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and Hebrews 10:22
Preface for Baptisms Article Series
Baptisms: Introduction and Historical
Original Proclamations about Baptism
Two Baptisms Occurring Separately
Baptizo: Two Baptisms, One Greek
Synonymous Phrases: Baptism in the
Water Baptism in Jesus' Name
No Record of Paul's Water Baptism
Is Baptism Essential to Salvation?
Acts 1: Parallel Account of the Great
Necessity of Water Baptism: 3 Common
Survey 1: Baptisms in Acts
The Baptism of Crispus (and Assuming
Survey 2: Baptism from Romans to
Baptism and Hebrews 10:22
Conclusions: When and How Are We
Survey 3: Baptism and the Ante-Nicene
Closing: Water Baptism for the Right Reasons
Even though we have covered all the occurrences of the term
"baptism" or its derivatives that occur in the post-resurrection
New Testament, there is still one last verse that we need
to cover on this issue.
Hebrews 10:22 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.
Hebrews 10:22 is similar to the account of Paul's baptism
found in Acts 22:16. The presumption by water baptism proponents
is that the mention of "washing" indicates "water baptism."
Only this time there is a further description. The author
of Hebrews doesn't just say "wash." He says "washed with pure
First and foremost, we must point out that there is no mention
of baptism in this verse or its surrounding context. We have
to assume baptism is being talked about here and in particular,
Proponents of the necessity of water baptism quickly point
out that the phrase "washed with pure water" must be taken
literally. And, because it is a literal statement, it is a
reference to water baptism, not baptism in the Holy Spirit.
On the other hand, a figurative interpretation of this verse
could easily lend itself as a reference to baptism in the
Holy Spirit, particularly since we've already seen the idea
of being "washed" by "baptism in the Holy Spirit" being presented
by Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:11.
Furthermore, if Hebrews 10:22 is talking about actual water,
not a symbolic reference to the Holy Spirit, then this verse
is telling us that our confidence before the Lord partially
depends on the purity of the water we are baptized in. In
other words, it would be as if the purity of the water has
something to do with our receiving salvation. Such a notion
would be absurd.
And while we openly admit that we should not take any passage
of scripture figuratively unless there is a warrant from the
text for us to do so, there is precedent in the New Testament
using figurative expressions to refer to baptism in the Holy
Spirit, including expressions that compared the Holy Spirit
to the fluid substance of water.
Acts 10:45 "on the Gentiles also was poured out
the gift of the Holy Ghost."
Is the Holy Spirit a liquid substance? Can he be literally
poured on someone like water? Of course not.
Acts 1:5 For John truly baptized with water;
but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many
Can you dunk someone in the Holy Spirit? Can they be submerged
in the Holy Spirit like they could the River Jordan? Of course
I Corinthians 6:11 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
Can you rub the Holy Spirit on someone to clean off dirt?
Can you scrub and wipe someone with the Holy Spirit to get
out stains? Of course not.
John 7:37 In the last day, that great day of the feast,
Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him
come unto me, and drink. 38 He that believeth on me,
as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers
of living water. 39 (But this spake he of the Spirit,
which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy
Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)
Can you gulp down the Holy Spirit? Will a man have actual
water streaming out of his abdomen? Of, course not.
Such descriptions of the Holy Spirit and particularly baptism
in the Holy Spirit employ a general figurative comparison
to water and in particular to water baptism. This gives us
the precedent to interpret Hebrews 10:22 figuratively without
stretching the text.
And this verse itself also clearly indicates that it is speaking
in figurative, not literal, language. The phrase, "our bodies
washed with pure water," is preceded by the phrase "our hearts
sprinkled from an evil conscience." So, the preceding phrase
is figurative. Our hearts were not literally sprinkled with
anything. It is a symbolic reference, and this tells us to
interpret the second phrase figuratively as well. It is consistent
with the verse itself to read "our bodies washed with pure
water" figuratively instead of literally.
As we have already said, proponents of water baptism are ignoring
that washing with water (including the water baptism of John)
was itself a "figure" of the true baptism that was to come,
the baptism given by Christ Jesus in the Holy Spirit. And
we have also said that the words of John the Baptist and Jesus
(Matthew 3:11, Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16, John 1:33, Acts 1:5) clearly
demonstrate the superiority of baptism in the Holy Spirit
over baptism with water.
And this is not the only evidence that "washing our bodies
with water" was a metaphorical reference to the baptism in
the Holy Spirit. The Greek word for body in Hebrews 10:22
is soma (Strong's # 4983). The word also occurs in Romans
Romans 8:13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall
die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds
of the body , ye shall live.
Like Hebrews 10, Romans 8:13 states in very clear terms that it is by pursuing, by setting our hearts and minds on the things of the Holy Spirit that we overcome the evil deeds of the body. And this seems to closely parallel the statement in Hebrews 10, "having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water."
Moreover, Hebrews 10:22 is a reference back to the language
of Ezekiel 36.
Ezekiel 26:25 Then will I sprinkle clean water upon
you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness,
and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. 26 A new heart
also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you:
and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and
I will give you an heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my
spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes,
and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.
Verse 25 of Ezekiel 36 uses the phrase “sprinkle clean water upon you.” Verse 26 mentions the new (and by implication “clean”) heart. Then verse 27 plainly explains that these statements are references to God putting his spirit within us. As we saw in our earlier survey, the idea of the Holy Spirit inside us was understood in the New Testament to be synonymous with baptism in the Holy Spirit. Since Ezekiel 26 is speaking of baptism in the Holy Spirit, when Hebrews 10 uses similar language, referring back to Ezekiel, we must conclude that Hebrews 10 is also using this figurative language to refer to the baptism of the Holy Spirit, who cleanses our hearts.
In addition, 1 Peter 3:21 and Hebrews 10:22 would contradict
each other if we take Hebrews 10 literally.
1 Peter 3:21 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:
If we interpret Hebrews 10:22 literally, then our bodies are
purified by actual, material water. If Hebrews is telling
us we can draw near to God in full assurance of faith because
our bodies have been externally washed with water, then Peter
must be wrong when he states that the external removal of
filth from the flesh has nothing to do with our salvation.
Instead, we prefer to assume that external washing of the
body has nothing to do with our salvation or the baptism Peter
was speaking of in 1 Peter 3:21. The New Testament often employs
a figurative comparison of the Holy Spirit to water. Therefore,
we can safely assume Hebrews 10:22 is employing the common
figurative language of the New Testament and our bodies are
purified by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. This would
remove any conflict between 1 Peter 3 and Hebrews 10 by maintaining
that the external washing of our bodies plays no role in the
baptism which saves.
And there is further evidence that Peter had in mind the baptism
of the Holy Spirit when he wrote the phrase "but the answer
of a good conscience toward God."
Romans 8:16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with
our spirit, that we are the children of God.
Romans 8 tells us that it is the Holy Spirit himself who testifies alongside our spirits that we are God's children. Certainly, no pledge of a good conscience toward God could come apart from the Holy Spirit's testimony that we are clean. And we have already shown that I Corinthians 6:11 tells us that it is by the Holy Spirit that we are washed and sanctified.
And Romans 9 is even more clear.
Romans 9:1 I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my
conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost.
Here Paul writes that his conscience bears witness in the Holy Spirit making the Holy Spirit a partner with the testimony of his own conscience. It is clear from both Romans 8 and Romans 9 that Paul understood our good conscience to be the work of the Holy Spirit. This is another indication that the baptism spoken of by Peter in 1 Peter 3:21 is the baptism of the Holy Spirit since Peter associates the "saving" baptism with the answer of a good conscience. And this demonstrates that Hebrews 10 is referring to a work of the Holy Spirit when it describes “our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.”
Furthermore, Hebrews 9 tells us that the external washing
rituals cannot cleanse our conscience.
Hebrews 9:9 Which was a figure for the time then present,
in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could
not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to
the conscience; 10 Which stood only in meats and
drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed
on them until the time of reformation.
Hebrews 10:22 does not in any way point to water baptism any more than it would point to baptism in the Holy Spirit.
At this point, there is only one thing left before we conclude
this study. In our next section, we will summarize our conclusions
from the Biblical texts and then we will move on to compare
those conclusions with a survey of the Ante-Nicene Church
fathers to see how our conclusions compare with their writings