“I charge you before God and the Lord Jesus Christ and the elect angels that you observe these things without prejudice, doing nothing with partiality. Do not lay hands on anyone hastily, nor share in other people’s sins; keep yourself pure.” 1 Timothy 5:21–22

Just how am I supposed to keep myself pure being a fallen man in a fallen world? Good theology teaches that no believer achieves sinless perfection until after death or the rapture. Perfection is one of the glorious things about the hereafter and a source of wonderment to the redeemed heart on this side of the veil.

Of course, the context of the command “Keep yourself pure” concerns pastors and their need to guard their affiliations, those to whom they give their stamp of approval, whether through ordination councils or organizational affiliation. Paul’s instruction to Timothy is that he be measured, deliberate, supremely fair, and patient in his moving men forward in ministry. The warning is that misplaced and misguided loyalty will implicate Timothy in the failings and errors of other men.

Not all believers are pastors, but the warnings to Timothy certainly apply to all. 1 Peter 1:16, “Be ye holy, for I am holy” is still in the Book! In fact, this command is the bedrock commandment upon which the pastoral ethics application rests. 2 Corinthians 6:14–7:1 is another practical application suitable for all saints on earth. All Christians alike receive the command to keep themselves pure.

So, the question remains, how are we really supposed to do that? From our conception we have been infiltrated with evil. Our sin nature, the old man, is thankfully crucified in Christ at salvation, but its maledictions echo in our hearts. Our fallen state, though redeemed, still coaxes us to pride, selfishness, and sin. Our flesh has a default setting to lust. It is a good thing that 1 John 1:9 stands written, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Not only do we deal with internal temptation but we are affronted by evil. We face daily oppression from ungodly men. We face daily opposition from carnal Christians. We can be overwhelmed by Satan, his minions, and his world system any day. John also has a few verses which apply to this part of our battle also. 1 John 5:4f reads, “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”

Back in 4:4, John states, “You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” As he penned these comforting words of promise, I wonder if John had in mind an event he recorded for us in his Gospel. In John 13 we are treated to the astounding story of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. The Lord of all creation clothed Himself as a servant and did the menial task of a good host as He washed each disciple’s feet in turn. His action reinforced the truth that He became a servant and humbled Himself to the death at the cross. It also shows His role in dealing with the impurities that glom on to the saints just because they must persevere in this world.

Even though Jesus was, and is, free from sin, His work is to deal with our sin. Through His shed blood we have been washed from our sins (1 Corinthians 6:11) and we continue to benefit from His servant-like heart in keeping a daily, short account with our God through confession of sin. Dealing with our sin does not compromise His inherent holiness. An illustration of this fact is found in His healing of the leper in Matthew 8:1 and the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law in verse 14. As His touch alighted on them, their diseases fled. Corruption and defilement fled from Him. In fact, in John 8:46 Jesus challenged those who knew Him to accuse Him of sin; there were no takers. He is holy and He works for your purity every day though your soul may be vexed like Lot’s (2 Peter 2:8). Truly, greater is He who is in you (1 John 5:18ff)!

How are we to obey His command to keep pure; what is our part in all this? “Keeping” is guarding. It is present, vigilant, and unswerving allegiance. We must daily keep our allegiance to our Lord, to the Word, and to the faith.

Allegiance to the Lord is explained in John 15:1–11. We must be abiding in Him, He is our life-giving source of nourishment and He defines our purpose, to bear fruit to Him. Allegiance to the Lord means to keep your place. Each believer is first, and foremost, His servant.

Allegiance to the Word is explained in Psalm 119:9–16. The Bible cleanses our way, it is to be sought out by the believer and committed to memory and to heart. It is the responsibility of every saint to meditate, look into, delight, and to not forget God’s words in His Word. Allegiance to the Word means keep yourself.

Allegiance to the faith is explained in Jude 20ff. The foundation, life, and walk of faith is one of growing, praying, abiding, and anticipating His return. It is a life busy about God’s work of rescuing souls and trusting in His mercy. Allegiance to the faith means to keep advancing. In practicing these three you will keep yourself from sin. Trust and obey.