What do I mean by purity in the church? Well, here are a few things to consider.
1. Jesus is holy, pure, without sin, and He calls His church to be as well (1 Peter 1:15-16)
2. The church is to love all people regardless of current lifestyle and habits. (Mark 12:31; Luke 10:25-37)
3. The church is to call its members to live in holiness (purity from sin) (Matthew 7:1-5; 1 Corinthians 5; Hebrews 13:3)
4. Church is to stand against evil and injustice. (Romans 12:9; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11)
5. Each follower of Jesus is to examine their own life and repent of sin on a regular basis (Matthew 7:1-5; 1 Corinthians 11:28; 2 Corinthians 13:5; Galatians 6:1-10)
What are some difficulties that are often associated with looking at purity in the church?
1. Those outside the church see those in the church either as “holy rollers” who look down on those outside the church for not conforming to their standard of living, or as hypocrites who say one thing and live another.
2. Sometimes a church, with a heart to live in purity, will become legalistic in order to feel pure by adhering to an external code, that does not necessarily address the heart of the believer. This causes animosity in the church as those following the code look down on those who do not (in their opinion) match up to the standard.
3. Many churches, in order to avoid legalism, do not address sin at all, nor call their members to live in holiness. This causes a bad testimony to those outside of the church. It also leaves members untransformed by the Spirit of God, because they are rarely, if ever, confronted of their sin.
4. In addressing purity, some individual believers become very judgmental as they call others to repent of sin without addressing their own sin.
5. On the other hand, others, out of being hurt in the past from judgmental and legalistic people, refuse or at least avoid addressing sin because they either do not want to hurt the other person, or they fear being judgmental themselves. Or, it could be that, in the past, they were confronted of their sin very lovingly by a fellow believer, but did not think it was their business, so in return, they do not want to “get in the business” of others.
So, what should be our response?
1. Should we just live and let live, thus ignoring the commands of Scripture to pursue, proclaim, and live in holiness? Should we lower the standard of Christ in order that more people, if low enough – all people, can meet the standard? Certainly not!
2. Should we not confront people and only pray for them? Certainly not! That is not love, that’s wimpy, and proves the person does not understand what love is. Christ loved us enough to address our sin.
3. Should we designate only pastors and church leaders to deal with “sinners”? Certainly not! That violates Scripture that teaches all members of the body are responsible and accountable to the others.
4. Should we avoid talking about sin so not to offend people and lower their self-esteem? Should we focus less on how God thinks of sin and more on how He loves us? Certainly not! That would minimize the cross of Christ and place a shadow over the fact that God is serious enough about sin to kill His own Son to take the punishment we deserve.
5. So I think we need to continue to teach, preach, and talk about Christ’s demand for His church to walk in holiness. I think we need to encourage ourselves and our fellow believers to constantly be examining their our own lives (Psalm 26:2), comparing it to the standard of God’s word, and humbly repent of sin, believe in the cross, and ask the Spirit of God to help us walk in holiness. We need to encourage each other to not be afraid to give spiritual and biblical input into the lives of other believers as well as being willing to take it from them. This is how we grow in our faith and as the body of Christ. We need to be committed to the local church in order to serve others, invest in others, as well as be able to let them do the same to us. This helps us pursue holiness and not settle for distant spiritual legalism where we approve ourselves because we are upholding our own personal standard of righteousness. We should encourage the “spiritual” to confront in gentleness and with love so not to forget that they too can fall and stumble into sin (Galatians 6). To forsake their own sin before looking into the lives of others (Matthew 7:1-5). We as the church are to lift up the standard of Christ, call people to it, and never lowering His standard.
So, the church is to be a hospital for sinners, who look to the Great Physician, Jesus, for the hope, the answer, and the direction for getting better. The point and goal is not to feel better about being a sinner, but to adore, love and worship more our great Saviour. We do this as we accept His forgiveness, turn away from sin, and walk in holiness. Some might say, purity is not possible this side of heaven. That is true. But that does not change the calling in Scripture to walk in holiness (Hebrews 12:14). The key for the church is to learn to do this faithfully. Not in legalism. Not in laziness. Not in pride. But in humble submission to the Lord and His word, as we agree with His command to be pure, as we agree with our own sin, as we agree to engage in life with other believers, and seek purity in His church.