New Testament Clean & Unclean Laws Defined
Pollution & Corruption
Points to Prove:
1) A sinner by nature is polluted and corrupted
2) A sinner in sinning is a cause of uncleanness through the OT descriptive terms pollution and corruption.
3) A sinner through salvation in Christ is made clean and without pollution and corruption.
Most Notable Verses
“…partakers of the Divine Nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” – 2 Peter 1:4
“For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.” – 2 Peter 2:20
A General Introduction: A Survey of Specified Sin & Foundational Word-Usage
The word pollute or pollution is used to the express the defiling effect of unclean things in the sight of God, like, for example: the uncircumcised entering the temple of God (Ezek. 44:7), idols in the Temple (Jer. 7:30), pollution of bloodshed defiling the Land and people (Numbers 35:33, Ezek. 36), pollutions of blood through menstruation (Ezek. 22:10, 36:17), services of worship to idols is a personal pollution by the idol (Ezek. 20:31), and personal pollution by idolatry becomes spiritual pollution through adultery and whoredom against God (Ezek. 16:25-38, 22:2-4, 25, 23-31, 23:45-49, 24:11-14). Pollutions are an unclean thing in the sight of God which denotes all these things and more in the Old Testament.
Furthermore, the word corrupt or corruption is used to describe the physical decay of a dead body (i.e. rottenness or decomposition; see Job 17:14, Psalm 16:10, 49:9) and the physical depletion of strength, health, and life (Dan. 10:8, Rom. 8:21). These words may not be used to describe specific sins like the word pollution, but corruption does refer to the specific effects of sin via the curse. Physical decay is the activity of the dead, and, physical depletion of strength is the activity of the dying. Whether corruption describes the dead or the dying, it is not a positive adjective or verb. Death and dying exist on account of the fall of humanity into sin!
The Activity of the Dead and Dying Spiritualized
We, along with all of creation, now pass through time undergoing the curse: we live in physical bodies which are slowly dying. With each second that passes by the time-clock of our physical health is depleting because we have bodies which are “subjected to corruption” (Rom. 8:21). Moreover it is stated in 1 Corinthians 15 that our “natural body” (1 Cor. 15:44) is of the Adamic nature, which is “earthy” (1 Cor. 15:48) and under “corruption” (1 Cor. 15:42, 50). This means that, spiritually and physically speaking, the natural body is a body of “dishonour” and “weakness” (1 Cor. 15:43); sin has taken its awful course within the body… thus it suffers. Because of sin the physical body is cursed… it slowly dies year-by-year. On the contrary to this, the body of the resurrection is “spiritual” (1 Cor. 15:44), “heavenly” (1 Cor. 15:48), and incorruptible: a body of “incorruption” (1 Cor. 15:42, 50)! – thus Paul wrote of the everlasting and ever-renewing endurance of the resurrection spirit, saying, “though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day” (2 Cor. 4:16)! This inward man will one day be an outward man, my reader! The spiritual man within will one day be enlarged into a spiritual body which is of “glory” and “power” at the consummation of salvation (1 Cor. 15:43). Therefore let us understand that, for now, in a physical sense, our current body is of corruption because of the fall of humanity into sin, to wit, all the once-born sons of Adam are physically dying and spiritually dead, and “life” as we know it is vaporizing away as in a moment.
“Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.” – Romans 5:12-14
Fittingly, therefore, Paul called his current body: a “body of death” (Rom. 7:24), spiritually speaking. By interpretation this meant, “to be carnally minded is death” (Rom. 8:6). This is the reasoning behind the indisputable truth that, “flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 15:50). Though a man may live in the “pride” (1 John 2:16) and prestige of the most “highly esteemed” (Lk. 16:15) earthly life known to man, it is all accounted as death in the sight of God! The Lord God Almighty calls all once-born men, “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1), because according to 1 John 5:12, “he that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life”. To abide in the Son of God is to abide in “Eternal Life” (1 John 5:11), and all those who abide in the natural man do on the other hand, “abide in death” (1 John 3:14).
Therefore, fittingly, if depravity is called death then corruption is the activity of the dead! Corruption does therefore describe all manner of sin. I say again, since death is the physical and spiritual consequence of sin, and seeing that corruption/decay is the activity of the dead, the activity of those who are spiritually dead is likewise called, corruption. When “all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth”, God killed them (except for Noah and his family in Genesis 6:11-12). The reign of spiritual death was furthering its rotten grip on the soul of humanity, and God said, “all flesh had corrupted his way”. Describing the condemnation of the whole world in the flesh, God said, “they are corrupt” and “corrupt they are”, and “there is none that doeth good” (Psalm 14:1, 53:1). Spiritual death is described as slavery to sin and enmity against God (Rom. 8:6-8), and corruption is the activity of the dead. Not only were physical dead bodies unclean in the Old Testament, but all like-manifestations of corruption were also unclean – like-manifestations such as leprosy (the decaying of flesh while the person is still alive, i.e. the living dead) and running issues. Speaking on this wise, consider the following passages carefully my reader. Inhale the mindset of Old Testament Israel concerning the Clean and the Unclean. See the rigor and meticulousness whereby they would seek to keep all places and persons clean, and see how the defiling and corrupting effect of unclean things was recognized and immediately paralyzed through the means of isolation and detainment.
“Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When any man hath a running issue out of his flesh, because of his issue he is unclean. And this shall be his uncleanness in his issue: whether his flesh run with his issue, or his flesh be stopped from his issue, it is his uncleanness. Every bed, whereon he lieth that hath the issue, is unclean: and every thing, whereon he sitteth, shall be unclean. And whosoever toucheth his bed shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even. And he that sitteth on any thing whereon he sat that hath the issue shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even. And he that toucheth the flesh of him that hath the issue shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even. And if he that hath the issue spit upon him that is clean; then he shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even. And what saddle soever he rideth upon that hath the issue shall be unclean. And whosoever toucheth any thing that was under him shall be unclean until the even: and he that beareth any of those things shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even. And whomsoever he toucheth that hath the issue, and hath not rinsed his hands in water, he shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even. And the vessel of earth, that he toucheth which hath the issue, shall be broken: and every vessel of wood shall be rinsed in water. And when he that hath an issue is cleansed of his issue; then he shall number to himself seven days for his cleansing, and wash his clothes, and bathe his flesh in running water, and shall be clean. And on the eighth day he shall take to him two turtledoves, or two young pigeons, and come before the LORD unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and give them unto the Priest: And the Priest shall offer them, the one for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering; and the Priest shall make an atonement for him before the LORD for his issue.” – Lev. 15:2-15
“And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Command the children of Israel, that they put out of the camp every leper, and every one that hath an issue, and whosoever is defiled by the dead: Both male and female shall ye put out, without the camp shall ye put them; that they defile not their camps, in the midst whereof I dwell. And the children of Israel did so, and put them out without the camp: as the LORD spake unto Moses, so did the children of Israel.” – Numbers 5:1-4
“Speak unto Aaron and to his sons, that they separate themselves from the holy things of the children of Israel, and that they profane not my holy name in those things which they hallow unto me: I am the LORD. Say unto them, Whosoever he be of all your seed among your generations, that goeth unto the holy things, which the children of Israel hallow unto the LORD, having his uncleanness upon him, that soul shall be cut off from my presence: I am the LORD. What man soever of the seed of Aaron is a leper, or hath a running issue; he shall not eat of the holy things, until he be clean. And whoso toucheth any thing that is unclean by the dead, or a man whose seed goeth from him; Or whosoever toucheth any creeping thing, whereby he may be made unclean, or a man of whom he may take uncleanness, whatsoever uncleanness he hath; The soul which hath touched any such shall be unclean until even, and shall not eat of the holy things, unless he wash his flesh with water.” – Lev. 22:2-6
The activity of the dead and dying is corruption, which is unclean! Even so, spiritually speaking, a dead body is a corpse of spiritual corruption whose activity is nothing more pleasant to God than a fretting disease, a stinking rottenness, and a spreading plague – meant to be buried or burned! As God beholds sinners who are dead in their transgressions and sins, He relays to mankind the grotesque experience it is for Him to endure their despicable persons on earth, that they are like rotting corpses which are decaying in all uncleanness, fuming the most vomitus and deadly aromas to pollute the air and violate the senses of every passerby. Sinners do, in this way, violate the peace of God and aggravate the fires of hell! Do you see the spiritual truth which the word of God does communicate, my reader? Do you agree with it?
Do you agree with Christ, who described the once-born and good-intentioned Pharisees as men who were full of “dead men’s bones and all uncleanness”, even though they appeared beautiful outwardly by a cloak of false-religion (Matt. 23:27)? The mouth is the minister by which the dead things of the soul spring forth into the world, so the “throat is an open sepulcher” (Rom. 3:13) to God and man, spiritually speaking. An open grave, my reader. Think of it! Rotting flesh is so toxic and disturbing it sends grown men fleeing for clean air! If ever a grave did somehow come open so that a dead body had the means to vent its fumes into the open-air, the surrounding region would be abandoned by living humans until the dead body is buried or burned. So strong and terrible is the smell, it is paralyzing to the mind. The unbearable and sense-killing smell of an open grave illustrates to us God’s experience of holy-disgust as He abides in the fumes of dead souls.
God beholds the corruption of the soul held-fast in the rottenness of sin; thus God, seeking to communicate this, inspired Paul to characterize the “conversation” of the “old man” as “corrupt according to the deceitful lusts” (Eph. 4:22). Paul used the word, “corrupt”, like a “bitter fountain” and a “corrupt spring” (James 3:11, Prov. 25:26) would spew-out the corruption of poisonous waters! In likeness to this, the inner man is “corrupt according to the deceitful lusts” (Eph. 4:22)! Or like a “corrupt tree” displays upon its branches the allurement of fruit which is latent with deadly poison, God looks upon the corrupt inner-man of once-born humanity and backslidden Christianity, and says, “Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire” (Matt. 7:19)! Like dead bodies are good for nothing but to be buried or burned, Jesus forewarned, “If a man abide not in Me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned” (John 15:6)! “Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them” (Matt. 7:16-20). By nature, therefore, men are “alienated and enemies” in “mind by wicked works”, whose allegiance is a “friendship with the world” and enmity against God (Col. 1:21, Jas. 4:4)… notwithstanding, God provided a way of escape!
“Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, according as His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue: whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the Divine Nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” - 2 Peter 1:2-4
Do you want to escape the corruption that is in the world, my reader? Salvation is a mortifying of the “deeds” and “earthly members” of the body (Rom. 8:13, Col. 3:5), because they are corrupt. Salvation is a crucifixion man-to-the-world (Gal. 6:14) because flesh and blood is corrupt. By the killing/annihilation of that which is spiritually dead, via the cross, the wretched activity of the dying is put to rest. Even so, how can men find an escape from “the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Pet. 1:4)? Through a Divine-killing of the spiritual force of death and corruption, God raises men up from the grave of depravity into newness of life via a new creation, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Cor. 5:17). But, take note, when and if a believer does turn back to the flesh and its corrupt desires, the spiritual organism of deadly rottenness will begin its awful course upon the backslider’s soul once again! Speaking on this wise, Paul said, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting” (Gal. 6:7-8).
The Proceedings of and Counteraction Against Spiritual Corruption
Once spiritual corruption takes-hold upon a backslider’s soul, it can spread! Speaking of this – the spread-ability of corruption – it was written, “They are corrupt, and speak wickedly concerning oppression: they speak loftily” (Ps. 73:8), they do prepare “lying and corrupt words” by flatteries, “as many which corrupt the word of God” (Dan. 2:9, 2 Cor. 2:17), “And such as do wickedly against the Covenant shall corrupt by flatteries” (Dan. 11:32). Corrupt words do further the grip of death and advance the rottenness of depravity. Through flattery, instead of raising the dead from the grave of sin, they mummify the dead to disguise the depravity and make the dead look alive again. By corrupt words they flatter the wicked, “promising him life” (Ezek. 16:22), “saying, Peace; and there was no peace” (Ezek. 13:10). It is written, “While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption” (2 Pet. 2:19). “Servants of corruption”, Peter said! Servants of corruption do corrupt others! The proceedings of those who are corrupted, is corruption; “For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, though much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error” (2 Pet. 2:18). As a contagious disease infects the healthy and corrupts the living as a consequence of being in near-proximity to it, these vain-talkers and deceitful men do, likewise, corrupt the saints of God by inordinate contact, conversation, and interaction, even “after they [had] escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord” (2 Peter 2:19-20)! Oh how we need to feel the truth of what was written by Paul, who said, “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners” (1 Cor. 15:33)! As sinners abide among the congregation of the saints like a corrupting and cell-killing infection wreaks havoc on the body, the saints need a plan of counteraction.
“Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you” – 2 Peter 2:13
“These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots” – Jude 1:12
We are commanded to, on the contrary, “let no corrupt communication proceed out of [our] mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers” (Eph. 4:29). We are called to “overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21). We are called to “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Eph. 5:11). Therefore as the spots and blemishes of corruption in the congregation become apparent to the spiritual men and women of God (Gal. 6:1), they must cleanse them or heal them. Cleanse them, I say, “with the washing of the water by the word” (Eph. 5:26), until the Bride is presentable to her Bridegroom “not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that [She] should be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:27). Not only are these spots and blemishes ceremonially disqualifying and marriage-ending (like an O.T. sacrifice had to be “perfect” in physical stature to be accepted of God -Lev. 22:19-23), they are corrupting and killing like leprous spots ravage the life out of a human being! It is vital to recognize that, according to scripture, these “spots and blemishes” are not something that the body of Christ is able to live-through and survive-with. These spots and blemishes must be cleansed and healed or the limbs which bear them must be cut off. The activity of these spots is corruption: like health-hazard leprous spots endanger all who draw near!
Therefore like unclean men with running issues were isolated and quartered into containment from the rest of Israel, we need to separate the clean from the unclean! “The graves are ready” for sinners because they are men of corruption (Job. 17:1), but God calls His people to a Divine-reception (“I will receive you”-2Cor.6:17)! Look around your Church, my reader. What do you see? Will God say to your Church,
“…the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment” - Isaiah 1:5-6
If so, what does this mean?
“When any man hath a running issue out of his flesh, because of the issue he is unclean” – Lev. 15:2
“And whatsoever the unclean person toucheth shall be unclean; and the soul that toucheth it shall be unclean until even.” – Numbers 19:22
Aye, what an awful condition! And yet today, in this hour, people have turned Churches into hospitals for impenitent sinners! And because they hospitalize the incurable (the unrepentant and willful sinner) there is no pew or hospital bed that has not become unclean by running issues and fretting leprosy (Lev. 15:2, 13:51-52, 14:44)! When some newly converted man (freshly made clean before God) stumbles into one of these “Churches” looking for a regular audience with The Great Physician, alas, he is defiled! He was, beforehand, “clean escaped from them who live in error”, but after he entered into the unclean place and touched the unclean thing, alas! He is unclean. These “Churches” are mingled with sinners that have lathered the whole place with their defiling spiritual behavior (“every bed, whereon he lieth that hath the issue, is unclean: and every thing, whereon he sitteth, shall be unclean. And whosoever toucheth his bed shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even” -Lev. 15:4-5). Yes… and the finger of God points toward the Preachers! “Her Priests have violated My Law, and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they shewed difference between the unclean and the clean...” (Ezek. 22:26). On behalf of such a grim situation as this Charles Spurgeon gave comment, saying,
“For a Church to be constantly needing revival is the indication of much sin, for if it were sound before the Lord it would remain in the condition into which a revival would uplift its members. A church should be a camp of soldiers, not an hospital of invalids. But there is exceedingly much difference between what ought be and what is, and consequently many of God's people are in so sad a state that the very fittest prayer for them is for revival. Some Christians are, spiritually, but barely alive.” – C.H. Spurgeon
Spurgeon’s words depict the sober reality as it relates to the NEED of revival (i.e. life from the dead) in backslidden Churches, this is true, but what if the backsliders of the Church never experience revival? Should those who are walking in personal revival continue amidst the dead and dying? Should the living be forced into spiritual union with the dead? Is this union tolerable or intolerable? Concerning the prospect of this dilemma, Spurgeon said,
“Every earnest minister has known times when he has felt cold hearts to be as intolerable as the drones in the hive are to the working bees. Careless professors are as much out of place as snow in harvest among truly living Christians. As vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes are these sluggards. As well be bound to a dead body as forced into union with lifeless professors; they are a burden, a plague, and an abomination.” – C.H. Spurgeon
Spurgeon spoke correctly when he said, “burden”, he spoke with biblical exactitude when he said, “plague”, and he spoke by prophetic inspiration when he said, “abomination”! Do you agree, my reader? Or has the rotten touch of spiritual deadness already infected you, dear friend, from backslider-to-believer? If it has… you have been numbed to the sensations which are active within and exclusive to a spiritual man. Oh, how the apostle Paul did lament this awful condition, the spiritual-turned-carnal! When confronting the backslidden Corinthians who were at that time, carnal men, Paul said, “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal… for ye are yet carnal (1 Cor. 3:1-3). And because “to be carnally minded is death” (Rom. 8:6), Paul was trying to wake them up from the deadly sleep which they were in (“Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light”-Eph.5:14)! Paul knew their backslidings had paralyzed their ability of spiritual discernment to wit, the wisdom of God had become foolishness unto them. Making this point, Paul said, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14). What about you, my reader… what about us? What about the 21st century Church which is quickly approaching the end of the world? Will we be brought into agreement with the plain truth which pervades The Church right now, which is, “While the Bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept” (Matt. 25:5)? Will we be brought to the spiritual soundness of real conviction, that we are a debtor to the world and what we do matters! Alas, let us weep! Let us cry! For our sins have made-way for the midnight hour of the Antichrist!
“When nations are to perish in their sins,
It is in the Church the leprosy begins
The priest, whose office is with zeal sincere,
To watch the fountain, and preserve it clear,
Carelessly nods and sleeps upon the brink,
While others poison what the flock must drink.
His unsuspecting sheep believe it pure,
And, tainted by the very means of cure,
Catch from each other a contagious spot,
The foul forerunner of a general rot.
Then Truth is hushed, that Heresy may preach,
And all is trash that Reason cannot reach.”
- William Cowper
If only we were properly instructed, if heresy did not preach… then we could understand the reason why the saints do sleep-on in this seemingly un-wake-able deadness! It is not often the near-dead can speak, nor even think, because in a sleep-like stupor they pass into eternity subconscious of what is going on around their soon-to-die body. So it is with revival-less persons: they are so swallowed up with death that they need to be brought to life once again (revival = “to make alive again”)! Concerning this Church-wide dilemma we have been instructed by the Lord Jesus, saying, “Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God” (Rev. 3:2). Albeit when some evil disease is wreaking havoc on the body, how shall the near-dead awake? The Lord has instructed us, furthermore,
Matthew 18:8-9 à those who are spiritually healthy can become spiritually diseased, which means saints can become sinners, and at such a time only one operation is available to stop the spreading of the incurable disease; amputation from the Body.
2 Pet. 2:13 & Jude 12 à the presence of non-excommunicated, backslidden men is hazardous and potentially fatal to the Body of Christ; like ceremonial “blemishes” of utter disqualification (Eph. 5:27); like health-destroying leprous “spots” making the Bride the living dead (Num. 12:12); like a “root of bitterness springing up” whereby many are “defiled” by its poison (Heb. 12:15, Deut. 29:18-21).
Jesus said, “They that are whole need not a Physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance”, but they that are unrepentant and reprobate sinners are incurably sick! Just as the Corinthians were told to “put away from among yourselves that wicked person”, we must hear this call to holiness with a sense of biological necessity (Matt 18:15-17)! We must learn to cleanse God’s backsliding people from sin by judging their confessions in comparison with a biblically defined “worthy repentance” (Lk. 3:8, 2 Cor. 7:10-11). Therefore if any man “neglect to hear the Church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican” (Matt. 18:17), for, “We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error” (1 Jn. 4:6). When Christ said, “let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican” (Matt. 18:17), this means in other words, let him be unto us as an “unclean thing” (2 Cor. 6:17)! This is the “judgment” and purity which must be kept “within” the Church, “but them that are without God judgeth” (1 Cor. 5:12-13). Do you understand this, my reader?
“Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.” – Matthew 18:8-9
Matthew 18:8-9 is not a word directed to individual Christians, as some may assume. It is not intended to teach us how we should treat our actual bodies when we feel endangered by sin. Though there are spiritual principles which most certainly may be gleaned from this approach to the text, this was not the meaning for which Christ spoke it. I acknowledge the spiritual insights of this view. I am edified to consider what true repentance from sin looks like and feels like. It is true, when one truly repents there is a relentless effort which forces the cutting off of sin, a consciousness of eternal judgment which drives the man to pay any cost, but Christ did not speak this as a demonstration of personal sacrifice for individual Christians. No, this was spoken to address the Body of Christ as a whole. The emphasis is not on any personal cost to our physical bodies, as if we would cut off an actual member of our body to escape sin. The emphasis is directed to a corporate cost to our Spiritual Body, the Church, when we have to cut off a member of the Body of Christ from the Church (i.e. excommunication). When reading Matthew 18:8-9 standing alone, this interpretation is not apparent, but when reading these verses in context with verses 1-20, the message is very clear. Chapter 18, as a whole, is an address to the corporate Church. In it are repeated instructions on what is to be done when the saints of the true Church fall into a damnable offence. My reader, look upon verses 1-20 before we continue:
“At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth Me. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh! Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire. Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven. For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish. Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” – Matthew 18:1-20
The chapter is an address to true believers in Christ (here called “little children”, “little child”, and “little ones”). Christ uses an actual “little child”, set in their midst, as a demonstration of the childlike humility which saved men have towards their newfound Parent – God Almighty. As the teaching develops it is made clear, the “little ones” are those to whom Christ affirms with the statement, “believe in Me”, acknowledging that they have saving faith. By saving faith, these “little ones” are regenerated and indwelt by Christ, therefore anyone who receives “one such little child in My Name”, Christ said, the same man “receiveth Me”. The believer, here called “one such little child”, is united with the living Christ in so sacred a union that, to reject the “little child” is to reject Christ! This union is depicted well in the following analogy that Christ speaks. This “little child” is a part of the Body of Christ, therefore whatever is done to the child is done to Christ Himself (see Matt. 18:8-9). After introducing the hallowed union that Christ has with true believers, He forewarns us, that when a person offends one of these believers, causing them to fall into damnable sin, “it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea”. When saints are overcome by the world (Jas. 4:4) and intoxicated by “earthly” wisdom (Jas. 3:15), they engage in spiritual “wars and fightings among” themselves (Jas. 4:1). “But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another”, Paul warns (Gal. 5:15). James and Paul spoke in agreement with Christ when He said, “WOE unto the world because of offences…woe to that man by whom the offences cometh!” This means that when one saint is offended, in turn this saint – who is overcome by the world – is used to cause other saints to offend, so it happens in the NT according to the old Deuteronomic warning where suddenly, because of the offence of one, many are being offended, or in other words, “lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled” (Deut. 29:18, Heb. 12:15).
To prevent this danger – the spread of offences throughout the body of Christ – the Lord said “WHEREFORE”: “Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.” But let us be careful, Christ gives further caution beyond this verse so that, in the process of preventing Church-wide leavening into malice, wickedness, bitterness, and insincerity, we don’t make a mistake and cut people off from the body of Christ through ungodly despite. He warns, let it be done only through sincere love. Speaking on this wise, Christ said, “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.” Thus the Lord teaches us not to cut them off from the Body of Christ through despite, yes, but the main emphasis is, after these regenerate men who have turned into offenders are cut off (so as to save the Body from the leaven of their sin spreading and destroying all), we should remember that God does not want any one of these cut off brethren to perish even though they are currently backslidden, gone astray, and cut off from the Church (2 Cor. 2:8-9).
The Lord teaches that He wants us to “save that which was lost” by neglecting the righteous (as the Lord leads), He wants us to seek “that which is gone astray” (Matt. 18:11-12)… and if such a one is found and restored again to the Shepherd’s fold, which is the body of Christ, my reader - there is great rejoicing in heaven! “Even so”, Christ says, in the light of all these things, “it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish” (Matt. 18:14)… therefore let all cutting off, plucking out, and casting away excommunications take their proper course (see Matthew 18:15-17). Anyone who follows this Divinely-authored formula for excommunication, as seen in Matthew 18:15-17, can be sure it is done in Christ’s Name (supposing it was done in and through the Spirit of God). The Lord promises that, by following this formula (see Matt. 18:15-17), when the Church is thus gathered in an effort to deal with the rebellious brothers – Christ will be there in the assembly – and with Him are veritable, sure, and wondrous promises: “Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of My Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My Name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:18-20). You see, my reader, Christ’s Divine union with believers is spoken of in verse 5, verses 8-9, and verses 18-20, and this is His Bodily response to an individual member’s rebellion. Did not the writer of Hebrews warn us about how members of the Body of Christ can be “turned out of the way”? The Lord Jesus desires that, when the members of His Body are defective – when “the hands hang down”, the “knees are feeble”, and the “feet are lame” – Christ says, “let [them] rather be healed” instead of amputated from the Body (Heb. 12:12-15)! This is Christ’s desire, thus let it be our pursuit, but if the offender cannot be healed and must be excommunicated, let us follow the precautionary measures which are written in Matthew 18:15-17, Galatians 6:1, Jude 1:22-23, James 5:19-20, and 2 Timothy 2:24-26. In the process, don’t lose your own soul, brother - stay “with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (see 2 Tim. 2:19-23)! Don’t be ignorant of Satan’s devices! Oh, how many perish for lack of knowledge? For lack of obedience to the doctrines of separation (2 Tim. 3:5, 1 Tim. 6:3-5, Romans 16:17-18, Titus 3:10-11)!? In such a dilemma as this, sadly, most Christians don’t know what to do! Most Christians are oblivious to the danger of backsliders who continue in the Church! Most Christians are ignorant of the Spiritual Biology of the Body of Christ! God laments today, yet again, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hos. 4:6)! Yes, members of Christ are destroyed for lack of knowledge! Yes, local Churches – “Bodies of Christ” – are destroyed for lack of knowledge! And most Christians misinterpret Matthew 18:8-9 because they are ignorant of the doctrinal rules and warnings which are repeatedly given to the Body of Christ all throughout the scripture – stating clearly that – we, the Body of Christ, are in danger of hellfire if we continue in unholy-union with one body-part of Christ that is fallen, backslidden, and offended!
“Wisdom is better than weapons of war: but one sinner destroyeth much good” – Eccl. 9:18
“Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.” – 1 Corinthians 15:33
When and if a saint backslides into a disqualified spiritual condition, the man is disqualified from biblical companionship, friendship, fellowship, and yoking - by God’s command, there needs to be a “forsaking” of the one to save them all (Prov. 9:6), a “purging” of the one to save the “whole lump” (1 Cor. 5:6-8), a “casting out” of the one to preserve the health and progress of the congregation (Prov. 22:12). Because the backslider’s presence aggravates and contends against the presence of God and His people, the backslider has become an object of spiritual disunion from God and His body. This disunion is dangerous! In essence, the backslider’s spiritual condition is in contradiction and enmity against the cause of Christ and His people – this merits his removal (Prov. 14:7). Dismembering the offender saves the body! “Cut them off and cast them from thee”, Christ said! “Pluck it out and cast it from thee” (Matt. 18:8-9), and why? No matter how precious the member, it must be cut off from Christ’s body…or the offender will cause the whole body to offend (see Matt. 18:3-20). These offenders, my brethren! Cut and “cast them” from the body! Or the body is to be “cast into everlasting fire” (Matt. 18:8)! We are warned, brethren… will we take heed?
Like veins the heart, so is every body part; they all share in a single source of life. This life flows within, among, and through them all, “for in Him we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28). With such an interconnected livelihood, let us reckon the implications: When one member of Christ is bitten by the Serpent’s infernal bite, it becomes a poisoned part…and if the livelihood of Spiritual communion with this body-part continues as before, those sacred and life-giving connections will become the transport for Satan’s fiery venom. That which was injected into the dying member will, when drawn into the heart, violently overcome the whole Spiritual Man. The outlets which communicated holy life-blood to the body, now poisoned, carry death to every member! Poison is to the body like leaven to the lump; the whole body is killed. When at one time “the unity of the faith” made manifest the perfection of God’s glory – a Christ-filled “Perfect Man” (Eph. 4:13) – on the contrary here, through inordinate unity, alas, the body of Christ is a discolored, hardly conscious, dying Man! The Man is poisoned into bodily distress, yes, because of the unholy union it has with a poisoned member - thus the Church is fighting for its very life! My reader, has the Lamp of your local Church gone out? Has Christ, the eternal High Priest, removed the Candlestick out of its place? Do you live in such a time when, alas, “the Lamp of God went out in the Temple of the LORD” (1 Sam. 3:3)?
A Health-Hazard: A Careless & Unconscious touch
It is written, “touch not the unclean thing” (2 Cor. 6:17). Uncleanness is aggressive and overwhelming like as the violence of life-threatening diseases contagious by the touch (i.e. incurable leprosy), the spreading leaven which mysteriously and quickly leavens the whole lump (1 Cor. 5), whose continual spread is unstoppable without a costly and cutting purge (from the lump); or like an incurable bodily infection and poison, whose only cessation is by a hurried amputation (see Matt. 18). Uncleanness incurs life-threating wrath, and if we are not awfully aware of its presence like as men would behave in these metaphorical and biblical parallels, we will be taken in its damnation by a careless, unconscious touch! The temporary effect of these experiences incapacitate the body and life of the spiritual or physical organism, whose eyes become blind like as darkness would bring obscurity, whose vision is impaired and unreliable like as a prick in the eye would make everything warped and blurry, and if these curses take their course beyond the time spectrum in which God would grant recovery, then like Solomon’s slow and eventual apostasy because of the presence of his wives, or Samson’s slow and eventual apostasy because of Delilah’s contentious weeping and daily pleading, who both – as in a moment – awoke without God, perfect hearts, or strength to repent, so will the victims course follow suit.
Since this is the case, how can the congregation, Church, and body of Christ be “clean” (2 Cor. 6:17) if wicked men are “yoked, fellowshipping, in communion, concord, part, and agreement” (2 Cor. 6:14-16) in our prayers (Acts 1:14, 2:42, Eph. 6:18), preaching (Col. 3:16, Heb. 3:13, 10:24-25, 13:10-13), singing (Eph. 5:18-21), and religious devotions (Col. 3:12-17)? All of these religious devotions are only possible to be done “in Spirit and Truth” (John 4:23-24). "But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." (John 4:23-24). Therefore, the only way to be wholly acceptable and clean in congregation is to “come out from among them, and be ye separate,” because by nature they are contagious, by Law they are uncleanness, and like leprosy they are spots and blemishes which render the people of God and congregation unacceptable, unclean, and un-received of the Lord (2 Cor. 6:17-18). A sinner who can be saved, healed, cleansed, and in communion with the Church and Holy Ghost is the man that has eyes to see the Truth, and comes to Christ confessing: Save me and heal me Lord, “for mine iniquities are gone over mind head: as an heavy burden they are too heavy for me. My wounds stink and are corrupt because of my foolishness” (Psalm 38:4-5).