Last week, we looked at how God defines His kind of wisdom. One verse in particular, James 3:17, lists characteristics of “the wisdom from above” and gives us a starting point for defining godly wisdom. The first characteristic on that list is “pure.”
What does it mean to say that something, in this case wisdom, is pure? Synonyms for this word include undefiled, chaste, clean, innocent, and sacred. In Greek, the word hagnos (G53) is very closely related to hagios (G40), which is the word used for a thing or person set apart for God’s holy use.
Purity and holiness are key concepts in scripture. We’re supposed to have these traits, and they’re part of the type of wisdom that comes from God Himself. Since they’re so important, let’s take a closer look and see what we can learn.
A Pure Bride For Jesus
For I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy. For I married you to one husband, that I might present you as a pure virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve in his craftiness, so your minds might be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. (2 Cor. 11:2-3, WEB)
Priests in the Old Testament were told to “take a wife in her virginity” (Lev. 21:13), and Paul extends this into a metaphor for talking about us as the future bride of our High Priest, Jesus the Messiah. He’s not talking about never having sex, though, or even never having sinned. The purity of a Christian is something we arrive at as part of a process.
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the assembly, and gave himself up for it; that he might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the assembly to himself gloriously, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without defect. (Eph. 5:25-27, WEB)
Christ makes us hagiazo (G37 — purified, sanctified) by His sacrifice and His work in us. It’s part of how He makes us a helper complementary to him, as Eve was to the first Adam (Gen. 2:18; 1 Cor. 15:45-47). Much like God is the source of true wisdom, He is also the source of true purity. We cannot be made holy apart from Him.
Salvation and Change
The only one who can accomplish our purification is Jesus. We don’t have the power to take away our own sins, and the name of Jesus is the only one whereby we might be saved. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have any role to play once we’ve been washed and sanctified.
Beloved, now we are children of God. It is not yet revealed what we will be; but we know that when he is revealed, we will be like him; for we will see him just as he is. Everyone who has this hope set on him purifies himself, even as he is pure. (1 John 3:2-3, WEB)
Salvation is supposed to change us. We have a new nature, a new perspective, a new goal. And with that foundation, we learn to live with purity as the one who saved us is pure.
Everyone who sins also commits lawlessness. Sin is lawlessness. You know that he was revealed to take away our sins, and no sin is in him. Whoever remains in him doesn’t sin. Whoever sins hasn’t seen him and doesn’t know him. (1 John 3:4-6, WEB)
There is no wisdom in choosing to live with impurity. John is very clear here about the fact that those born of God no longer practice sin. He’s writing this letter in part “so that you may not sin,” though he also reminds us if we do sin “we have a Counselor with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous” (1 John 2:1; 3:9-10). Making a mistake doesn’t get us kicked out — we can still repent and be purified by Christ’s sacrifice — but as we walk in faith our overall way of life should become more and more closely aligned with God’s righteousness.
When God starts a relationship with us, we enter a process of transformation and growth. We start to become more like Him and more like our true selves as we embrace our identity as a child of the most high God. This involves a change in how our minds work, along with a shift in focus from the world’s way of thinking to God’s way of thinking.
Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honorable, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report: if there is any virtue and if there is any praise, think about these things. (Phil. 4:8, WEB)
It is wise to for us to think on pure things and to purify ourselves as the Lord is pure. And how can we keep our ways pure? by living according to the word of God (Ps. 119:9). As we talked about last week, those who are wise fear God and keep His commandments. “Yahweh’s commandment is pure, enlightening the eyes” (Ps. 19:8) and there is great reward in aligning with His ways (including the opportunity to ask for and receive wisdom).
A Starting Point For Relationship
In Psalm 24, David — the man after God’s own heart — asked a question.
Who may ascend to Yahweh’s hill? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart; who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood, and has not sworn deceitfully. (Ps. 24:3-4, WEB)
Today as well, purity is something we need in order to have a close relationship with God. Thankfully, God wants that relationship with us so much that He purifies us and welcomes us into His family.
James wrote that “the wisdom from above is first pure.” Much like the Lord makes purifying us a starting place for our relationship with Him, purity is also a starting place for defining Godly wisdom. The more closely we align with God, the more we’ll be like Him in both wisdom and in purity.
Featured image: Lamppost Collective via Lightstock