Question #358

What about holy water?

Can you please give me the views of the Church on the Blessing of Water? By that I mean, in some religions (Catholics for one) water is "blessed" by a Priest and made "Holy"? Is this possible and is it a man-made practice or is it in the Bible? Thank you.

The Answer:

Since the Bible has no teaching on the subject there is nothing for the church to teach. Since the practice is not taught, much less authorized in scripture, it is a man-made practice. That in and of itself does not make it wrong since matters that the scripture does not bind are matters of opinion in which men may determine their practice as long as that practice does not violate scripture. Thus, the question is whether the practice of blessing water is a matter of opinion that does not violate scripture.

The earliest written documentation of Holy Water by Christians is in the Apostolic Constitutions, the author and date of which are uncertain. Some attribute it to Clement of Rome, but no basis was given for that attribution in the source that made it. That authorship would be difficult since Clement of Rome died in 99 to 101 A.D. and the dates for the Constitutions range from 120 A.D. to 190 A.D. One source said the quote came from the 300s but that is far outside all other dates seen. It could be that the writer considered that the date the manuscript was found, but it did not say so. The comment is taken from the Constitutions, Sec. IV, XXIX: “Concerning the water and the oil, I Matthias make a constitution. Let the bishop bless the water, or the oil. But if he be not there, let the presbyter bless it, the deacon standing by. But if the bishop be present, let the presbyter and deacon stand by, and let him say thus: O Lord of hosts, the God of powers, the creator of the waters, and the supplier of oil, who art compassionate, and a lover of mankind, who hast given water for drink and for cleansing, and oil to give man a cheerful and joyful countenance; do Thou now also sanctify this water and this oil through Thy Christ, in the name of him or her that has offered them, and grant them a power to restore health, to drive away diseases, to banish demons, and to disperse all snares through Christ our hope, with whom glory, honour, and worship be to Thee, and to the Holy Ghost, for ever. Amen.”

Apostolic Constitutions was always considered on of the spurious books. Thus, it has no apostolic origin or approval. This does not necessarily mean that it violates scripture. There is no doubt that water played a great role in biblical history. The scripture (KJV) refers to “holy water” one time: “And the priest shall take holy water in an earthen vessel; and of the dust that is in the floor of the tabernacle the priest shall take, and put it into the water:” (Num 5:17). The water in this case was used in connection with the testing of a woman’s faithfulness to her husband when there was no witness to the alleged conduct. The water was probably taken from the basin before the sanctuary, which served for holy purposes (Exod. 30:18). It was mingled with dust from the floor of the dwelling and the woman was to drink it in connection with the priestly procedure commanded by the Lord. In the New Testament there are no such basins, no such procedures, and no such commands. Thus it cannot be used as authority for the modern procedure.

In the modern procedure the “holy water” is generally used for healing or, as the Apostolic Constitutions recite, for “power to restore health, to drive away diseases, to banish demons, and to disperse all snares….” Since the stated purpose is unscriptural (there are no modern-day miracles in the biblical manner) the use of water for that purpose is unscriptural. Moreover, a very common use of such paraphernalia is by TV evangelists to defraud people. They will offer a vial of water (or oil or a rag or alleged Holy Land sand) over which they have prayed and assure the hearers that for a “gift” they will send this “thing” and it will bring everything for healing to prosperity.

In short, there is no biblical authority for the use of “holy water.”

God's Plan of Salvation

You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)

You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)

You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)

Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)