We may imagine that the author is referring to the ceremony called baptism here. As a person washes away dirt, so God removes a new Christianís sin (evil deeds). So, in baptism, some Christians splash that person with water; and other Christians bathe that person. The author is certainly thinking about the meaning of baptism, and he seems to mention both methods. But actually, the reference is to customs that are even more ancient.
After certain events, the laws of Moses declared people to be unclean. It meant that those people could not worship (give honour to) God in public. They could not go to Godís house and they had to separate themselves from other people. Before they became clean again, they had to bathe in water (see, for example, Leviticus chapter 15). Then, they could worship in public again.
The author of Hebrews has already explained how Moses splashed people with blood (Hebrews 9:19). It meant that the people were holy. In other words, they belonged to God.
The author uses these customs to explain what God has done for Christians. Water can only clean the outside of a person. But when God forgives a personís sins, he does it completely. He declares clean even the parts of the person that we cannot see, for example, the heart.
When the laws of Moses declared people clean, they could gather round the house of God. But they could never enter it. But when God declares people clean by the blood of Jesus, they can go into the holiest place.
The death of Jesus has made them holy. They trust him completely, so they can worship God with sincere hearts.
Next part: God is faithful (Hebrews 10:23)
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© 2014, Keith Simons.