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Archive for the ‘Bible’ Category

The Word of God became flesh (John 1:14) so that he might save humans. There was no other way. The guilt of our sin required death (see Gen 2:17). Either we die and pay this penalty or someone worthy (i.e. one who has no sin) dies in our place. Jesus Christ was the only one worthy. He was a man and thus a suitable substitute, but he was also God and thus a worthy substitute for countless people who would believe. But our problem is bigger than just guilt. We we also bear the shame of our sin and all of its defilement. We must be made clean. God the Son became flesh, not only to die in our place for our sin and guilt, but also to cleanse us from the inside out. He did not shy away from flesh that is so easily defiled. He became flesh and in so doing made flesh clean, even when encountering the defiling forces of this fallen world.

Throughout the law we see that no one could make another clean. Only God makes clean. When Jesus was on earth he was so pure that he could touch those who were unclean and instead of becoming unclean himself, they were cleansed. He made them clean. No priest ever made one clean; priests merely pronounced one was clean after God had made them clean.1 What was different about Jesus? He was and is the God who is clean. He does not pronounce others clean, he makes them clean.

This, in part, is why he became man. He became man to cleanse us. Light drives out darkness simply by entering into a dark place. God drives out defilement of our flesh by taking on flesh himself.

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1. We repeatedly read the phrase, “the priest shall pronounce him clean” in Leviticus 13 (vv. 6, 13, 23, 28, 34, 37 and also 14:7).

Other posts in this series

Cleansing from Defilement, Part 1: Introduction
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 2: The Danger of Defilement
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 3: Distinguishing between the Clean and Unclean
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 4: What Makes One Unclean?
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 5: Uncleanness is Contagious and Defiles the Camp
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 6: Defilement and Purity in the New Testament
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 7a: Jesus Christ Makes Us Clean
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 7b: Jesus Christ Makes Us Clean by His Baptism
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 7c: Jesus Christ Makes Us Clean by His Death and Resurrection
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 8: The Incarnation Was Necessary for Our Cleansing

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Real Men

Muslims love and respect all prophets, but it is not surprising that they revere Mohammad as the greatest of all prophets since they believe he is the last prophet and the seal of the prophets. In Asif Balouch’s post, “Top Ten Traits of a Real Man (Muslim Style)” he uses the prophet Mohammad as a template for what a real man is. He rightly rejects our culture’s many definitions of a real man as one who can hold the most liquor, sleep with the most women, have the hairiest chest, shoot the biggest guns, beat up the most people, etc.

I fully agree with his lists of ten traits of a real man (read his piece for a full explanation). They are not only Islamic traits, but biblical traits. Here are his ten traits and my biblical support for each.

1. A Real Man Reads
In the Injil the Messiah said we are to love the Lord God will all our heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30). In the Zabur (the Psalms) we read, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2).

2. A Real Man Is a Focused Man
But the Lord GOD helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame” (Isaiah 50:7).

3. A Real Man Is Gentle but Firm
The Messiah said this about himself, “Take my yoke upon you, and  learn from me, for I am  gentle and lowly in heart, and  you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29) and an elder (a leader within the church) must be “not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money” (1 Timothy 3:3).

4. A Real Man Is a Family Man
Husbands are called to “love their wives like Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25) and leaders in the church “must manage his own household well, with all dignity  keeping his children submissive” (1 Timothy 3:4).

5. A Real Man doesn’t Slander/Backbite/Cuss/Gossip
“But now  you must put them all away:  anger, wrath, malice,  slander, and obscene talk from your mouth” (Colossians 3:8).

6. A Real Man Keeps His Promises
This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and  stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:1-2).

7. A Real Man Respects All Women
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave  nor free,  there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

8. A Real Man Keeps His House in Order
This trait is about helping with chores and not merely saying it isn’t a man’s job. The first verse that came to mind here is “Love your neighbor as you love yourself” (Matthew 22:39). Those in a man’s family are his closest neighbors.

9. A Real Man Handles His Own Money
“But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8).

10. A Real Man Knows He’s Being Tested
Count it all joy, my brothers,  when you meet trials  of various kinds,  3 for you know that  the testing of your faith  produces steadfastness.  4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be  perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).

 

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All of the levitical offerings (the burnt offering, the grain offering, the sin offering,1 the guilt offering, and the peace offering) have been fulfilled in the offering of the Jesus the Messiah on the cross. The good news of the gospel is that “the blood of Jesus [God’s] Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).2 Typically when we think of the death of Jesus we think of the removal of God’s wrath and the forgiveness of sin. Rarely do we also recognize the beauty of Christ’s cleansing work. By his death we are made clean.

The cleansing that comes from Christ is superior than the cleansing received under the law because it comes, not through the blood of animals, but through the blood of the pure and blameless Messiah—a man. “For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Hebrews 9:13-14).

The sacrifice of the Son of God was the one sacrifice worthy and sufficient to truly make people clean. The old sacrifices were insufficient in that they had to be offered continually. There was no end to them because they never truly took away sin (Hebrews 10:4). But now that Christ has come and offered himself as the perfect lamb of God, sins are truly removed. All sins. So the author of Hebrews is able to say, “After making purification for sins, [Jesus] sat down at the right hand of the majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3). Christ’s work was finished.

Christ’s purifying work was so complete that he has washed and sanctified us in ways the levitical sacrifices never could. “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:19-22). It used to be that only the high priest could enter the holy place, because he alone was consecrated by God to be in the fullness of his presence,3 but now we all have confident access (we do not need to fear that we will be put to death as Aaron did [see Leviticus 16:2, 13]). Our hearts are sprinkled clean. Our bodies are washed with pure water. Not only are we cleansed, but we are sanctified, “. . . we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10).

One of the flaws of the purification sacrifices in the law is that while they could cleanse us and make us fit to enter God’s presence, they could do nothing to keep us from being defiled the next time we come in contact with something unclean. The death of Jesus Christ, however, not only cleanses us from all past impurities, but actually guards us from all future impurities. By virtue of being in Christ we are impervious to defilement. Just as Jesus, by his touch, made the unclean clean without being defiled himself, so he now makes all who are in him clean at all times because we are always in him. Furthermore, because of his death we are even today being sanctified (see Hebrews 10:14), so that our hearts are actually changed in such a way as to no longer desire the defiling sin we once loved. So Paul was able to write to Titus, “To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled” (Titus 1:15).

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1 Allen Ross calls this the “sin offering” a “purification offering.” The word here for sin (ḥaṭṭā𐑮t) is derived from the piel, which means “to cleanse or purify.” This also makes better sense of the usage of the offering since it was necessary for one to also be made clean from things that were not sin (like menstruation, child birth, intercourse, etc.). See Ross, Holiness to the Lord, 129-130.

2 Yes, the Bible does call Jesus God’s son. It does not mean that God had sex with Mary and produced a child. To see what it does and does not mean, see my series on The Son of God, especially part 4 (Jesus Christ Is the Son of God) and part 5 (Jesus Christ Is God’s Unique Son)

3 And even when he entered he had to be very careful so as to not be destroyed (Leviticus 16:2), for example, he had to burn incense so that the smoke of the incense would obscure his view of the ark of the covenant and the mercy seat where God’s presence was centered (see Leviticus 16:12-13). This cloud is, in some sense, still present, even as we enter God’s holy presence, but one day the cloud will be removed and we will see clearly (see 1 Corinthians 13:12).

Other posts in this series

Cleansing from Defilement, Part 1: Introduction
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 2: The Danger of Defilement
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 3: Distinguishing between the Clean and Unclean
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 4: What Makes One Unclean?
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 5: Uncleanness is Contagious and Defiles the Camp
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 6: Defilement and Purity in the New Testament
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 7a: Jesus Christ Makes Us Clean
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 7b: Jesus Christ Makes Us Clean by His Baptism
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 7c: Jesus Christ Makes Us Clean by His Death and Resurrection
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 8: The Incarnation Was Necessary for Our Cleansing

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The Prophet John (Yaha) objected to Jesus being baptized by him (ritually cleansed in water). Jesus, however, insisted by saying, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. Jesus did not need to repent. He had not sinned. It was a baptism that symbolized cleansing. Jesus did not need to be cleansed. He was not defiled. Jesus did many things he did not need to do. His death was a death for sin. Jesus did not need to die for sin. In it all he was identifying with his people, but even more, he was fulfilling the law’s demands for his people (for they could not) so that they could experience the blessings of cleansing and forgiveness.

Just as his death fulfills the sacrifices for atonement, so his baptism fulfills the washing necessary for purity. “Not only did Jesus fulfil the laws requiring sacrifice for sin but the purity laws requiring washing from defilement and in doing so exemplified the significance of baptism.”1

Peter compared our baptism to Noah’s ark and the way God saved them through the water. Through the flood God cleansed the earth of wickedness, saving the righteous. He purified his creation by destroying all that was defiled. Peter says that baptism corresponds to this, “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:21). At Paul’s conversion, Ananias said to him, “Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name” (Acts 22:16). Baptism symbolizes the washing away of our sins.

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1L. S., ““Cleansing in Christ.” (Unpublished diss., 2010), 19.

Other posts in this series

Cleansing from Defilement, Part 1: Introduction
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 2: The Danger of Defilement
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 3: Distinguishing between the Clean and Unclean
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 4: What Makes One Unclean?
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 5: Uncleanness is Contagious and Defiles the Camp
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 6: Defilement and Purity in the New Testament
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 7a: Jesus Christ Makes Us Clean
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 7b: Jesus Christ Makes Us Clean by His Baptism
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 7c: Jesus Christ Makes Us Clean by His Death and Resurrection
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 8: The Incarnation Was Necessary for Our Cleansing

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Jesus Christ was an amazing healer and a great teacher. He was also a powerful cleanser in ways that would be impossible for an ordinary man. Lepers were required to live outside the camp and shout, “Unclean! Unclean!” so that no one would touch them and become unclean themselves. People avoided them, but not Jesus.

When lepers came for healing, he healed them—not with medicine or even a word, but by his touch. He did the very thing that would have made him unclean, yet the opposite happened. Rather than being made unclean by the leper, he made the leper clean. Under the law, when the priest examining the leper saw that the leprous disease was gone the man was still unclean. Healing from the disease was not enough to make the man clean. He also needed to sacrifice a bird and have its blood sprinkled on him. Even after that he was still not fully restored. He could go into the camp, but could not live inside his tent for seven days. Then he would shave all the hair off his head, wash his clothes and bathe. Now on the eight day he would bring a sacrifice (a burnt offering and a grain offering) for the Lord to the tent of meeting. The priest would make atonement for him. Only after all of this was he declared clean and thus restored to the community (see Leviticus 14:1-20).

Notice the difference when Jesus healed a man with leprosy. “And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, ‘If you will, you can make me clean.’ Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, ‘I will; be clean.’ And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean” (Mark 1:40-42). No elaborate ritual. No sacrifice. No washing. No waiting a week. The man was both healed and cleansed immediately.

Later in Mark 5 we see again Jesus’ purity, authority and cleansing power over the unclean. First he confronted an unclean spirit in an unclean land (Gentile land). He showed his power by commanding the unclean spirit to come out of the man and then highlighted his quest to destroy what is unclean by permitting the unclean spirits to enter unclean pigs who destroyed themselves by throwing themselves over the cliff (Gospel according to Mark 5:1-20). Next he was touched by an unclean woman who had had a flow of blood for 12 years, which meant she had been perpetually unclean for 12 years. Again, rather than becoming unclean himself he healed her and made her clean (Mark 5:25-34). He then overcame the ultimate source of uncleanness and defilement: death. Jairus, who had asked him to come and heal his daughter, was told that his daughter was dead. Undaunted, Jesus went to his house, took her by the hand (which would have made one unclean, but not Jesus) and raised her from the dead (Mark 5:21-24, 35-43).

Throughout his ministry we see Jesus reversing the effects of sin and defilement. We see him forgiving sin, healing the sick, raising the dead, all of which can be seen as cleansing the defiled. Cleanness was not contagious, but now we find one whose cleanness was contagious, one who could make the unclean clean with a mere touch.

Other posts in this series

Cleansing from Defilement, Part 1: Introduction
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 2: The Danger of Defilement
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 3: Distinguishing between the Clean and Unclean
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 4: What Makes One Unclean?
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 5: Uncleanness is Contagious and Defiles the Camp
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 6: Defilement and Purity in the New Testament
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 7a: Jesus Christ Makes Us Clean
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 7b: Jesus Christ Makes Us Clean by His Baptism
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 7c: Jesus Christ Makes Us Clean by His Death and Resurrection
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 8: The Incarnation Was Necessary for Our Cleansing

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It is into an unclean and defiled world that the Messiah came. Since defilement and uncleanness are spoken of so little in the church today, one might conclude that the issue of defilement is a non-issue in the New Testament. That is not the case. The problem of our defilement is still just as significant an issue in the New Testament as it was in the Old Testament, as important in the Injil as it was in the Tawrat. Jews in the first century had not ceased obeying the purity laws and thus the Old Testament teaching on purity and defilement was very much in the mind of the those listening to the message of the Messiah, especially since these issues were everyday issues.

Ironically, when the religious leaders were seeking to put Jesus to death they were unwilling to enter Pilates’s house in order to not be defiled and be unable to eat the Passover (John 18:28). Being unclean still makes one unfit to be in the presence of God, that is, one whose uncleanness remains will not see God. This is made abundantly clear in Revelation 21. The great hope of mankind is that God will dwell with his people in the new Jerusalem, but this great hope is only for those who are clean. “Nothing unclean will ever enter [paradise], nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Revelation 21:27).

Washing is necessary if one wants a share in Christ, that is, an inheritance in the salvation he provides. When Jesus was about to wash Peter’s feet, Peter objected, “You shall never wash my feet.” Peter rightly saw that Jesus was too great to do menial and dirty tasks, but he failed to see that being washed by Jesus was his only hope to be made fit to be in God’s presence. Jesus replied to him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Peter was then eager to have his whole body washed, but Jesus replied, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean” (John 13:8, 10).

Being clean still matters.

Other posts in this series

Cleansing from Defilement, Part 1: Introduction
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 2: The Danger of Defilement
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 3: Distinguishing between the Clean and Unclean
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 4: What Makes One Unclean?
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 5: Uncleanness is Contagious and Defiles the Camp
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 6: Defilement and Purity in the New Testament
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 7a: Jesus Christ Makes Us Clean
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 7b: Jesus Christ Makes Us Clean by His Baptism
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 7c: Jesus Christ Makes Us Clean by His Death and Resurrection
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 8: The Incarnation Was Necessary for Our Cleansing

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The first problem with uncleanness is that it made someone unfit to be in the presence of a holy God. The second problem is that it defiled others in the camp so that they would be unfit to be in the presence of a holy God. The final problem is that it defiled the camp itself and thus ran the risk of the camp being abandoned by God’s presence and then destroyed.

The people were commanded to remove uncleanness from the camp. If there was uncleanness in a house, the bricks with the uncleanness were taken out of the house and out of the camp. If the uncleanness persisted after a week of quarantine, the entire house was destroyed and discarded outside of the camp (Leviticus 14:33-53).

Leprous people and those who had touched dead bodies were forced to be outside of the camp because their very presence defiled the camp. Their uncleanness was contagious. “The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Command the people of Israel that they put out of the camp everyone who is leprous or has a discharge and everyone who is unclean through contact with the dead. You shall put out both male and female, putting them outside the camp, that they may not defile their camp, in the midst of which I dwell.’ And the people of Israel did so, and put them outside the camp; as the Lord said to Moses, so the people of Israel did” (Numbers 5:1-4).

Keeping the camp clean and the tabernacle holy by properly distinguishing between the clean and unclean was of paramount importance. After the many explanations on how to distinguish the clean from the unclean in Leviticus 11-15, God said to Moses and Aaron, “Thus you shall keep the people of Israel separate from their uncleanness, lest they die in their uncleanness by defiling my tabernacle that is in their midst” (Leviticus 15:31). This was a real danger. Uncleanness was normal and unavoidable (as seen before), but if not properly addressed normal uncleanness could lead to death.

There was a remedy for uncleanness, but one had to avail himself of this remedy. The Lord spoke to Moses concerning the one who failed to wash after being unclean, “Whoever touches a dead person, the body of anyone who has died, and does not cleanse himself, defiles the tabernacle of the Lord, and that person shall be cut of from Israel; because the water for impurity was not thrown on him, he shall be unclean. His uncleanness is still on him” (Numbers 19:13). It was not being unclean that was dangerous, it was either approaching the sacred while unclean or failing to do anything about one’s uncleanness that was dangerous.1 In this case the unclean person defiled the tabernacle of the Lord and the result was being cut off from Israel. It was, in essence, a death sentence, for in being cut off from Israel he was being cut off from the source of life and purity. If one failed to wash after becoming unclean, his iniquity remained, “But if he does not wash [his clothes] or bathe his flesh, he shall bear his iniquity” (Leviticus 17:16).

If the whole camp was defiled and thus the whole land, the entire nation could be cut off. This is what had happened to the nations who had lived in Canaan before Israel. They had made themselves unclean through horrible sins and thereby “the land became unclean” (Leviticus 18:25). This is why God punished them and “the land vomited out its inhabitants” (Leviticus 18:25). If Israel was not careful to follow God and keep his commandments they too would defile the land and be vomited out by the land (Leviticus 18:28).

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1 “These pollutions are contagious, but they are not dangerous . . . the only misfortune associated with the condition is isolation from the people and alienation from all things holy. The condition of impurity becomes actively dangerous to the individual only when it comes into contact with the sacred” (Tikva Frymer-Kensky, “Pollution, Purification, and Purgation in Biblical Israel” in The Word of the Lord Shall Go Forth: Essays in Honor of David Noel Freedman. Edited by C. L. Meyers and M. O’Connor (Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 1983], 403).

Other posts in this series

Cleansing from Defilement, Part 1: Introduction
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 2: The Danger of Defilement
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 3: Distinguishing between the Clean and Unclean
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 4: What Makes One Unclean?
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 5: Uncleanness is Contagious and Defiles the Camp
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 6: Defilement and Purity in the New Testament
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 7a: Jesus Christ Makes Us Clean
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 7b: Jesus Christ Makes Us Clean by His Baptism
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 7c: Jesus Christ Makes Us Clean by His Death and Resurrection
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 8: The Incarnation Was Necessary for Our Cleansing

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