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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
Title:Wash and Be Cleansed!
Text:2 Kings 5:1-19a (View)
Occasion:Lord's Supper
Topic:Our Salvation

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Pastor Ted Gray
09/14/14 – a.m.

 “Wash and  Be Cleansed”
     2 Kings 5:1-19a

Naaman would be one of those people who would be so hard to buy a present for.  I’m sure you’ve encountered that at some point. Maybe you have a friend or family member who seems to have everything. At Christmas or their birthday, what can you possibly buy for them?

Naaman was like that. He had everything anyone could ever want. He had everything that those in the world value. He had a great job. Verse 1 tells us how Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Syria. Syria had a powerful army and Naaman was the chief commander.

Because of his position with the King of Syria, he also had prestige. Verse 1 goes on to say, He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded.  His high regard was due to the great success that he had as a military commander.  Verse 1 describes how through him the LORD had given victory to Syria. 

Furthermore, he had wealth. When Naaman left for Israel he took with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold and ten sets of clothing (5b). Yet, even though Naaman had all these blessings there was not a single person in Syria who would trade places with him.  For he also had leprosy. Verse 1 concludes: He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper.

It wasn’t a minor skin disease, although many Bibles have footnotes explaining that the Hebrew word for leprosy covers a wide range of skin diseases.  But this was no minor rash. This wasn’t a light infection. It was terminal disease.  It was fatal.  There was no human cure.      

By God’s providence, into his life came this servant girl, who with a child like faith, witnessed to  him. She said to her mistress, who worked directly for Naaman, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy” (v. 3). And Naaman, to his credit, listened and with the king’s blessing he left for Israel.

Naaman’s Mistakes

Unfortunately, in the process of seeking the cure, Naaman made a number of mistakes: First, he thought he could buy the cure.  Did you notice the value of the gifts he brought to Elisha, as recorded in verse 5?  He had ten suits, and these weren’t just any suits. These were special. They were expensive suits of great quality, carefully tailored and expertly crafted from the finest materials available.

The silver was also special. 750 pounds of pure silver. There were no impurities mixed in. It was the purest of the pure. And then, in case that wasn’t enough to buy the cure, he had gold, 150 pounds of solid gold. Back then gold was weighed and valued differently than today, but by today’s standards the 150 pounds of gold would be worth well over two million dollars. If a cure could be bought, Naaman had the resources and the money to buy it.

A second mistake that Naaman made is that he also tried to be cleansed from his terminal disease through influence. He got a letter from the king of Syria, addressed to the king of Israel. The letter that he took to the king of Israel read: “With this letter I am sending my servant Naaman to you so that you may cure him of his leprosy” (v. 6).

He may have thought: “If the gold and silver aren’t enough to impress the prophet, I’ll bring a letter from the king of Syria to the king of Israel. Then I will have even more influence with this prophet, Elisha. This letter will give me political influence as well as religious influence. Both the money and the letter from the king will be enough to lead to my cleansing, my healing cure.”

Naaman’s third mistake is that he took great offense when Elisha sent out his servant, telling him to wash seven times in the Jordan River.  In verse 12  he exclaimed, “Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than any of the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?”  So he turned and went off in a rage.
Enter more servants. They bring him to his senses. Verse 13: Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!”

Naaman, dipped himself in the river seven times; was cleansed, cured. He praised God and left rejoicing in the God of Israel.

Quite a story, isn’t it?  But how does it relate to us, especially as we take the Lord’s Supper this morning?

 The Condition and the Cure

One application is that all humanity is, by nature, just as terminal as Naaman. No matter what blessings you and I may have in life - wealth, success, prestige - we are still afflicted with the terminal condition of sin. Romans 3:23: All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:10: There is no one righteous, no not one.

We are not just terminally ill. In the words of Ephesians 2:1 we are dead in our sins and trespasses. Spiritually, apart from faith in Christ, we are dead and by nature, Ephesians 2:3 tells us, we are objects of God’s righteous and proper wrath.

Naaman’s leprosy points us to the terrible, terminal condition of every human being.  We are sinners, and the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Physical death. Spiritual death. Eternal death, which is eternal separation from the love of God in the torment of hell.

While that is the bad news there is also good news. There is a cure for sin, but it is only found in the cleansing that comes when we believe in Jesus alone for our salvation. The gospel is as simple as Elisha’s servant’s command to Naaman “Wash and be clean.”  The message is “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved…” (Acts 16:31). Yet so many millions of people today stumble for the same reasons Naaman did.  Naaman’s reaction to the command to be cleansed in the Jordan River is very similar to the response of countless millions to the gospel message of cleansing from sin through faith in Jesus Christ.

Stumbling Blocks

Naaman had his silver and gold, and those ten fine suits from Syria. But they could not buy his cleansing.  They could not purchase a cure for his terminal disease. For the cleansing was freely given. There was no way to buy that cleansing from leprosy.

Yet many today are no different than Naaman. In essence, they say the same thing to the Lord. “Accept me for my works.  Accept me because I’m a good person. Accept me on the basis of who I am and all the good things I have done.” Yet, as Isaiah 64:6 says, All of us have become as one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf; and like the wind, our sins sweep us away.

Another way that Naaman sought to be cleansed from leprosy was through the letter from the king. He figured it would add a little extra weight to the gifts of gold, silver and the ten exquisite suits. And in much the same way, many people today think they can be accepted by God because of their association with others. They say, in effect, “Lord, here’s my letter of membership in the local church. I’ve been a member all my life.  Lord, here’s my baptismal certificate. And, Lord, my father and mother believed in You. You cleansed them, cleanse me because I grew up under their care.”

As we look at Naaman’s futile effort to use influence to be cleansed we are reminded that we can have all the right connections, be from a godly family and active in a Bible-believing church, yet not have cleansing from our sin.

Jesus said: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophecy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and do many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”  (Matthew 7:22-23).

A third stumbling stone for many people, when it comes to the cleansing power of Jesus Christ for sin, is rooted in their pride. Pride keeps many from confessing their sin. Others may confess that they have sins and “short-comings,”  but they don’t acknowledge the heinous nature of those sins. They take sin lightly, so that they have a better self image, even though they admit to some short-comings. In short, such people are offended by the cross and are too proud to be washed and cleansed by Jesus blood.

Naaman also had a problem with pride. He knew he had leprosy, but he didn’t want to submit to God’s way of cleansing.  In verse 9 and 10 we read: So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house. Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.”
At that point Naaman’s pride was bruised.  His ego was deflated.  He wasn’t receiving the recognition that someone of his stature expected.  Elisha didn’t even come and greet him; he sent a lowly servant instead.

Verse 11and 12: …Naaman went away angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy.  Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than any of the waters of Israel? Couldn't I wash in them and be cleansed?”  So he turned and went off in a rage.

In John Bunyan’s classic book, Pilgrim’s Progress, Bunyan uses the names of his characters to effectively portray what they are really like.  Christian is the main character, but those who have read the book will remember the descriptive names of people like Pliable, Obstinate, Goodwill, Simple, and Sloth, along with many others.

One of the many characters is named “Mr. Loathe to Stoop.”  He was loath to stoop before the Lord.  When Mr. Loathe to Stoop came across Immanuel he wanted Immanuel - the Lord - to recognize him for his superior character and for his dignity. That is why Bunyan aptly named him “Mr. Loathe to Stoop.”

Apparently he had many relatives because so many people today, in their pride, are loathe to stoop before Immanuel, - the crucified and risen Savior, the King of kings and Lord of lords before whom one day every knee will bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord of all (Philippians 2:9-11).

A fourth stumbling block to Naaman, which is still a stumbling block for many people today, is the simplicity of salvation. Millions upon millions of people today refuse to believe that cleansing can be as simple as believing in Jesus alone for salvation from sin. They want to be accepted because of their works, their association with others, their superior character and dignity. They might give lip service to faith in Jesus, but they want to add their works.

Many others believe that their sins are too great to be forgiven simply by believing in Christ. To their credit, they see the enormity of their sin, but they seem to forget these comforting words of Jesus: In Matthew 9:12 Jesus says,  “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” Luke 19:10 records Him saying: “The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”  And in Luke 5:32 Jesus says, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

But instead of listening to those words of assurance and comfort, those words of mercy and grace from the sympathetic High Priest and Redeemer, many people listen to the Accuser who says, “Why would God accept you?  Look at all the sinful thoughts and deeds you have! God would never let you into His kingdom,” he says, as he takes his magnifying glass over each one of your sins, magnifying them as large as possible before your eyes.

Although there are so many stumbling blocks, each complicated by our sin, the work of salvation is put before us so simply, just as the work of cleansing was put before Naaman so simply.  In John 6:28 the people came to Jesus and asked, “What must we do to do the work that God requires?”  Like Naaman, they probably expected a complicated and expensive procedure. Perhaps they expected  a long list of do’s and don’ts. They were familiar with the Pharisees, the religious leaders of their day. The Pharisees had over 600 different commandments that they lived by. Consequently, the people may have thought that Jesus would have even more rules, more stipulations to “do the work that God requires." 

But in John 6:29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the One whom He has sent.” 

Cleansing Through Faith in Christ Alone

As we come to the Lord’s Supper we are reminded by the elements before us of the greatest cleansing power in the universe, the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. His cleansing cannot be bought. His cleansing isn’t given to us because we know the right people or have membership in the right church. It is so simple that many stumble, not wanting to admit that cleansing from sin - our salvation - is all of God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ: faith in His perfect life imputed - credited - to us, His sacrificial death to cover our sins, and His glorious resurrection for our justification.

By way of application, we see that to properly take the Lord's Supper we must be cleansed of our sin through faith in Jesus Christ alone.  As the hymn writer, Horatius Bonar, put it:

Thy grace alone, O God,
To me can pardon speak;
Thy pow’r alone, O Son of God,
Can this sore bondage break.
No other work, save thine,
No other blood will do;
No strength, save that which is divine,
Can bear me safely through.  (Not What My Hands Have Done).

There is no other place of cleansing.  It is only found on the cross.  The cleansing power of Christ is prefigured and anticipated throughout the Old Testament.  Christ is the central focal point of all Scripture, as He Himself told His disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:27). 
Just as Naaman was cleansed of leprosy by obeying the word of God, so we are cleansed from sin by obeying the word of Jesus, “The work of God is this: to believe in the One whom He has sent.” 

True saving faith in Christ is not a mere mental assent that Jesus existed, suffered, died, and rose again. True saving faith has three elements: There is that intellectual knowledge concerning who Jesus Christ is, but there is also an emotional element. 

Saving faith in Christ transforms us, as we become new creations in Him. He lives in us and we live in Him. With the Apostle Paul and all believers of every era of time we can exclaim: "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). True saving faith is more than knowledge in one’s head. It is a deep, sincere God-given love in the heart.  As 1 John 4:19 says, We love because He first loved us.

In addition to the intellectual and emotional element of true saving faith there is also a volitional element.  Our faith affects our will, the way we act. It affects how we live. By God’s grace and sanctifying Spirit we begin to grow in the obedience that comes from faith  (Romans 1:5).

By way of examination, are you and I trusting somehow in our works or perceived obedience? Are we  trusting in our own morality and ethics?  Or trusting in our church membership or our place within a godly family?

All those things are important, but the only way to be cleansed is to believe with a true saving faith in the One whom the Father has sent, the Lord Jesus Christ. Without saving faith in Him we eat and drink judgment to ourselves (as we saw last week).  In 1 Corinthians 11:27-29 the Scripture warns us: Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.

As we examine ourselves may we see that apart from Christ we are just as terminal as Naaman was. May we see our sin and confess it with the full assurance that our sins are covered by the precious blood of Jesus Christ, separated from us as far as the east is from the west, cast into the depth of the sea and remembered for judgment no more.

As we eat of the bread and drink of the cup, may we realize anew the preciousness of the cleansing power of Jesus, - and then, leave rejoicing, praising God as Naaman did when he also, submitted to the Lord’s Word and found cleansing from a terrible and terminal condition. Amen.


- Bulletin Outline -


Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!’’ - 2 Kings 5:13

 “Wash and Be Cleansed!”
      2 Kings 5:1-19a

I.   Naaman had everything anyone could ever want, but he also had leprosy (1b) 
       1) He sought the cure monetarily (5) and through influence with the king (4-6)


       2) He was deeply offended by the cure offered by Elisha (9-12)


II.  Applications:
       1) All humanity is, by nature, just as terminal as Naaman (Romans 3:10, 23; Ephesians 2:1-3)


       2) The only cure is through faith in Jesus (Acts 4:12; 16:30-31)


       3) Many stumble for the same reasons Naaman did. They:
             a) Try to buy salvation with works (5; Isaiah 64:6)


             b) Want acceptance by God through their association with others or through the church
                   (5-6; Matthew 7:22-23)


             c) Are offended by the cross and are too proud to be washed and cleansed by Jesus (9-
                 12; 1 Corinthians 1:22-24, 28-31)


             d) Refuse to believe that cleansing can be as simple as believing in Jesus alone for
                  salvation (13; John 6:28-29)


         4) To properly take the Lord’s Supper we must, by grace, be cleansed of our sin through
              faith in Jesus alone; and, having been cleansed, be filled with gratitude (15-19; 1 Peter


09/14/2014 - a.m.


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 09/1, Rev. Ted Gray

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