Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 6, 1958


Vaughn D. Shofner, Camden, Arkansas

In order to obtain accurate information about anything, a person must grasp the significance of the terms used to impart the information. Words are but vehicles of thought, intended only to convey ideas. To inadvertently garble the vehicles of Holy Writ, God's way of revealing himself and his plan for man, could mean hell instead of heaven for the careless souls. Let us therefore heed the counsel of God "study to show thyself approved."

Superficially, "uncleanness" presents information of a general nature, too limited to be accepted by the Christian as being complete. Of course the prefix "un" measures a lacking in whatever the word proper describes. "Cleanness" refers to things secular as well as religious, and is therefore too often given slight consideration when found in God's word. Religiously, Webster's dictionary says "uncleanness" describes those things which are ceremonially and morally impure. Mr. Thayer unequivocally defines the New Testament uses of it as being descriptive of impure motives, and the impurity of lustful, luxurious, profligate living. Thus we see the need for members of the Lord's church to sound the depths of its meaning and heed the intended information.

Man was created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27), able to partake of the tree of life and become an eternal being in that created body. Then came the fall and God's true image was no longer reflected in his creatures. Fellowship with God was lost. The tree of life was removed from the material realm, and physical man and things attached to the physical were employed on 'a temporary basis in the long process of preparation and purification essential in restoring and retaining for eternity the spiritual fellowship between God and man. Revealed religion is made up of those plans. Under the old dispensations, man was restored to a state of symbolical holiness, maintained only by ceremonial rites and cleansings. In the New Testament age, that which was symbolized by the Old Testament became effected in the case of those "who put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." (Eph. 4:24)

Thus we see how God made use of things physical to educate man to higher things spiritually. In the Mosaic legislation, God taught abhorrence of spiritual uncleanness by fostering an abhorrence of physical foulness which was taken as the representative of moral evil. In the education, certain meats were declared unclean on a temporary basis, for by creation they were to be received "with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving." (I Tim. 4:3,4). So, when man had been thoroughly taught to appreciate and choose things good for him; to choose good over evil, then the restraint was removed in the vision of Peter. (Acts 10:9-16). The primary purpose of the vision was to show the acceptance of the Gentiles, but there was also involved the conception that the whole system of clean and unclean meats was abolished, having been used "as a schoolmaster" to bring man to the higher life in Christ and eventually eternal life in heaven.

As God's law made certain meats which could be eaten unclean so his law makes unclean many of the things we are able to do. God's law legislates against impure motives. Simon the sorcerer (Acts 8:9-24) represented such uncleanness which enters the church and hinders God's plan. "He offered them money" hoping to satisfy his selfish ambition and covetous heart. The uncleanness in the form of impure motives had him "in the bond of iniquity the gall of bitterness;" his heart was "not right in the sight of God."

Preachers and teachers shame Simon Magus denouncing the terrible disgrace. But alas! the professionalism and "priest-craft" abroad today presents a picture as shameful as the one of Simon. So involved in uncleanness are many churches that "they offer money" as temptations to ambitious professionals who are ready to peddle their magic, bewitch the people with their professed greatness and justify the desired uncleanness for a price. The barter and exchange usually find money as the medium, not always, but the abhorred uncleanness is still evident. Power and wealth so subtly mingles with all church work that the profuse use of them readily acquires the reputation of sanctity. They produce a poison gall which is being infused into the whole life of God's church. What uncleanness is in the bodily habit, ambitious motives are to the soul. God help us to preserve the church from every form of simony!

Uncleanness is manifested in the profligate and luxurious lives of the Laodicean churches of our day. These churches are exceedingly well pleased with themselves. They roll in wealth, and are satisfied with their worldly status rather than having concern about spiritual progress. Drunken on the wine of statistics, anesthetized by the opiate of large numbers, addled by the poll of public opinion, they "have arrived," and they aim to stay. Pulpit eloquence is extolled more than the bounds of gospel preaching are appreciated; carnal talent is desired above simple spirituality; worldly wealth and status arrest the attention, and growth in grace is forgotten; respectability is sought more than truth, and Christ is locked out. Spiritual dissipation is a canker on the church, and the ultimate end is the exchange of the bread of life and communion with Christ for a mess of pottage and social fellowship. Let us awake to the unclean condition and apply the balm of the Lord to our world-wizened souls before it is too late!

Nadab and Abihu stand in bold relief against the horizon of history, pleading with mankind to eliminate all impurity of ceremonial uncleanness before the wrath of God is poured upon us. But as they sinned in ceremony, so we become unclean in so many acts of work and worship. Oh, so many acts are entered without direction: "Which God commanded them not!" The uncleanness is not so much in doing what is forbidden, but in doing what is not enjoined. Thus we set divinely constituted authority aside and despise the authority of God. As did Nadab and Abihu, man today introduces confusion. Gentle readers, I humbly plead that we study the written word to "prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." May we present the entire truth of revelation on any subject, without addition; not just that part which may fall in with our tastes and acquirements, but "the whole counsel of God." The least deviation from the will of Christ is a serious sin, a blight of uncleanness. Please know this: "God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness." (I Ths. 4:3-7), "because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy." (I Pet. 1:16).