Being Purified as Gold
The magnificent, incomparable purpose for trials

The life of a true Christian is not an easy one. It is a constant, daily struggle against Satan, self and society. Yet in the midst of this battle, God promises real joy and an abundant life if we strive to obey Him, repent and overcome.

Each year, the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread remind us of the enormous price that had to be paid for sin as well as the need to rid it completely from our lives. For seven days, we are to have no leaven or leavened products in our homes (Exodus 12:15; 13:7); God compares sin to leaven which “puffs up” (1 Corinthians 5:1-8).

Another metaphor picturing the process of repenting and removing sin from our lives, also mentioned in the Bible, is that of gold being refined and purified.

In ancient Israel, in the tabernacle and later in the temple, God wanted everything done to perfection. The ark of the covenant was overlaid with pure gold. The staffs to carry it were covered in gold, as were the mercy seat and the cherubims that covered it.

Elsewhere within the tabernacle, the table for the shewbread was covered in gold. The dishes, spoons and bowls used in the temple service were pure gold. The candlesticks, the tongs, the snuffdishes—all made of gold.

And this was just in the tabernacle. Perhaps we have a concept of a ramshackle tent in the desert. But God’s tabernacle was outfitted with the highest-quality materials. Everyone donated to the building fund to make God’s house exceptionally nice. If something was to be in God’s presence, it was going to have be made of quality material.

Today, God is preparing a spiritual temple. His very elect saints make up that holy temple to which Jesus Christ shall soon return (1 Corinthians 3:9, 17). Herbert W. Armstrong clearly explained this in Mystery of the Ages: “The Church, then, is to grow into a holy temple—the spiritual temple to which Christ shall come—even as He came to a material temple of stone and metals and wood the first time.”

Because we are, in fact, God’s holy temple, we need to ask ourselves individually—especially at this introspective time of year leading up to the Passover—what quality of materials are we building with?

Anciently, King David extensively prepared—“with all [his] might”—the materials, including fine gold, for his son Solomon to build God’s temple (1 Chronicles 29:1-2). David personally donated 3,000 talents of the “gold of Ophir,” at that time esteemed the purest and finest in the world (verses 3-4). This gold was extremely rare and of great worth.

Through the inspired pen of the Apostle Paul, God admonishes us to build on the foundation of Christ with precious building materials, because the day is coming when every man’s work shall be made manifest, or publicly known (1 Corinthians 3:13). Thus, even as King David set his affections on building the best possible house for God, we too must desire to build for God with only the finest materials available. We should desire to build permanently into our character refined qualities which can be likened to that precious gold David donated for God’s physical house.

The process of refining and purifying gold is analogous to the process God desires to put us through as He prepares us to be “fitly framed” into His holy temple (Ephesians 2:21).

We Are Dirt!

In precious metal operations, ore is the chief source of gold. Ore must be mined—with great effort and expense, usually with heavy equipment or blasted with explosives—from deep within the Earth’s crust before the purification process can even begin.

God chose each of us “in the raw”—like an unrefined chunk of ore. Jude shows the process God goes through—setting us apart, preserving and protecting us, and finally calling us to become part of His holy temple (Jude 1). As a master Geologist and Surveyor, God has spent considerable time studying each of us to measure our potential for yielding righteous character, determining how much “gold” we might be able to produce.

What is truly remarkable is the hidden potential God sees in each of us. If we were actual deposits of ore, a mining company would probably reject us. 1 Corinthians 1:26-28 shows that God calls the weak, base, foolish and despised of the Earth. Can we agree that we were not the finest of ore when God first selected us?

Yet despite our flaws, we are now the only ones God has chosen to work with! Why? Though we would be considered worthless by many, it is for this very reason that God has chosen us—that no flesh should glory in His presence (verse 29).

Three Refining Steps Required

In Old Testament times, there was an intricate three-step process used to refine mined ore into purified gold.

The initial step in the process was to pound, shatter and crush the ore into a fine powder. The elements that made up the ore—dirt, rock minerals, gold and whatever other metals and unwanted materials remained—were totally pulverized.

God’s chosen “ore” has an excessive amount of undesirable elements, or “dross,” in it. The first step in the refining process illustrates the humbling that everyone must undergo before God can begin working with them.

This attitude is described in Psalm 34:18: “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.” The Hebrew word for broken here literally means shattered, rent violently and crushed.

Every member of God’s Church had an initial period of repentance. Mr. Armstrong vividly described in his autobiography the repeated shattering of his business ventures that crushed his vanity.

But this crushing of vanity isn’t something we do only once. We have to maintain an ongoing attitude and spirit of brokenness before God so the purification process can continue throughout our converted life.

Many other scriptures reinforce this concept of being “broken.” For example, in Isaiah 66:2, God says that “to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.” The Apostle James likewise admonishes us to humble ourselves in God’s sight; only then will He lift us up to glory (James 4:10). 1 Peter 5:5 tells us to be clothed with humility because God resists the proud and gives grace only to the humble.

This crushed and broken attitude is exactly what God desired from ancient Israel when He brought them out of the bondage of sin represented by Egypt. God took them through the Red Sea, symbolizing baptism and the removal of sin, as well as their redemption. They could have continued in God’s way and entered the Promised Land of Canaan within about 14 days, but Israel would not believe God. Israel would not submit to Him as ore must submit to the refiner. For this stubborn, disbelieving and faithless hardness, God allowed them to wander in the wilderness for 40 long years: “And thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no” (Deuteronomy 8:2).

The situation is no different for us today. Unless we are in an attitude of humility and submission and are yielding to God as our Refiner, we will not be able to enter the Kingdom.

The gold-refining process in Old Testament times was tedious. Unyielding ore, worked with primitive hand tools, would leave the refiner perspiring and frustrated as he strained to shatter it.

Imagine how our Refiner, God the Father, must feel if, after spending years working on us, trying to crush our sinful attitudes—with His Word, through sermons, counseling sessions with His ministry and other means— we still refuse to be humbled and guided. Could you be causing your Refiner such frustration? Pause and reflect deeply on that question!

Ask yourself: Have I grown since last year’s Passover season? Can I honestly say, before God, that I have made progress in overcoming—because I allowed Him to “work me over” in this spiritual refining process? Or am I still struggling with persistent problems that have gone unsolved for years? Am I unwilling to be “crushed”?

If you have been “difficult” for Christ to deal with in recent months, resolve now to repent. Don’t remain as a hardened chunk of ore. Go before God’s throne, and humbly and fervently beseech Him to soften your hardheadedness so that He can extract the potential “gold” He knows you contain.

Only when we are “crushed” and of a humble, contrite spirit can the great Refiner move us forward to the next step in the character-refinement process.


In the physical gold-refining process, after the mined ore is crushed and pounded into powder, it then must go through frequent washings and cleansings. During these washings, the unwanted, non-metallic elements are, to a large extent, eliminated; only the metallic elements are left behind.

The first washing that we undergo is baptism. In Acts 22:16, Paul likens baptism to the washing away of sin. We emerge from the baptismal waters totally washed of those past sins. Acts 2:38 contains the admonition, “Repent and be baptized”—representing the first two steps in this purification process.

But, as with the first step, an ongoing washing must occur throughout our converted life. 1 John 1:9 says if we confess our sins, God will forgive us and cleanse us from unrighteousness. Paul tells us Christ sanctifies and cleanses the Church “with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:26-27). These are ongoing processes.

This step in our spiritual refining would not be possible without Jesus Christ having been sacrificed as the propitiated Passover Lamb for the sins of all mankind. Christ is the only one qualified to cleanse us from our sins. He, in our stead, paid the eternal death penalty for our past sins. His perfect sacrifice also allowed for the veil of the temple to be rent open, giving us full access to God the Father. It was after His death and resurrection that Christ became our Advocate to God the Father (Hebrews 1:3; 9:24; Romans 8:34; 1 John 2:1).

When we approach God’s throne in prayer we have opportunity to personally and boldly claim the Refiner’s promises in deep fervent prayer. We can ask for and receive the necessary “washing” from Him by His Word. That requires daily Bible study, prayer and meditation, along with occasional fasting. Failing to submit and perform this step leaves us as ore unbroken or unwashed. It brings to a halt God’s purification process. You must go to Him in repentance and be washed daily.

How much time are you giving God daily to wash you? As part of our self-examination, we need to deeply examine all aspects of our lives (1 Corinthians 11:28; 2 Corinthians 13:5). Are you seeing all the dross? Are you searching the Bible daily, as the Bereans did (Acts 17:10-11), with the earnest desire to “prove all things” the way God would have you do? (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Are you being corrected and guided to use God’s way of handling things in all areas of your life? Ask yourself: Am I taking the action necessary to allow God to wash the dross out of me? Or am I taking this process for granted?

We should approach our Refiner with the same attitude that King David had when he recognized his sin against God after committing adultery with Bathsheba. In Psalm 51, David prayed: “Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight …” (verses 2-4).

David did not want to stay stone-faced and defiant toward God. He wanted that unwanted material and dross removed from his character. He came in a crushed, repentant attitude in deep, faith-filled prayer before God, asking to have that dross completely washed out of him!

David didn’t stop there: “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow” (verse 7). He did not want to be useless “ore remnants” that God would throw away (verse 11). He wanted to remove that dross from his life and become purified gold. This malleable, gold-like attitude is surely a large part of what made David a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22).

We need to be washed and cleansed. Acknowledge that unless the dross is removed from your mind, you will have no part with Christ in the soon-coming Kingdom of God (John 13:8). Could anything be more serious?

With this in mind, be sure to set aside plenty of time before the Passover to pray, study, fast and meditate on every aspect of your life. Examine your role as a husband, wife, son or daughter. Examine your Sabbath-keeping, your actions in the world and in the body of Christ, and compare it to the pure and perfect gold of Christ’s example. Make sure Christ is “washing out” your mind, and ridding it of any sinful thoughts or attitudes you may have toward His law or government. And make sure you are ready to partake of the Passover communion service in a right attitude (1 Corinthians 11:27-29).

In so doing, you will allow God to wash out the dirt, rock fragments, sand—unwanted spiritual elements and everything else that is not part of the pure and perfect “gold” God must have to build His holy temple.

The Furnace

At this point in the purification process, the crushed and cleansed ore is collected and placed in crucibles of clay; then it must be submitted to the furnace.

The dross-filled gold ore melts at the extreme temperature of 1,948 degrees Fahrenheit (1,064 degrees Celsius). In order to raise the furnace to that white-hot temperature, bellows are used to pump oxygen into the raging fire. Once the ore melts, an amazing thing happens: The impurities in the gold begin to rise to the top. The refiner is then able to skim the impurities off the top of the molten metal.

The more this process is repeated, the purer the gold becomes.

This step in the process is equated to the fiery trials Christians face. Though unpleasant, this step is a vital and necessary part of our Christian lives (1 Peter 4:12, 19). It is only after we have been fired in the furnace that the Refiner can begin to skim the dross from our spiritual character (Isaiah 1:25). This process, called calcination, is then repeated over and over. Each time, a little more dross is skimmed off and the gold is further purified.

In order to bear such trials, we must keep the Refiner’s perspective. This will allow us to face the difficulties with joy and gladness (1 Peter 4:13) and to produce the very patience that God says is more precious than gold itself (1 Peter 1:7). We will face many such trials in our lives. Each time, we must remember that, no matter how difficult or painful it becomes, we have our Refiner’s full assurance that He will not allow a trial to become more than we can personally handle (1 Corinthians 10:13) and that He will deliver us from it (Psalm 34:19).

Yes, God tests us severely to get us to repent of sin. He allows serious circumstances to befall us at times. But remember, He tempts no man with evil (James 1:13). He only makes us endure spiritual calcining until we are fully ready for permanent use in the holy temple—then He “seals” us, either through death (reserving us for the resurrection) or through the miraculous transformation which shall happen to our body, “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,” if we are one of those who are alive at Christ’s return (1 Thessalonians 4:17).

It is during this stage in the refining process that God works to fully extract the dross of Satan’s nature from all aspects of our character. That is what qualifies us, through grace (unmerited pardon). Also, the parables of the pounds and talents (Luke 19; Matthew 25) illustrate that God will also reward us for our fruits, obedience and belief.

Fiery trials provide the necessary opportunities to grow in faith. And there are essentially two ways we can choose to face such situations: obedience or compromise.

Obedience or Compromise

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego faced a literal fiery furnace as their trial. They had to choose to obey God with absolute faith in His eternal promises, or else compromise and rob themselves of the opportunity to grow and become more purified with an opportunity for greater reward in God’s Kingdom.

We face the same choices. How do you—and how will you—face your fiery trials? Your choices and fruits today demonstrate your belief and faith in God and the veracity of His Word!

When you are faced with a stumblingblock of any kind, is your initial reaction or thought to seize the opportunity to humble yourself before your Refiner and allow Him to remove the dross and leaven in your thinking and actions? Or do you seek a man-made way to circumvent or retard the purifying flames of the Refiner’s furnace?

For example, in a severe financial trial such as deep debt, do you immediately reach for your credit card? Do you file for bankruptcy? Or rely on a bailout from someone or a loan from some lending institution? Or do you, rather than trying to treat the effects of your problem, examine your spending habits and past financial decisions to determine the root causes of your financial woes?

Here’s another example to consider: In a health trial—say you or a loved one is faced with an extreme illness or injury—do you immediately turn to the medical fraternity? Or do you consider the fact that physical sin was involved, and first and foremost you need the stripes of Christ to blot out and forgive the cause of that health trial?

Think about this, too: In a marriage trial, do you ignore your problems? Do you attempt to sweep the symptoms under the rug? Do you simply blame the other person and fail to look at yourself? Do you overlook the true source of your bickering and disputing with your mate? Do you opt to sleep on the couch, or refuse to communicate with your spouse? Do you separate or divorce, rather than, in a humbled state, beg God to purify you and ask for help and guidance from God’s ministers?

There are many other situations where we can either undergo God’s calcination or circumvent it.

The stark reality is, by circumventing a trial we actually rob ourselves of a greater reward! We take from God the opportunity to further calcine us. What a sobering thought. We choose to remain as regular gold that is not as pure as it could be, not yet as pure as the gold of Ophir.

A word of caution: We must never condemn fellow brethren who choose to handle their fiery trials differently than we would. Beware of harshly judging others. Just as Christ exemplified, we must each pray for one another and encourage one another, as members of the same family, to strive to have the very faith of Christ. Christ is the Judge of men.

When you face trials, go immediately to your Refiner and seek the powerful help you need of Him. Ask Him for the strength not to circumvent the trial, no matter how difficult or painful. Submit to Him in prayer, study, meditation and fasting so that He might wash you and skim the dross from your life—so you can “receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him” (James 1:12). Nothing is impossible with God!

God is measuring, fitting, perfecting and readying His holy temple right now. God needs to know whether or not you truly believe Him. He tests our faith and belief using trials; our actions show Him whether we will live our lives in true submission to His laws, statutes and judgments and if we will remain faithful regardless of our physical circumstances. There is not much time left in this last hour to get it right with God!

Our Only Opportunity

Will God the Father and Jesus Christ—the God Family—allow dross in their eternal temple? No!

Notice: “Son of man, the house of Israel is to me become dross: all they are brass, and tin, and iron, and lead, in the midst of the furnace; they are even the dross of silver. Therefore thus saith the Lord God; Because ye are all become dross, behold, therefore I will gather you into the midst of Jerusalem. As they gather silver, and brass, and iron, and lead, and tin, into the midst of the furnace, to blow the fire upon it, to melt it; so will I gather you in mine anger and in my fury, and I will leave you there, and melt you. Yea, I will gather you, and blow upon you in the fire of my wrath, and ye shall be melted in the midst thereof. As silver is melted in the midst of the furnace, so shall ye be melted in the midst thereof; and ye shall know that I the Lord have poured out my fury upon you” (Ezekiel 22:18-22).

As the Passover season rushes up on us, think on this: If we fail to submit to our Refiner and allow Him to crush, wash and melt the sinful “dross” from our character now, we will ultimately be forced to join the Laodiceans when God moves them, unbroken and unwashed, in a last-ditch effort of mercy to see if they will allow Him to remove the dross from them and purify them, straight into the smelting furnace of the Great Tribulation! No second chance remains for us. This is it!

Those who submit to that final smelting and purifying process will be the ones who actually buy from God gold tried in the fire in order to make them rich, along with white raiment to clothe their spiritual nakedness (Revelation 3:18).

This Passover season, let us examine ourselves for dross—and meditate on the powerful metaphor of these three necessary steps to having ourselves purified into fine gold.

From the Archives: Royal Vision, March-April 2003