Key Scriptures: Isaiah 8 and 10, Matthew 5:8, Psalm 119:9, 1 Timothy 4:12, Hebrews 13:4, 1 Corinthians 6:18, Psalm 51:10, 1 John 1:9, Romans 13:14, Philippians 4:8, Psalm 24:3-4, 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8, Ephesians 5:5, James 4:8, 1 Corinthians 6:13, 2 Corinthians 7:1, Psalm 119:37, 1 Corinthians 7:2, 1 Peter 1:22, James 1:27, Hebrews 9:14, Romans 12:1
Guiding Question: What does God mean when He says He wants us to be pure?
Optional Introductory Activity: Before class, purchase a water purity test kit like the one found here. (Note:This is not an endorsement for this product or vendor.) Bring in several samples of water. You may want to bring in salt water, tap water and mineral water to have variants on the tests. Theoretically, if one of your samples is distilled (not purified) water, it should read as pure. Show students the glasses of water and ask them if they believe the water is pure. Do not define purity for them at this point. After students have shared and explained their opinions, use the test strips. Explain to students that even though water with minerals, salts and metals may be safe to drink, technically those additives make the water impure.
Lesson: (Questions for students are in bold italics.) What do we mean when we say something is pure? The dictionary definition of purity is free from contamination. When purity is mentioned in the Bible though, the meaning goes a bit deeper. How does the Bible define purity? The Bible dictionary defines purity as guiltless, blameless, innocent behavior, moral purity, uprightness.
When we talk about purity in a Christian setting, we often are referring merely to sexual purity. While that is certainly part of purity, the Bible explains that the purity God expects from His people is so much more than merely avoiding sex outside of marriage.
One of the Old Testament discussions about purity centers around the purity of the animals that are to be sacrificed to God. God didn’t want just the old, lame or diseased animals to be sacrificed to Him. He demanded the very best of the animals the people owned as sacrifices. Leviticus 22:20 tells us any animal with a defect of any kind would be rejected as a sacrifice. Dig deeper though and you will discover that even these perfect animals were not a perfect sacrifice for the sins of the people. God would send His own son, Jesus, as the perfect sacrifice to purify us from our sins.
The Old Testament book of Isaiah is a great place to begin more thoroughly examining the idea of purity in God’s eyes. Isaiah was a prophet who lived about the time of King Hezekiah around 740 to 698 B.C. The book he wrote is filled with prophecies. Many prophecies are about the nations God is going to punish and why they are being punished. It would be a depressing book, but Isaiah also prophesies about the coming Messiah, Jesus.
The nations God is going to punish are being punished for their lack of purity in following God. Read Isaiah 8:19-22, 1:16-17 and 10:1-4 and 10:20-22. What are some of the impurities of the people in these nations that have made God angry? What are some of God’s expectations from people who are pure? What is different about the remnant God will keep?
From these verses, we learn that the purity God expects from His people, begins with their purity in how they follow Him. Isaiah specifically mentions relying on the Lord truly. What do you think it means to truly rely on the Lord? Isaiah also mentions that God expects His people to consult Him instead of mediums and that their worship should not be to idols, but God only. Why might God consider consulting mediums instead of Him impure? Many people today don’t worship idols that are graven images, but they may have other idols in their lives. What are some of these possible idols?
God also is angry about the impurity in the way people have treated others. What are some of the specific things mentioned in these verses? What are some of the things Isaiah lists that God wants His people to do to treat others purely? Why do you think treating others badly and failing to help them makes us impure in God’s eyes?
Isaiah isn’t the only place in the Bible where God’s ideas about purity are defined by specific attitudes and behaviors. There are many other passages where God tells us what He considers pure and impure, what happens if we stay impure and how we can be purer in God’s eyes. For each of the passages below, record as a class what additional information you learn about purity.
- Matthew 5:8. The pure in heart will be blessed
- Psalm 119:9. Keep pure by living according to God’s Word
- 1 Timothy 4:12. Set an example in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity
- Hebrews 13:4. Keep the marriage bed undefined/pure
- Psalm 51:10. Create in me a clean heart and right spirit (praying for God’s help)
- 1 John 1:9. Confess our sins, he will forgive and cleanse us
- Romans 13:14. Put in Jesus, make no provision for the flesh to gratify desires
- Philippians 4:8. Think about pure things
- Psalm 24:3-4. The pure heart will ascend the hill of God
- 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8. No sexual immorality, not driven by passions and lust, God calls us not to impurity, but to holiness
- Ephesians 5:5. Sexually impure will have no inheritance in kingdom
- James 4:8. Purify your hearts
- 1 Corinthians 6:13. Body not meant for sexual immorality, but for God
- 2 Corinthians 7:1. Cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bring holiness to completion
- Psalm 119:37. Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things
- 1 Peter 1:22. Purified your souls by obedience to the truth, love one another from pure heart
- James 1:27. Religion that is pure and undefiled…widows and orphans AND keep oneself up stained from the world
- Hebrews 9:14. Blood of Christ purifies
- Romans 12:1. Offer yourselves as living sacrifices
Purity in God’s eyes sounds like we need to be perfect like those animals that were sacrificed, doesn’t it? God knows perfection on Earth has only been obtained by Jesus. That’s why he sent Jesus to die on the Cross for our sins. When we confess our sins and are baptized for the forgiveness of our sins, we rise up out of the water pure. It is as if we have never sinned. After we become a Christian, when we sin, we can pray for God’s forgiveness.
Notice though, that those scriptures still called for Christians to strive for that purity, that perfection in living the lives God wants us to live. Just because we can be forgiven of our sins doesn’t mean we should no longer try to be pure, holy and perfectly obedient. In fact, our love and gratitude to God for sending Jesus to die on the Cross for our sins should motivate us to try even harder to live up to the expectations God has for us.
Skills Activity: Review the main points from the lesson. While there were some practical points in this lesson, many students will still struggle with understanding what it means to live the pure life God has called them to live. It is important to help them build a purity toolbox of sorts, containing some practical things they can do to avoid becoming impure and to be proactively pure. Some students will struggle more with avoiding being tainted by the impure world, while others may find it a struggle to do those positive things God considers the behaviors and attitudes associated with pure, undefiled religion.
It may be necessary to get very specific in order to truly help students develop a set of skills that will help them be pure in God’s eyes. For example, if a teen struggles with giving in to peer pressure to sin, he might need to learn some skills to help him avoid peer pressure. A teen who struggles with sexual purity may need strategies for staying pure in a dating relationship. Students who treat others indifferently or poorly may need ideas for ways they can treat others in a more loving, pure way.
It can also be helpful to find ways to encourage students to spend time with God in scripture and in prayer. Being pure in obedience to God is difficult when they don’t even know what God expects of them. It may also be difficult for some teens to understand the difference between merely acting as if they are pure versus having pure hearts that truly seek to be who God wants them to be. Once again, that is a very abstract concept which may require deeper conversations.
If you would like to do something practical in addition to these conversations, a natural fit would be to do a service and faith sharing project based on Isaiah 1:16-17. Students should be involved in all aspects of planning and executing the project. Allow time for reflection after the project tying it back to the original study on purity. Allowing students to generate numerous project ideas before choosing one and executing it, can also provide students with ideas for treating others purely in the future.
Application Challenge: Review the points and scripture from the lesson. What is one way in which you struggle to be pure? What are some things you can do to be more successful in your attempts to be pure in that area? Try using those strategies and ask for help from a mature Christian if you find you are still struggling.