The Purity of the New Testament Church
By Tim McPherson

Whenever we consider the church and its many exceptional features, one that stands out as beautiful and awe-inspiring is its purity. God's word presents the church as the splendid, beautiful, virgin bride of Jesus Christ. In 2 Corinthians 11:2, Paul wrote, "For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ." Also, in Ephesians 5:25-27, we read, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish."

As must any bride, the bride of Christ must also be pure. Recently, after 17 years of preaching, I performed my first marriage ceremony. During one part of the ceremony, the bride and groom exchanged gold rings. At the time they exchanged those rings, I said the following words: "As the rings have no end, so your love should have no end. As the rings are made of gold, that symbolizing purity, so should your marriage be pure."

That bride now wears her husband's name, and he guides their home. The church, as Christ's bride, follows Christ, and only Christ; and she wears her husband's name. No wife wears the name of another man, who is not her husband. She is a faithful bride, committed to her husband and to no other.

God loves His Son's pure bride. She is pure because Christ, with His sinless and pure blood, purchased her. Furthermore, the text goes on to say that Christ cleansed her by the washing of water by the word (Ephesians 5:25). We know that this refers to our being added to the church through obedience to the gospel and baptism into Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13; John 3:5). As Ananias said to Saul, "Why tarriest thou? Arise and be baptized and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord." (Acts 22:16) Having been washed, the church is clean and pure.

Paul further states, in Ephesians 5:26, that the church is sanctified and cleansed. To be sanctified means to be set apart, or made holy. God separated the church from the world and all of its corruption. It is indeed sanctified.

With the above thoughts in mind, we can see the church's glorious purity. I am not speaking hypothetically. I am speaking in terms that relate what the church truly is. It is to be of the purest nature; nothing is more pure. God willed that it would be established that way, and it will remain so. Years ago, as I traveled along a mountainside road that weaves its way through the Rocky mountains of Alberta, Canada, I remember watching the crystal clear water streams flowing out of the mountains. At the foot of the mountains, the water came gushing out into a beautiful, clear river. I took a jug and held it under that flowing water and took a good drink of the best water I've ever tasted. That water, dear friends, was free from pollution or any contaminants and possessed all the virtues of purity. It was what water should be. The church is a pure stream that flows from Mount Zion. The world deserves to taste the pure water that flows from that stream and to discover how good it is.

The dictionary defines the word "pure" as: pure (py>r) adj. purer, purest. 1. Having a homogeneous or uniform composition; not mixed. 2. Free from adulterants or impurities: Free of dirt, defilement, or pollution: Containing nothing inappropriate or extraneous. Having no faults; sinless; chaste; virgin.

I am writing about purity and all that purity represents--not mixed; free from adulterants; free from dirt, defilement, or pollution; having no faults; sinless. I am not dreaming, or imagining a place that does not exist on earth. Heaven is not the only place where purity should exist; the Lord's church should manifest heaven's purity here on earth. In Ephesians 5:27, the Ephesian writer continues to emphasize the purity of the church by stating, "that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish." Brethren, I don't care about a few wrinkles in my shirt (some preachers are more fussy), but I certainly do care about spots and wrinkles in the Lord's church. The verse cited above teaches that the church must be holy and without blemish. Anything less is intolerable.

I am troubled by the current trend so evident among certain preachers who, when they preach, seem to keep their remarks as general as they possibly can. They speak in soft terms so as to lure in or keep greater numbers of people who may or may not be converted to the truth. Recently, I heard about a preacher whom a member of the church for which he preaches praised because of his tolerance for ultraliberal church members. She delighted to tell me how proud of him they are because he doesn't "chase anyone away." She said that many people are now attending the church services because this preacher "accepts them the way they are."

She went on to speak of a very unique Bible study during which they all discuss their own individual views, and the discussion goes from one extreme to the other. I asked her, "Doesn't the preacher direct the class to the right answer from God's word?" She said, "Oh, no! If he taught directly like that, they wouldn't come back." "Oh," she continued, "we love him. He's not like any other church of Christ preacher I have ever known!" Brethren, I hope not! This sort of thing scares the daylights out of me. Are some preachers, teachers, elders, or members afraid of preaching the truth lest we lose some? How is the church to remain pure? Do we want it to be a corrupt place that is indistinguishable from the world? If untaught, the church will conform to the world.

Some congregations of the Lord's people are allowing the world's standards to meld with God's. Nothing is said about immodesty, or any other issue they fear might "run someone off." However, the church of our Lord is not to conform to the world; rather, it should exhibit before the world, purity to which the world can conform (Rom. 12:1,2). Some churches appear to be so engrossed in the numbers game that their philosophies are simply to get people in the building, build large numbers, and then have them contribute. These churches appear to be growing by leaps and bounds, but if you look carefully, you see that they are as dirty and filthy as the world, with nothing about them unspotted. What remains is a spotted, corrupt, dirty, unclean, and impure church whose purity is no longer apparent.

Brethren, let us strive to preserve the purity of the New Testament church. "And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure." (1 John 3:3)