contained in the vessels of purification from the old covenant into wine.  For in the same way when He came He showed the vessels in God’s house, who are people (2 Tim 2:20-21), how all the teaching of Moses and the old covenant (which was for the purification of the people and might be characterized as water) pointed to and is fulfilled in the far more glorious teaching of the new covenant; He turned the water of the old covenant into the wine of the new covenant.

After these things Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea, and there He was spending time with them and baptizing.  And John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there were many waters there; and they were coming and were being baptized.  For John had not yet been thrown into prison.  There arose therefore a discussion on the part of John’s disciples with a Jew about purification (or cleansing, i.e., which baptism really purified the people?).  And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have borne witness, behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him.”  (Those who come to Jesus are the bride.)  John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing, unless it has been given him from heaven.  You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent before Him.’  He who has the bride (i.e., those going out to meet Jesus and receive His baptism) is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom (John), who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice.  And so this joy of mine has been made full.  He must increase, but I must decrease.
John 3:22-30

Jesus spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle (i.e., of the water that had come forth from the mouth of Jesus; for just as God created man out of the dust of the earth in the beginning by the word that came forth from His mouth, now Jesus in an act of re-creation would give sight to him who was born without eyes to see), and applied the clay to his eyes, and said to him (who was born blind), “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated, Sent) (for it is the water of the word and the Spirit that is sent from heaven that washes us so that we may receive our sight and be sent ourselves to become a living testimony in the world).  And so he went away and washed, and came back seeing….Therefore they (the neighbors and others who knew him) were saying to him, “How then were your eyes opened?”  He answered, “The man who is called Jesus made clay, and anointed my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam, and wash‘; so I went away and washed, and I received sight.”…Again, therefore, the Pharisees also were asking him how he received his sight.  And he said to them, “He applied clay to my eyes, and I washed, and I see.”
John 9:6-7,10-11,15

Such is a picture of our salvation: In an act of re-creation Jesus gives us new eyes by breathing life into the clay of which we are made, after which we must wash in the water of the word and the Spirit to receive our spiritual sight.

Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God, and was going back to God, rose from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself about.  Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded….”If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.”…”He who has bathed (in the blood of Christ by repenting of his sins and being “baptized” in His name so as to enter into the new covenant) needs only to wash his feet (that which is soiled by the world), but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.”…Do you know what I have done to you?  You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am.  If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet (cf. Matt 18:15-17, James 5:19-20; we wash one another’s feet spiritually by ministering the word of God to one another in the humility of the Spirit of Christ so as to encourage and “stimulate one another to love and good deeds”, cf. Heb 10:22-25).  For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.  Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master; neither is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him.  If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.
John 13:3-5,8,10,12-17

You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.
John 15:3

And it came about at that time that she (Tabitha/Dorcas) fell sick and died; and when they had washed her body, they laid it in an upper room.
Acts 9:37

And a voice came to him (Peter, in the midst of his vision from God), “Arise, Peter, kill and eat!”  But Peter said, “By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.”  And again a voice came to him a second time, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.”  (Notice that to be cleansed is to be made holy.)
Acts 10:13-15

And God made no distinction between us (Jews) and them (Gentiles), cleansing their hearts by faith.
Acts 15:9

And he (the Philippian jailer) took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household.
Acts 16:33

And when they (the Jews of Corinth) resisted and blasphemed, he shook off his garments and said to them, “Your blood be upon your own heads!  I am clean.  From now on I shall go to the Gentiles.”
Acts 18:6

Therefore I testify to you this day, that I am pure (or clean) from the blood of all men.  For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God.
Acts 20:26-27

And Ananias said, “The God of our fathers has appointed you to know His will, and to see the Righteous One, and to hear an utterance from His mouth.  For you will be a witness for Him to all men of what you have seen and heard.  And now why do you delay?  Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.”
Acts 22:14-16

Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food.  All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats with offense.
Romans 14:20

Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God.  And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
2 Corinthians 7:1

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her; that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless.
Ephesians 5:25-27

But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure (or clean) heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
1 Timothy 1:5

[Deacons must hold] to the mystery of the faith with a clear (or pure or clean) conscience (cf. 2 Tim 1:3).
1 Timothy 3:9

Let a widow be put on the list only if she is not less than sixty years old, having been the wife of one man, having a reputation for good works; and if she has brought up children, if she has shown hospitality to strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has assisted those in distress, and if she has devoted herself to every good work.
1 Timothy 5:9-10

Now flee from youthful lusts, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure (or clean) heart.
2 Timothy 2:22

To the pure (or clean), all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving (notice the connection between defilement and unbelief, and thus too of being pure and believing–it is our faith, the very faith of Abraham that makes us pure), nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled.
Titus 1:15

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.  It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age while we wait for the blessed hope, the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify (or cleanse) for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
Titus 2:11-14

For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.  But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, (Here is the twofold aspect of how we are saved:) by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that being justified by His grace (this is our justification, our washing of regeneration, the bath of John 13:10) we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life (which is accomplished by the renewing of the Holy Spirit, our sanctification, the footwashing of John 13:5-14).
Titus 3:3-7

He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of his nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power.  When he had made purification (or a cleansing) of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high…
Hebrews 1:3

Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of instruction about washings (or baptisms), and laying on of hands and the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.
Hebrews 6:1-2

Now when these things (the tabernacle and its furnishings) have been thus prepared, the priests are continually entering the outer tabernacle, performing the divine worship, but into the second only the high priest enters, once a year, not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the sins of the people committed in ignorance.  The Holy Spirit is signifying this, that the way into the holy place has not yet been disclosed, while the outer tabernacle is still standing, which is a symbol for the present time.  Accordingly both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make the worshiper perfect in conscience, since they relate only to food and drink and various washings (or baptisms), regulations for the body imposed until a time of reformation (which came when the Lord Jesus inaugurated the new covenant.  The various washings were a type pointing to the inner spiritual washing of the new covenant that is accomplished by the blood of Christ and the water of the Word.)
But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.  For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled, sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
Hebrews 9:6-14

For when every commandment had been spoken by Moses to all the people according to the Law, he took the blood of the calves and the goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant which God commanded you.”  And in the same way he sprinkled both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry with the blood.  And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.  Therefore it was necessary for the copies of the things in the heavens to be cleansed with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.
Hebrews 9:19-23

Since therefore, brethren, we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which he inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure (or clean) water (this is the bath of Jn 13:10).  Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another (this is the foot washing of Jn 13:14); and all the more, as you see the day drawing near.  For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain terrifying expectation of judgment, and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries….
Hebrews 10:19-27

This is pure (or clean) and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
James 1:27

Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from a clean heart.
1 Peter 1:22

His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.  For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.  Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge; and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness; and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.  For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.
2 Peter 1:3-9

For if after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.  For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment delivered to them.  It has happened to them according to the true proverb, “A dog returns to its own vomit,” and, “A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire.”
2 Peter 2:20-22

And this is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.  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.
1 John 1:5-9

Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be.  We know that, when he appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is.  And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as he is pure.
1 John 3:2-3

And one of the elders answered, saying to me, “These who are clothed in the white robes, who are they, and from where have they come?”  And I said to him, “My lord, you know.”  And he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb (for the blood of Christ not only provides for our justification and forgiveness of sins, but also for our sanctification and deliverance from sin).  For this reason, they are before the throne of God; and they serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne shall spread His tabernacle over them…”
Revelation 7:13-15

The seven angels who had the seven plagues came out of the temple, clothed in linen, clean and bright, and girded around their breasts with golden girdles.
Revelation 15:6

“Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.”  And it was given to her to clothe herself (by appropriating the very life of Christ) in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.
Revelation 19:8

And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses.
Revelation 19:14

Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city.
Revelation 22:14

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