Spiritual purity can seem ethereal. It can be difficult to understand and practice, but it’s a concept that God holds in the highest regard. Jesus extolled being “pure in heart” in His sixth Beatitude.
Our society today revels in dirty jokes, “adult” movies and filthy language. Things that once were universally considered disgusting and vile now seem acceptable. People “call evil good” (Isaiah 5:20) and no longer feel shame about impure thoughts and actions. “Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? No! They were not at all ashamed, nor did they know how to blush” (Jeremiah 8:12).
Even those claiming to be right still carry the impurity of sin unless they have repented and have been forgiven. “But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags,” Isaiah wrote (Isaiah 64:6). We have all sinned (Romans 3:23), and therefore we have all been unclean.
The sixth Beatitude states, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). One of the traits that God greatly values is the characteristic of purity.
Consider this in its context in the Sermon on the Mount. The previous Beatitude was, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7). The Father is able to show us such mercy because of the same sacrifice of Jesus Christ that also makes it possible for us to be cleansed and pure in heart.
Blessed are the pure in heart
The emphasis of this sixth Beatitude is on the heart. While mankind can only see the outer appearance, God is capable of looking at the very heart and core of an individual. That is where He places His emphasis.
As God said to Samuel when he was about to anoint a new king over Israel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). God knows us at the very core of our being (Acts 15:8).
Our actions—what we do—matter a lot to God. Yet He also examines what we are doing in our hearts where only He can see. For example, Jesus magnified the commandment against adultery by saying, “Whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28; see our article on this passage, “‘If Your Right Eye Causes You to Sin, Pluck It Out’: What Did Jesus Mean?”). It’s not just what we do in our hearts that He looks at, but also how close we are to Him in our hearts (Matthew 15:8-9).
Ultimately, it’s not within our natural ability to have a pure heart on our own. In order to have such a heart, we must have a repentant spirit.Ultimately, it’s not within our natural ability to have a pure heart on our own. In order to have such a heart, we must have a repentant spirit. We need to go to God as King David did, entreating, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10; see our article “How to Repent”).
This is something that God can and will gladly do through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, so long as we continue to repent any time we sin. We must commit to living our lives according to His way and in complete confidence in Jesus’ sacrifice. “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
For they shall see God
Deeply consider who it is that we’ll be seeing: the Creator God! The most powerful and loving being in the universe!
This is the God who made the universe from nothing with just a word. He brought Israel out of ancient Egypt by parting the Red Sea. He made a plan of salvation involving the sacrifice of a member of the Godhead so that all mankind can be added to God’s family. He’s the God whose glorious brightness would have taken Moses’ life if God had not covered him (Exodus 33:18-23).
In order to hear God’s 10 Commandments, ancient Israel had to be physically purified (Exodus 19:10-11). The priests were to cleanse themselves before entering the tabernacle of meeting, which represented coming before God (Exodus 30:17-21). These physical rules highlight how awesome it is to come into God’s presence and perhaps helped them focus. To actually see God is beyond our physical comprehension, and it requires spiritual purity.
The privilege of seeing God is only given to one group in the Bible: those who are holy and pure in God’s eyes. As King David wrote, “Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart” (Psalm 24:3-4).
We will not see God face-to-face during this physical life. Instead, we will see Him after our resurrection.
As the apostle John wrote: “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! … Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:1-3).
The way of man
Purity, though, is not something that comes naturally to man. The concept of spiritual purity doesn’t have a priority in the average human being’s thoughts. Man instead defiles himself by disobeying God, which leads to many different forms of wickedness, such as the ones Paul listed in Romans 1:24-32. Sadly, man naturally goes against the very law of God that would keep him pure and safe (Romans 8:7).
Our impurity is not just superficial, but is something that has developed in our thoughts and is at the very core of who we are. As Jeremiah wrote, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Often, we try to cover it up and pretend to be as pure as snow, hiding the defilement inside in an egregious act of hypocrisy that Christ strongly condemns.
How purity of heart looks
While there is no denying that we need God’s help to have a pure heart, we also have a part to play in the cleansing of our hearts. God entreats us, “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes” (Isaiah 1:16).
Jesus Christ said that we should work to “cleanse the inside” of evil (Matthew 23:26) so that we may be pure before God. A key element of cleansing ourselves and overcoming is striving to obey the pure “commandment of the LORD” (Psalm 19:8). Not only must we obey the law of God, but also we have to actively turn away from that which is impure—“to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).
As we overcome and grow in purity of heart, we will be choosing to think pure thoughts. This will also come with effort as we set our minds on pure and godly things (Philippians 4:8). Purity of the heart also extends and affects our external words and actions. As Jesus said, “For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). Study this further in our article “When God Searches Our Hearts and Minds.”
Purity of heart is important because it will enable us to enter God’s family and have an eternal relationship with our Creator God.
Purity of heart also contributes to being peacemakers, the next Beatitude.
You can find an overview of all the Beatitudes and links to them in our article “Beatitudes: Keys to Real Happiness.”