By Larry Ray Hafley
“Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests” (Rev. 1:5,6). “But after that the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration. . . That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Tit. 3:4-7).
Volumes could be written regarding the three words of our title. This triumphant trio of terms sums up the work of God. He loved; he washed; he made. Man can love, man is capable of love, but all the love of mankind cannot forgive a sin or save a soul. Man must act, man must respond to the love of God, but all of the obedient acts of man are unable to save. Man is a creative being, man can make many things, but man cannot make himself to be what God makes of him through the gospel of grace.
God’s love is seen in what God did – God so loved . . . that he gave his only begotten Son. God did not need to save us; God was not bound by justice to redeem sinful man. That he did so is part of his goodness and kindness which ought to lead us to repentance (Rom. 2:4). Man is not so depraved as the creeds of men say, else he could not respond to God’s love. Regardless of the longing of man for forgiveness, whether it exists or not, God did not owe us anything. He could have been perfectly just and left us to writhe in the guilt of our sins. But, thanks be to his name, he “loved us” as our texts reveal.
Not only did he love us, he also “washed us from our sins.” This washing occurs “in his own blood.” Man cannot wash away his sins by himself (Tit. 3:5a). It is the blood of Christ that washes and cleanses man from his sins. Christ shed his precious blood for the sins of the whole world (1 Jn. 2:2). Why, then are not all men saved? Because the washing in the blood of the Son of God is conditionally received. One is washed or cleansed by the blood when he is baptized; that is, when he receives the “washing of regeneration,” which is baptism (Acts 22:16; Col. 2:11-13). The sinner must be obedient. He must believe and be baptized (Mk. 16:16). In that sense, he washes. away his sins (Acts 22:16), but as Paul says in the Colossian passage, it is the “operation” or working of God; it is the “circumcision of Christ”; it is the cutting off of the sins of the flesh which God performs when he forgives the sinner who puts his faith in God’s working (Col. 2:11-13). Essentially, man reposes his confidence (has faith) and obeys God, trusting that he will do what he has promised; namely forgive his sins.
Finally, then, it is proper to speak of what God (and not man) has made. Forgiveness and salvation are not of man. They are of God. Consequently, whatever results from that action is the work or making of God. According to our twin texts, God has made us something – kings, priests, heirs. All of it, all of God’s making, is related to “the hope of eternal life.” God is able to save. God is able to destroy (Matt. 10:28). It is God that loved us. It is God that will wash us. It is God that will make us. He will make us a vessel of wrath, fitted to destruction, or as heirs together of the grace of life. Let his love lead you to repentance. Let him wash you in his blood according to the conditions or terms of the gospel. He will make you, then, what you could not make of yourself.
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 1, p. 13
January 7, 1988