Q.

Please explain Hebrews 10:22. Does it in any way pertain to water baptism?

A.
No, it does not. But first we must note the context of the verse, which reads,

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.

To understand this passage properly, believers must see themselves as priests! It is tragic that many professing Christian people fail to know, appreciate, and appropriate their wonderful standing in Christ. They have little or no conception of their liberty to stand in God’s presence. Perhaps they think of themselves as on some sort of probation and that maybe somehow, sometime they will measure up and be able to get near to God.

Throughout his letter to the Hebrews, the writer taught that through the blood, every believer by faith has immediate access directly to God. Access to God does not depend upon a certain amount of faith we might think we have or need to work up. Rather access to God depends upon the object of our faith. Our faith must be in the person and work of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. Every believer is a priest and has access to God.

Because the book of Hebrews originally addressed Hebrew Christians, the writer used the background of the Old Testament to illustrate many truths. Thus he referred to the “holy place” (Hebrews 9:12) to illustrate God’s presence. The holy place (Holy of Holies) was the place in the Old Testament tabernacle into which the high priest went to sprinkle the blood of a sacrifice upon the mercy seat. Only the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies, and then only once a year. A curtain, the veil, kept the people out. But the veil of the temple was literally torn in two from top to bottom the moment Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins (Matthew 27:50, 51). This dramatic object lesson, an act of almighty God, occurred to erase any doubt that the truths mentioned in Hebrews concerning our access to God are true (Hebrews 10:19–21).

How can we approach God in prayer and fellowship? We can do so in assurance of faith, according to Hebrews 10:22, because our hearts have been sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies have been washed with pure water. Just as the Old Testament priest entered the presence of God by the sprinkling of blood upon the mercy seat in the Holy of Holies, the Christian believer can approach God on the basis of his heart’s having been purified by the once-for-all sacrifice and blood of Christ. This action takes place at the moment of salvation. We call it the new birth.

As for our bodies being “washed with pure water,” this statement is reminiscent of the priestly bathing ritual before the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:4). You may also remember that washing at the layer was absolutely mandatory before each entrance into the tabernacle and each ministration at the altar (Exodus 30:17–21). These Old Testament washing rituals say something of our Christian walk today. While we are delivered once for all from sin’s death penalty, we need daily cleansing from the defilement of sin. By the Holy Spirit and through the repeated intake of the Word of God, as well as the confession of sin in our lives whenever needed, we are kept clean so that we can approach God without guilt and with confidence and joy (Psalm 119:9; John 17:17; Ephesians 5:26; 1 John 1:9).

You can see, then, that Hebrews 10:22 does not refer to water baptism, for this ordinance does not save, wash, or cleanse. In contrast to the continual cleansing ministry of the Word and confession of sin in the believer’s life, water baptism is a one-time step that symbolizes and gives testimony to what has already happened in the life of the one who believes.

Do you have feedback or a Bible question to submit? Send to nolson@garbc.org or mail to Norman A. Olson in care of the Baptist Bulletin, 1300 N. Meacham Rd., Schaumburg, IL 60173-4806.

Reprinted from the Baptist Bulletin (May 1998).
© 1998 Regular Baptist Press. All rights reserved.
Used by permission.