The “New Testament Practices” page continues a brief examination of the ideals which Brethren have historically upheld. We now look at the ideal of purity.
The word “pure” means “undefiled and free from self interest” (James 3:17). In a broader sense, it speaks of “freedom from anything that is tainted” (Philippians. 4:8). Purity begins with the thought-life, but it shows itself in our words, our actions, and in the habits of our lives. Purity speaks especially about chastity with regard to sexual relationships.
The young preacher Timothy was exhorted to set the believers an example in speech and conduct, and “in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). The word translated “purity” (hagnos) is always used with a moral sense. It is not limited to sins of the flesh; it covers purity in motive as well as in act; yet it refers most often to sexual purity (1 Timothy 5:2).
Chastity was a completely new virtue which Christianity brought into the world. In the ancient world (aside from the Hebrew nation), sex relations before marriage, and illicit relations outside the marriage bond, were the normal and accepted practice. The pagan world regarded the sex appetite as a thing to be gratified and not something to be controlled. In places like Corinth, the pagan religious temples were staffed with priestesses who were sacred prostitutes. In our day, the situation is not much better. Suggestions of illicit sex (in various distorted forms) have penetrated almost every realm of the American culture.
The Christian ideal (as taught in the Scriptures) is chastity before marriage and loyalty after marriage (1 Thessalonians 4:3-7; Hebrews 13:4; 1 Corinthians 7:39). The believer should strive to uphold the law of purity by being modest in behavior, language, and dress. He should avoid all conversation, reading, art, and amusement which may put impure thoughts into his mind. Parents should sit down and talk with their children at the appropriate time, explaining the wonders of human reproduction and giving them some decent teaching concerning sex and morals. (Kenneth Taylor’s book, Almost Twelve, is an invaluable aid for the parent and child). Each young person should pledge early in life never to practice habits that may lead to illicit sexual activity. God will judge severely those whose lives are characterized by impurity (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).
–Harold S. Martin