For They Shall See God
The plea of God to His people is simple, but demanding: “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you” (2 Cor. 6:17). God’s will for those who would be His people has always been that they be separate from the world in every way: their words and their deeds, their appearance, and — most importantly — their hearts. Early in His dealings with His people (the Israelites), He commanded, “You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy” (Lev. 11:44); this command is reiterated in the New Testament for Christians (1 Pet. 1:15, 16).
I hope we all understand that the matter of purity — especially before God — is much more than our outward appearances and actions. Especially when we remember the Lord looks on the heart of man (cf. 1 Sam. 16:7), we cannot deceive ourselves (or others) into thinking an outward demonstration of what might appear to be purity means anything if we are not truly pure in the heart. There is a truth we cannot avoid in the words of Jesus when He said, “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things” (Matt. 12:34, 35); who we are at heart is who we really are. If we are not truly pure in heart, we will not be pure in reality.
Purity of heart must then be the primary goal as each disciple strives for spiritual growth and maturity, aiming to be more like Christ every day. With Christ as our standard, purity of heart must constantly be our goal and we must also constantly strive to maintain it, since our spiritual adversary will be constantly striving to lead our hearts astray. Christ even established certain offices within the church to equip all disciples that they might be who they are supposed to be and do what they are supposed to do (Eph. 4:11, 12), and that each one may come “to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13). An unattainable goal? No, but it is one that takes constant attention and effort.
But, first, let us stop and consider the meaning of purity; if we don’t understand what it is God demands of us, or even if we don’t fully understand it, we may fall short or miss the mark altogether. From what we have seen already with God’s demand of His people, this is not something we should treat casually or lightly. So, what does it mean? What is it that God demands of all who would be His people?
As the term purity is used in the New Testament (cf. 1 Tim. 4:12; 1 Tim. 5:2), the word infers chastity, which means sexual purity in actions and thoughts. Especially in Paul’s words to Timothy, the young evangelist, there was a need for heeding this admonition that his reputation would be without a mark against him, and that there would be no doubts as to his intentions. Many a young man — and far too many older ones — have ruined their reputations, marriages, and their lives because they did not heed this admonition, and, despite what some might think, preachers are not immune to this, either. The devil would like nothing more than to destroy the reputation of one who is most visible and influential in trying to lead souls away from him, so it is not to be taken lightly.
But purity is not just about the sexual aspect: the word pure, as used in the New Testament, applies in the broadest sense to one’s moral cleanness; it is the absence (and denial of) any unrighteous desire. Adam Clarke notes, in his comments on Matthew 5:8, that this means purification “from all vile affections and desires,” while Albert Barnes notes that this describes those “whose minds, motives, and principles are pure; who seek not only to have the external actions correct, but who desire to be holy in heart, and who are so.” In simple terms, purity is the practice of “denying ungodliness and worldly lusts” that one might “live soberly, righteously, and godly” (Titus 2:12). Purity demands denial, just as much as positive additions.
Now, if we understand what God demands of us, we also understand that this is no easy task in achieving it, and one that demands our constant attention to maintaining it. Just as a garden in which we never break the soil or plant a seed will never produce anything, we cannot expect purity without effort. Likewise, as a garden unattended will soon be overcome with weeds, we must make a constant effort to keep all impurities out of our lives, else they will soon overtake and overwhelm the good, and whatever might have been good and pure will be ruined.
With this in mind, let us now consider what we must do to achieve and maintain purity, as God demands of us, and what God must do to make us pure.
The Blood of Christ. Everyone who knows much at all about the Scriptures and, particularly, the gospel message, knows how vital the precious blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is. Simply put: We would be lost without it! John put it concisely when he wrote that it was Christ who “loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood” (Rev. 1:5). When Paul noted the past sinful behavior of the Corinthian brethren, he then noted that since then, they had been “washed,…sanctified,…(and)…justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:9-11); that washing was by the precious blood of Jesus Christ!
Let us never forget the price that was paid that we who were once unrighteous, ungodly, and polluted to the very core of our souls were made clean and pure by that sacrifice. It is a price none of us could pay, but it was made possible by God’s grace!
Pure Thoughts. But the blood of Christ does not cleanse us from the point of conversion onward, with no responsibility for the disciple. No, each one of us must now do our part in maintaining that purity. Our behavior matters! And since our behavior matters, we must also acknowledge it is the heart (the mind; our thoughts) that determines words and deeds, and it is there we must put forth the primary effort to deny the ungodly and unrighteous, and concentrate on the godly, righteous, and pure.
To that end, the apostle Paul lays out the path to purity when he admonishes us, “whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things” (Phil. 4:8).
Paul’s admonition must be understood as an imperative, and to the exclusion of those things that are not true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy; we cannot “meditate on these things” and also meditate on the ungodly and unrighteous things. Just as James noted cursing and blessing should not come out of the same mouth (Jas. 3:10), neither should our thoughts be of both the pure and impure. I am sure we all would like to drink from a glass of water we know to be 100% pure, and not “mostly” pure. God does not desire a mind or life that is “mostly” pure, either. We will never achieve the purity of mind God demands as long as we make room in our thoughts for the impure. — Steven Harper