To the Pure All Things Are Pure

By In In Remembrance On April 6, 2014

This article was originally published in Expository Files 5.4, published April 1998. Read the original publication

Who said, “To the pure all things are pure”? And what does that mean? Some people would like it to mean that one can engage in some sort of less than pure entertainment and not be adversely effected by it. For example, this statement has been used by some to say that they could use pornography and their own “purity” (?) would make their pastime pure. They suggest that the only way one could be adversely effected by such is to have had a filthy heart to begin with.

Actually, the above words are Scripture, written by the Lord’s apostle, Paul. He said, “To the pure, all things are pure. But to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient, and worthless for any good deed.” (Titus 1:15,16).

So, what does it mean? Does it mean that if I am pure in heart, that everything I do will be rendered automatically pure? Does it mean that a person’s lust, greed, immorality, cursing, cheating and lying are all “pure” if the person committing them is pure within? I think that any rational, thinking person dedicated to pleasing the Lord knows better than that; so then, what does the statement mean? It is Scripture, and therefore it is true.

Historical Context

“For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach, for the sake of sordid gain.” (Titus 1:10,11).

Paul’s statement “To the pure all things are pure” must be taken in the context of the problem at hand. There were false teachers “teaching things they should no teach.” From this epistle, and others, we know exactly what they were teaching.

Paul was dealing with rebellious men of Jewish backgrounds who were trying to bind portions of the Old Law on new Gentile converts. Among these laws were the dietary restrictions that divided meat into two groups, “clean” and “unclean”. Under the Old Law, this had pictured for God’s chosen people, the Jews, the concept of how they must maintain a separateness from the world and its sin. Today, while we are no longer required by the New Covenant of Christ to keep these Old Covenant dietary regulations, we are still commanded to keep ourselves separate from the sins of the world (2 Corinthians 6:14-18; 1 John 3:3-5).

The false teachers were saying that some meat continued to be impure. Paul says, in this context, that “To the pure all things are pure.” He was talking about food, not that we could mix with sin and still maintain our purity (cf. 1 Timothy 4:1-5; Colossians 2:16-17). To even attempt to apply this statement to impure or immoral behavior is a gross misapplication of the Scripture. According to the context, by the grace of God, we are to leave behind those things which are not in harmony with His will (Titus 2:11-15; 3:3-7).

Those To Whom Nothing Is Pure

“…but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure. Both their mind and conscience are defiled.” (Titus 1:15b).

Under the Old Law, if one who was ceremonially pure came into contact with an unclean thing, he or she would become unclean. These ceremonial cleanliness/uncleanness rules did not necessarily mean an unclean person had sinned. For example, touching a dead body was not a sin, but it would render one unclean for a time. Again, these laws were shadows illustrating the spiritual principle that God’s people must always keep themselves separate from sin. This principle remains true today even though we are no longer under the ceremonial law of Moses that illustrated it.

Haggai once used this ceremonial law to illustrate how all of God’s laws work (Haggai 2:11-14). When we touch what is morally unclean, we become unclean ourselves. If we disobey God’s moral laws and then think that because we do some good deed that it will render us morally clean we are wrong. So many people think that is how it works; that one may disobey God’s moral laws and still be right with God because of some contribution to a charity or something. But that is not how or why we are right with God. We are not, in this sense, justified by works (Titus 3:5; Ephesians 2:8-10). On the contrary, doers of good deeds, like Cornelius, must be saved by God’s grace by fearing God and doing what is right (Acts 10:1,2; 34-35). All of us need to do what Cornelius did; obey the gospel of grace (Acts 10:48; 11:14). Without this obedience of faith, we are lost. Nothing but the blood of Christ can take away our sins. Many immoral persons attempt to salve their conscience by joining some good deed crusade while continuing to live in sin. It will not purify them.

The Deeds Prove The Lie

“They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient, and worthless for any good deed.” (Titus 1:16).

Its rather easy to talk about God. The Phrase “Thank God!” is probably uttered several million times across our nation each day. What a grateful, God-fearing nation we must be!

And we notice how at the Academy Awards so many thanked God for their award. But the fact of the matter is, while one may verbally use the name of God, this does not mean they really know Him. In fact, it is a false claim to say one “knows God” if they are disobedient to His word by their deeds. John, inspired by the Holy Spirit, also had much to say about this (1 John 1:6; 2:4-6).

The text says those who say nice things about God but will not submit to Him are “detestable” , “disobedient” and worthless for any good deed”. That’s pretty strong stuff, isn’t it? “Worthless” for any good deed ?

Think of the Hollywood extravaganza. All the big celebrities are there. Many of them sport tiny red ribbons for AIDS awareness. That’s a good deed, isn’t it? I am sure that it is, but it doesn’t accomplish a whole lot. Could more be done that would actually help the problem? You bet! But it will take a lot of courage. Far better would be to, first, get one’s own life in spiritual and moral order; and then to encourage others to do the same. If everyone did so, AIDS would be gone in a generation or so. How many generations will it take to defeat AIDS by wearing red ribbons?

But that isn’t likely to happen. Shame on me for even mentioning it. Not many would be willing to give up their immoral and unrighteous behavior (1 Corinthians 6:9-10) to defeat AIDS. But, they would be willing to wear the red ribbon. Many profess to know God, but deny Him by their deeds.

The Pure in Christ

“…in all things, show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine dignified.” (Titus 2:7).

Contrasted with the above, the godly man or woman teaches the truth, and then also dignifies it with righteous living (cf. 1 Timothy 4:12). It is with good deeds that we adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect.” (Titus 2:10). The proof is in the doing.

It is because of the hope we have in Christ that we are motivated to take such a stand even if it is presently unpopular. “And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” (1 John 3:3). We are indeed grateful for the good things with which God has blessed us. “To the pure, all things are pure.”

About the Author


Jon Quinn is a contributor to "The Expository Files," a monthly biblical newsletter focused on highlighting truths in specific scriptures. You can access their archives at

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