Absolute Purity

by Scarlett Stough

When it comes to our food, we want it to be pure. We don’t like to find insects in our canned goods or to get sick from improperly grown and processed salad vegetables. We are appalled when we discover that an author liberally laced his non-fiction book with lies. We prosecute people who add poison to our medicines. The lack of purity can be lethal.

Purity is just as important to our character and our churches. Like every other quality such as faith and love, we either increase in it or decrease in it.

When Paul instructed Timothy to “set an example…in purity” (I Timothy 4:12), he was telling him to exercise “Christian self-control.” * The Greek word means the quality of cleanliness especially in regards to chastity. ** Among several dictionary definitions of the English word “pure,” are “free from adulterants,” “not mixed,” free of “defilement,” and “chaste, virgin.” ***

Paul also told Timothy to treat “…older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity” (I Timothy 5:2). There can be no question that he expected Timothy “to keep his hands to himself” and “don’t even think about it” when it came to sexual temptation.

Timothy is assumed to have been in his mid-thirties when he was given the responsibility of teaching the Ephesian church until Paul himself arrived. There is no indication that he was married. But married or single, just as in today’s churches, there would have been many opportunities for temptation.

Impurity in this area of life is like e coli bacteria in our food supply. Those affected by it get sick and the weakest die. An authority figure who succumbs to that temptation destroys his own credibility, damages the marriages involved, brings ridicule on the Christian church, and can disillusion new and weak believers to the point of causing them to give up. At the very least, the congregation is embarrassed and often thrown into chaos as people take sides.

We can’t assume that because our behavior seems pure that we are pure. Jesus taught that impure thoughts and lustful desires would be under his judgment as much as our actions (Matthew 5:27-30). Filling our minds with pornography or even “harmless” romance novels falls into this category.

There is grace: the sin can be repented of and be forgiven. If we have sinned in this area, God promises to forgive us when we have confessed and turned from it. There is no condemnation in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1), but the earthly consequences remain. How much better to squelch the thought before it becomes a craving and then an action (James 1:13-15).

We women have a responsibility before God and our Savior to be sure our dress and behavior is “motherly” or “sister-like” rather than provocative (I Peter 3:1-4). We are all exhorted to “avoid every form of evil” (I Thessalonians 5:22 NKJV).

Whatever the provocation, the command remains the same: “Flee from sexual immorality” (I Corinthians 6:18). We can’t hide behind “the devil made me do it.” We are no longer slaves to sin because Christ set us free (Romans 6:11-23). “For God has not called us to impurity, but to sanctification” (I Thessalonians 4:7 HCSB).

Whether we serve in an official capacity or not, all of us, men and women, should be setting an example in purity, absolute purity. Somebody is watching.

* The Message of I Timothy & Titus by John R. W. Stott, published by InterVarsity Press Page 120

** The New Strong’s Expanded Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Strong’s number 47.

*** The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language Fourth Edition, published by Houghton Mifflin Company

 

Bible Study Guide: Set an Example in Purity
 
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