The Purity of the Church
The law requires that commercial products sold either for food or for medicine make known the content and the net weight of the product on the outside of the container. In some cases the purity of the particular product is specified. It is unfortunate that spiritual merchandise is not always so labeled. In spiritual matters it is necessary for us to judge for ourselves the purity of the merchandise we buy. Too often people consider this of little importance. We are rightly concerned about the food we eat to nourish the physical body. Is it not infinitely more important that we exercise even greater care in regard to the spiritual food we consume?
Webster defines purity as follows: " Free from all heterogeneous or extraneous matter, especially from anything that impairs or pollutes; free from that which defiles or contaminates; innocent; spotless; chaste, genuine." With these qualities in mind let us think about the purity of the church which as so much to do with our soul's eternal welfare.
To the church at Ephesus Paul said: "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish" (Eph. 5: 25-27). It is evident that the Lord wanted the church for which Christ died to be kept pure and undefiled. To the church at Corinth Paul wrote, "For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ" (2 Cor. 11: 2). Some of the members at Corinth had become very impure in their moral life. False teachers had introduced extraneous matter and the doctrine of the church had, to some degree, been corrupted. Paul wrote the first Corinthian letter to correct those evils and to rid the church of both moral and doctrinal impurity. He desired to be able to present them as a chaste virgin to Christ.
In John 3:29 John the Baptist makes it clear that the church is Christ's bride. The wedding will be consummated at the judgment. Christ desires that when that time comes, the bride will have adorned herself properly in character and appearance. "Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of the saints" (Rev. 19:7-8). Christ has made this possible by providing his bride with garments that have been cleansed from all blemishes in his own blood (l Jno. 1:7).
If the church is to be kept pure we must begin with the members who constitute the church. In setting forth the qualities of character which members of the coming kingdom must possess, Christ said, "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God" (Matt. 5:8). The heart refers to our inner life. Reformation and self-improvement must begin with consciousness of sin, the lament over it, the longing for divine goodness, and the opening of the heart or mind to the reception of that goodness. Again near Paul, "Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved let us cleanse ourselves of all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (2 Cor. 7:1). James said, Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded" (Jas. 4:8).
If our service is to be acceptable to the God we serve, not only must we be pure in heart, but we must serve him from pure motives. Our motive must be to please God, not man. Paul said, "If I yet please men, I should not be the servant of Christ." In speaking of those who should be acceptable in God's sanctuary, David said, "Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully" (Ps. 24:3-4).
Neither our worship nor our life will be acceptable in God's sight unless we are pure in heart, pure in motive, and pure in life. One of the greatest threats to the church today is the impurity of its members. One of the greatest dangers to the church today is that it may lose its identity by becoming so much like the world that those who are not members of the church cannot tell the difference between the world and the church Christ taught his disciples that they were to have an influence in the world. We all have an influence either for good or for bad. Too many times it is not for good. Christ said, "Ye are the salt of the earth." Salt is used as a germicide, as a preservative, and to improve the flavor of food. Do we thus function, spiritually? One quality of salt is that it retains its identity. It does its work without partaking of the nature of the thing it preserves. Christians must retain their identity as Christians if the church is to be kept pure. Paul plead with the Corinthians, "Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you" (II Cor. 6:17). He urged the Roman brethren to "Be not conformed to this world." Many professed Christians are like the chameleon. They are quick-change artists. They conform in their actions to the company they happen to be in. When they are in Rome, they do as Rome does. The three Hebrew children and Daniel refused to obey the dictates of the Babylonian and Persian kings, or to conform to the ways of the Chaldeans. If the church is to be kept pure, to retain its identity, it must have more Daniels, more separatists, more nonconformists and fewer chameleons.
If the church is to be kept pure, it is necessary for preachers to preach a pure gospel. The preacher's first obligation is to preach the truth. His second obligation is to preach the truth in love. He must shun not to declare the whole council of God. No preacher should soft pedal the truth, nor sugar coat it in order to please men; neither should he make a special effort to see how offensive he can be in presenting the truth. Like Paul, he should determine not to know anything save Jesus Christ and him crucified. He should reprove, rebuke, and exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. The gospel must be unmixed with
modernism. Neither theology, philosophy, nor psychology will point a sinner to Christ or save a soul from death. The pure gospel is as well, adapted to the needs of man in this modern world as it was to the needs of man in the first century. A pure gospel, preached in love, without compromise, is a must if the church is to be kept pure.
Elders, likewise, have a great responsibility in helping to keep the church pure. As shepherds they must watch for the souls of their flock. They must give account for them in the judgment. They must guide, guard, feed and protect the flock over which the Holy Spirit has made them overseers. The Lord has confined their oversight to the local congregation (I Pet. 5:1-4). They are responsible for the gospel that is preached, for the worship that is rendered, for the work that is done, and for the way the Lord's money is used in the local congregation. When members become immoral in life they must seek to restore them, in the spirit of meekness. If this fails, they must see that the ungodly members are withdrawn from in order to keep the church pure (l Cor. 5:4-5).
Members, preachers and elders all share in the responsibility of keeping the church pure. In order for Christ to be able to present the church, his bride, to himself without spot the blemish, the members must be pure in life, the gospel must be unperverted, the worship must be renderer in spirit and in truth, the work must be according to the divine pattern, and the doctrine must not be diluted or watered down by interpretation to "suit the changing times".
Adultery is one of the common moral evils of our day. This has always been displeasing to God. Both Israel and Judah were charged with committing spiritual adultery. In speaking of their unchaste acts, Jeremiah said, "And I said after she had done all these things, Turn thou unto me. But she returned not. And her treacherous sister saw it. And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also" (Jer. 3: 7-8). God divorced Israel and Judah for adultery. They committed spiritual adultery by worshiping and serving idols contrary to God's law. If God was displeased with temporal Israel, and put her away for her adultery; does it seem reasonable that Christ would be any less displeased with his bride if she is found guilty of spiritual adultery?
In giving the Law God informed Israel that he was a jealous God. He is still a jealous God today, for God does not change. God created Israel to glorify him (Isa. 43:7). He wants the church to glorify him today. Paul said, "Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen" (Eph. 3:21). Today, the commandments and doctrines of men compete with the gospel of Christ, and institutions of men compete with the church for glory. Is not this similar to the spiritual adultery of Israel? Let us unite to keep the church pure in doctrine, in worship, and in work.
Truth Magazine VII: 3, pp. 17-19