Submit, Resist, Draw, Cleanse, and Purify – Part Two
James then wrote, “Cleanse your hands, ye sinners”. There are various references in both the Old and New Testaments that deal with the issues of cleanliness. Under the Old Law, the nation of Israel could be “unclean” for various reasons. Each time, they were expected to do what was required so that they could once again be “clean”. In the book of Acts, Peter learned “What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common” (Acts 10:15). While this truth helped Peter understand that he could eat flesh that once was prohibited, more importantly it showed Peter that the Gentiles, just like the Jews, were able to be saved by obedience to the Gospel. Which brings us to a much different cleansing. Some of the Jews had carried the issue of cleanliness too far. They were overly concerned with “the tradition of the elders” that required a Jew not to eat with unwashed hands (Matt. 15:1-2). On one occasion, Jesus was questioned about why his disciples did not adhere to the tradition. Jesus corrected their thinking by teaching that obedience to the commandment of God is more important than keeping a tradition (Matt. 15:3-11). This teaching upset the Pharisees quite a bit. However, Jesus was correct in what He taught. He explained to His disciples, “Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blaphemies: These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man” (Matt. 15:17-20; cf. Mark 7:1-23). The point that Jesus made is that the process of sin first starts in the heart of man, and then, if not quelled, it will manifest outwardly. This process is described in detail in James 1:12-15. Therefore, the thing that really causes a man to be “unclean” in the sight of God is sin. Without having our sins “cleansed”, none of us will enter Heaven. Paul wrote, “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9-10; cf. Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 5:5; Col. 3:5). Each accountable individual is in need of cleansing, because each has sinned (Rom. 3:9-18, 23). Those to whom Paul wrote were no different, except they had received the needed cleansing. Paul continued, “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11). They had been “washed”. What had they done that was a “washing” and allowed their sins to be cleansed? Paul knew himself because he had done likewise. When Paul needed to be cleansed from his sins, Ananias told him, “And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). That is the same thing that every Christian has done to have themselves cleansed. In order to receive this cleansing, a person must first be a believer in Jesus as the Christ, repent of his past sins, and confess his faith in Jesus as the Son of God (John 8:24; Acts 2:38; Rom. 10:9-10). Then he can be baptized into Christ (Gal. 3:27). If a man is unwilling to do those things, then he is not able to receive the cleansing. If he were to attempt to be baptized without meeting those prerequisites, he would just get physically wet and still be filthy with sins spiritually. We all need to be baptized for the remission of our sins, or we will still be “unclean”. By obeying the Word of God, we are able to go from dirty in sins to clean in Christ (John 15:3; Psm. 119:9; cf. Psm. 51:10). The writer of Hebrews encouraged, “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water” (Heb. 10:22). This allows a man to have “holy hands” and to worship God acceptably (1 Tim. 2:8). If we continue faithfully in our service to the Lord, then we can be assured that we can remain “clean”. “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin…If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:7, 9).
That brings us to the last part of this study. James also wrote, “and purify your hearts, ye double minded”. Seeing as how we have learned that sin starts in our hearts, we certainly need them to be as pure as possible. How do we accomplish that though? Paul instructed the Christians in Philippi, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Phil. 4:8). The blessing of having pure hearts was taught by Jesus when He said, “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8). Without living a life with pure hearts, we are opening the door for sin to rear its head in our lives again. By keeping our hearts pure we can “…walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying” (Rom. 13:13).
~ Corey Barnette