Ephesians 5:3-6 “But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.” Uncleanness is the second item listed here. An unclean person has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. The wrath of God comes upon such individuals. What does uncleanness mean?
In the Old Testament, there were animals that the Israelites could eat and then there were unclean animals that they were forbidden to eat. Leviticus 11 details many of the eating restrictions. For example, unclean animals were those that did not have a cloven hoof or that did not chew the cud. Today, we have no such eating restrictions (Romans 14:20). Having certain body emissions caused one to be unclean (Leviticus 15). Touching a dead body (Numbers 19:22) or a dead animal (Leviticus 11:24) could make a person unclean. Having the disease of leprosy caused that person to be unclean; they had to keep to themselves and cry “Unclean! Unclean!” when near another person (Leviticus 13:45). Uncleanness in the Old Testament was anything that could defile or pollute a person physically.
In the gospels, there are numerous references to unclean spirits (e.g. Matthew 10:1; 12:43), which were evil spirits that took control of people.
But the uncleanness we are concerned with would be spiritual or moral uncleanness. In Romans 1:24-25 “Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.” From this we learn that spiritual uncleanness can be dishonoring their bodies among themselves – some form of sexual immorality such as homosexuality. Jesus described the scribes and Pharisees of his day in Matthew 23:27-28 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” From this we learn that spiritual uncleanness could include hypocrisy and lawlessness.
I conclude that uncleanness is anything that defiles or pollutes us spiritually. Is there hypocrisy or lawlessness in your life that maybe you have tried to hide from other people? Is there some sin in your life that you are holding on to and that is polluting your spiritual life? Confess it to God and repent of it. 1 Thessalonians 4:7 “For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness.”