Matthew Henry speaks of our double defilement: the defilement of our actions and our instincts. Not only are we easily convicted by past guilty deeds, but we also have great potential for future sin. Our proclivities tend toward sin, toward ourselves; away from godliness, from God.1
Christ came by water
We need to be washed with the spiritual water that only Christ has. Think back to John chapter 13 which looks in on the last supper as John recalled it. In that chapter’s fourth verse our Savior is recorded as rising from the supper, tying a towel about his waist, filling a basin with water and then kneeling before each disciple one foot at a time.
The flashpoint in this part of John chapter 13 happened several feet in on the floor in front of Peter. Do you recall this event now? This dignity defying deed? Peter could not hold back his horror. The NIV expresses Peter’s consternation well: “No, you shall never wash my feet.”
I think Jesus was all ready for Peter’s pushback. Jesus knew he was infinitely reversing roles and dumping ill-ease into this near-final moment with his closest followers. Jesus does not get huffy with Peter. He was patient; still teaching. To Peter’s pride Jesus said, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.”
See how this washing is brought into the letter of John the Apostle? Jesus came by water, John says. We need to be washed with the spiritual water of Jesus. This is the part where our defiled instincts are cleansed. Remember 1 John 1:9? He forgives our sin (that relates to the next section about blood), and he cleanses us of our unrighteousness.
Ask God to wash away your toxic “smallies”
Surely there are things in your life that you know are ill-matched to Christ. These might be “biggies”, Ten-commandment types, or “smallies” like attitudes, ideas about other people, deep-seated annoyances over a past slight. Problem is the “smallies” can be very pervasive and practices much more routinely than adultery or theft. “Smallies” are still toxic. They plague you and draw down the energy of life. They are disconnects from God and his intentions. Pray about them. God knows they are there. Raise them while you are alone in with God. If you don’t get alone with God, well that is another story and probably could be considered a “biggie.” Pray that God will help you with that habit, and then set about it with all your heart. It will make a big difference in getting rid of your tiger’s stripes…and other things.
Christ came by blood
The biggest problem every person faces is that guilt before the eternal judiciary. Long ago the proclamation was death for sin. No blood–no remission. One cannot escape that cage with one’s life now or forever after. God did not just plan on proclaiming forgiveness on rebellious creatures. Before the first stumble, the house rules were written and not hidden. Adam and Eve ended up on the disobedient end of that contract and out the door, across the veranda, down the steps, and into the street, they were tossed. Gate locked. Guard posted. Done. (The gate out back behind the house was also locked.)
Millennia later that front door opened, though. Jesus closed the door, walked across the veranda, down the steps, across the yard, waited while the gate was unlocked and out into the street he went. It turned out that he was sent.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16–ESV)
Remember that verse? We had guilt. The courts demanded a blood payment. God gave the payment. This is why in this letter John emphasizes that Jesus came not by water only, but by blood too.
A wrapping up of this
Jesus came at the incarnation, he came again at the baptism, he acted as Savior in the world those three years culminating it at the cross and beyond. He will come one more time, some call it the second coming, yet couldn’t it be considered the third coming? God seems to like threes).
That is the package of Christianity.