Purity is related to guiltless, blameless, or innocent behavior. In Exodus 23:7, an innocent person is portrayed as someone who is righteous as measured by the demands of the law. Purity is not a cultic term; in fact, it does not appear in the rules for holiness detailed in Leviticus. Yet the idea of purity does surface in a number of instances. Before they can engage in any cultic or ceremonial activity, God's people must be consecrated or had to sanctify themselves ( Exodus 19:10 Exodus 19:14 ; Joshua 7:13 ; 1 Sam 16:5 ;Job 1:5 ).
The New Testament. In the New Testament, there is little emphasis on ritual purity. Rather, the focus is on moral purity or purification: chastity ( 2 Cor 11:2 ; Titus 2:5 ); innocence in one's attitude toward members of the church ( 2 Cor 7:11 ); and moral purity or uprightness ( Php 4:8 ; 1 Tim 5:22 ; 1 Peter 3:2 ; 1 John 1:3). Purity is associated with understanding, patience and kindness ( 2 Cor 6:6 ); speech, life, love, and faith (1 Tim 4:12 ); and reverence ( 1 Peter 3:2 ).
Paul as God's servant commended himself through his sufferings and his moral and spiritual qualities. His ministry was enhanced and accredited because of the kind of person he had shown himself to be. Paul encouraged Timothy to set an example in his lifestyle and his purity ( 1 Tim 4:12 ), as well as in his relationships with other believers ( 5:2 ).
The Bible bears witness to the long struggle over and in man to secure physical, mental, and moral cleanliness. The various forms of purity have relation to each other.
We have a common proverb that "cleanliness is akin to godliness." Cleanliness and aesthetics are certainly nigh neighbors. But cleanliness and ethics do not dwell farther apart. When one realizes that by uncleanness of person or property he may endanger the health or life of family, or even of society about him--as in keeping conditions that develop typhoid fever--he begins to realize that there is, a close tie between cleanliness and morals. "Ought" comes in on the sphere of cleanliness, and then the whole realm of ethics is open. So near are the departments of physical and ethical cleanliness that now if one hears the word "slum" without explanation, he cannot tell whether it relates to filth or sin.
The perception of this relationship is of very ancient date. Though it is Isaiah who says (52:11) "Cleanse yourselves, ye that bear the vessels of Yahweh," and Mark 7:3,4, "All the Jews, except they wash their hands diligently, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders; and when they come from the marketplace, except they bathemselves, they eat not; and many other things there are, which they have received to hold, washings of cups, and pots, and brasen vessels," yet such statements are but summaries of directions distributed here and there throughout the whole Levitical Law. We can read therein what sounds like the hygienic orders of a general to his soldiers on the march, or like the rules of the board of health to preserve a city from pestilence. And these Levitical directions for cleanliness are connected inseparably with the worship of Yahweh, as though physical purity were to that an essential. The Psalmist blends these two elements, the physical and the ethical, in the familiar question and answer (Psalms 24:3-5), "Who shall ascend into the hill of Yahweh? And who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto falsehood, and hath not sworn deceitfully. He shall receive a blessing from Yahweh, and righteousness from the God of his salvation."
The ceremonial cleansings called for by the Law had meaning and influence. They were interpretative of something spiritual--were a parable way of illustrating the necessity of purity of heart in order to gain acceptance with God. If in after-days the thing symbolized was forgotten in the symbol, that was owing to "blindness of mind." The darkness was not necessary.