The Word of God makes us clean

by Mike Ratliff

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

All people are born dead in their trespasses and sins. (Ephesians 2:1; Colossians 2:13) This condition of spiritual death also means that each person, though desperate for fulfillment that can only be satisfied in God, cannot come to God, know God, or even seek Him. Because of this, they pursue fulfillment from everything around them. The number one method of doing this is via the flesh. The flesh is all about self and self-gratification. The problem with this is that nothing works for very long, including religiosity.

Genuine Christians are regenerate. (Titus 3:5) That means that they are new creations. (2 Corinthians 5:17) That means that the old things have passed away and all things have become new.

17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NASB) 

The Greek Interlinear (word for word from the Greek) version of this verse is, “So that if anyone is in Christ, that one is a new creation; the old things have passed away; behold all things have become new!” The words in italics are not in the original text. This is a remarkable statement. The word “therefore” or “So that” ties this verse back to v16. Here it is.

16 Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer. 2 Corinthians 5:16 (NASB) 

This verse is Paul’s statement that his priority was to meet people’s spiritual needs. He no longer evaluated people according to external, human, worldly standards. He also no longer had human assessment of Jesus Christ because he was a Christian. Paul is telling us that the miracle of salvation had so transformed him that his understanding and view of our Lord Jesus Christ was no longer according to the flesh, but according to a spiritual understanding. Now, in light of this new understanding Paul makes the next statement in v17.

Genuine Christians are new creatures. The Greek words for “new creatures” are “kainos” and “ktisis.” “Kainos” means “qualitatively new.” “Ktsis” means “a founding as in a new city” or “a creation from nothing.” The result of the washing of regeneration is qualitatively new people who are not simply improved versions of their old self. Their old self passed away, and they are Born Again unto new life in our Lord Jesus Christ. They are “in Christ.” These two words are a profound statement of the inexhaustible significance of the Christian’s redemption, which includes their security in Christ, who bore in His body God’s Judgment against their sin, their acceptance in Him with whom God alone is well pleased, their future assurance in Him who is the resurrection to eternal life and sole guarantor of their inheritance in Heaven, and their participation in the divine nature of Christ. (2 Peter 1:4)

Therefore, when we see professing Christians have a shallow view of Christ and a dislike for His Word, we must be suspicious of their genuineness. These people are still tied to and focused on this lost and dying world. They are enslaved to their flesh. They have zero fulfillment from their relationship with God so they seek it from their flesh as they did before their conversion. I was like this in my Christian walk much of the time until 2004. My walk was like a roller coaster. I would have periods of repentance followed by periods of being dominated by my flesh. It seemed that I was repenting of and confessing sins all the time. Therefore, I know that immature Christians can be quite sinful. That is no excuse, but we must not point our fingers at them, condemning them as lost people simply because they are in the fires of sanctification and are struggling mightily with it.

The difference between a lost person and Christian who is in struggling with their sin like this is that the lost person does not feel the guilt of their sin like a Christian. The Christian has the Holy Spirit and they can never be a peace with sin for long.

As we grow spiritually we still have to fight the battle of where our hearts are turned for fulfillment. We can still seek after the flesh unless we become very good at monitoring our hearts and never letting them stray from Christ very long. The ones who do not do this become arrogant in their self-righteousness because they are still doing all of the right things, but they are doing them in their own strength. They can be quite religious, but it is a form of Christianity that is not Spirit-led. Remember the Spirit-led are humble, penitent, and submissive to others by the power of the Holy Spirit. As we become more and more Spirit-led we will find that arrogance, pride, self-reliance, and self-image all diminish and eventually dies as we realize more and more that we were cleansed by the Word, not by anything we did.

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

Our Lord is telling us in this passage that there is a remedy for the poison of arrogance. This poison becomes potent within our hearts when we overestimate our own holiness. Jesus tells us this so that none of us will think our own suffering, apart from Christ, can attain forgiveness of sins or make us fruitful branches in the sight of God. We have already seen how believers can become enslaved to their flesh. It can begin in a very small, innocuous way. For instance, someone does many good works and endures much suffering. He or she then becomes aware of producing fruit. They realize that they have actually achieved something through preaching, teaching, writing, etc. Then that sweet poison begins to make the person think, “Oh, I have now done something that will make God notice me and be merciful to me.” What this does is start the process of little wild branches growing alongside the true branches. These wild branches steal the sap and energy from the true branches so that they don’t flourish.

How do we prevent this from taking over our hearts? We must apply the cleansing power of God’s Word to our hearts as much as possible. We aren’t clean because of what we have done, or what we have suffered, or by the fruit we have produced. None of those things would have happened if the Father had not pruned us after making us good and true branches. Only God’s Word can make us clean. We must be in it as much as possible. We must internalize it so we can always have it with us. When God allows various kinds of suffering, danger, anxiety, need, and temptation to come into our lives, we must hang on to God’s Word tightly so that it may work powerfully in us. This is how God humbles us and teaches us that we can’t make ourselves clean. Our suffering does not make us clean before God. However, it does drive us to reach for God’s Word and hold on to it more tightly and firmly. This is how God exercises our faith.

Soli Deo Gloria!

4 thoughts on “The Word of God makes us clean

  1. A born again Christian has God’s Word written on the tablet of their hearts. This is not to say they don’t need to read God’s Word, but if they don’t/can’t, the Holy Spirit will bring the Word to their remembrance. It is my understanding part of the process of being born again is having the Word internalized this way. If this is an incorrect understanding, please correct me. Thank you for your lessons.


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