When you hear the expression “cleanliness is next to Godliness”, what comes to mind? Randy Bushey takes a look at the Apostle Paul and his mandate “to lead people to Christ, and disciple them to have healthy souls.”
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Cleanliness Is Next To Godliness
…holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict (Titus 1:9).
Have you ever been told that cleanliness is next to godliness?
That adage originated with 18th century British preacher John Wesley, who declared as follows from his pulpit: “Slovenliness is no part of religion. Cleanliness is indeed next to Godliness”.
I think the Apostle Paul may have agreed – to a point.
There’s a unique word in the New Testament that is used primarily by the apostle Paul. And of his numerous writings, the Apostle only used it in the 3 pastoral letters he penned to Timothy and Titus near the end of his life.
In the verse above, the word is translated sound, as in “sound doctrine”. Paul also used it for being “sound in the faith” and using “wholesome words”.
Disciple Healthy Souls
But here’s what caught my attention: the Greek term is hugiaino, from which the English word hygiene is derived.
Hygiene relates to the preservation and promotion of good health, and the practises conducive to that objective.
Similarly, in Greek, the term refers to good health, soundness, wellness. But it also had a broader application, and therefore was considered a parallel to the Hebrew term shalom: peace, harmony, wholeness, completeness, and prosperity.
In the final period of ministry before his execution at the hands of Nero, Paul chose that word to convey to his young pastoral sons in the faith that living out the Gospel would bring overall health to those under their care, even while living in difficult circumstances – even intense persecution.
The apostles’ mandate was to lead people to Christ, and disciple them to have healthy souls.
Titus And The Cretans
Titus had been dispatched by Paul to assist the fledgling churches on the island of Crete. The Apostle knew it would be an arduous task.
The eastern Mediterranean of the 1st century was known for piracy and human trafficking – and Crete was in some ways, the hub of that nefarious activity.
The Cretan community was so entrenched in immoral lifestyles, that encouraging relatively new believers to live out the Gospel must have seemed a near impossible assignment.
But Paul encouraged his young charge to coach these novice Christians to allow their character, attitudes and behaviour to be brought into healthy alignment by practicing the spiritual hygiene of submitting their lives to God’s Word as they were being transformed by His Spirit.
Takeaway: are the activities of my life consistent with the preservation of good spiritual health?
Do I prioritize habits conducive to increasingly attaining that objective? Is my spiritual health growing? Or is it declining? Why?
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