Of the Not Yet Perfected Christian
Jesus said: "He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit," (John 13:10).
Jesus spoke these words to Peter when He washed His disciples' feet, giving unto them an example of humility by His actions. Jesus' words are also important in another respect. Peter at first would not be washed by Christ, so that Jesus said to him, "If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me," (John 13:8). Jesus' point to Peter by this statement is twofold: that we must be washed by Him unto salvation and daily washed by Him in living out of that salvation.
That is, first, to be saved we must be cleansed by the blood and Spirit of Jesus Christ to wash away the guilt and pollution of sin. That washing Jesus works by His Word and Spirit in our hearts when He calls us out of the darkness of sin into the light of His grace, forgiveness, and mercy. Thus Jesus said to His disciples that same night in the upper room, "Now are ye clean through the word which I have spoken unto you," (John 15:3).
In principle a Christian is made clean in salvation. He is righteous before God, pure and holy in His sight, and God also works in him a new holy life. But he is also yet in this world of sin and death and not yet glorified. He is tempted and must battle with sin. In himself he is still a sinner. In his own strength all he will do is fall into sin, as Peter did that very night. In that spiritual warfare with sin, Jesus is the Christian's only strength. As Jesus says, "without me ye can do nothing," (John 15:5).
Therein lies the point of Jesus' instruction. As a Christian lives and walks in the world, he becomes dirty with the stain and dirt of sin. It cleaves to him in body and soul, staining his life in all that he does .He is still a sinner. Sin stains all his works so that those works can never save him. The Christian in this life,though forgiven and in principle holy, for he is in Christ, is nevertheless not yet perfect. He is being sanctified by the grace of God, is in principle a new man in Christ, but he has yet an old man of sin and so he is both old and new. Jesus illustrates this reality, under the picture of one who is washed, but who, in that hot dusty climate, needed to wash his feet. In principle he is clean, but yet his very walk is stained with uncleanness. He is not yet entirely sanctified, indeed cannot be and will not be in this life. He still sins and has need of repentance and forgiveness. To teach that a man is entirely sanctified in this life or can be, is to teach another gospel than that of Jesus Christ.
At the same time the Christian, when he falls unto temptation or the daily sins with which he struggles, is not lost. He has not lost that fundamental cleansing in Christ or fallen away from salvation. He does not need to be saved a second time. This is the opposite error into which Peter was then tempted to fall. When at first he refused to be washed by Christ, Jesus said unto him, "If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me," (John 13:8). This is necessary. Salvation is not by works but by the blood and Spirit of Christ. But then Peter, who was already saved and washed in Christ in principle, overreacts. He does not understand what Jesus is doing. Peter says, "Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head," (John13:9). Peter reacts in the opposite extreme, as if he must then be saved or washed all over again. It is exactly at that point that Jesus says,"He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all," (John 13:10). The disciples were saved; they were clean, with the exception of Judas who would betray Jesus. Even in their sin and weakness, for they would all be offended in him that night, they were clean. But they needed the daily washing away of their sins through Jesus Christ, daily forgiveness, the daily renewing of His Holy Spirit. Those who are in Christ can never fall away lost forever, neither are they entirely sanctified in this life. They are not yet perfected Christians.
Therefore Jesus could say to the same disciples later that night, "Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak," (Matt. 26:41). Are you daily washed in Christ? Do you show it by praying the prayer Jesus taught, "Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors," (Matt. 6:12)? Note well that Jesus teaches that a justified and forgiven child of God needs to pray for the forgiveness of sins which still cleave to him (Rom. 7:14-25). This is God's Word. It is as necessary as prayer for daily bread, (Matt. 6:11). It is spiritually essential (I John 1:7-10). That we are saved, justified and righteous before God, can never be lost but we enjoy this blessing only in the way of daily confession of sin and experience it in daily forgiveness. If you do not pray for it daily, if it is not a part of your prayer life, you are simply not living as a Christian. "He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet," John 13:10. Beware least you be found as some were, "trusting in themselves that they were righteous and despised others," Luke 18:9. For the same reason, "Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone," James 2:17. But that forgiveness means that we strive no longer to live in sin (Rom. 6:1, 2).
By Rev. Thomas Miersma, Missionary Pastor
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