Job 14:4, “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean thing? There is not one.”
Sometimes we make big messes that are hard to clean up—wine on our shirt or carpet, grease on our jeans after working on our car. What’s even worse is that sometimes our best efforts to clean up the mess aren’t enough. At times we even make messes in our own lives—something we said to a friend that we can’t take back, or something we did, whatever it may be. Even worse—and impossible—is cleaning up our grime of sin. Job asks, “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean thing? There is not one.” Isaiah said, “Our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment” (64:6), or as the KJV says, our righteousness is “as filthy rags.” Neither Job nor Isaiah were being pessimistic or cynical; they were both drawing upon the reality of original sin in our lives. Each of us are born into sin. As God has said, “The intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Genesis 8:21). From the moment we are infants, our natural inclination is to sin, which is evident in our disobedience as infants, toddlers, children, and learning more ways to sin against God and people as we venture into adolescence and become adults. As Job points out, no one can clean an unclean thing. Does that mean we’re hopeless? Only if your reliance is upon yourself or some other human being or human created philosophy.
Like David, we can appeal to God’s mercy, “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!” (Psalm 51:2). David knew that only God can clean up his life of sin. God cleans us for the sake of Jesus, “the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). Moreover, God cleanses us from our sins in Baptism, “And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptised and wash away your sins, calling on His name” (Acts 22:16). A common misconception of baptism is that in it we “make a decision” for Christ, but we don’t do anything in our baptism. How can we expect to clean ourselves when we have no power to clean up our sins? Only God has the ability to do that, which He does in Baptism because Jesus has promised to be with us in the Holy Spirit in Baptism (John 14:26; Matthew 28:18-20). Paul says we were dead in our sins (Ephesians 2:1). How can spiritually dead people cleanse themselves? Therefore, our ultimate reliance is on God’s work in baptism.
Whenever we feel like a mess, we can always remember our Baptism and that in those waters combined with God’s efficacious Word, our sins were cleansed.