Unless otherwise stated, Bible quotations are from the NKJV.
The question ‘Have you brushed your teeth?’ is one my youngest son often hears. He is still at an age when he sometimes forgets! You get the impression that getting washed is something to be avoided, if at all possible, when you hear the complaint ‘I had a bath two days ago, do I NEED to get washed?’ Probably most of us went through the stage where getting washed seemed so pointless.
Peter asks Jesus a similar question in John chapter 13. He watches as the Lord rises from supper, wraps an apron around his waist and fills the basin with water. It must have been clear what Jesus intended to do, but neither Peter nor any of the other disciples protested. The Lord begins to wash the disciples’ feet, but Peter doesn’t offer to take over. So when he objects to the Lord washing his feet, the only alternative is that his feet remain unwashed. Christ replies, ‘If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me’. He demonstrates how important cleanliness is for the Christian. It’s not that Christ is making a point about personal hygiene; remember, he previously defended the disciples when the Pharisees criticized them for eating without washing their hands, Mark 7. 6-9. He is referring to a need to be spiritually clean.
This was Peter’s conclusion, ‘Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!’ He is reminded that he has been washed previously and is still therefore clean, only his feet, having come into contact with the dusty Judean roads, require cleansing. Similarly, as Christians, we have been spiritually washed. Paul writing to the Corinthians identifies a group of sinners and states ‘such were some of you. But you were washed’, 1 Cor. 6. 11. This was a once for all event! The Christian does not need to be saved again and again, but our minds, when coming into contact with this world, require to be cleansed regularly from its influences, Eph. 4. 23. We live our lives surrounded by sin and attitudes that are contrary to the mind of God. This could be in our workplace, when shopping, or reading a daily newspaper, and the only way to remain pure in this environment is by the word of God. The Ephesian Epistle tells us that ‘Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for her; that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word’, Eph. 5. 25-26. In the Psalms we are also given similar advice, ‘How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word’, Ps. 119. 9.
As children, getting washed was probably a low priority. We were taught by our parents to make it a habit, and we began to wash at regular points in the day without much thought. It had become part of our lifestyle! Habits are easier to form when young, Prov. 22. 6, so it is essential that Christian young people make this spiritual cleansing part of their daily routine. There might be days when we don’t feel like it or believe we do not have time, but breaking our habit will make us akin to a person who will only wash if he has nothing else to do.
Practically, there are many ways for a believer to make the Bible part of their daily life. There may be particular times of the day in which opportunities to read can be guaranteed; first thing in the morning or before going to bed, as in the case of physical washing; or during our lunch at work or college. Many Christians use a daily reading book, or follow a Bible reading plan. Bible teaching can be downloaded from the internet to listen to on your daily commute, or you could follow reputable Bible teachers on social media.1
When God gave instructions to Moses regarding the tabernacle, He required that a basin of water be placed between the tent of meeting and the altar. In the KJV the basin is called the ‘laver’. This was used by the priests to wash before entering the tent of meeting or approaching the altar, Exod. 40. 32. This teaches us that in order to approach God’s presence, or be useful to Him in service, we must first be cleansed.
‘So David arose from the ground, washed and anointed himself, and changed his clothes; and he went into the house of the Lord and worshipped’, 2 Sam. 12. 20.