Your word is very pure, therefore Your servant loves it. – Psalm 119:140
Continuing on in the Philippians 4:8 series, we now come to discuss what is pure. The word Paul uses for “pure” there means holy, pure, clean. It caries the idea of moral and ethical purity. Christians are called to keep themselves pure, and to be holy as God is holy. God’s purity will never be lowered or adulterated. He doesn’t compromise His nature to dwell with us, but rather calls us out of darkness and into the light where we are conformed to His image. Without Christ, we would naturally dispair because the bar is set so high. It is unfortunately all too easy to allow the thoughts going through our heads to fall below the standard of God’s perfect holiness. It feels like we are constantly assaulted with things that are contrary to the righteousness of God’s kingdom. Thankfully, God’s word is a source for us in the process of sanctification. Let’s take a look at some of the elements we find there.
1. God’s written word is pure and a purifier
The words of the LORD are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. – Psalm 12:6
The first step along the way is the foundation for purity. When David says that the words of the Lord are pure, to get the sense of this statement we should consider what takes place in the refining process of silver, because that’s the comparison that is being made. Now, I’m no expert in this area, but I think I have learned enough to briefly describe it and help us make the application here. I found that the majority of the time, silver does not come from pure silver ore. You start with a material like lead which will contain the silver, but in order for it to be useful and valuable, the silver needs to be refined and separated from the lesser metal. We live in different times from Bible times, and I’m sure our process now is different, but regardless of the method, what needs to be done is essentially this: The lead needs to be put in extreme heat and smelted. At this point the impurities must be removed from the silver. Impurities which are removed from the silver are referred to as dross in the Bible:
Take away the dross from the silver, and the smith has material for a vessel – Proverbs 25:4
So David is saying that just as silver that has been properly refined, is free from impurity, so is God’s word. And as if that analogy wasn’t enough, he says that it is like silver that has gone through that refining process seven times! As you may well be aware of, the number seven in the bible is significant. That number wasn’t chosen arbitrarily, but is perfectly fitting, being the number that represents completeness and perfection. I’m not sure how you could stress the purity of God’s word better than that. It is like silver refined seven times. And it flows from this truth that His word is a guide to us; a way that we are purified.
How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word. – Psalm 119:9
God’s word is the answer for how to keep pure. There are two practical points I’d like to make from this verse. And the first is, that to keep our way pure we must be “keeping it”. Sounds simple, I know. But it is the simple things that are often easy to overlook. Keeping our way pure is an ongoing activity. Don’t be content with last week’s or even yesterday’s reading. Take up God’s word today, and even now see where you are at. Let it be your constant guide.
The second point is that we are to keep our way pure according to “Your word.” Meaning God’s word. Again, it sounds very simple, but our ultimate guide must always be God’s word. Our idea of how to live should not be shaped by our culture, movies, music, professors, governments, etc. I’m not putting those things in an all bad category, sometimes they are very good. I’m simply making the point that God’s word is ultimately the guide by which we keep our life pure.
2. The incarnate Word is pure and a purifier
“Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, He is coming, says the LORD of hosts. But who can endure the day of His coming, and who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD. – Malachi 3:1-3
This passage from Malachi highlights many points that are applicable for the theme of this post. I agree with the all around consensus that the first messenger spoken of is a reference to John the Baptist, who prepared the way for the coming of the Messiah. And the messenger of the covenant is that Messiah, Jesus, who is said “will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver”. I have mentioned how the written word is pure and a purifier. And now we see that the incarnate Word, the Word made flesh, is also a purifier. Jesus Himself is like a refiner’s fire! This is what the prophet foretold. Let’s see what the New Testament says happened when the Messiah came.
I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit He takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. – John 15:1-3
Breaking away from the analogy of heat and refining fire, but related to this same process of sanctification, Jesus says that fruit-bearing Christians are pruned by the Father. This pruning is for our benefit, and further stimulates our growth. Then our Lord says to His disciples, “you are already clean [pure] because of the word that I have spoken to you.” The words and teachings of Jesus to the apostles are now written down for us in the four Gospel accounts, and are a source of cleansing for us as well. Jesus confirmed the prophecy concerning Himself by saying that His words are purifying words. Paul also confirms the same when he says that Jesus:
gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession who are zealous for good works. – Titus 2:14
Just as the refiner’s fire is the purifier of gold and silver, Jesus Christ is the great purifier of people. He is able to take what is crimson and make it as white as snow. He is able to make a clean thing out of what is unclean. Only the perfect work of Christ can refine us and purify us to the point where all impurities and dross are removed, and we are ready vessels for His kingdom.
3. Guarding the purity of God’s word
Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. Do not add to His words, lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar. – Proverbs 30:5-6
Given everything that has been written so far, I end with an exhortation that we must keep God’s word pure. God’s word is pure, and keeps us pure. Our responsibility in turn is to maintain the purity of God’s word. An alloy is a mixture of two or more metals. In a negative sense it means to debase something by adding something inferior. May we never be found creating an alloy of God’s word mixed with our own thoughts and ideas that are not in harmony with His truth. This applies even to what I’m doing right now as I write this blog! I take the responsibility very seriously. I like to use a lot of Scripture throughout my posts to develop a biblical theme, and for the sake of space and time, can’t usually quote everything in it’s original context. But I take a lot of time to try and make sure I am not using any versus unfaithfully. Then, after the verses are quoted, my hope is that I am being faithful to what they mean as well. And I eagerly welcome comments from others, as I still have A LOT to learn. Let us be found saying only what God is saying, and thinking what God is thinking. The Pharisees (religious leaders) of Jesus’ day had made an alloy of God’s word and their traditions, debasing it by adding something inferior. This prompted the question Jesus posed to them, asking, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?” Let’s see their example and avoid the same mistake. We will do well to remember God’s command to keep His word pure.
Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it. – Deuteronomy 12:32