What is purification of the soul
The purification of the soul
|The Christian's life and teaching|
"Since you have purified your souls by obedience to the truth to the unsuspecting brotherly love, love one another with fervent love from a pure heart". - 1 Peter 1:22
Holiness to the Lord is a particularly important requirement of the Christian life. Without holiness, no Christian effort can be truly acceptable to Heavenly Father. The words "purity" and "holiness" as used in the Bible have roughly the same meaning and describe the state of the heart that must characterize all who seek to share with Jesus in that glorious kingdom that is soon to be fully established . To be pure means to be unadulterated. Applied to the Christian life, it means that the position of the heart before God must be a total and complete submission to Him, undivided in its love and devotion.
This purity of heart before the Lord means complete separation from the world and its spirit, total renunciation of the will of the flesh, and a constant effort to bring the flesh into submission to the will of God. To maintain this purity, constant vigilance is required to the deceptive influences of the great deceiver, Satan, and to combat them with the full armor of God. In order to be successful in attaining and maintaining this state of holiness, one must employ the divinely provided means of purification, which, as our guiding text explains, is the truth.
To be holy or pure also means to be sanctified. Jesus said in his prayer for his disciples: "Sanctify them by the truth: your word is truth". - John 17:17 By inspiration, the apostle Paul repeats the thought expressed by Jesus and says: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the congregation and gave himself up for them to sanctify them, to cleanse them by washing with water by the word ”. - Ephesians 5:25 and 26 From these scriptures it can be seen that the Christian should hold the word of truth in high esteem and should endeavor to become more familiar with it every day. So it is not surprising to us that the apostle Paul instructed Timothy to be diligent and to study so that he would like to present himself to God "as a worker who is not ashamed, who shares the word of truth rightly" . - 2 Timothy 2:15
The true measure of holiness
There are many misconceptions of holiness among the people of the earth. The word "holiness" is often mistakenly used just to convey the idea of moral righteousness - and even the standards of moral righteousness vary widely in many parts of the world. Some contemporary moralists would harshly condemn Jesus for many of the things he did, and yet scripture declares him to be "holy, innocent, unsullied, set apart from sinners."
The Bible is a proper code of morality for the Christian. It is therefore of the utmost importance that every Christian is guided by this code of law. But if one assumes that the Christian life consists only in living according to high moral laws, then he is very likely to fail in his efforts to be truly holy to the Lord; his soul will be far from purification.
When Jesus prayed, "Sanctify them by the truth: your word is truth," he had far more in mind than the idea of moral righteousness. The various doctrines of both named Christianity and paganism have produced a certain degree of moral honesty in those under their influence, but the falsities in religion have not sanctified their followers. The fear of eternal torment in a creed hell has led many to give up smoking or to renounce alcohol. But such a misconception of purity does not lead to true holiness in the eyes of the Lord. False teachings have never cleansed the souls of those who believed them - at least not from the point of view in which the word "purity" is used in our main text.
The whole idea of sanctification as taught in the Bible is that of consecration or setting apart for the Lord's holy purposes. And the word "purity," as it is used in our guiding text, has to do with the sincerity of the heart to meet the conditions of sanctification. It is for this reason that the truth of God's Word is the means to our sanctification. Truth is the divine plan, and the divine plan reveals the will of God for His people - those who follow in the footsteps of Jesus. In order to do God's will one must know Him, therefore God has given us His word of truth. It reveals His plan so that we might become familiar with the work He is doing on earth - as it relates to our moral conduct and also to our responsibility in the service of God and His cause.
Obedience to the truth
A professional, only substantive knowledge of the truth, however, will have no sanctifying effect on the heart. The apostle clearly shows that only "by obedience to the truth" are we purified of the Spirit. Jesus promised that he would send the "Spirit of truth" - John 16:13 - and that he would guide his disciples into all truth. But even this does not make the apostle's recipe for purifying the soul complete. There is one more quality. The truth must be obeyed "for uncharacteristic brotherly love". That is why Peter draws the conclusion: "Love one another fervently from a pure heart".
The apostle John adds his testimony of the importance of brotherly love in purifying the soul, saying: “Children, let us love not with words or with the tongue, but in deed and truth. And from this we will know that we are of the truth and will convince our hearts before him ”. - 1 John 3: 18–19 The importance of love as the ultimate goal of sanctified life is revealed when we remember that God's plan itself - the truth - is a revelation of how God's love is for the redemption and restoration of one lost sex acts. Its significance becomes clear to us when we remember that we have been given a knowledge of this plan, so that by participating in it we should become like God. It is evident that if God's love is such that it caused Him to offer the dearest treasure of His heart as a sacrifice on the cross, so that his enemies might eventually be blessed, he who has not learned to love his brethren goes far is removed from the goal of Christian holiness.
The soul purification process involves the complete work of turning away from the service of Satan and selfishness towards the service of God and being guided by the divine principle of love. This purification begins when the light of truth about God's love shines in our hearts and minds through the Word, and we are urged under His influence to give everything to Him. Paul says: “For the love of Christ urges us, having thus judged that one died for all, and thus all died. And he died for all, so that those who live may no longer live for themselves, but for him who died for them and was raised ”. - 2 Corinthians 5:14-15
When the urgent love of God and Christ brings one to the point of complete consecration and the work of sanctification begins, that work of sanctification will be experienced as having two main parts. One part of the purification work has to do especially with one's own personal change - the other with the activity in the service of the one to whom everything has been consecrated. It is impossible to say which of these two parts of sanctification is more important, because there could be no sanctification at all unless both are given their proper place in the Christian's life.
Personal pure change
The “personal walk” part of sanctification concerns, in addition to our very personal affairs, our domestic life, our position towards our brothers in the congregation. It relates to the way in which we should strive to deal with our fellow human beings and our relatives in the world, to take proper stand with the governments of this world, how we should deal with our enemies, etc. In all these matters - and others - the Bible gives us our teachings. In order to advance acceptably before God in the work of purifying the soul, the Christian must pay careful attention to and seek to obey all these teachings, not only in letter but also in spirit. Any failure to obey the expressed will of God as contained in His Word is a measure of uncleanliness or a lack of holiness. Involuntary mistakes are covered by the garment of Christ's righteousness, but willful disobedience will be punished.
Also, if one breaks all his bad habits and becomes a noble example of a good citizen from the worldly point of view, but if he willingly speaks evil of his brothers or others in disobedience to the commandment not to "blaspheme" - Titus 3: 2 - , it is unholy in the eyes of God and far from complete sanctification. Even the one who never smokes a cigarette, is drunk, steals or uses impure expressions. Maybe he's a model of husband, a loving father. He can be a good neighbor and be highly regarded around him. But if he becomes guilty in the carnal spirit of sowing discord among the brethren, he is unholy in the eyes of God and has utterly failed to purify his soul by obedience to the truth.
In Matthew 18:15-18, Jesus gives clear instructions on how to behave when difficulties arise among the brothers. Failure or even refusal to obey these instructions constitutes an unholy act through omission. This may require hours of prayer and devotion before someone feels so close to the Lord that there is only "a thin curtain between them." But if he disobeys this important commandment of the Lord, he is unholy in that part - his soul has not been purified. If his failure to act on Jesus' instruction causes any of his brethren to suffer from misunderstanding or misrepresentation, then the sin in God's eyes is doubly reprehensible.
Prayer is imperative for the Christian, but he must first obey the Lord's commandments if he is to expect his prayers to be answered. The Christian is expected to forgive and love his enemies. Forgiveness for his enemies is the condition under which his own sins can be forgiven by Heavenly Father. If such forgiveness is not shown in the follower of the Master, the non-forgiving one is unholy. Not only is such a person unholy because of his failure to obey the Lord's commandments, but he is also unholy in the sense that his own sins still exist against him because he failed to meet the conditions for their forgiveness by the he suffered so much himself.
Some make the mistake of assuming that Jesus meant we should only forgive what appears to be wrong; however, if it is a real transgression - if injustice has actually been done - then less forgiveness should be exercised and punishment should be given instead. But that is not the case. It is right offenses that our Heavenly Father forgives us, so it is right offenses against us that we must forgive others - otherwise we are unholy. What seems to be just an offense, but then does not turn out to be such, need not be forgiven, because there is nothing to forgive.
Purity in service
The soul, purified by truth and sanctified to God, is dedicated to a definite, active purpose. Just as a loyal soldier has to do more than just wear his uniform and obey the camp regulations, so the good warrior of Jesus Christ has to do more than just control his personal behavior correctly. He must do more than forgive his enemies - he must also bless them and "do good" to those who offend him. Yes, being sanctified by the truth means more than just being guided by the purely conceptual principles of law, although it is important. Just as there is no true sanctification without scriptural control, so can there be no true sanctification unless the purification of the soul continues to the point where the person is consumed in the service of God, to whom he is consecrated.
Not every type of service will either! Service must be in harmony with God's plan - God's expressed will. Heavenly Father is very specific about this. When He commanded Moses to build the tabernacle and gave instructions regarding its services, He said, "See that you make it according to the pattern you were shown on the mountain." - Exodus 25:30, Hebrews 8: 5 Death was the punishment for disobedience to this commandment. The tabernacle and its ministries were models of better things to come. Much of these "better things" have to do with the Christian life and ministry. Certainly God will be no less precise with regard to reality than he was with the picture.
It is evident that Paul was expressing more than an ideal when he said that we should diligently or study to properly share the word of truth - if we are to be workers who need not be ashamed before God . Could the conduct of a worker be approved by his employer if he did not follow the instructions and plans given to him? Certainly not! If truth is the sanctifying agent in our lives, and we are purified by obedience to the truth, is it reasonable to assume that there can be true sanctification where the truth is ignored or belittled or resisted? Is the preaching of eternal torment a sacred work to nine-tenths of the human race? That is not the case because it is not God's work. While this presentation is exaggerated, it helps us understand the meaning of the true teaching of the divine plan regarding the work of purification of the soul that is occurring within us.
Let us remember that the Christian is not assigned to participate in any work other than that related to his part in the divine plan. No work can be sacred if it is not in harmony with the divine will. On the other hand, any work that is in harmony with the divine plan is rightly part of the Christian's privilege and a sacred work; and it is an act of true holiness to partake in that work. Nor should we lose sight of the fact that no part of God's work is more or less sacred than the other.
The divine mission
What is the Christian's work and how is it to be carried out? Many have assumed that it was God's will that the Christian Church in the present age should convert the whole world in order to make the whole human race into Christians. Thousands of human lives have been sacrificed in this unjustified work. In fact, many people have been "converted" in this way, and some might think that this is evidence that God blessed the work. But it is not necessarily so. Almost every type of message preached in any part of the world results in converts if the theory is particularly advanced. This is especially true with respect to religious teachings. When the advanced theories offer salvation from hell of fire, converts are often large.
The divine commission for the church was to participate in the work to make disciples (see Matthew 28:19 and 20). Scripture shows that the entire class that was to be discipled from Pentecost to the full conclusion of the Gospel Age should form the Church of Christ - also called the "Bride" of Christ. The completion of this work is indicated at Revelation 19: 7. There it is said that "his wife prepared herself". The way in which the Bride of Christ prepares is through proclamation of the truth and obedience to the truth. Since it is the truth - the gospel - that sanctifies, it is evident that it must be proclaimed to those who are to come under its cleansing influence.
Every consecrated Christian is anointed with the Holy Spirit to partake in this work.In uniting God's people as groups, God has ordained that some be chosen to serve in a particular way, but this does not release those who are not chosen from their responsibility in the common work. Every activity of the Christian has to do with the work of preparing the bride. He goes to the meeting, he prays, he sings, he preaches, he testifies - all so that the preparation process may proceed in himself as well as in others. Thus everything that is part of his activity is a part of the sanctifying work in which he participates.
As far as we are concerned, while the Church (election) is still in the flesh, it will always consist of those who are in various stages of development. Hence, it will always be necessary to promote all possible parts of the work in order to find disciples. The Lord alone is the one who can bring this work to a standstill, and if He does then no Christian will doubt it. However, until the Lord stops the work, any Christian whose soul has been purified by obedience to the truth will continue to avail of all the opportunities of service that the Lord gives him. No one is wholly without opportunities, for even prayer is a privilege of service for members of the Bride class.
In the early Church days, the opportunities for service were not as varied as they are today. Today we have the printed scriptures, and by using them many can be evangelizers who otherwise would be very limited in their privileges of service. The testimony through television and other media also offers opportunities for collaboration. There is something for all willing hands to do, either directly or in collaboration with others. Every activity of the Christian should be directed towards one goal, namely the consummation of the bride. The perfect adornment of the bride must be the adornment of love, which is why the apostle speaks of "unfeigned brotherly love" in our guiding text.
When the sanctifying work of the Church (election) is completed and the whole Christ body is brought fully under the influence of divine love, then this holy Bride with her heavenly Bridegroom will become the real conduit of blessing for humanity in general. For this future work the church (election) is now being made ready through the purification of the soul.
The importance of fidelity to the truth as the sanctifying agent in our lives cannot be stressed enough. God seriously reprimanded His exemplary people for compromising the false gods of their pagan neighbors. Regarding the true followers of the Lord, Paul says: “Get out from among them and separate yourselves, says the Lord; and do not touch what is unclean and I will receive you ”. - 2 Corinthians 6:17 Paul is referring here to pagan temples and pagan gods. Pagan philosophies permeate nominal churches today and have done so for centuries. God gave truth to His people so that through them they might be sanctified - completely set apart for His holy will and purpose. So let us cherish this truth and, by total submission, come completely under its purifying influence.
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