Purity is important to God because God is pure. Purity is freedom from anything that contaminates, debases, or pollutes. A pure life characterizes believers: sin no longer determines the choices we make. Instead, God’s purity has cleansed us from our sins, and we strive to live for Him. The believer becomes pure in Christ, and to the pure all things are pure. This purity is not that which appears to be pure on the outside, but that which is truly pure from the inside out.
In his epistle to Titus, Paul chastises “the rebellious people, full of meaningless talk and deception, especially those of the circumcision group” (Titus 1:10). These people were not “sound in the faith” (verse 13) and instead proclaimed “merely human commands of those who reject the truth” (verse 14). They emphasized their own purity laws. Those who elevate their own standard of purity above God’s, however, are not pure; they are “corrupted,” and “they claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him” (verses 15–16). In the context of Paul rebuking these false teachers, he says, “To the pure all things are pure” (verse 15).
When Paul writes that “to the pure all things are pure” (Titus 1:15), he does not mean that a sinful thing becomes right to a pure-minded person. No, a pure person has a singleness of heart toward God and lives by an uncompromising desire to please God in all things. He is not interested in an external purity gained by following man-made rules but an inward purity that comes from knowing and loving God. Such a person can, in good conscience, partake of things that others, whose hearts have not been purified by faith, would condemn.
When Paul wrote this letter, the Jews emphasized external purity. They had thousands of rules and regulations, deeming many things impure that were not, in and of themselves, impure. By elevating their own laws above God’s, they could not live out the principle that to the pure all things are pure because their hearts were actually impure. Their additions nullified the Word of God for the sake of their own tradition (Matthew 15:6). They appeared to honor God with their lips and external actions, but, as Jesus revealed, “their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules” (Matthew 15:8–9). The emphasis of their own laws revealed that they did not trust God’s Word; they lived as if it were not sufficient. Their hearts were impure.
In contrast to all things being pure to those whose hearts are pure, Paul writes that “to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure” (Titus 1:15). Unbelievers have corrupted consciences that cannot truly discern or value what is pure. In Ephesians, Paul taught that before salvation, our thoughts were “full of darkness” (Ephesians 5:8). Our minds were darkened in our understanding because we were far from Him (Ephesians 4:18). The only hope for a darkened, impure mind is the blood of Christ, which alone can cleanse defiled consciences “from dead works to serve the living God” (Hebrews 9:14).
Our consciences must be purified by the Word of God (Psalm 12:6; 119:9). The Christian’s entire way of life ought to be characterized by staying pure, “for he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight” (Ephesians 1:4). We must hide the purity of God’s Word securely in our hearts to keep from sinning against God (Psalm 119:11). When we do this, we can see and avoid impurity for what it is and live out the principle that to the pure all things are pure: disputable matters can be left to discernment and Christian freedom. We are free to pursue the things of God not merely externally but from the heart.
Some would say, “You can’t eat that! It will make you impure!” But to the pure all things are pure, and the believer, whose conscience is purified by faith, may eat it knowing that “food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do” (1 Corinthians 8:8). And so it is with a myriad of other man-made rules.
To the pure all things are pure in that believers who have been purified by Christ’s sacrifice can truly pursue that purity from the heart. When our hearts are not pure, no amount of external rule-following or self-righteousness will purify us. Jesus said it is what is on the inside that defiles us: “It’s not what goes into your body that defiles you; you are defiled by what comes from your heart” (Mark 7:15). May we cry out as the psalmist, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10).