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Hand Washing God Has Called
Us To Holiness

What the Bible Says
About Living A Clean Life

By Ken Raggio

Every born-again believer has been washed in the blood of Jesus Christ for cleansing. Every sin that he or she has ever committed has been washed away, never to be remembered against them again. You cannot get any cleaner than blood-washed.

So why does the Apostle Paul tell us, "...dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God," 2 Corinthians 7:1?

If I am clean by the blood of Jesus, why must I cleanse myself from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit?

Why must I be bothered with "perfecting holiness"?

Is Paul's admonition simply a redundancy, another way of saying "get washed in the blood of Jesus," or is Paul telling us to do something particular to cleanse our lifestyles and behavior of unclean or filthy things?

Modern Christianity is so flooded with easy-believism and "free grace" teaching, it would be very easy to believe that I have absolutely no responsibility for my behavior.

Some Christians nearly fly into a rage at any suggestion that there are ANY rules or regulations for Christians. "LEGALISM!" they object, even though they do not have a clue what legalism really is. Meanwhile, Christianity is suffering a scourge of smoking, drinking, cursing, carousing "Christians" who have little or no sense at all of wrong-doing.

Holiness and clean living is NOT legalism.

Consider this New Testament scripture:

"Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God," James 4:4.

How does the free-grace crowd react if I say emphatically that hanging out with a worldly, sinful crowd day after day is displeasing to God? This says that you are His ENEMY if you do.

Consider this one:

"Brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live," Romans 8:12-13.

He said "mortify the deeds of the body!" The word mortify means to kill - put to death.

That is very strong language to use on somebody if there is nothing fundamentally wrong with their behavior, as so many people believe. So quite obviously, the works of our flesh are so offensive to God that He demands that we KILL them! Do you have any habits or behaviors that God wants to DIE? What if He expects YOU to KILL THEM RIGHT NOW? You may be surprised at the truth of the matter.

The Carnal Mind and Enmity

When God first created Adam and then Eve, they had absolutely pure minds. Nothing whatsoever in their thinking was opposed to God. But when Lucifer came along, he began to supplant the words of God and introduce thoughts and a thinking process that GOD DID NOT CREATE. That was the birth of the CARNAL MIND. It is the mind of the flesh. It is a mind that is, by its very definition and nature, opposed to God. Satan is the father of the carnal mind.

Every man, woman, boy or girl who has been born since then has to deal with thoughts and desires and behaviors that are diametrically opposed to God and His will.

Our carnal mind persistently and perniciously perverts us with ungodly thoughts and deeds. Yes. The carnal mind is "enmity" with God - that means "opposed to God, hostile, or hateful." The carnal mind defiles us every day. It is hostile to God. We are filthy by nature. We have to get hostile against our own carnality to win this battle.

The carnal mind has to be repeatedly subdued, brought under subjection. In a manner of speaking, it must be crucified, mortified, put to death. Unfortunately, we wake up each morning with a revitalized carnal mind, and the battle begins again. That is one of the reasons why Paul said in one place, "I die daily," and admonished us to "cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God."

What is uncleanness?

The Old Testament listed many things that were unclean under the law: unclean animals, unclean fowl, unclean sea creatures. In most cases, it was forbidden to eat of any unclean animal (or to even touch its dead body). Certain human conditions were listed as unclean, such as leprosy, menstruation, and death.

Why did God make such a list? Did he want us to recognize that some things are good and some things are bad? It is not difficult to understand why God would not want us to touch leprous flesh. He did not want the disease to spread.

But in Moses' day, around 1450 BC, medical science had not yet begun to uncover all the countless biohazards that exist in the real world. Nobody could possibly know all the reasons that God had for telling the children of Israel to abstain from this, or abstain from that.

Sometimes, it is necessary for people to take the word of someone who knows more than they do. It is impossible for every one of us to fully comprehend all the hazards of so many of life's exposures. So if God says, "Don't touch this," or "Don't touch that," we need to believe that He ONLY TELLS US THAT FOR OUR GOOD.

"That ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean," Leviticus 10:10.

An Extraordinary Lesson from a Nineteenth-Century Medical Doctor

My friend, Philip Harrelson related the following story in his "Barnabas Letter" that illustrates the profound importance of separating the unclean from the clean.

"The year was 1818, Ignaz Phillip Semmelweis (pronounced ZEMMELVISE) was born into a world of dying women. The most magnificent hospitals of the day were losing one out of every six young mothers to a mysterious scourge commonly referred to as "childbed fever." For twenty-six years, this disease would continue to incapacitate and destroy young mothers in the throes of labor and at times even destroying the lives of the newborn children.

In 1844, at twenty-six years of age, the now Dr. Semmelweis decided that there was a connection between the mothers' deaths and the practice of physicians. A doctor's daily routine began in the labs where autopsies were performed. It was in the process of the autopsies that physicians would perfect their surgical techniques and their knowledge of anatomy and physiology. Yet, there was one alarming practice that occurred in this setting.

Many of these practitioners would go directly from the lab, which was the place of the dead, and move to the place of the living. These men would never pause to wash their hands, and something from the diseased dead would be transmitted to those battling into the gates of life.

In fact, the often ignorant and trusting public would look at a physician with a blood-stained lab coat and would see this as a sign of his "success," a morbid badge of honor. The more soiled his lab coat was, the better physician he was considered to be. (If you find this hard to believe, you owe it to yourself to read up on the history of medicine in the U.S. and abroad. Semmelweis practiced in Vienna.)

Young Semmelweis was the first man in history to associate this type of practice with resulting infection and death. Therefore, he began to wash his hands in a chlorine solution when he left the lab to practice medicine. After eleven years and the delivery of 8,537 babies, he lost only 184 mothers - about one in fifty. This was in the days before C-sections, which in itself can preserve the baby in instances of breach presentation, cord compression, placenta previa, and other anomalies. Semmelweis' average was considered very good.

With this concise record-keeping on his part, he began to lecture, debate, even argue with his colleagues, and where he could, he implemented mandatory hand-washing among his subordinates and the interns under his direction. He fought with such vigor and strength that he was accused of madness. He struggled to get doctors to wear clean clothes in deliveries and attempted to get clean wards in which to practice medicine. Still these resistant colleagues of his would refuse to comply with his standards. The standards of Semmelweis were considered to be ridiculous and went against the current thoughts of the day.

He once argued, "Puerperal fever (childbed fever) is caused by decomposed material, conveyed to a wound. I have shown how it can be prevented. I have proved all that I have said. But while we talk, talk, talk, gentlemen, women are dying. I am not asking anything world shaking. I am merely asking you only to wash... For God's sake, wash your hands."

Years passed and the nineteenth century rolled around. Enter another young physician named Joseph Lister. Having come into contact with some of the records and journals of Semmelweis, he began to soak his surgical instruments in carbolic acid and the results were astonishing. What previously had been considered as risky and hazardous surgery now became routine. Interestingly enough the majority of physicians ridiculed and ostracized Lister also, but he too, plodded steadily on. Today, before a surgical procedure begins, the surgeon will stand outside of the operating room and "scrub" his hands with a Betadine scrub or Hibiclens soap for ten minutes before he even enters the room where the patient is.

The beliefs of Semmelweis and Lister have both outlived them and proven again and again the inestimable importance of separating the clean from the unclean. People become diseased and often die when the unclean thing contaminates the clean."

God revealed these core precepts to Moses

While in the wilderness with the children of Israel, God showed that His people should not touch unclean things, and if they did, they should be purified.

The divine precept of holiness is all about separation from unclean things. It is separation from forbidden things. Holiness is separation from things that are evil, filthy, or defiling.

If we could only realize, like Semmelweis, how many lives could be saved, and how many tragedies could be prevented simply by practicing holiness, we would gladly alter our ways. The absence of holiness is FATAL.

The Apostle Paul issued this injunction: "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord," Hebrews 12:14. This is extremely important. Without holiness, NO MAN shall see the LORD. Whatever it takes to maintain a life of holiness and separation from the world, the flesh and the devil - that is simply what we must do!

"Detoxify or Die"

In these modern times, our human bodies are often contaminated by toxins in our environment. There are hidden pollutants in our water supplies, poisons such as mercury in our seafood, toxins in hundreds of chemicals that we use daily in our kitchens, bathrooms, garages, etc., and dangerous additives in many of the processed foods and drinks we consume, and so much more that we do not even know about.

Dr. Sherry A. Rogers, M.D. wrote a book entitled "Detoxify or Die," in which she makes the case that most cancers and serious diseases that are now epidemic can be traced to these toxic exposures. She emphatically urges her readers to adapt a daily regimen of detoxifying to rid the body of these hazardous toxins. She suggests that a daily "cleansing" with large doses of Vitamin C, Alpha Lipoic Acid, and N-Acetyl Cysteine (a powerful immune system builder) will help flush these toxins from our systems. She says that unless modern Americans learn to detoxify, the disease rates can only increase dramatically in the future.

Most people scoff at such a regimented daily routine. But I have met many cancer patients who GLADLY practice whatever regimen they believe will save their lives! All too often, people refuse to worry about toxic conditions until it is too late.

The same thing is true with holiness. People do not want to follow holiness standards until their lives have degenerated so far, it may then be too late to turn them around.

Detoxify! The spiritual application of this premise is identical.

The world, the flesh and the devil continually contaminate our souls with sin and degradation. Everything around us seems to drench us with the filth of this world.

Magazine racks in every grocery story spit filth in our faces every time we check out at the counter. Radios and televisions blare violence and obscenities everywhere we turn. Government agencies continue to loosen restrictions on the use of vulgar language and obscenities in the media, so that we simply cannot escape the bombardment of nastiness. The Internet is a moral quagmire that even the youngest children are exposed to. The most popular recording artists and movie stars are often the ones who practice the most lewd and filthy lifestyles.

The world is a cesspool of filth.

Unless the child of God faithfully practices a daily regimen of "detoxifying," cleansing, and purification, he or she will inevitably become contaminated and filthy with the sins of the world. The results will be manifested in progressive backsliding and spiritual DEATH!

Touch Not!

You are known by the company you keep and the things that you companion with. Paul articulated his very strong convictions about this matter of associations.

"Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty."

2 Corinthians 6:14-18

Those statements are not difficult to understand. "Come out." "Be separate." "Touch not the unclean thing." Christians are meant to BE different and STAY different.

If you really believe that Jesus Christ is God incarnate; and if you really believe the Bible is the infallible word of God; and if you really believe in the reality of Heaven and Hell, and the need to be saved from your sins or face eternal judgment, then what keeps you from wanting to live a holy, clean life, separated from the ways of the world?

Why do you think YOU CANNOT SURVIVE WITHOUT daily engorging yourself on the pig-pen of television and Hollywood entertainment? Why don't those things disgust and repel you? Why aren't you deeply insulted and angered by the continual onslaught of sexual perversions, filth, obscenities, hate, murder, violence, gore, and anti-God rhetoric that are the CONSTANT fare of television? How can a person maintain a right relationship with Almighty God while constantly feeding the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eye and the pride of life?

Why do you think that you have to dress in a way that makes you blend in with the world? Why do you WANT to look like the world? Why does a woman want to dress like a man? Why shouldn't a godly woman have the MOST feminine appearance? Why shouldn't a godly man have the MOST masculine appearance (not effeminate)?

Why would anybody be willing to trade God, Church, Family and Eternal Life for nothing but a sexual experience with someone that God says "NO!" to? Why do you WANT to associate with the very people God forbids you to associate with, and AVOID the very godly men and women who would only bless you and do you good?

Why don't you instead WANT to be different FOR GOD'S SAKE? Let it known that "I AM A CHILD OF GOD, and I AM DIFFERENT!!"

The very definition of HOLINESS is "set apart, consecrated, sanctified, dedicated to God, separated."

So, by definition, if you are not set apart from the world, consecrated and sanctified, dedicated unto God, and separated from the world - YOU AREN'T LIVING A HOLY LIFE!

Why would a person who is striving to be like Jesus spend hard-earned money and hundreds of hours every month on things that OFFEND GOD and promote ANTI-CHRISTIAN values? Why squander your substance on riotous living? Why not give your money and your time to the furtherance of the gospel and the kingdom of God?

Friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God.

How can we defend a desire to be like the world? The world hates God, and the world will hate you, if you are His.

Here is what Jesus had to say about the world:

"If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you," John 15:18-20.

That is certainly why John wrote what he did:

"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever," 1 John 2:15-17.


I have been a preacher for over forty years, and have been a pastor for almost thirty years. I have argued both sides of this "holiness" issue, and have seen and heard all the arguments both for and against "holiness." But this eternal precept cannot be watered down. God demands that we "LOVE NOT THE WORLD."

It doesn't matter if it is houses, cars, clothes, TVs, movies, sports, recreation, styles, fads, or whatever else you find in the world. If it is the way of the world, it is an enemy of God.

This is such a simple premise. How can anybody miss it?

Even before God ever gave the Law on Mount Sinai, He told Moses to tell the people to sanctify themselves.

In Exodus 19:10, the LORD said unto Moses, "Go unto the people, and sanctify them to day and to morrow, and let them wash their clothes." Verse 14 adds, "and Moses went down from the mount unto the people, and sanctified the people; and they washed their clothes."

How incensed would you be if YOUR preacher told you to go back home and wash your clothes before you walk into the church house? But God wanted those people to learn something.

Nothing suggests that these people's sins were being taken away by that particular process, but there is certainly a connotation that God wanted the people to cleanse themselves before He gave them a powerful revelation of Himself. God does not want the filth of this world to stand in His holy presence. God is HOLY, and He requires HIS PEOPLE to be HOLY!

"As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy," 1 Peter 1:14-16.

Separate Yourself, Even When You Don't Understand Why

Charles H. Spurgeon wrote in 1863, "The true heading of all the books of Moses is to be found in the words of Jesus, 'Moses wrote of me.' Take the Lord Jesus Christ with you as a key, and how ever difficult the riddles of Leviticus or Numbers may at first sight appear, there is not one enigma in the whole collection which will not speedily open and yield instruction.

To the Israelites themselves, these rites and ceremonies must have been rather an exercise of faith, than a means of instruction. 'I cannot perfectly understand why this heifer is slain, or why yonder lamb is offered,' said the pious Israelite, 'but though I cannot understand, I believe there is virtue in it all, and I reverently do, even to the smallest particular, that which God, through his servant Moses, has commanded me to do.'

To us, the types are not a dark mystery to perplex our faith, but an open vision to delight our eyes. Having believed in Christ Jesus, having received him as the Father's sent One, and being reconciled unto God by his death, we look back to the ceremonies of the old law as the patterns of heavenly things, to endeavor to discover some new light in which the Savior's beauties may be set, and to behold him from some different point of view, so that we may love him the better, and may trust him the more."

There was forceful symbolism seen in the Old Testament laws of purification that teach us today that we need to be cleansed, not only by the blood of Jesus and the waters of baptism, but also by holy, consecrated, separated living.

Even the Prophet Ezekiel could see that holiness was not just an Old Testament doctrine. He prophesied holiness to the New Testament believers, too.

"Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them," Ezekiel 36:25-27.

God does not automatically cleanse us of wrong-doing. We must cleanse ourselves.

We must consciously and conscientiously put away our sins.

Oswald Chambers said, "Beware of the pleasant view of the Fatherhood of God - God is so kind and loving that of course He will forgive us. That sentiment has no place whatever in the New Testament. The only ground on which God can forgive us is the tremendous tragedy of the Cross of Christ; to put forgiveness on any other ground is unconscious blasphemy. The only ground on which God can forgive sin and reinstate us in His favour is through the Cross of Christ, and in no other way. Forgiveness, which is so easy for us to accept, cost the agony of Calvary. It is possible to take the forgiveness of sin, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and our sanctification with the simplicity of faith, and to forget at what enormous cost to God it was all made ours.

Forgiveness is the divine miracle of grace; it cost God the Cross of Jesus Christ before He could forgive sin and remain a holy God. Never accept a view of the Fatherhood of God if it blots out the Atonement. The revelation of God is that He cannot forgive; He would contradict His nature if He did. The only way we can be forgiven is by being brought back to God by the Atonement."

In order for us to be fully clean when we stand before God, we must carefully and obediently follow the New Testament plan for holy, godly living. If and when we sin, we must put it away, and ask God for forgiveness.

This is NOT living under the law. Paul denounced any notion that Old Testament law-keeping can save, and I fully agree. Only the cleansing that comes through Jesus Christ can cleanse today. "Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace," Galatians 5:4.

But at the same time, Paul did not dismiss our personal responsibility for practicing holy, separated living. Even though the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ can be freely received, we are ultimately responsible for presenting ourselves to Him sacrificially, and in full consecration. It is so important that we examine our entire way of living, submitting every unclean thought and behavior to the cleansing process.

We are responsible for cleansing ourselves of every habit and attitude that would hinder the purpose of God in our lives.

"That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil. Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice," Ephesians 4:22-31.

Fleshly Appetites Must Be Conquered

Where the Old Testament focused on physical contamination by death and disease, the New Testament focuses on spiritual contamination by the world, the flesh and the devil.

That is why we MUST be born again. Unless we are born again, according to John 3:5 and Acts 2:38, we always remain in the domain of the world, the flesh and the devil. Only by rebirth of water and spirit do we truly separate ourselves from the unclean defilements of earth and enter into the clean and righteous sanctified life of the Spirit of God. God's forgiveness only works in His supernatural dominion.

But, at the same time, it is commanded that "every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure," 1 John 3:3.

"Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God," 2 Corinthians 7:1.

"I am not asking anything world shaking.
I am merely asking you only to wash...
For God's sake, wash your hands."

Dr. Ignaz Phillip Semmelweis, 1844

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