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Particulars of Christianity:
309 Baptisms

Baptism and Hebrews 10:22

Preface for Baptisms Article Series
Baptisms: Introduction and Historical Background
Original Proclamations about Baptism
Two Baptisms Occurring Separately
Baptizo: Two Baptisms, One Greek Word
Synonymous Phrases: Baptism in the Holy Spirit
Water Baptism in Jesus' Name
No Record of Paul's Water Baptism
Is Baptism Essential to Salvation?
Acts 1: Parallel Account of the Great Commission
Necessity of Water Baptism: 3 Common Arguments
Survey 1: Baptisms in Acts
The Baptism of Crispus (and Assuming Evidence)
Survey 2: Baptism from Romans to Revelation
Baptism and Hebrews 10:22
Conclusions: When and How Are We Reborn?
Survey 3: Baptism and the Ante-Nicene Authors
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 water."

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, water baptism.

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 days hence.

Can you dunk someone in the Holy Spirit? Can they be submerged in the Holy Spirit like they could the River Jordan? Of course not.

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 God.

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 8.

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 [4983], 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 concerning baptism.