• The BaptistWay lesson for July 27 focuses on Psalm 24:1-6; Ephesians 5:1-16.
Baptist attempts to promote purity
When we think of purity, we often associate it with what we do not do in order to achieve and remain in that state. LifeWay recently updated and revised its True Love Waits abstinence curriculum geared towards teenagers. I remember going through the material as a teenager when our church hosted a True Love Waits weekend. We spent Friday and Saturday going to Bible studies, worship services and hearing testimonies about the priority of waiting until marriage to engage in sexual intercourse.
The weekend culminated in signing a pledge on Sunday morning during our worship service to remain sexually pure, and the pledge was framed and hung in our church foyer. As a teenager who did not come from a church family, this was the first time I was exposed to the idea of abstinence, and it made quite an impression.
Not long after this experience, I enrolled at East Texas Baptist University. ETBU had conservative policies regarding curfews and co-ed mingling within individual dorm rooms. My fiancé and I spent several dates driving around the small town of Marshall, sitting in coffee shops and dormitory lobbies, and going on walks through campus because of these policies. During the times we were allowed in each other’s dorm rooms—a block of about four hours three days of the week—the resident assistant on duty checked on us regularly. Couples were not allowed to share blankets or to sit with their feet off the floor while sharing the same piece of furniture.
What Scripture prohibits
In many ways, I’m thankful for these safeguards. They served as a way to keep us accountable by focusing on things we could do to keep us from engaging in actions that would lead to impurity. When examining the Scriptures for this week, we certainly see one side of maintaining purity focuses on prohibitions. Psalm 24:3-4 rhetorically asks and answers: “Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god.”
The Apostle Paul gives even more specific prohibitions in Ephesians 5:3-7: “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.
Therefore do not be partners with them.” These prohibitions are mentioned because they are the antithesis of what a pure life in the Lord looks like. Both authors provide tangible examples—we might call them sermon illustrations today—of characteristics that should cause people to pause, take note and strive for change if/when they find themselves engaging in them. What they are not intended to be is a checklist or a path one can follow that will guarantee a pure life. Purity is not a result of what we passively refrain from, but of that in which we actively participate.
What Scripture prescribes
In addition and above what these Scripture prohibit, take note of what they prescribe: “They will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God their Savior. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, God of Jacob” (Psalm 24:5-6).
In addition, Paul sprinkles admonitions before and after his description of how the impure live: “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:1-2); “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord” (Ephesians 5:8-10).
Seek God’s face, follow God’s example, walk in love, live as children of light—these are the way Scriptures actively prescribe living a life of purity. I love what Rachael Held Evans says about decentralizing what is prohibited to maintain purity, and promoting what is prescribed to foster growth in purity and holiness:
“Perhaps instead of virginity… we ought to talk about the path of holiness. Holiness, to me, means committing every area of my life— from sex, to food, to time, to work—to the lordship of Jesus. It means asking how I might love God and love my neighbors in those areas so that the Spirit can grow love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control in the sacred soil of everyday life. Holiness isn’t about sticking to a list of rules. It isn’t something you either have or don’t have, keep or lose. It’s a way of life, filled with twists and turns, mistakes and growth, uncertainty and reward.”
In spite of what you have or haven’t done in the past, how are you growing in purity and holiness today?