but the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith  1 Timothy 1:5 NASB

Pure – The real translation of this word is not “pure” but  “clean.”  It comes from the Greek word katharos.  We get the English word “catharsis” from this Greek root.  It means to “purge or cleanse.”  Of course, what is cleansed is pure, so that’s why the translators chose to use pure rather than cleansed.  But there is a slight difference and the difference is important.  If we think about having a pure heart, we might conclude that we can make that happen ourselves.  Right living, right thinking – following all the rules of life – maybe that’s all I need to have a pure heart acceptable to God.  But that would be a tragic mistake.  God does not grade on the curve.  Our attempts to make ourselves pure in an effort to earn His favor are really an insult to Him.  Why?  Because no man can ever be good enough to become absolutely holy.  To try that approach is really to say to God, “I can be like You,” an act that shows how wrongheaded we really are.  Only God can be God.  The essence of sin is idolatry – to put us in God’s position.  Making myself pure is just another form of self-aggrandizement.

If I see that the verse really reads “out of a cleansed heart,” then I realize that this is a statement about ritual purity, not moral holiness.  That means I need to understand this verse in the context of worship.  To come into God’s presence requires that I be ritually cleansed.  Every Jew knew this.  Before I could ascend the Temple mount, I needed to go through an immersion (a Mikvah) so that none of the impurities of my life were carried into God’s presence.  Of course, moral purity was also expected, but moral purity alone did not guarantee ritual purity.  Many of the elements that might defile me were not sins.  They were simply contacts with the profane.  For example, a woman’s menstruation was not a sin, but it was profane.  It carried ritual defilement.  It must be cleansed.

Notice what Paul says about his instructions (by the way, the word in Hebrew would have been torah).  The goal is the display of benevolence toward others from a ritually cleansed heart.  Now, of course, no mikvah can cleanse my heart.  Ritual purity is an external issue.  But Paul makes it clear that the goal of instruction is not simply outside cleansing.  It is outside cleansing that results from inside obedience.  I follow God’s instructions.  He provides a cleansed heart.

“Thank You, Father, for giving me a clean heart.  I am eternally grateful.  I kept falling down.  All of my own efforts were grass-stained.  Now green pastures are places for picnics.”

 Topical Index:  cleanse, katharos, ritual, 1 Timothy 1:5

  • Robin Jeep March 8, 2012 at 8:59 am

    The deeper, internal cleansing of the heart requires a willingness to see the destructive vileness of our hearts, and how it has caused us to wreck havoc while living here on earth. It requires a willingness to face the destruction and pain our actions have caused individuals. It requires us to be willing to feel the pain we have caused God and His creation and weep in Godly sorrow. Only then can the process of inner cleansing take place.

  • Zyla Fourie-Kritzinger March 8, 2012 at 9:27 am

    Thank you for the beautiful explanation of katharos. This encoured me to search further. It immediatly reminded me of Channah in 1 Sam 1:15 who answered Eli that she poured out her soul/heart before the Lord. This lead me to investiging the word pouring in hebrew which was a blessing. The pouring out ( the hebrew shephak-gush out, linked to mouth of a river or estuary, shephek) would be like a cataract which brings cleansing in the process to a sorrowful spirit. Bringing out that which has been defiled or hurt the heart on the inside. It seems as if the word also demonstrates the position of prayer in travail, stooping or bending, shephiphah in hebrew. The caph on the end of the word forms a pictogram of the bodily position. The attitude of humility of heart, shephloot is the preparedness to pour out the heart. .THe verb to water being hashaqah. Greeings from South Africa. Zyla Fourie-Kritzinger (Yzerfontein).

  • carl roberts March 8, 2012 at 9:39 am

    B-L-O-O-D. There. I said it. All things all cleansed-purged-made clean-forgiven-absolved-removed-purified by blood. (Hebrews 9.22: “according to the law of Moses, nearly everything was purified with blood. For without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness.”
    Blood used to be involved in temple sacrifice. It used to be the blood of bulls and calves and sometimes turtledoves, -but no more.
    Another Sacrifice was made more than two millennia ago. Blood was spilled. Real red blood. The blood of a perfect Lamb.
    And dear friend, whether Jew or Gentile, male or female, Barbarian, Sycthian, (what’s a Sycthian?), bond or free all of us are “cleansed” or made pure by the blood of the cross. The tslav. The Execution Stake of the Messiah. Christ was crucified at Calvary.- May we ask “why?” Was the cross of Calvary necessary?
    This. This is the focal point of all Hope. This. This is the focal point of all Love. This. This is the focal point of all history. This. This is the focal point of all mystery. This “cross” is the “why..” He- the Messiah-came to earth to die. Knowingly, willingly- He was a Man (the second Adam) with a mission.
    On Calvary’s cross the blood of a Lamb was freely given for a some man’s sin. That man, -that man, dear friends- was me. It was my sin that held Him there- until it was “accomplished”. He paid for- in full- the hell I deserve. The wrath of G-d toward sin was fully spent upon the Son at Calvary. This. This is why G-d died. Yes. G-d died and we willingly, knowingly, amazingly crucified our own Creator.
    His response toward us? “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do..” And (please) ask me..- what is my response toward tHis love?
    ~He that spared not His own Son- but delivered Him up for us all (does “all” mean “all?”) -how shall He not with Him- also freely give us (the ones responsible for His crucifixion) all (does “all” mean “all?) things? (Romans 8.32)

  • Rodney March 8, 2012 at 9:55 am

    Indeed, this was the plan right back at Sinai, as Moses testifies:

    Deu 10:12-16 ESV – “[12] “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, [13] and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I am commanding you today for your good? [14] Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. [15] Yet the LORD set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day. [16] Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn.

    Wait! Did we think that “circumcision of the heart” was a “New Testament” concept? Not so – here it is in Deuteronomy, when Moses is addressing the descendants of the generation that came out of Egypt; the generation that would enter the promised land. Right back then, the whole idea of “ritual purity” was not just to do with the “flesh”, but with the heart – the inner man – that which communes with God. So, what is the result? What is the indication that the heart is, indeed, circumcised?

    Deu 10:17-21 ESV[17] “For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. [18] He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. [19] Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. [20] You shall fear the LORD your God. You shall serve him and hold fast to him, and by his name you shall swear. [21] He is your praise. He is your God, who has done for you these great and terrifying things that your eyes have seen.”

    But God knew that we would go astray. He knew that Israel would be cast out into the nations (because He knew what was truly in their hearts). Therefore, he promised:

    Deu 30:1-20 ESV – “[1] “And when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the LORD your God has driven you, [2] and return to the LORD your God, you and your children, and obey his voice in all that I command you today, with all your heart and with all your soul, [3] then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you, and he will gather you again from all the peoples where the LORD your God has scattered you. [4] If your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there the LORD your God will gather you, and from there he will take you. [5] And the LORD your God will bring you into the land that your fathers possessed, that you may possess it. And he will make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers. [6] And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live. [7] And the LORD your God will put all these curses on your foes and enemies who persecuted you. [8] And you shall again obey the voice of the LORD and keep all his commandments that I command you today. [9] The LORD your God will make you abundantly prosperous in all the work of your hand, in the fruit of your womb and in the fruit of your cattle and in the fruit of your ground. For the LORD will again take delight in prospering you, as he took delight in your fathers, [10] when you obey the voice of the LORD your God, to keep his commandments and his statutes that are written in this Book of the Law, when you turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. [11] “For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. [12] It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ [13] Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ [14] But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it. [15] “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. [16] If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you today, by loving the LORD your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. [17] But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, [18] I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. [19] I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, [20] loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.””

    Herein is the definition of “being circumcised of heart” or, dare I say, being “pure of heart”. Not perfect. Not “holier than thou”. Just “loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days.”

    Is is possible that Paul (or, as I think he was probably known, Rabbi Sha’ul) may have known this when he wrote his letters to Timothy?

  • Michael March 8, 2012 at 11:44 am

    “Now green pastures are places for picnics”

    I must admit that I’ve never seen much in Timothy that I lked before

    But I’ve always been a big believer in the three little “p”s

    And the double cross, Y, and H, jump out at me now

  • carl roberts March 8, 2012 at 7:58 pm

    ~ He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years ~ (Malachi 3.4,5)

    ~ The fining pot is for silver, and the furnace for gold: but the LORD tries the hearts ~ (Proverbs 17.3)

    ~but He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold ~ (Job 23.10)

    ~ These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold–though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Yeshua HaMashiach is revealed to the whole world ~ (1 Peter 1.7)

    ~ For you, O G-d, have tested us; You have tried us as silver is tried ~ (Psalm 66.10)

    ~ See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction ~ (Isaiah 48:10)

  • Al Huba March 8, 2012 at 9:40 pm

    ….and as David cried out to the Lord:” Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew in me a right spirit.”
    Here CLEAN is “tahovr” which is from the root “taher”, TO BE MADE CLEAN. The psalmist/king knew that he had no power to cleanse his own heart, but HaShem did.

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