Scripture Queries and Answers: Questions About "Washed," "Cleansed," and "Sanctified"

 •  2 min. read  •  grade level: 6
Q. John 3, 1 Cor. 6, Eph. 5, and Titus 3—What is the meaning of “washing” or “washed” in some of these scriptures? Is the new birth the same as regeneration? If not, wherein do they differ? and how is “cleansed” or “washed” to be distinguished from being “sanctified?” T.
A. Washing naturally applies to some one or thing that is to be cleansed. Our state may show that nothing but death to sin can cleanse us from sin; but the water points to cleansing. So it is said in John 15, already “ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.”
“Regeneration” means passing from one state, that of ruin, into another and new state of things, and is used only in Matt. 19, besides Titus 3 “Born again,” “born of water and the Spirit,” is the actual communication of divine life. One is thus born of God. This is life. Regeneration supposes death, and is so de facto, though this can only be by life in Christ. But it supposes, when fully brought to light, an entrance into a new state, of which resurrection is the expression—life out of death, and hence leaves sin and an evil nature behind. Of this baptism is the sign. So we are baptized unto Christ's death, that we should walk in newness of life. Nor is it merely that we have got life from or through Christ, but are quickened together with Him. This of course implies death—the putting away, but judgment, of the old man.
“Sanctified,” though it includes this, yet contains somewhat more. We are sanctified to, and not merely washed from. No doubt by this last we are cleansed; but an object is given to which I am attached by grace and so sanctified. A creature practically and morally is what his object is. “That He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word” is not quite correct. It is ἁγιάση καθαρίσας—that Christ might sanctify the church, having purified or cleansed it, &c. They go together; but the cleansing, though a positive thing from evil, is connected with the sanctifying or consecrating the affections to God. In sanctification there are holy affections; and these clearly exclude evil ones. But there are these two things, though they cannot be separated.
The word is in every respect the instrument. The washing of regeneration is typified by the flood as Peter shows. The old world was then cleared away, and a new one begun. So it is for the baptized.