A Series on Sanctification
1. Having described the Father's concerned care for all believers in the prior verse
(John 15:2), Jesus addresses His men in
particular. In John 15:3 He tells them
that the process of "cleansing" has been completed by His Father through the instruction
they have received from Him. The direct implication is that they are therefore "fruiting"
branches, and that their "season" of fruitfulness is upon them. Does the word "cleansing"
used here in the context of: a) cleansing from the penalty of sin (justification) or b)
cleansing and purifying our minds for service (sanctification)?
Jesus' use of kathairō seems purposefully to have both a horticultural and
religious sense, meaning both "to prune" and "to purify." (1)
This is similar to the command in Ephesians 5:25-27
for husbands to love their wives like Christ loved the church. In that command the analogy
is developed that Jesus "cleansed" the church by washing her with the "word" in order to
present her to Himself as "holy and blameless." Similarly, Jesus affirms that He has "purified"
the disciples through His instruction. When Jesus says He has cleansed them with the words
He has spoken to them, He must be reminding them of all that He has said in chapters thirteen
and fourteen, especially the tremendous teachings of chapter fourteen.
God uses His Word to purge those things from our lives that keep us, and others,
from bearing fruit. Even so, that is not the focal point of what Jesus is saying. Rather, He is saying
that the disciples have prepared for fruitfulness, something which will be defined more fully later,
by the action of the Father as He has used Jesus' teaching to "purify" them in the sense of
making them fit for service.
The cleansing to which Jesus alludes should not be seen as the believer's cleansing
from the penalty of sin that occurs at the time of the new birth (cf.
John 13:10). This is not justification
truth. Rather, this cleansing is a sanctification truth. This is
1 John 1:9 forgiveness and confession.
This, again, is seen in the nature of the purpose of the cleansing. The cleansing to which Jesus refers
has prepared them for service, not for heaven. Believing in the Jesus of the Bible give us heaven-a
gift of life-but the process of disciple making prepares us for service-the stewardship of that life.
Again, this interpretation fits the context best since service is in view and is,
by nature of its being commanded by Christ, something a believer may or may not do. Those who would
see this as justification cleansing would hear Jesus saying, "You are all saved (v. 3). And you
will demonstrate that salvation by bearing fruit (v. 4)." Rather, we should notice how these words
parallel so well what Jesus did to them in John 13:4-17.
He confronted their sinful attitudes and prepared them for service with a model (i.e., show and tell).
Contrary to seeing this as the cleansing from the penalty of sin that occurs at our
justification-salvation, this verse likely has the concept of Old Testament ceremonial cleansing in view.
When a priest entered into his period of service in the temple, he began first by going through the
process of becoming ceremonially clean before the Lord. This included washings as well as offering
certain sacrifices for his sin. When he had completed the cleansing process, he was qualified to serve.
This is what Jesus is picturing here more than the idea of God purging specific sins from someone's life.
At the beginning of this discourse the disciples were still egotistical and self-centered,
not ready to serve. Jesus had washed their feet and given them an example of humble service to follow.
But, regardless of their immature attitudes, the disciples had indeed been set apart to serve God and
were now acceptable to Him. So, though the foot washing was not a spiritually cleansing ceremony, Jesus
may be alluding to it here as a parallel to the priest' washing as he entered the temple to serve.
This may also help us understand the significance of what Jesus is going to say in verse sixteen. As
the priests were chosen by God to serve in God's program, so too, the disciples were chosen by Jesus.
And, as the priests had first to be made fit to serve by being "cleansed" before entering
into service, so too the disciples were "cleansed" by Jesus' instruction, including His
washing their feet.
2. How is this concept applied?
The best explanation is by way of example. A very special event comes to mind that
occurred in January of 1989. A dear friend, Lorelei Dedini had a serious recurrence of the breast
cancer that had gone into remission five years before. Her doctors told her that she had six months
to a year to live. But what had really troubled her was the statement of some of her Christian friends,
who had prayed for her, that God was going to heal her.
"How do they know that," she said. "God didn't tell me that."
Well, we looked at the Word and prayed and I said, "Now, I would listen to
your doctor and make plans. If God chooses to heal you, well and good. But it appears that you may
have a short amount of time to do some strategic things."
Several weeks later the Dedini's took my wife and me to a lovely dinner in Saratoga.
Sitting across from me, Lorelei rejoiced, "God is so good."
Strange words from a lovely lady dying at forty-seven? "Tell me about it,"
"Well, some people get taken so suddenly. God has given me time. There are
things that we needed to straighten out." And she went on to spell some of them out. "God
is so good," she repeated.
Shortly thereafter, I had occasion to take Lorelei with me to a preaching engagement
in Los Altos. The wonderful sixty-voice youth choir was singing a rather jubilant and rocking rendition
of "To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord." Lorelei elbowed me in the
side and said, "Get a load of this. They're singing it and I'm doing it." When they finished,
I had her step up to the pulpit with me. She was wearing a bonnet on her head because of the devastating
work the chemotherapy had done to her lovely head of hair.
She began her testimony of the power of God's Word turning to the youth choir,
"You have been singing it and I am doing it," and then continued to the whole audience. I
shall never forget the scene at the alter after the service. In forty years of ministry, I have never
had so many people come forward with responses. One stands out. A psychiatrist gave her his card and
asked her to make an appointment.
"Oh, thank you doctor. But I don't need an appointment." She said.
"I know you don't. But I do," he replied.
When I would fly through San Jose every couple of weeks or so, I would call on
Lorelei and her husband Dominic. On one occasion I remember holding her chest X-rays up against the
patio door light and saying, "Lorelei, I believe you are going to see Jesus before I do, and when
you do, tell Him I am coming, too." We smiled.
Several weeks later, I called from the airport, and Dominic answered, "Are you
coming over? I will get her ready." Upon entering, I heard her weakened voice say, "It's
the Word! It's the Word! That's what you said and it's true." She grabbed my arm as I got close
to her emaciated body still radiating Christ's love as she was almost "finally home."
Lorelei wrote her own funeral service that was held before a full crowd at Calvary
Church. As a result of the funeral service, a good friend was led to Christ by her husband, Dominic.
This kind of miracle in the lives of believers is replicated over and over again
when we dare to take seriously the power of the Word of God. "Now you are clean," Jesus said,
"through the Word which I have spoken unto you." God's Word purges those things from our lives
that keep us from bearing fruit.
This article was adapted from The Disciplemaker: What Matters Most to Jesus by Gary Derickson
and Earl Radmacher (Salem: Charis Press, ©2001) and used by permission from its authors. Drs. Derickson
and Radmacher, in their concern about the process of Christian spiritual growth (discipleship), provide
much food for thought in this under-emphasized area of Christian living. How do you choose to live for the Lord?
The literary arrangement of the Gospel of John is in 5 parts:
Prologue (John 1:1-18)
The Word who created the world became flesh in order to reveal God and give life to
those who believe in Him.
Jesus' Ministry to the Nation (John 1:19-12:50)
John's testimony and Jesus' signs and public discourses reveal that Jesus is the
Christ, the Son of God, and that one
may experience an abundant, unending and refreshing, life by believing in Him.
Jesus' Ministry to His Apostles (John 13-17)
Jesus further revealed the Father to His disciples as He comforted and encouraged
them in His final words and prayer.
Jesus' Passion and Resurrection (John 18-21)
Jesus allowed Himself to be arrested, tried, and crucified, dying and raising from
the dead, thereby demonstrating that He is the Son of God and producing joy and faith in those who witnessed
Epilogue (John 21)
Jesus restored Peter to leadership by the Sea of Tiberias.
Take a moment to read the whole book of John with this outline, and see if it helps you understand
the Gospel of John better!