Defilement Under the New Covenant

Robert Wurtz II

“What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, “and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:15-18). 

“Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues” (Revelation 18:4). 

I have quoted these passages at length to give context to the matter of uncleanness as it relates to New Covenant saints. Although the topic is central to Paul and John’s theology, the topic is almost non-existent in mainstream Christian teaching. The modern assumption is that God accepts just about anyone and everything without making a distinction between holy and unholy, clean and unclean, and light and darkness. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Yet Paul quotes Isaiah 52:11 in part which states:

“Depart, depart, go out from there; touch no unclean thing; go out from the midst of her; purify yourselves, you who bear the vessels of the LORD.” (Isaiah 52:11 ESV)

Separated to the Gospel

Paul was trained up as a strict Pharisee. He was aphorizo, a Greek word that means “separated.” As a Pharisee, he was separated unto the law and traditions of his fathers.  They emphasized clean and unclean similarly to how the Levite’s once did. However, they only had this concept partially right and for reasons beyond the scope of this entry. When Paul received the Holy Spirit and his divine commission, in Romans 1:1, he declares himself separated to the Gospel. 

This change in separation from the Law to the Gospel was accompanied by a host of changes in his concepts of clean and unclean.  For example, the Levitical Law dealt regarding sexual, religious, or ceremonial uncleanness. Any object or individual who was not clean could not be acceptable to God because He is holy. Eating unclean meats (Hos 9:4); worshiping idols (Psa 106:39; Hos 5:3); committing adultery or engaging in sexual relations outside of marriage (Gen 34:5; Num 5:13; Eze 18:6); touching unclean objects or individuals (Lev 5:3; Lev 18:24; Lev 19:31); and any action that violated the sacredness of the Lord (Jer 32:34). It was the duty of the priesthood to discern matters of impurity (Lev 13:3; Hag 2:13) and to see that the strict rituals of purification were followed. (See Baker, Word Study Series, on the concept of “separated”). 

Many of these concepts of unclean carry over into the New Covenant with some notable exceptions. No longer are Gentiles considered unclean simply on the basis of their genealogy. God told Peter “what God cleanses do not call defiled or unclean.” This does not mean that all Gentiles are automatically clean, but that the ones who receive redemption in Christ and the free gift of the Holy Spirit are cleansed. 

Keeping Clean

Once cleansed there is the task of remaining clean. Jesus tells us that foods or soil from dirty hands that go into the belly (contrary to the view of the Pharisees) cannot make a person unclean. What comes out of the mouth makes a person unclean because their words come from a corrupt heart. James takes up this issue extensively and states, “…The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body” (James 3:6). Sexual immorality defiles as well as covetousness. Anything we lust after is idolatry and defiles us. 

These truths bring us to the text, “Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you…” Unclean in this passage refers to participating in anything (however seemingly harmless) that could provoke the Lord to jealousy by our engaging in fellowship with demons (1 Cor. 10:19-22). Simply put, we need to know what side we are on and be faithful to our side. We must utterly renounce any ties we may have with the occult, false religion, darkness, and anything else.

The time would fail me to list examples of people (especially young people) who were fascinated with darkness and made shipwreck of their Christian faith. John tells us that men love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil (John 3:1f). Darkness is symbolic of judgment and evil. Concerning the lost, Paul was called “To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me” (Acts 26:18 KJV). Hell, prepared for Satan and his angels, is a place of outer darkness (Matt. 8:12, 22:13, 25:30, etc.). Peter takes the theme up as well, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9 KJV).  

In modern times it’s not unusual to find professing believers partaking of things that are rooted in false religion (demons). They make no distinction between holy and unholy, or light and darkness. They are deceived to the point that they would view a teaching such as this as unnecessary at best and lunacy at worst. This is primarily due to a combination of rebellion and ignorance. Some people want to be Christians, but refuse counsel along these lines. It’s nothing new. The Corinthians tried it too. The only solution is to repent and utterly renounce unclean things.  

A Defiled Christian?

A Christian can be defiled by the unclean things they allow in their lives, the things that come out of their mouths, and immoral things that they do with their physical body. This means that the world we live in must be kept at a safe distance from us (so to speak). We must guard against being defiled by the things mentioned above as well as anything else that would be contrary to sound doctrine. We are to present our bodies holy and acceptable to God (Romans 12:1f). We must keep our minds and hearts pure from things that offend God. These are more than prerequisites for entertaining God’s presence. They are requirements for avoiding the judgment that is coming. 

“Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues” (Revelation 18:4). 

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