New Testament Clean & Unclean Laws Defined
Points to Prove:
1) A sinner by nature is filthy
2) A sinner in sinning is a cause of uncleanness through the OT descriptive term filthiness.
3) A sinner through salvation in Christ is made clean and without filthiness.
“But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” – Isaiah 64:6
The word filthy or filthiness is used in the Old Testament to describe all manner of sin (Job 15:16, Psalm 14:3, Isaiah 64:6, Prov. 30:12); likewise it is used to describe specific sins such as: a woman in menstruation (Lamentations 1:9-10, 17, Ezek. 36:17, 25), marriage with strangers (Ezra 9:1-2; personal salvation: Ezek. 16:2-9), and sexual sins of adultery, whoredom, and fornication (Ezek. 23:11, 36:25, Jer. 3:1-10, 13:27). In these passages the word does in other words describe an unclean thing in the sight of God.
All the World Guilty = All the World Filthy
Perhaps the most known passage with the word filthy in it is Isaiah 64:6. The text states, “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” Notice how it states, “we are all as an unclean thing”. Notice how the sinfulness of fallen humanity is descriptively hateful to God like as an “unclean thing”, and parallel to this God-to-object relationship is “filthy rags”. Here we see the parallelism of uncleanness and filthiness pertaining to human depravity and sinfulness. Paul is careful to note this attribute of sin when formulating the most profound argument of mankind’s guilt before a holy God. Paul quoted several Old Testament scriptures to make plain the undeniable truth, he argues, that “all the world” is “guilty before God”, and that “every mouth” will be “stopped” on Judgment Day (Rom. 3:19). Masterfully, Paul formulated this argument entirely from Old Testament scripture in verses 10-18. Beginning in Romans 3:10, the verse declares, “There is none righteous, no, not one.” This passage is like Isaiah 64:6, which states, “all our righteousness are as filthy rags”. So also in Romans 3:12, it says, “They are all gone out of the way… there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” Romans 3:10 and 3:12 are found in Psalm 14:3 and 53:3, and the word “filthiness” is used in the psalms, saying, “They are all gone aside, they are together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one”, and, “Every one of them is gone back: they are altogether become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” Therefore according to scripture, “filthy” does fittingly describe the abominable repulsiveness of our depravity before God Almighty, yet again! Indeed “they”, which is “we” (all of once-born mankind), have altogether become filthy in our sins when we stand without salvation in Christ! Thus if we will feel the guilt of sin in our lives, we will feel that our sins are as unclean things and filthy rags in the sight of God, being conscientious of the Old Testament relationship that God had with unclean and filthy things in a New Testament reality. What happened then, in the Old Testament, is not irrelevant to our relationship to God right now, in the New Testament; according to the aforementioned scriptures we must understand the God-to-sin relationship in the same paradigm. [Note: this human filthiness, as Paul argued, means that filthiness pervades the thought, word, and deed of fallen humanity so much so that there is no goodness in them at all!]
The things which are unclean and filthy, scripturally speaking, are not only legally repulsive to God in some dry sense. The Lord is emotionally affected by the hatefulness and despicableness of these things! Filthiness is abominated, detested, despised, hated, and rejected by God, and thus it is written of unsaved men: “How…abominable and filthy is man, which drinketh iniquity like water” (Job 15:16)! God the Father is HOLY, and He is disgusted with unholiness. Neither “the filthy” nor “the foolish” will stand in His holy congregations because this collection of people are in the blessedness of His immediate gaze, scripture declares: “The foolish shall not stand in Thy sight: Thou hatest all workers of iniquity” (Psalm 5:5). And yet, shockingly, in spite of what and who we are, He loves us (John 3:16, 1 John 4:19), He died for us, and with an outstretched arm He pleads for our salvation (Ezek. 33:11): this is one of the supreme paradoxes of God within time.
All of our flesh-empowered morality and law-keeping is as “filthy rags” according to Isaiah (Isa. 64:6) and “filthy garments” according to Zechariah (Zech. 3:1-7). Therefore we can understand that salvation is, when God says to a man, “Take away the filthy garments from him” (Zech. 3:4). Hallelujah! In this statement we are pointed to understand, “Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment” (Zech. 3:1-7)! Fittingly, also, it was written in a New Testament application, “And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of the saints” (Rev. 19:8). Righteousness that comes from God is without filthiness, defilement, and uncleanness, but “woe to the rebellious children, saith the LORD, that take counsel, but not of Me; and that cover with a covering, but not of My Spirit, that they may add sin to sin” (Isaiah 30:1)! These are they of the “generation” that is “pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness” (Prov. 30:12), “having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof: from such turn away” (2 Tim. 3:5). Dear brethren, “let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 7:1).