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