22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
The Holy Spirit urges the believer to do three things in verses 22 to 23:
—toward God: draw near with a genuine heart in full assurance of hope, v. 22;
—toward self: hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, v. 23;
—toward others: consider one another, v. 24.
22 let us draw near
Now we come to the first of three things we are to do in response to our privileges in Christ. The epistle now begins its major exhortation dynamics.
with a true [genuine] heart
The New Covenant gave believers a “new heart” (He 8:10; Jer 31:33). We can “draw near” to God because we have a High Priest to represent us before Him (He 4:16). We do not come with our feeble morality but with a heart that rests completely on Christ.
“True” means genuine or someone without superficiality, hypocrisy, or ulterior motive. It is “true” in contrast to a mere profession. It is true as over against what is merely apparent. Christians have genuine access to God.
The word “in” assumes that Christians can have an environment of assurance of access to God in their present situation. Assurance in this “faith” is how we approach God. The arena in which God operates on the believer is in his attitude and not by outward circumstance.
full assurance of faith [hope],
The word “faith” should be translated “hope.” Hope has to do with our confidence before God. Such confidence means that a person has come to believe that Christ has accomplished everything necessary for our fellowship with God. Hope is more comprehensive than “faith” because it also deals with confidence and the future state. Looking forward offers a bright future.
The believer should not waver with unbelief about the wonders of the New Covenant (He 6:11). This faith is not concerned about not being acceptable to God because it knows that it is acceptable to Him (1 Th 1:5).
“Full assurance of hope” is a forward attitude of the believer. There is now no reason to doubt that we have full access to God. We have a “new way” of approaching almighty God.
“Faith” or “hope” here refers to the object of what we believe. Genuine faith always rests on truth. Faith can easily be misplaced.
having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience
The allusion to sprinkling refers to the sprinkling of people with blood to ratify the Mosaic Covenant (Ex 24:8). The believer is free from the guilt of his sins because Christ paid the penalty for them. The condition of the Christian’s heart is free from a bad conscience.
The conscience can move from being defiled (Ti 1:15), to evil (here), and then to seared (1 Ti 4:2). A seared conscience does not respond at all to God’s norms or standards.
and our bodies washed with pure water.
“Washed with pure water” is a reference to the brass laver in the tabernacle. This is a type or symbol of the Word of God. The reading of the Word cleanses us daily. It is the “washing of the water by the Word” (Eph 5:26). This is the issue of restoring fellowship with God by what He says to us on a daily basis.
Bodies washed is an outward symbol of the conscience having been cleansed by God. Since Christ cleansed us of our sins, we can enjoy fellowship with God. This does not refer to Christian baptism; it is an idiom that relates to thoroughness of cleansing.
Both “sprinkled” and “washed” are, in the Greek, accomplished facts. They are not objectives which we are to seek. Both sprinkled and washed refer to the spiritual, not material. If “water” here is material or literal water, then the sprinkling must be literal as well because these are parallel phrases. Since sprinkling is figurative of our faith in Christ’s sacrifice for us, washing is the appropriation of God’s Word to our experience.
Approaching God requires genuine confidence.
Christ’s blood frees our conscience. The New Covenant believer can approach God with freedom from the guilt of his or her sins. Christian worshippers’ consciences have been cleansed and their inner lives have been purified by the blood of Christ. Their outer life has been cleansed.
Believers are made nigh to God by the blood of Christ (Eph 2:13). However, it is one thing to possess provision in Christ, but it is another thing to avail ourselves of our privilege. Old Testament saints had to stand afar from the sanctuary, but New Testament believers can enter in. It is possible to go to church without drawing near to God, so we must worship Him in spirit and truth (Jn 4:24).
In the New Testament every believer is a priest. We can enter the Holiest because of our High Priest (1 Pe 2:9). Everyone who names the name of Christ has the right to function as a priest. Our faith can become stronger as we daily function as priests. The more mature we become, the more we are able to cope with difficulties in life. Faith means that we take God at His word and His promises. Faith can become strong as we apply God’s promises to our experience.