“Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”” Mark 9:24
The expression “Cleanliness is next to Godliness” is never found in Scripture, but rather seems to have come from an archaic proverb found in Babylonian religious tracts. The earliest record of this phrase being used in English is in a sermon by the great preacher, John Wesley in 1791. He said, “Slovenliness is no part of religion. Cleanliness is indeed next to Godliness.”
Scripture certainly has a lot to say about cleanliness. The book of Leviticus alone mentions “clean” some 45 times, and “unclean” some 128 times! Repeatedly, God’s people are to embrace the clean, and to remain completely separate from the unclean. And yet as you read through the profusion of ceremonial laws, you can’t help but realize that most often, the uncleanness was the result of their own bodies! Israel, like us, were defiled from within, and had no hope of ever washing away the ever-present stain of sin!
The hope of every Old Testament saint was for a Saviour to come, who would completely wash away all their uncleanness! They may not have understood how that would take place exactly, but for those living on this side of the cross – we look back with amazement and wonder at the power of that divine Sacrifice – able and effective in cleaning those who were altogether unclean because of their sin!
And yet as we make our way through this life, we recognize that though the penalty of sin has been paid, and the power of sin has been dealt a death-blow, the presence of sin is still very real in our lives! Someone has once well said, “What a profound mixture we are of the depraved and the holy.” The father of a boy with an unclean spirit confessed through tears in Mark 9:24, “I believe; help my unbelief!” And all of us are still works in progress. All of us have days in which we are discouraged and doubtful, anxious and afraid. Spurgeon said, “The most golden faith, or the purest degree of sanctification are only worthy of the flames.”
But we have a sympathetic high-priest who understands our weakness! He rebukes unclean spirits, grants faith to those who doubt, and will one day welcome us into His glorious presence, clothed in robes of righteousness, washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb, never to be unclean again!