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.
Paul uses some strong language here. It’s why I love reading Paul’s letters because he is very straightforward and real; he doesn’t sugarcoat the truth or water down the gospel of Christ for those who “want to have their ears tickled.” As he continues talking about those who distort the gospel, Paul reminds us that one’s heart is reflected by his deeds. Paul explains not only the importance of this, but he exemplifies the work and love of Christ in 1 Corinthians 9. We all would be wise to take some notes from Paul’s example as a disciple of Christ and apply it to our own lives. So what is this reference he is making about the pure and defiled?
The word Paul uses for “pure” in a spiritual sense represents those without sin. In the physical sense, it is meant to describe something that has been refined by fire (such as a steel blade) or a plant that has been pruned and cleansed (like a grape vine). These are references that were used by Jesus in his explanations of sanctification by God. The term for defiled signifies something that is stained or soiled, like a cloth or piece of wood. What does this mean for us?
Paul is once again talking about the heart. Jesus too spoke of the condition of our hearts and that our purity comes from His cleansing of them and the fruit that is evident as a result. In Galatians, Paul instructs us on this Fruit of the Spirit. We must remember that it is not of our own “doing good,” but rather God’s Spirit filling and guiding us as we live day to day. It is not our actions that make us pure and holy, rather it is His Spirit in us that makes us holy from the inside out. Paul is reminding Titus of this in order to better discern the purity of men’s hearts. While he classifies them in verse 15, we see in verse 16 how we can discern the purity of one’s heart.
The irony of this is that those who seek to discern the purity of their own hearts are in most cases being purified or are pure (as Paul notes in verse 15). Those who profess to be pure are tested by their own actions, one of which may very well be the lack of constant testing of their own motives. If we are to test our own hearts to discern our own purity, it is not only our actions we must test, but also the motivation behind them. Our purity is not that we can boast, but only for the Glory of God (as Paul explained in the 1 Corinthians chapter referenced above). It isn’t about being “good enough” or doing “enough good,” rather it is why we do what we do. Is it to serve ourselves, serve the world, or serve our Lord?
I desire to choose the Third Option, which is the most fruitful, what about you?