AS Gideon's fleece was full of dew so that he could wring out the moisture, so will a text sometimes be when the Holy Spirit deigns to visit His servants through its words. This utterance of our Saviour to His disciples has been as a wafer made with honey to our taste, and we doubt not it may prove equally as sweet to others.
Observe carefully, dear friends, what the eulogium is which is here passed upon the Lord's beloved disciples: "Ye are clean." This is the primeval blessing, so soon lost by our first parents. This is the virtue, the loss of which shut man out of Paradise, and continues to shut men out of heaven. The want of cleanness in heart and hands condemns sinners to banishment from God, and defiles all their offerings. To be clean before God is the desire of every penitent, and the highest aspiration of the most advanced believer. It is what all the ceremonies and ablutions of the law can never bestow and what Pharisees with all their pretensions cannot attain. To be clean is to be as the angels are, as glorified saints are, yea, as the Father Himself is.
Acceptance with the Lord, safety, happiness, and every blessing, always go with cleanness of heart, and he that hath it cannot miss of heaven. It seems too high a condition to be ascribed to mortals, yet, by the lips of Him who could not err, the disciples were said, without a qualifying word, or adverb of degree, to be "clean"; that is to say, they were perfectly justified in the sight of eternal equity, and were regarded as free from every impurity. Dear friends, is this blessing yours? Have you ever believed unto righteousness? Have you taken the Lord Jesus to be your complete cleansing, your sanctification, your redemption? Has the Holy Spirit ever sealed in your peaceful spirit the gracious testimony, "ye are clean"? The assurance is not confined to the apostles, for ye also are "complete in Him," "perfect in Christ Jesus," if ye have indeed by faith received the righteousness of God. The psalmist said, "Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow;" if you have been washed, you are even to that highest and purest degree clean before the Lord, and clean now. Oh, that all believers would live up to their condition and privilege; but alas! too many are pining as if they were still miserable sinners, and forgetting that they are in Christ Jesus forgiven sinners, and therefore ought to be happy in the Lord. Remember, beloved believer, that, as one with Christ, you are not with sinners in the gall of bitterness, but with the saints in the land which floweth with milk and honey.
Your cleanness is not a thing of degrees, it is not a variable or vanishing quantity, it is present, abiding, perfect, you are clean through the Word, through the application of the blood of sprinkling to the conscience, and through the imputation of the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ. Then lift up your head, and sing for joy of heart, seeing that your transgression is pardoned, your sin is covered, and in you Jehovah seeth not iniquity. Dear friends, let not another moment pass till by faith in Jesus you have grasped this privilege. Be not content to believe that the priceless boon may be had, but lay hold upon it for yourself. You will find the song of substitution a choice song if you are able to sing it.
"In my Surety I am free,
His dear hands were pierced for me;
With his spotless vesture on
Holy as the Holy One."
Much of the force of the sentence before us lies in the Person praising. To be certified as clean by the blind priests of Rome, would be small comfort to a true Christian. To receive the approving verdict of our fellow-men is consoling, but it is after all of small consequence. The human standard of purity is itself grossly incorrect, and therefore to be judged by it is but a poor trial, and to be acquitted a slender comfort; but the Lord Jesus judges no man after the flesh, He came forth from God, and is Himself God, infinitely just and good, hence His tests are accurate, and His verdict is absolute. I wot whom He pronounces clean is clean indeed. Our Lord was omniscient, He would have at once detected the least evil in His disciples; if there had remained upon the man unpardoned sin, He must have seen it; if any relic of condemnation had lingered upon them, He must have detected it at once, no speck could have escaped His all-discerning eye; yet did He say without hesitation of all but Judas, "Ye are clean."
Perhaps they did not catch the full glory of this utterance; possibly they missed much of that deep joyous meaning, which is now revealed to us by the Spirit; otherwise, what bliss to have heard with their own ears from those sacred lips, so plain, so positive, so sure a testimony to their character before God! Yet our hearts need not be filled with regret because we cannot hear that ever-blessed voice with these our earthly ears, for the testimony of Jesus in the Word is quite as sure as the witness of His lips when He spoke among the sons of men, and that testimony is, "Whosoever believeth is justified from all things." Yes, it is as certain as if you, dear friends, heard the Redeemer Himself speak, that you are free from all condemning sin if you are looking with your whole heart to Jesus only as your all in all. What a joy is yours and mine! He who is to judge the world in righteousness has Himself affirmed us to be clean. By how much the condemnation of guilt is black and terrible, by so much the forgiveness of sin is bright and comforting. Let us rejoice in the Lord, whose indisputable judgment has given forth a sentence so joyous, so full of glory.
"Jesus declares me clean,
Then clean indeed I am,
However guilty I have been,
I'm cleans'd through the Lamb.
"His lips can never lie,
His eye is never blind,
If he acquit, I can defy
All hell a fault to find."
It may cheer us to call to mind the persons praised. They were not cherubim and seraphim, but men, and notably they were men compassed with infirmity. There was Peter, who a few minutes after was forward and presumptuous; and, indeed, it is not needful to name them one by one, for they all forsook their Master, and fled in His hour of peril. Not one among them was more than a mere child in grace; they had little about them that was apostolic except their commission, they were very evidently men of like passions with us; yet their Lord declared them to be clean, and clean they were. Here is good cheer for those souls who are hungering after righteousness, and pining because they feel so much of the burden of indwelling sin; for cleanliness before the Lord is not destroyed by our infirmities, nor prevented by our inward temptations. We stand in the righteousness of Another. No measure of personal weakness, spiritual anxiety, soul conflict, or mental agony can mar our acceptance in the Beloved. We may be weak infants, or wandering sheep in ourselves, and for both reasons we may be very far from what we wish to be; but, as God sees us, we are viewed as washed in the blood of Jesus, and we, even we, are clean every whit.
What a forcible expression, "clean every whit;" every inch, from every point of view, in all respects, and to the uttermost degree! Dear friend, if a believer, this fact is true to you, even to you. Hesitate not to drink, for it is water out of your own cistern, given to you in the covenant of grace. Think not that it is presumption to believe the Word, marvellous though it be. You are dealing with a wonderful Saviour, who only doeth wonderful things, therefore stand not back on account of the greatness of the blessing, but rather believe the more readily because the Word is so like to everything the Lord doeth or speaketh. Yet when thou hast believed for thyself, and cast every doubt to the wind, thou wilt not wonder less, but more, and it will be thy never-ceasing cry, "Whence is this to me?" How is it that I, who wallowed with swine, should be made pure as the angels? Delivered from the foulest guilt, is it indeed possible that I am made the possessor of a perfect righteousness? Sing, O heavens, for the Lord hath done it, and He shall have everlasting praise!
"Yes, thou, my soul, e'en thou art clean,
The Lord has wash'd thee white as snow,
In spotless beauty thou art seen,
And Jesus hath pronounced thee so.
"Despite thy conflicts, doubts, and fears,
Yet art thou still in Christ all fair,
Haste then to wipe away thy tears,
And make His glory all thy care."
The time when the praise was given is not without instruction. The word of loving judgment is in the present tense, "Ye are clean." It is not, "ye were clean," that might be a rebuke for purity shamelessly sullied, a condemnation for wilful neglect, a prophecy of wrath to come; neither is it, "ye might have been clean," that would have been a stern rebuke for privileges rejected, and opportunities wasted; nor is it even, "ye shall be clean," though that would have been a delightful prophecy of good things to come at some distant period; but ye are clean, at this moment, in this room, and around this table. Though but just then Peter had spoken so rudely, yet he was even then clean.
What comfort is here amid our present sense of imperfection! Our cleanness is a matter of this present hour, we are, just here in our present condition and our position, "clean every whit." Why then postpone joy? The cause of it is in possession, let the mirth be even now overflowing. Much of our heritage is certainly future, but if there were no other boon tangible to faith in this immediate present, this one blessing alone should awaken all our powers to the highest praise. Are we even now clothed with the fair white linen which is the righteousness of saints? Yes, tis even so, for --
"We are wash'd in Jesu's blood,
We're pardon'd through His name;
And the good Spirit of our God
Has sanctified our frame."
Then let us sing a new song unto Jehovah-Tsidkenu, the Lord our Righteousness.
May the Holy Ghost now bear witness with every believer, "and ye are clean."
"Then may your souls rejoice and sing,
Then may your voices sweetly ring,
For if your souls through Christ are clear,
What cause have you to faint or fear?"