John 3:22-25  A Question about Purification

Introduction:  When something is pure it is clean and free of contamination.  A person who is pure is one who is clean and free from contaminants.  In the context of religion one who is pure is one who has been made clean ceremonially.  Jews had to be clean or pure before they could come before God to worship.  The process of purification involved the shedding of the blood of an animal.  To be made clean they had to be sprinkled with the water of cleansing which was water mixed with the ashes of a red heifer.  To purify themselves before eating they would wash themselves in a ceremonial way from the tip of the fingers to the elbows.  Jews were very concerned about purity.  They also were very much into ceremonies.  In our text a question or debate arises concerning purification. The details of this debate are kept from us.  This debate came about when the Jews saw both John the Baptist and Jesus baptizing their followers.  We will notice in these verses that there were many who were being baptized.  John had baptized many and Jesus was baptizing even more than John, though Jesus did not personally baptize anyone.  This debate did not arise while it was just John baptizing in the Jordan River.  John did not claim to be the Messiah.  The people saw him as a prophet of God.  He did claim to be the fulfillment of prophecy.  The Jewish leaders had no real problem with this at first but now that Jesus has come on the scene and is stirring up the people the Jews begin the contention. 


I.  What brought about this question or debate?

      John 3:22  After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized.

      1.  “These things” brought up the question of how one is pure in God’s sight.  Jesus came not to bring peace but a sword. Mat 10:34-35  Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. (35)  For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.”

            a. John’s announcement of Jesus.  This caused the Jewish leaders to send men to John to see who he was.  Though he preformed no miracles he was considered by all the people as a prophet of God.  John tells them that he is the voice of one crying in the wilderness.  He has come to prepare the way for the Messiah.


            b. Men begin to follow Jesus as recorded in chapter one.  Instead of following the Jewish leaders men began to follow Jesus.  This would seem to be bad for to follow anyone other than the Priests and Levites would seem to go against the command of God.  Remember what happened to those who followed after Korah in Moses’ day.  Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 23:2-3  …The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: (3)  All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, [that] observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.”  The fact that the people were following one who the Jewish leaders did not feel was proper caused them to fight with those who caused this problem namely John and his disciples.


            c.  The works of Jesus attest to the fact that He is who He claims to be.  This is seen in chapter one when Jesus knows all about Nathaniel.

            d.  The works of Jesus continue to irritate the Jewish leaders when Jesus turns water into wine in chapter two of John’s Gospel.  This was a very public display and it cemented His relationship with His disciples.

            e.  When Jesus cleanses the temple He further provokes contention between Himself and the Jews.

            f.  Jesus performs miracles and many believe Him to be the Messiah.  The Jewish leaders are loosing control of the people and even some of the leaders are beginning to be converted.


            g. In Chapter three the master of Israel, Nicodemus, comes to Jesus admitting that Jesus must be from God for no man can do these things except God be with him.  The debate has begun to form and men must decide what side they are on for there is no middle ground here.


      2.  In our text we see Jesus is with them day and night preaching repentance.  Jesus was all over the country side in and around Jerusalem.  The people were forced to make a decision about who He was.  His following was becoming larger with each passing day and the Jewish Leaders were loosing their firm grip on the public.


      3. Jesus’ disciples baptized those who repented.  The teaching of Jesus was new.  Jesus said to His disciples that you do not put new wine into old bottles.  This radical new doctrine of Jesus was not new at all.  It was the same message preached to Adam.  The whole point of the Law was to show men there helpless, hopeless condition and cause them to throw themselves upon the mercy of God.  The Jews had perverted the Law system and begun to believe that keeping the law would save one from the condemnation of sinners.  Paul wrote by the inspiration of God to Titus (Tit 3:5)  Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing (that is to say purifying or cleansing) of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;”  Paul also wrote in Romans 3:20  Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law [is] the knowledge of sin.

            The two sides of the debate are clearly seen.  The teachings are diametrically opposed.  One is made pure before God by the works and ceremonies of the Law or he is made pure by repentance of sin and faith in Jesus Christ. 

            The Jewish side of this issue is a lost cause.  Jesus well points out in Chapter seven of this Gospel (John 7:19)  Did not Moses give you the law, and [yet] none of you keepeth the law? Why go ye about to kill me?”  The Jews, claiming to be made pure through keeping the ceremonies of the law had were deceiving themselves for they had never kept the law.  Jeremiah told the people of his day Jer 13:23  Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? [then] may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.  Even if you could live without sinning it is too late for you are already guilty before God.  You are already condemned because you have not believed in or trusted in Jesus Christ as your savior.


      John 3:23  And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized.

      John 3:24  For John was not yet cast into prison.

      4. John was baptizing those who repented and refused to baptize those who would not.  John turned away some of the Jewish leaders because they were wanting to be baptized for the wrong reason.  They came to be seen of men.  The had not repented of sin.  They in effect were trying to turn baptism into a meaningless ceremonial gesture just like they had done to the ceremonies of the Law of Moses.  This sparked more debate and contention.


      5. John was no respecter of persons.  He moves into King Harod’s territory and demands repentance even of him.  I wonder if the reason John has moved his ministry to Aenon was due to the summer drought.  The river would begin to dry up and he would have to seek a spot were the river was deeper.  This caused him to move north toward the realm of Harod.  We know that nothing happens by chance.  God caused John to move northward and knew full well that Harod would kill John.  Remember all things work together for good to them that love the Lord.  


II.  The two involved in the debate.

      John 3:25  Then there arose a question between [some] of John's disciples and the Jews about purifying.

      1.  The disciples of John are the ones confronted with the debate.  Notice that they did not confront John nor did they confront Jesus.  The devil knows where to take his fight.  The false religions of today will shun the door of the preacher but rejoice to find a child of God who has not studied the word of God.  Of the four possibilities the Jews have chosen the weakest opponent.  They would not confront Jesus for He would tell them they must be born of water even the Spirit.  They would not confront John for he would call them a generation of vipers and would demand repentance.  They would not confront the disciples of Jesus for these were too close to the Lord.  The disciples of John however show in the following verses traits of the flesh such as jealousy.  The child of God who walks in the flesh is ripe for the picking by Satan and his crowd.

            Let me interject here a caution.  The disciples of John were following John.  They needed to follow Jesus.  Do not follow a man.  It is fine to love your pastor.  It is good to like your pastor and enjoy his sermons and personality.  But your loyalty should be to Jesus.  Your pastor may disappoint you.  Your pastor may leave you.  If you come to church because of who the pastor is you come for the wrong reason.  Put Jesus first in your life.  Serve Him.  Exalt His name.  Follow His commands.  Seek to please Him in all that you do. 


      2.  The Jew or Jews are the antagonists here.  I say “Jew” singular for in the best manuscripts of the book of John the word is singular and there is no definite article.   I makes no difference to the story if one Jew or several Jews had come to antagonize the disciples of John.  The Jews believed in keeping the Law of Moses.  This is admirable for surely God is pleased with obedience to His Law.  The problem with them was that they believed that they could be good enough to go to heaven.  They believe in an outward show of religion.  They believed to be pure you must sacrifice, sprinkle and wash according to the ceremonies of the Law.  A Gentile had to come under the law of Moses to be saved.  They did not recognize the baptism of John or of Jesus as having power to make one pure.  In this regard they are right for baptism does not make one pure.

            Peter said of baptism (1 Peter 3:21)  The like figure whereunto [even] baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:”  He tells us that baptism is a figure that is it pictures something.  It pictures burial and resurrection.  I does not cleanse, wash, nor purify in anyway.  It is the answer of a good conscience toward God.  It is an act of obedience.  It shows to the world that you identify with Jesus Christ.   

            The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Romans, explained the picture portrayed by baptism.

      Rom 6:3-6  Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? (4)  Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. (5)  For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also [in the likeness] of [his] resurrection: (6)  Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with [him], that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.


Conclusion:  Jesus called those who are pure in heart “Blessed”. In Matthew 5:8 He said “Blessed [are] the pure in heart: for they shall see God.”  Purity in heart is what men need.   Jesus Christ is the only one who can accomplish this.  Paul wrote to Titus these words:

      Tit 2:14  Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works

      Jesus does the purifying.  He is the only one who can.  James tells us that there must be a Godly sorrow for sin and a desire to be purified.

      Jam 4:8-10  Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse [your] hands, [ye] sinners; and purify [your] hearts, [ye] double minded. (9)  Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and [your] joy to heaviness. (10)  Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.”


      The psalmist, David, tells us to look into the word of God to find the way of purity. 

      Psa 119:9  BETH. Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed [thereto] according to thy word.


      Ezekiel told the people of his day that God would make them pure.

      Eze 36:25  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. (water even the spirit)


      Jesus Told the Pharisees that purity must start from within which is a place that can not be reached with water or sprinkling with blood.

      Mat 23:26  [Thou] blind Pharisee, cleanse first that [which is] within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.


      Paul expresses the fact that Jesus purifies the church.

      Eph 5:25-27  Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; (26)  That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, (27)  That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.


      John tells us how to be made pure in the sight of God.  It begins with an admission of guilt and will end in purity.

     1 John 1:9  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.


      Jesus wants to make you pure.  If you will go to Him in prayer and ask for His forgiveness and ask Him to purify your heart He will save you now.  He will make your inward man pure and one day, at the resurrection, He will change your body and make it pure as well.  Will you believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God and by believing have life through His name?