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Makestraightpaths.com examines the teachings of the religious group variously known as “the Family,” “The Family International,” the “Children of God,” or the “Family of Love,” and evaluates these teachings from a Christian perspective.

This page is one of a series examining the concept of 'sin' within the Family.

 

Unto the Pure All Things are Pure (Titus 1:15)

 

Titus 1:15 To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled. NKJV

Family members have been taught that this verse justifies almost any action, as long as that action is done in faith and love. “All things”, goes the teaching, literally means “everything and anything”. Specifically, Family members were taught that this verse justifies the sexual practices of the Family, because after all, “all things are pure”, and surely this means that sex in itself is also ‘pure’. Therefore, Family members could legitimately engage in extra-marital sex as long as they do it with a pure heart.

Is that the meaning of ‘to the pure all things are pure’? If not, what does it mean?

Overview of Titus

The book of Titus was written by Paul at about the same time as he wrote 1 Timothy (about AD 62-63), and there are a number of similarities between the two books. Although the recipients were in different places (Titus was in Crete; Timothy was in Ephesus), they faced similar problems and much of the advice Paul gives is similar.

The emphasis of the book of Titus is on doing good as a proper result of the grace of God, in contrast to the false teachers, who taught that observing religious regulations secured God’s favour. (Fee).

Titus is “one of three pastoral epistles among Paul’s writings, the others being 1 and 2 Timothy. The Pastoral Epistles are so named because they deal with matters concerning pastors and congregations. They are the only letters of Paul addressed to individuals. The purpose of the epistle to Titus was to warn against false teaching and to provide guidance for one of Paul’s younger associates on sound doctrine and good works.

“The occasion for the letter was clear enough − to warn against false teachers (1:10-16). The precise nature of the teaching was less clear, although it included ‘Jewish fables,’ legalism, and disputes over genealogies (1:10,14; 3:9-10). Paul urged Titus to avoid such traps, for anyone associated with them would get caught in his own schemes (3:11)” (Nelson).

False teachers

The phrase “unto the pure all things are pure” is in the middle of a section where Paul talks specifically about the false teachers who had been causing havoc on Crete (Titus 1:10-16).

The false teachers must be silenced because they play right into the hands of a proverbial understanding of Cretans. Believers who would be tempted to follow them must be rebuked (Fee).

Titus 1:10-16

10 For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, 11 who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach  for the sake of sordid gain. 12 One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” 13 This testimony is true. For this reason reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith, 14 not paying attention to Jewish myths and commandments of men who turn away from the truth. 15 To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. 16 They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.

NASU

The reason for the harsh reaction to the false teachers was so that the Christians in Crete may become “sound in the faith” (vs. 13).

It is important to realise that in this paragraph, Paul is not discussing the inherent purity of all things, or the importance of Christians having a pure heart, or which actions are or are not permitted in Christianity, but he is exhorting the bishop of a church to rid himself of false teachers. The phrase “to the pure all things are pure” is only used as a way of describing those false teachers, by contrasting them with an opposite quality. The false teachers are “defiled”, “men who turn away from the truth”, “unbelieving”, and all that they do or say or even think about is also “defiled”. This is set in contrast with “the pure” whose actions and thoughts are pure.

The recipients of the epistle got the message loud and clear. Anyone who read it or heard it read would have had no confusion about the purpose of this passage: false teachers must be silenced. This passage does not put forth a teaching on what is or is not “pure”.

Nonetheless, as Paul said that “to the pure all things are pure”, we should attempt to understand what he meant.

From the dictionary

The word pure means clean, cleansed.

NT:2513

clean, pure

(free from the admixture or adhesion of anything that soils, adulterates, corrupts);

in a Levitical sense; clean, i.e. the use of which is not forbidden, imparts no uncleanness: Rom 14:20; Titus 1:15.

ethically; free from corrupt desire, from sin and guilt: Titus 1:15;

(Thayer’s)

 

NT:2513

free from impure admixture, without blemish, spotless

as being cleansed, e.g., Matt 5:8; 1 Tim 1:5; 3:9; 2 Tim 1:3; 2:22; Titus 1:15; Heb 10:22; James 1:27; 1 Peter 1:22; Rev 15:6; 21:18; 22:1 (in some mss.).

(Vine’s)

Who are “the pure”?

The pure are those who have been cleansed from sin by the blood of Jesus Christ, and who “pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace”:

2 Tim 2:22 Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. NASU

The pure have been washed clean and strive to remain clean:

Heb 10:22 let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. NASU

The “pure”, therefore, does not refer to people who have good motives or who have “the faith” for their actions or to people who sincerely obey their elders in the Lord. The pure are those people who have had their sins washed away by the blood of Jesus Christ. They are eager to do good so practically everything that they do is good.

Here then is what “to the pure all things are pure” means: when people have been washed clean from their sin, they become so eager to do good that good works naturally proceed from them at all times. However when sinners are unregenerate, spiritually unwashed, then nothing they do can be good; they are “worthless for any good deed” (Titus 1:16). Those that are pure do pure things; they think pure thoughts because they have been washed clean. They see God’s purity in everything and they act accordingly. By contrast, it is easy to tell those who are impure because they are disobedient to God and His moral laws and consequently they defile all that they touch.

Conclusion

Titus 1:15 says absolutely nothing about every action being legitimate for Christians. It does not say that a Christian may take part in any action and remain ‘pure’ in the sight of God. It certainly does not mean that Christians may engage in sexual activity or that they can do anything they want as long as they are ‘pure’. This is not the message of Titus 1:15, of the book of Titus, or indeed of the Bible at all.

 

See also

Sin: a Definition

Whatever is not of Faith is Sin

 

References

Fee: How to Read the Bible Book by Book, Gordon D Fee & Douglas Stuart, 2002, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids MI.

Vine: Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, 1985, Thomas Nelson, Nashville, TN.

Thayer: Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, 2003, Biblesoft, Seattle, WA.

Nelson: Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, 1986, Thomas Nelson, Nashville, TN.

 

 

 

 

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