Jesus Purifies the Temple of God (Matthew Sermon 99 of 151)
May 17, 2009 | Andy Davis
The Purity and Unity of the Church, Prophecy, Animal Sacrificial System
In the book of Revelation, the Apostle John had a vision of Jesus as both lion and lamb. The lion is characterized by strength, power, and regal bearing, the ability to tear his enemies limb from limb. Utter fearlessness, decisive action, a powerful roar, that is the lion. The lamb, by contrast, is characterized by meekness and lowliness, quietness and submission to being led, and in the Old Covenant, by slaughter and blood and death. Jesus is both lion and lamb.
And last week in the triumphal entry, we saw Jesus in his lamb-like demeanor. We saw his lamb-like qualities. He was humble, he was meek. He was lowly. He was riding on a donkey entering Jerusalem. He was weeping over it. He was tender-hearted and gentle. In today's text, I think we see Jesus in his lion-like bearing, powerfully cleansing the temple, fire in his eyes, zeal in his heart, fearlessly taking on the most powerful and the most corrupt men of his nation.
Now both the lamb-like and the lion-like aspects of Jesus' ministry tend toward the same end, and that is the purity of his people, the purity of his dwelling place where he will spend eternity together with us. Christ, like a lion in this text, purifies the temple, cleansing it from all defilement. Like a refiner's fire, he comes. And so it's spoken in Malachi 3. “Who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner's fire, or a launderer's soap. He will sit as a refiner and purify our silver. He will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness.” Malachi 3.
So in his lion-like bearing, he's heading toward the purification of his people in his dwelling place, and also as a lamb. Jesus humbly shedding his blood for the sins of his impure and guilty people, in his humble death on the cross, working a perfect purification for sin, for you and me. So that we might stand before God, holy and blameless, and we might offer up to him, sacrifices of praise for all eternity. Both the lion and the lamb of Jesus' tending toward the same thing, the purity of God's people in his presence. So last week, we saw Jesus humble as a lamb, and this week, we see Him powerful, like a lion.
A Stunning Beginning to Jesus’ Final Week
Following the Triumphal Entry
And this is really, I think, a stunning beginning to Jesus' final week on earth. We've already seen the triumphal entry, we've talked about it. And immediately after entering the city, he doesn't go to the palace or the praetorium to discuss power and kingly rule and all of the things perhaps we might have done to negotiate with kings or governors. No, he goes right to the temple. For his will be a spiritual reign, a spiritual kingdom, a supernatural kingdom, and the essence of it is a right relationship with Almighty God. Again, a different kind of kingdom than they supposed.
A Passion for Purity
And we see here also, in Jesus' actions, His passion for purity. “God is light, and in him, there is no darkness at all,” the Scripture says. Heaven is, therefore, a perfectly pure place, but earth is not so. Earth is corrupted beyond all measure, and so also our hearts. And I think earthly religion among the most corrupted of all human endeavors, among the most corrupt in God's sight and detestable aspects of human life.
The Alpha and Omega of Jesus’ Ministry
Now, I believe that Jesus cleansed the temple twice. Some commentators think he did it just once, and John put it, for some reason, at the beginning of his gospel in John chapter 2. But all the others, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, put it at the end in connection with the triumphal entry in his first entry into Jerusalem final week of His life. But I think the events described in John chapter 1 through 5 are so unique and special and not recorded in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, for example, the changing of the water into wine and other such things. I really do believe that he has it right and Jesus entered Jerusalem and the temple there at the beginning of his ministry. And you remember what it says there, Jesus sat down and formed a whip. He made a whip and He cleansed the temple, and drove out all who were buying and selling there, and overturned the tables, scattered the doves. Did all of that in John chapter 2, the beginning of Jesus' public ministry.
And here at the end in Matthew 21, he does it again. How grievous it is that he has to do it twice. How grievous it is that this noxious stinkweed of bad religion grew up again, because Jesus hadn't pulled it out by the roots yet. It was a symbolic action at the beginning of his ministry and a symbolic action again here and now. Now, Jesus promised, in Matthew 15:13, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots.” He means to root this out entirely. But Jesus said in his parable on the weed and the tares, he said to the servants, “Let both grow together until the harvest time. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned, and then gather up the wheat and bring it into my barn.” At the end of the world, he's gonna root it all out. He'll root out of his kingdom, the scripture says, everything that causes sin and all those who do evil, and throw them into the fiery furnace. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. But the root haven't been rooted out yet, and so Jesus has to do this twice.
The Temple: God’s “House”
The History of the Temple
And so he comes to the temple, what he calls God's house. “My house will be called a house of prayer.” Now, the temple was a sacred space, a sacred place on earth. And that there would be such a sacred space, or a sacred place on earth, was predicted at the time of the song of Moses. You remember during the Exodus, they were coming out of bondage in Egypt and they had just seen a mighty miracle, the crossing of the Red Sea, where the water walled up to the right and to the left, and they passed through on dry land, but then suddenly, the water came crashing down on Pharaoh and his horde and they were destroyed. And on the other side of the Red Sea, then Moses led them in a time of worship and praise, the song of Moses celebrating redemption.
And this is what it says in Exodus 15:17. Moses singing, he says this. “You will bring them in and plant them on the mountain of your inheritance -- the place O Lord, you made for your dwelling, the sanctuary, O Lord, your hands established. The Lord will reign forever and ever.” So God has a vision of God dwelling together with his people in this sacred space, the sacred place, where they would dwell together.
And it's pictured later in Exodus in the construction of the tabernacle. God commanded that a tent, a kind of a temporary dwelling would be established and all of the rules and regulations of the tent were set up. And in Exodus 25, it says, “Have them make a sanctuary for me and I will dwell among them, and make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I show you.” So the indication from scripture is that God gave Moses a kind of a vision of heaven, and what heavenly worship was like in the perfect order and beauty and holiness of heaven. And that was reflected in a shadow form in that tent, that tabernacle.
And so it says in Leviticus 26, “I will put my dwelling place among you,” God says, “and I will not abhor you. I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people, the place the Lord your God will choose from among all your tribes as a dwelling place.” So God is gonna dwell together with His people in this thing called the dwelling place. Now, this special place was mentioned over 20 times in the Book of Deuteronomy. In Deuteronomy 12, for example, it says, “You are to seek the place the Lord your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling. And to that place, you must go; there bring your burn offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, what you had vowed to give and your free will offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. And there, in the presence of the Lord, your God, you and your family shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the Lord your God has blessed you.”
Oh, how much God desires to sit at table with us, to dwell with us, to walk together with us, to have a relationship with us. And this sacred space, this place that would be chosen from among all the twelve tribes, would symbolize that deep desire of God. And so in Deuteronomy 16, it says, “Sacrifice as the Passover to the Lord an animal from your flock or your herd at the place the Lord will choose as a dwelling for his Name.” So that's where you're to go to offer up that Passover sacrifice.
Well, later on, in redemptive history, David thought it would be best to have a more permanent structure, a temple, a building, and so he had it in his heart to do this. Nathan, the prophet, said, “You are not the one to do this, but your son after will build a house for me.” And so, I think God gave to David also a vision of heaven similar to what Moses had, a vision of that holiness and that beauty in that order of heaven, and it was reflected in the plans for the construction of the temple. And David entrusted those plans to his son Solomon, along with all kinds of material possessions of gold and silver and everything he would need to build the temple. And Solomon built the temple, and God descended in the Shekinah. The dwelling glory of God came down in the cloud and God took his place there, a symbol of the place, that sacred space where God would dwell with his people.
But sadly, over the years, the place became corrupted with sin, especially in the fact that the people did not seem to understand the lessons of the sacrificial system. It's not a trade-in sin that God's doing. If you commit a sin, just do this thing and it'll be fine between us. But the sacrificial system with all of its blood was to teach how much God hates sin and how costly it is and how we deserve to die for our sins. And those sins must be atoned for, but they had reduced it to a machinery. So that in Isaiah 1, he said, “Stop all this blood, all these animals, this trampling of my courts. There's no repentance. There's no brokenness in your hearts over sin.” And so, even the temple itself had been corrupted by that point. And in Jeremiah's day, they looked on it somewhat like a lucky talisman, that they had the ark of the covenant, and they had the temple. And if they had that, that God would never allow some foreign power to come and destroy Jerusalem. And so, they were confident and they said, “The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord. We're fine.” We'll come back to that thought in a moment, but Jeremiah preached against it. And God shocked them and all the world by destroying that temple through Nebuchadnezzar, crushed it, burned it, destroyed it completely.
After 70 years, God in his mercy and his goodness restored the Jews back to the promised land and one of the first things he wanted done was the rebuilding of another temple. And so it was done under Haggai. Unfortunately, the glory of that temple was greatly reduced. It wasn't as beautiful, it wasn't as pretty. And so while the younger people were celebrating, some of the real older people at that point, remembered what Solomon's temple had looked like and they were mourning loudly at how sad it looked by comparison. And then they said, you couldn't tell the difference between the mourning and the celebration, it was just all mingled together there. In the course of time, Herod and all his wealth and pomp and power greatly enhanced the temple and put lots of big stones and all kinds of other structures around it, and it was a very imposing place. And that was the temple that Jesus came to that day, the dwelling place of God with man.
The Defilement of the Temple by Annas
Now, by the time Jesus came, the temple system was seriously defiled by its primary human caretaker, Annas. Annas was the high priest during Jesus' boyhood years, the most powerful Jewish man in Jerusalem, and he controlled the temple's sacrificial system, the center of Jewish religion. And as you know, according to the law of Moses, three times a year all Jewish males, adults, had to appear and come to the temple and none could come empty-handed. They had to bring their animal sacrifice to that one place that God shows to the temple. Now there was some practical wisdom in the book of Deuteronomy. If you couldn't bring your tithe or your offering because the temple was so far distant from where you lived, in Deuteronomy 14, God made provision for exchanging your tithe for money. And you could carry the money with you and then change it back for whatever you wanted to buy at the temple grounds. And so, this was just a practicality, God, very practical in His advice to us. So the buying and selling of animals for the sacrificial system, and for the tithes and offerings, all of that was perfectly fine. The issue here was the root motive and what was going on and how close the proximity the buying and selling was to the temple. The covetousness and the greed of the hearts of the men that were involved, that was the problem.
Now, I've never heard a clearer description of the extortion going on in the temple than from Pastor John McArthur. I heard a sermon that he gave on this, it really opened my eyes to what was going on with Annas. Annas probably legitimately had the right to be high priest, probably from the line of Aaron. We don't know for sure, but probably. He was high priest from the year AD 6 to 15, again, the boyhood years of Jesus. In the year 15, he was pressured out of office by the Romans, because they wanted to control the high priestly office. It was too powerful a position in Jewish culture, and so they forced Annas out. But Annas was still very powerful and his successor, he himself chose. And frankly, the next six successors were all closely related to Annas, and Caiaphas was, in fact, his son-in-law. So Annas was the real power behind the whole religious system of Israel.
To become a high priest under Rome, all you had to do is kneel down and kiss the hem of Rome's garment and pay a lot of money. And Annas was willing to do both, and he had the money to pay. Now, you may wonder, where does a high priest get all his money? Well, that's the very issue I think that Jesus is dealing with here. It was from the temple concessions, the system of concessions there at the temple. Now, when I say concessions, you ought not to think like the Durham Bulls concessions, where you get hot dogs, and hamburgers, and sweatshirts and all of that kind of thing. No, these were religious concessions. These were animal sacrifices that were being sold there. Again, nothing wrong with that.
But when people came to make their sacrifices, they would first enter the outer courtyard called “the Court of the Gentiles.” And in this court, concession booths have been set up for the exchange of money because people had to pay a temple tax. Anyone who came possessing foreign currency, their currency could not be accepted. It had to be exchanged. And Annas also had a monopoly in the sale of sacrificial animals, because according to the law, they had to be without blemish and without defect. So you can imagine an Israelite man will leave his field and he would bring his little lamb under his arm and maybe it wasn't so distant for him to travel. And he would come and as he would enter the court of the Gentiles, he would meet there, Annas' inspector. And he would present his lamb, and guess what? It just wasn't good enough. It never seemed to be good enough. And the land would be confiscated as a blemished animal, probably sold again the next day.
But over there, there would be temple sacrifices that were pre-approved, and five times as expensive as any lamb you'd ever find anywhere else. Furthermore, his money was no good. He had to exchange it, and over there is the money changers. And again, for a fee, five times the amount. And as we noted from Josephus, we're talking about over quarter of a million sacrifices annually. Can you imagine the kind of money that was rolling into Annas' coffers? The Jews hated Annas. They call the temple grounds “the bizarre of Annas.” And in the Talmud, it says of Annas, “Woe to the house of Annas! Woe to their serpent's hiss! They are High Priests; their sons are keepers of the treasury; their sons-in-law are guardians of the Temple; and their servants beat the people with staves.” They had a monopoly. They were in control of everything. And so the Talmud gives indication of the Jewish hatred of Annas and of his house. This, my friends, is the “den of thieves,” the den of robbers that Jesus has spoken of. They turned the sacrificial system into a huge machine.
Our sins should cause us grief. They should cause us to weep. It should break our hearts when we sin. And in the Old Covenant's sacrificial system, the sacrifices of God were a broken and contrite spirit. And it was just a symbol of a sacrifice yet to come. They should have known this. The giving of an animal, a blood sacrifice should have been a cause for weeping and brokenness of spirit. But for Annas and his henchmen, it was a business opportunity. Can you imagine what was happening inside the heart of Jesus as he saw that?
The Zeal of Jesus: Perfect Purity
And so, we see the zeal of Jesus, perfect purity. Look at verses 12-13: “Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. ‘It is written,’ he said to them, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers.’”
A Night to Think About It
Now what's fascinating to me about Jesus, is just how he goes about everything he does. In John chapter 2 before cleansing the temple, he makes a whip. I don't know how long that would have taken, but it would have taken a while. In this case, you have to put together the different accounts of Mark and Luke, as well as what we have here in Matthew, but in Mark 11:11 it says, that after the triumphal entry, Jesus entered Jerusalem and went to the temple. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late he left, he went out and went to Bethany and spent the night with the 12. He did this the next day. Oh, how different is the anger and the wrath of God compared to ours. We just react. Our anger is so prideful, it's so sinful, it's so selfish. And so, we're told in James that we should be slow to become angry. God is slow to become angry, and Jesus pictures this. He goes home, perhaps He wakes up, he has his time with the Father, he has his prayer time, and then he goes in and does this. It wasn't an accident, it was nothing he would repent from later, as so often happens with our anger. How perfect a picture of God's patience is this. It says in Psalm 145:18, “The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.”
Zeal for God’s House Still Consumed Jesus
Now back in John 2, the reason for the cleansing of the temple was given, His disciples remembered later that it was written, Psalm 69, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” What is zeal? Zeal is a passionate fire, burning in the heart of Jesus. Jealousy for the glory of God and the holiness of his name and of his people. That's what zeal is. It's like a fire. And John tells us that's why He did it, that's his motive. It was zeal that did it.
Interesting in John 2. You could translate it a little bit different way: “Zeal for your house will devour me.” A little more aggressive. We could even, getting away from the Greek word, just go to the concept. Zeal for your house will kill me. I will die because of my zeal for your house. And, friends, that happens at both the horizontal and the vertical levels. Horizontally he would die because he made Annas His enemy. Annas hated Jesus. Like, you can imagine some Mafia, head of a Mafia family, would hate anyone cutting in on the drug business, or trying to stop it, or back in the days of prohibition. Al Capone, anyone who would come against him, he would be killed. And so, Annas wanted to kill Jesus, and there is definitely a link between the cleansing of the temple, and Anna's hatred for Jesus. But that's a horizontal level, “Zeal for your house will kill me.” How much more, then, at the vertical level with the holiness of God? Jesus knew that the temple of God was defiled, that the people of God were impure, and he was willing that his blood be shed to purify us from all unrighteousness and to cleanse us, that we might stand holy and blameless in His sight.
And so, zeal for God's house, literally and figuratively killed Jesus. We cannot measure the fire for holiness that burns within the heart of Jesus Christ. And so he was willing to pour out his life blood for that.
His Passionate Actions
And so, what does he do? Well, he enters the temple area, and it says he drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. This is a passionate picture, this is a man of action. You can imagine tables flying, coins rolling, clattering to the ground, doves fluttering up into the air, people shouting, wondering what he's doing, and he goes from table to table doing this. It's a picture of the passionate hatred that God has for sin. He's not lukewarm about sin; our God's a passionate being. Our God's an emotional being. Not lukewarm at all. It says in Romans 1:18, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.”
And we should not imagine, friends, that there's the slightest shadow of a hint of a shade of a difference between God the Father and God the Son on this. They're exactly the same. They both hate sin, they're both wrathful against it. There's no difference. You should not imagine that Jesus, mild and meek riding on the donkey, has to stand between us and a wrathful God the Father, etcetera. He feels exactly the same way God the Father does about our sin. And so, this is the passion of Jesus. It is also a prophetic depiction, I think of the future destruction of that temple itself. Jesus himself after he would die and be resurrected on the third day and spend 40 days with his disciples, he would ascend to heaven, and he would sit down at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. And from there he would make his enemies a footstool for his feet. And in 70 AD, He sent the Romans, the sovereignty of Jesus depicted, he sent the Romans to destroy the temple. Jesus predicts this. In Matthew 24, as he left the temple and was walking away, the disciples came to call his attention to its buildings and all of its magnificent stones. “Do you see all these things?” Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, not one stone will be left on another.”
But this is a symbolic surgical strike. Notice that no human being is injured. No animal, even. Doves are set free. Just inanimate objects thrown around. Coins rolling on the ground, that's all. Very careful symbolic surgical strike here. We can imagine, I don't know if it has happened, but some idolaters, money-grabbing, money changers, scrambling around like lizards trying to collect these coins as many of them as they can, and maybe the crowd, they're in the court of the Gentiles, scooping up as many coins as they can get. “Oh, what a happy day at the temple, look what I had mom, bringing home some coins.” Jesus goes from table to table.
His Scriptural Reasons
And he gives a scriptural reason. He said, “It is written, my house will be called a house of prayer, but you're making it a den of thieves.” The foundation to all true spiritual reformation must be the Scripture. It is written, it is written. And so, Jesus makes it plain that there's a scriptural reason for this purification in the temple.
Isaiah had a magnificent vision, I think, yet to be fulfilled fully. Isaiah 56:7, speaking of aliens, foreigners, eunuchs, Gentiles. Foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord and the Covenant, says, Isaiah, “I will bring to my holy mountain and I will give them joy in my house of prayer, says the Lord Almighty. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” Someday that's gonna come true. Someday we're gonna dwell together with people from every tribe and language and people and nation, we will offer up a sacrifice of praise to the glory of God, it will be a house of prayer for all nations. Awesome vision. Now, in Jesus' day, still in the Old Covenant, the temple symbolized the unfinished work of redemptive history. It was a bunch of barriers, really, of concentric barriers. You had the court of the Gentiles, beyond which the Gentiles could not go. It was illegal for them to go beyond that. You had the court of women, beyond which Jewish women could not go. And then you had the court of Israel, beyond which laymen, non-Levites could not go. And then you had the sanctuary area itself beyond which only the priests could go.
And then you had at the core of it all, the Holy of Holies into which no one could go, except the High Priest just once a year with the blood of the atonement and he had to get out, lest he be struck dead. What is God saying in the Old Covenant? Thus far you may come and no farther. And so the Gentiles were excluded, but even so there was a desire that a righteous Gentile like a Cornelius or a Centurion and might be able to come to the Temple Mountain, stand there on the outside. Yes, Lord, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the master's table, even the Gentiles could be there and maybe they could pray. But if they did, what would they find, the bazaar of Annas, traffic, and money changing going on. So Jesus just overturns the whole thing. Now of course, by the end of that incredible week, by shedding His blood Jesus is gonna make it all obsolete, amen. Whole thing, obsolete. Oh, how sweet is this? We, in the New Covenant, because of the shedding of the blood of Jesus, we have confidence to enter the most holy place by a new and living way, into the very presence of God that new and living way is his body.
And concerning that barrier, that dividing wall between Jew and Gentile set up there, the court of the Gentiles, that's destroyed, it's gone. For it says in Ephesians chapter 2, concerning Jew and Gentile hostility, “he himself is our peace, who has made the two one, and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and its regulations, and make one new man out of the two.” And so, Jesus gives a picture, a symbolic picture of all this. While he's cleansing the temple, he has in mind Isaiah's vision, “my house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.” But he says more than that, you're making it a den of thieves. He's quoting another Scripture. Jesus just flowed Scripture. I think if you had squeezed him he would have spoken a Scripture verse. Some Scripture would have come from him, if you had stood near him long enough, he would have quoted something from Scripture. And this is from Jeremiah 7, I mentioned it to you, remember how they were looking on the temple as a talisman, a lucky charm.
And they thought just because they had the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, that they would never be destroyed by a Gentile power. And Jeremiah said, “But look, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless. ‘Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, will you burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known, and then come and stand here before me in this house, which bears my Name and say “We are safe” -- safe to do all these detestable things? But I have been watching declares the Lord, has this house which bears my name become a den of robbers to you?’” So in summation, the temple represented the dwelling place of God with his people in the Old Testament, central to the temple were two things: animal sacrifice, blood sacrifice and prayer. The Jews in general violated the spirit of the sacrificial system by trampling his court with meaningless offerings, because they had not repented from their sins. The Jewish leaders had defiled it by trying to make money on other people's sins, and so, Jesus goes and cleanses it.
The New Temple: The People of God
The Old Temple Abolished
Now where does it stand now with the temple of God? Well, we're in the New Covenant now. We are the sacred space. We are the sacred place. The time is coming, said Jesus to the Samaritan woman when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father, God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth. So the old temple is abolished, he abolished it, friends. It's obsolete, it says in Hebrews 8:13, “By calling this covenant ‘new,’ he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear."
The New Temple Established
And so, there is a new temple established. The Bible speaks in two different senses of that. First of every individual Christian. If you have been born again, you are the temple of the Holy Spirit, your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 6:19, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have received from God? You're not your own, you're bought at a price, therefore glorify God in your body.” You individually as a Christian, you are the temple of the living God.
But so also the church corporately as a whole is the temple of the living God, and the Bible speaks in that way, as well. 1 Corinthians 3:16, speaking collectively. “Do you not know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells among you or in you?” Or in Ephesians 2:22, “and in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His spirit.”
Christ’s Zeal Undimmed: The Purity of the New Temple
Can I ask you a question? Do you think it's really possible that Christ's zeal for the shadow of the Old Covenant is less than his zeal for the purity of the reality of the new? It cannot be. He is every bit zealous that this temple be pure and holy as it was that, that one was. Christ's heart burns with the desire that every individual Christian and that the church, his bride be holy and blameless in his sight. And so he moves through our hearts and lives sometimes with a whip and with fire in his eyes to get the job done.
The Ultimate Cost of Purity: The Blood of Christ
He was willing to pay the price, to shed his blood that we be pure. It says in 1 John 1:7, “the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” Because of the shedding of his blood, he was willing to die that we be pure. And now his call stands over us that we be pure and we be holy.
Application: Let Jesus Purify His Temple
Understand How Zealous Christ is for Purity
So how can we apply this text? First of all, understand how zealous Christ is for purity. Meditate on this. Picture him with fire in his eyes, like Revelation chapter 1. His eyes like blazing fire, his feet like burnished bronze, and he's got a whip in his hand. You say, “Well, I don't like that picture. I like the gentle Jesus, meek and lowly riding on the donkey.” Friends, you can't pick and choose. He is lamb, yes, but he's also lion. He is lion and lamb. We have to accept both.
Meditate on this, and realize what Jesus was willing to do to make us a pure people. Titus 2:13-14, it says, “Jesus Christ … gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness,” listen, “and to purify for himself a people that are his very own eager to do what is good.” That's why he shed his blood, that we would be pure from all wickedness and eager to do what's good.
Hunger and Thirst for Purity
Therefore, application: hunger and thirst for that purity. Sometimes people come to me and they struggle and they say, “How do I know if I'm a Christian? I know I prayed the prayer, I was baptized and I'm struggling. I need to know.”
Probably one of the first things I do is I ask them this: “Do you hunger and thirst for righteousness? So, what do you want?” We all stumble in many ways, we have Romans 7 struggles with indwelling sin, we battle, we fight, we fall, we rise again, we struggle again. My question to you is simply this: do you hunger and thirst for righteousness? Do you want it like Jesus wants it? And I mean for your own personal purity, for your own lives, that your bodies will be holy and pure, that your use of your body will be holy and pure. Do you yearn for that? And then do you extend it out to this church? Are you hungry and thirsty for the righteousness of this church, for your brothers and sisters in Christ that they would be holy and pure in their lives? Is this a fire that burns in your heart? And extend it out. What about other churches in this community, godly churches where there are godly men preaching the word of God, and then people being converted? Do you care about those churches and their holiness? Are you praying for them? Does it matter to you whether they're holy in God's sight?
And extend it out to the nation. The church in the United States of America, does it matter to you whether the people of God is pure? And go to the ends of the earth. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,” Jesus said, “for they will be satisfied.” Ask God to purify us, ask him to purify yourself, to cleanse you from all unrighteousness, beg him for this.
Purity of the Heart
Now, what do I mean by purity? I wanna give you two senses before I'm done. There are two key kinds of purity I wanna tell you about, purity of the heart and purity of the lifestyle. 2 Corinthians 7:1 speaks of both. “Since we have these promises dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything,” listen, “that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 7:1, okay? There are things that contaminate the heart, and there are things that contaminate the body. Okay. What do I mean by purity of heart? Well start with this. Is your heart devoted to Jesus Christ above all? Is he the greatest love of your life? Is your trust wholly in him, or are you trusting also in your good works?
If you're not a Christian, you're probably trusting in your good works, abandon that trust, it will not help you on Judgment Day. Come to Christ, let Christ be uppermost in your own affections and your own trust, purity, focus on Christ. If you are a Christian, I'm asking you now, does the esteem of Christ matter more than anything else to you, more than what other people think about you? Heart purity is sincere and pure devotion to Christ. Freedom from all idols that you would not esteem anything higher than you esteem Christ, that you will not cherish anything earthly or material above Christ, that you would purify your heart from worldliness. In James 4 it likens it to adultery, spiritual adultery. He says, “You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture says without reason that the Spirit He caused to live in us envies intensely?” That's the spirit of Jesus. And he's zealous for you and he doesn't want you to be worldly.
Now, if I start listing to you specifically, what's worldliness? That's where we get into trouble, isn't it? I'm not going to list them out, I'm just gonna say, anything that's the lust of the eyes, the lust of the pride, lust of the flesh, the boastful pride of life, these things are worldly. It's adultery and therefore, we're called on to purify ourselves, “Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts you double-minded.” So that's heart purity.
Purity of the Life
Secondly, life purity. That you would be cleansed in your lifestyle from everything that defiles you. Four major areas, sexual purity. Ephesians 5:3, “but among you, there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality or of any kind of impurity or greed, because these are improper for God's holy people.” Sexual impurity is a temptation in every age, very much so in our age. We are saturated with sexual images. We're barraged by sexual temptations. Christ commands us to be pure from even a hint of sexual immorality. No sexual innuendo, no sexual jokes, no sexual lust resting in your heart, no defilement with media, with internet pornography, nothing. He demands our purity in this, He wants us to be a pure people. Fear him, picture him with eyes blazing with a whip in his hand, He will not spare you as he did not spare people in the past who decided to test him in this area.
Secondly, speech purity. Oh, how we defile ourselves and each other by what we say. Be careful how you use your mouth. Ephesians 4:29, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” We speak impure words, we gossip, we slander, we talk about others behind their backs, we complain. We murmur against God, for what He provides. We have arguments with one another, with our spouses, with our children, with our parents, with fellow workers, with total strangers, with church members. We speak prideful words boasting about ourselves, we speak untrue words, lying, shading the truth, exaggerating. We speak hurtful words, cutting others down, discouraging them, hurting them with vicious comments. We know how to do it in such a way that they get hurt and we don't even... It's like a hit and run. I've seen people do it.
Sadly, I've done it myself, cut somebody down in such a way they don't know, they've been cut down, they just feel awful after they get done talking to you. You knew what you were doing. God yearns for our speech to be pure from all this. Only what's helpful for building others up according to their needs. Set a guard over the door of my mouth O Lord, may I be pure in speech. Let me say, only what is glorifying to God, may I say only what is true and noble and right and pure and lovely and admirable. May my mouth speak what is true and right.
Thirdly, relational purity, I'm talking about how you conduct your relationships. There are things that defile, like, rage and anger and bitterness and unforgiveness. Are your relationships free from this? Is your marriage free from bitterness and unforgiveness? How about your relationship with your parents or with your children? What about your relationship with your employer or your employee? Are you carrying these relationships properly? He wants relational purity, he wants churches free from factions and dissensions. If you disagree with something the pastors or the elders are doing or have done come and talk to them.
Deal with it honestly, maturely. I appreciate it when people have the courage to do that, and come and bring the Bible and we talk. Praise God for that, and do it. Don't talk about us, about church leaders behind their backs. I have no evidence that's going on. I just suspect, just because of human nature. Let's be sure that our church is free from these kinds of defilements.
And finally, lawful pleasures purity. What do I mean by that? Well, there's some good gifts that God's given, but they have the power to ensnare you. Like food, for example. That you could become gluttonous, that you could kind of live for food, and that's your god, really. It's the pleasure of your life and you just can't wait to have it. Well, it says in 1 Corinthian 6, “‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful or profitable. ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be enslaved by anything.” Is there any lawful pleasure that's enslaving you in your life? A hobby, a habit pattern, a television program, an electronic device, a vacation home, anything enslaving you, that you have to have it? It's what I call a lawful pleasure enslavement. Oh, that we would be pure, pure in our hearts and pure in our lives.
Confess Sin to Christ … Allow Him to Purify You
Now, it could be as you've listened to me preach today, God has been convicting you of sin in your life. If you're a Christian, if you trusted in Christ, all you need to do, 1 John 1:9, is to confess your sins to him. It says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins” and what? “Purify us from all unrighteousness.” Isn't that sweet? If you're feeling guilty today, take the guilt to the cross, don't blame the pastor, it's not his fault. I don't know you, I don't know you. I know your face and your name, I don't know what's going on in our lives. If you're feeling the sting of conviction could it be that there's a sin there? Bring it to the cross, and confess it to Jesus and let him cleanse you, let him purify you from all unrighteousness. You can be free today from enslavement, come to the cross.
Humbly Accept Discipline from Christ
It may be that you're unable to deal with certain enslaving patterns in your life, and Jesus may need to touch your life with his whip. It's called discipline from the Lord. It might be some kind of hardship, some financial difficulty, could be a health problem.
It says in Hebrews 12, that “the Lord disciplines the ones he loves and he scourges everyone he accepts as a son.” Don't lose heart, and don't blow it off as though it's nothing, but accept the discipline from the Lord and let him work in you. There is a final phase of our salvation yet to come, and I can't wait for it. I yearn for it. When God and man at last will dwell together in perfect righteousness, when the new Jerusalem will come down from heaven as a bride, beautifully dressed for her husband, and at last the dwelling of God will be with his people, and they will be with him and he will be their God and they will be pure from all defilement for all eternity. And when we're there, you know who you have to thank for it, Jesus, the one who died that his temple might be pure. Close with me in prayer.