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  • Chad Werkhoven

Acts 22:14-16 - Washed Up

Having your sins washed away is not just a figure of speech!

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Read Acts 22:14-16

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Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 73

Q. Why then does the Holy Spirit

call baptism

the washing of rebirth

and the washing away of sins?

A. God has good reason for these words.

He wants to teach us that

the blood and Spirit of Christ

wash away our sins

just as water washes away

dirt from our bodies.

But more important,

he wants to assure us,

by this divine pledge and sign,

that the washing away

of our sins spiritually

is as real as physical

washing with water.



The Apostle Paul is speaking these words to a large crowd in Jerusalem after having been placed under arrest for his own protection from this same crowd who wanted to kill him. He tells his amazing Damascus Road experience, where he was instantly converted to Christ while traveling to persecute Christians.

The bright light Paul encountered had blinded him, and after Jesus finished speaking to him from the light, Paul was brought to the house of a man named Ananias. He restored Paul's sight, and commissioned him to be Christ's witness to all people. Ananias' words to Paul were straightforward and to the point, giving Paul four instructions:

  1. Get up: Paul has just gone through a massive experience that knocked him down physically, emotionally and especially spiritually. But Ananias has no time to sit around contemplating what just happened when there's so much work for Paul to get done.

  2. Be baptized: We've been seeing these last few days that baptism is a sign and seal of the promises Christians have in Christ, so it makes sense that all new Christians be initiated with this sacrament.

  3. Wash your sins away: I wonder what Paul, a brand new Christian at this point, thought of this instruction. As a devout Jew, he would have been very familiar with the concept of the forgiveness of sins, but for him such an action was always connected to sacrifices made in the temple, although the process there did involve ceremonial washings. I wonder if he instantly remembered David's confession and plea to God in Psalm 51:2 to wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin? I wonder if he connected the concept of baptism and washing away sin?

  4. [Continue] calling on His name: It's not the hard work Paul would put in nor the baptism he received that would enable his sins to be washed away and his mission to be completed. Paul would need to fully depend on Christ, not just at the beginning of his career, but every moment along the way.

Dig Deeper

We often use the phrase 'wash your sins away' in a strictly metaphorical sense. Obviously we don't take a scrub brush and power washer to a person. We've also been reminded now that the physical experience of baptism is just a sign - a reminder of the washing away of sins that we've experienced.

But be sure to hold these metaphors in tension. The reason we baptize a person with real water, rather than just talking about it, is because we want to demonstrate that the person has undergone a real washing.

Part of our problem is that we tend to view our physical selves as being 'real,' while we consider our spiritual selves as something less than that. We know our spiritual self certainly isn't imaginary, but we often consider it as something different, or even less, than being 'real.'

But that's not the case. Your spiritual self is just as real as your hand is in front of your face, and baptism - real, flowing water - is there to remind you that having been initiated into Christ, your whole self - body and soul - has been washed clean and made acceptable to God.

  • ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: The God of our fathers, who has revealed His will and has sent His Righteous One;

  • ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Pray that you, having been baptized in Christ, will continue calling on His name;



Read the New Testament in a year, a chapter a day - Luke 6


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