Hebrews 10:22 (ESV) … “let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”
Let us draw near with a true heart. In prayer and praise; in every act of confidence and of worship. A sincere heart was required under the ancient dispensation; it is always demanded of men when they draw near to God to worship him; see John 4:23, 24. Every form of religion which God has revealed requires the worshippers to come with pure and holy hearts.
In full assurance of faith; see the word here used explained in the Notes on ch. 6:11. The “full assurance of faith” means unwavering confidence; a fullness of faith in God which leaves no room for doubt. Christians are permitted to come thus because God has revealed himself through the Redeemer as in every way deserving their fullest confidence. No one approaches God in an acceptable manner who does not come to him in this manner. What parent would feel that a child came with any right feelings to ask a favour of him who had not the fullest confidence in him?
[“This πληροφορια, or full assurance of faith, is not, as many imagine, absolute certainty of a man’s own particular salvation, for that is termed the full assurance of hope, ch. 6:11, and arises from faith and its fruits. But the full assurance of faith is the assurance of that truth, which is testified and proposed in the gospel, to all the hearers of it in common, to be believed by them, unto their salvation, and is also termed the full assurance of understanding; Col. 2:2. Though all that the gospel reveals, claims the full assurance of faith, yet here it seems more particularly to respect the efficacy and all-sufficiency of Christ’s offering for procuring pardon and acceptance.”—M‘Lean.]
Having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience. By the blood of Jesus. This was fitted to make the conscience pure. The Jewish cleansing or sprinkling with blood related only to that which was external, and could not make the conscience perfect (ch. 9:9), but the sacrifice offered by the Saviour was designed to give peace to the troubled mind, and to make it pure and holy. An “evil conscience” is a consciousness of evil, or a conscience oppressed with sin; that is, a conscience that accuses of guilt. We are made free from such a conscience through the atonement of Jesus, not because we become convinced that we have not committed sin, and not because we are led to suppose that our sins are less than we had otherwise supposed—for the reverse of both these is true—but because our sins are forgiven, and since they are freely pardoned they no longer produce remorse and the fear of future wrath. A child that has been forgiven may feel that he has done very wrong, but still he will not be then overpowered with distress in view of his guilt, or with the apprehension of punishment.
And our bodies washed with pure water. It was common for the Jews to wash themselves, or to perform various ablutions in their services; see Ex. 29:4; 30:19–21; 40:12; Lev. 6:27; 13:54, 58; 14:8, 9; 15:16; 16:4, 24; 22:6; comp. Notes on Mark 7:3. The same thing was also true among the heathen. There was usually, at the entrance of their temples, a vessel placed with consecrated water, in which, as Pliny says (Hist. Nat. lib. xv. c. 30), there was a branch of laurel placed with which the priests sprinkled all who approached for worship. It was necessary that this water should be pure, and it was drawn fresh from wells or fountains for the purpose. Water from pools and ponds was regarded as unsuitable, as was also even the purest water of the fountain, if it had stood long. Æneas sprinkled himself in this manner, as he was about to enter the invisible world (Æn. vi. 635), with fresh water. Porphyry says that the Essenes were accustomed to cleanse themselves with the purest water.
Thus Ezekiel also says, “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean.” Sea-water was usually regarded as best adapted to this purpose, as the salt was supposed to have a cleansing property. The Jews who dwelt near the sea, were thence accustomed, as Aristides says, to wash their hands every morning on this account in the sea-water. Potter’s Gr. Archæ. i. 222. Rosenmüller, Alte und Neue Morgenland, in loc. It was from the heathen custom of placing a vessel with consecrated water at the entrance of their temples, that the Roman Catholic custom is derived in their churches of placing “holy water” near the door, that those who worship there may “cross themselves.” In accordance with the Jewish custom, the apostle says, that it was proper that under the Christian dispensation we should approach God, having performed an act emblematic of purity by the application of water to the body. That there is an allusion to baptism is clear. The apostle is comparing the two dispensations, and his aim is to show that in the Christian dispensation there was everything which was regarded as valuable and important in the old. So he had shown it to have been in regard to the fact that there was a Lawgiver; that there was a great High Priest; and that there were sacrifices and ordinances of religion in the Christian dispensation as well as the Jewish.
In regard to each of these, he had shown that they existed in the Christian religion in a much more valuable and important sense than under the ancient dispensation. In like manner it was true, that as they were required to come to the service of God, having performed various ablutions to keep the body pure, so it was with Christians. Water was applied to the Jews as emblematic of purity, and Christians came, having had it applied to them also in baptism, as a symbol of holiness. It is not necessary, in order to see the force of this, to suppose that water had been applied to the whole of the body, or that they had been completely immersed, for all the force of the reasoning is retained by the supposition that it was a mere symbol or emblem of purification.
The whole stress of the argument here turns, not on the fact that the body had been washed all over, but that the worshipper had been qualified for the spiritual service of the Most High in connection with an appropriate emblematic ceremony. The quantity of water used for this is not a material point, any more than the quantity of oil was in the ceremony of inaugurating kings and priests. This was not done in the Christian dispensation by washing the body frequently, as in the ancient system, nor even necessarily by washing the whole body—which would no more contribute to the purity of the heart than by application of water to any part of the body, but by the fact that water had been used as emblematic of the purifying of the soul. The passage before us proves, undoubtedly, (1.) that water should be applied under the new dispensation as an ordinance of religion; and (2.) that pure water should be used—for that only is a proper emblem of the purity of the heart.