Series: 2 Corinthians
2 Corinthians 6:17-18 ESV
Therefore go out from their midst,
and be separate from them, says the Lord,
and touch no unclean thing;
then I will welcome you,
18 and I will be a father to you,
and you shall be sons and daughters to me,
says the Lord Almighty.”
Through the apostle Paul, the Holy Spirit is telling the story of God, which also includes the story of God’s people. He takes ideas previously revealed in the Old Testament Scriptures and shows us their fulfillment in the Christ and his people. In this section, the emphasis is on Christ’s people and their identity as God’s new temple made up of living stones.
However, this story is not merely informational or perhaps inspirational. The Holy Spirit intends to use it to produce practical change in the way of life of Christ’s chosen and saved people. This concept of real life change is difficult for American Christians to grasp. We are very caught up in the idea that giving out information is sufficient to change people. We readily but wrongly assume that if you tell people about something, they will do it. We suppose that if we come to church, hear a message from the Bible, and give some sort of grudging consent to what we’ve heard that we’re spiritually all right. But we seem to forget or ignore that we don’t know until we do. Listen to what Jesus said. “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Lk 6:45). “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” (John 13:17). “If you love me, keep my commands” (Jn 14:15). “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me” (Jn 14:21a). “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love” (Jn 15:10). Jesus and the rest of the Bible are concerned about doing the truth, and not simply with knowing it.
We see this same emphasis in our text this morning. Paul has just told the Corinthian believers important information: “We are God’s temple.” But to this great statement of fact, he adds three commands, and then reinforces those commands with three promises for those who put them into practice. We must clearly understand that being God’s temple and his people requires that we are separate from everything that is unholy.
I. Three commands (6:17a-b)
It is interesting how Paul under the Spirit’s leadership takes commands given to old covenant Israel and transforms them into commands for God’s new covenant people, the church. He also takes words from Isaiah and Ezekiel and joins them into a new whole. There is much we could explore here, but we will focus on what we need to profit from this text.
A. The three commands come from Isaiah 52:11.
1. OT context – In Is 51:9 the people had called upon God to act with his almighty power. The Lord responds with four repetitions to stir their faith into action (Is 51:12, 17; 52:1, 11). God wants his people to act on the basis of who he is and what he has done.
2. The commands come from the fourth of these repetitions. In renewed faith, Israel was called to leave Babylon (cf. Is 48:20). In that departure, the priests and Levites were to be pure. They were not to touch any of the objects of worship of the Babylonian religion. There was to be a clean and total break with idolatry.
B. The Spirit wants us to realize that we must act in a similar way.
1. Everyone in God’s temple must make a complete break with every form of idolatry. We cannot live as God’s temple, while at the same time seeing how close we can get to the world and still call ourselves Christians. Our behavior matters to the Lord Christ!
2. Since the new temple is also the spiritual priesthood (cf. 1 Pt 2:4-10), we must keep our service of God free from entanglements with worldly religions. The Corinthians were to keep themselves away from the many temple cults in their city. We also must avoid contamination from the idols of our culture, such as lust for money or things or pleasure or power or popularity.
II. Three promises (6:17c-18)
Again, the Spirit directs Paul to take what was said to old covenant Israel and apply it to the new covenant church, and to draw these promises from various places in the OTS.
A. The first promise comes from Ezekiel 20:41.
1. OT context – Instead of using the promise from Isaiah 52:12 that speaks of God being with them in their departure, the apostle draws on another promise that tells of God receiving the remnant of Israel as fragrant incense. This remnant of the people would be purged from idolatry and rebellion against the Lord (Ezk 20:30-39). Then the Lord would receive them as his people (Ezk 20:40-41).
2. NT application – Paul wants his readers to know the rich welcome that the Lord offers to those bold by faith to separate from a culture devoted to idolatry.
B. The second promise comes from 2 Sm 7:14.
1. OT context – This is a promise from God’s covenant with David. The writer of Hebrews uses it to refer to Christ, the greatest Son of David (Heb 1:5).
2. NT application – Since all believers are in Christ, Paul applies the text to those who are in Christ by faith (cf. Ac 13:47). God will be a Father for us!
C. The third promise comes from Is 43:6 (or perhaps Deut 32:19).
1. OT context – If it comes from Isaiah as most think, it is talking about the restoration that God brings to his people. God gathers his sons and daughters from the ends of the earth.
2. NT application – The idea of sons and daughters points to the relationship that his temple, his people have to him. We share in being children in his family. Here is where we belong, where we are loved by God and others, where we have close friendships, and where we can rejoice with each other in the confident expectation of the glory of God.
III. Application for our way of life – God has called us out from the idolatry of an evil, unbelieving world.
He expects us to be separate to him, to be his living and moving temple for his glory out into that same world that we are now separate from. (Remember, Christ has sent us into the world on his mission, Jn 17:18). He encourages us to live this way with great and precious promises. So then, how do we live together as this separated temple? We must begin to put life as God’s temple into real life practice. We must develop a new way of life. Here is one way that we will begin doing this. Since God’s people are to be a blessing in the world, I will use the acrostic BLESS to set this forth. The point is to develop a new rhythm or pattern in our lives.
A. Benefit times three (cf. Rm 12:14)
1. Everyone should do one act, small or big, to benefit someone who is part of our assembly of believers, one to someone outside of our gospel partnership, and one spare blessing to go either inside or outside every week.
2. Core value – As children of our heavenly Father, we ought to be demonstrating mercy to everyone (Lk 6:27-36).
B. Listen to the Lord and others
1. Everyone is expected to (1) constantly read and reread the Gospels, (2) be reading somewhere else in the Old or New Testament Scriptures, and (3) be reading some other good book, fiction or non-fiction, Christian or not. Avoid trashy books and magazines.
2. Core value – This helps us learn God’s ways and to understand where people around us are coming from.
C. Eat times with others two or three times a week
1. Everyone is encouraged to share table fellowship with those not part of their physical family unit. Again, this should occur once with those who are part of our congregation and once with those outside our family of faith, and perhaps one to go either way. This will require much effort and creative thinking.
2. Core value – This will develop our hospitality and openness with everything. It will also provide opportunities to serve one another in love and to reach out to those who need the Lord.
D. Speak to the Lord at least one hour a week
1. All of us should be praying to our Father in heaven, since God’s temple is to be a house of prayer.
2. Core value – This will help us be a prayerful spiritual community.
E. Show Christ constantly to the world
1. Everyone views themselves as ‘sent’ by Christ into every place your life takes you. At the end of the day, keep a journal to reflect on your actions by answering two questions: (1) Where did I resist the opportunities the Lord Jesus gave me today? (2) Where did I work with Jesus today?
2. Core value – This will develop accountability to the Lord’s call for us to act everyday as his ‘sent ones’.
Apply: To be a blessing as God’s temple, we must act from Christ-exalting, gospel-formed attitudes. You cannot be a blessing if you lack an attitude or spirit of blessing. Here is a practical way that we can act as God’s temple together everyday beginning with today.
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://christmycovenant.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/frampton-dave.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Pastor Dave Frampton: When push comes to shove there is usually nothing more satisfying than for a saint of God to have at his or her disposal a source of biblically sound instruction in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The faithful and spiritually profitable labors of Dave Frampton are here at CMC to be a blessing. Bible teacher and student alike will profit much from his labor in the God’s Word. Visit Newtown Square Baptist Church[/author_info] [/author] [button link=”http://www.newtownsquarebaptist.org/” color=”red” newwindow=”yes”] Visit Newtown Square Baptist Church[/button]