Series: 2 Corinthians
2 Corinthians 7:1 ESV
Since we have these promises, beloved,
let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit,
bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.
Review: remember the importance of context; provide example from Ph 4:13. We must always strive for correct, exact understanding of every Biblical text. To do so, we must become careful readers, good listeners, and skillful handlers of the Bible. This involves discarding wrong and poor viewpoints in order to grow in knowledge.
The present context is our way of life as the temple of the living God. Regretfully, this verse is readily used out of context. This is too easy to do through the use of concordances and topical Bible. Some do searches on certain words like “holiness” and then string them together apart from understanding the context in which they occur. In the process, they create false teaching and nonsense.
If we are to live as God’s temple, we must act wisely and skillfully. We must pay careful attention to God’s word and then do it diligently by grace through faith in Christ.
I. The basis of action
A. In the New Testament Scriptures the Christian way of life is based on what we are in Christ. Fact precedes command, or the indicative comes before the imperative. Our way of life flows out from the grace we have received in Jesus Christ.
1. Paul points to the promises that he has just referred to. God has promised to live with us, to walk among us, to take us as his people, to receive us, to be our Father, and to have us as his sons and daughters (6:16-18).
2. God’s promises are not simply to be a collection of information or a sedative to calm us. They ought to motivate us to action. We learn what we are and have by his grace in Jesus Christ. We listen to his reassurances to be with us. And then we act boldly for the Lord Jesus.
Comment: The temple of the living God is not a hospital, but a base from which spiritual warfare is conducted. Yes, sometimes you will need your wounds tended to. But you must realize that we are not simply here to hand out spiritual painkillers. Our gatherings are where we are reminded of God’s story, so that we can be a living part of his story together in the world.
B. This command is given to them as a gospel community, as dearly loved partners.
1. Paul, as an apostle of Christ, joins himself with them. “Let us purify ourselves….” Paul often wrote this way, demonstrating that he also was involved with his readers in living for Christ.
2. Notice his affectionate address: “dear friends” or more literally “loved ones”. Too often we view spiritual correction in the wrong way. We think that the Lord is putting us down or yelling at us like an out of control parent. Yes, the Spirit through the apostle is correcting the Corinthians and us. And we must listen. But we must listen to the tone of the correction, too. It is given in love, not in ungodly permissive love or in some warped concept of “unconditional love” but in genuine sacrificial love.
Apply: All believers need to put much more emphasis on God’s grace and love to us as the basis for our way of life. It flows out of what we are and have in Christ. The Lord’s commands are not the way to gain grace, but to express joy for grace already received. For example, consider Eph 4:32. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. His forgiveness of us is the basis of our forgiving others.
II. The action to bring to full completion
A. We must be cleansed or purified. This was a familiar concept to those who lived under the law or old covenant. Even a causal reader of the Torah will hear of cleansing or purification numerous times. But the idea probably is less known to Christians today. It simply isn’t popular to talk about purification. Believers will become quite animated in discussions about worship, especially about the style of songs “we ought to sing”. But if you raise the question of purification, which is also a worship matter, there will be silence.
1. Cleansing cannot refer to a literal ceremonial washing, because the apostle talks of cleansing both body and spirit. Your whole being must be purified—the outer and inner persons.
2. We must be purified from everything that pollutes or contaminates us. Now there are certainly many verses that teach us to get rid of certain sins and to put on godly practices, and it is easy to slide into that mind-set here. But we must think about two things: the usage of the word that is translated contaminates, and the context of this command. The word or its associated form is only used two other places in the Bible. The word itself only occurs in Jer 23:15 LXX, and its other form is found in 1 Cor 8:7. In both cases it is linked with idolatry. So when we remember the context, in which Paul commands them to break free from all idolatrous practices, the meaning should be clear. We should not allow any idolatry in our outward actions or inward thoughts and attitudes.
B. The Corinthian believers needed to break free from all the idol worship of Corinth and its associated practices. This meant not eating food that had been sacrificed to idols and keeping away from idolatrous feasts. Most of us probably have never faced these temptations exactly like they did throughout their lives. But we face other ways to be tempted to become religiously polluted.
1. The rise of false religions in our lands might lead us to encounter these same temptations as we meet new neighbors who come from other countries or who have made up their own religion. You will have to listen as you get closer to them. You might have to ask yourself, “Is this becoming some sort of ritual worship?” If it is, you must leave.
2. When we worship, we must always worship in a Christ-structured manner. For example, when we pray, we pray to God through Jesus our Great High Priest and only Mediator. We do not pray to God apart from the Son of God. We do not pray to or through Mary or the saints. We do not mistranslate the Bible by taking out references to the Son of God in order to have an ill-conceived attempt to reach Muslims. If anyone denies the Son, he also denies the Father.
III. The manner in which this action must be performed
A. We must bring our holiness or separation to God to completion.
1. “Perfecting” or “bring to completion” is a modifier of “purify”. It tells us how we must purify ourselves.
2. We do this by living as God’s temple together, keeping ourselves devoted to the Lord in a positive manner. This is where we are building a fresh start through our acronym BLESS. (See previous message.) We cannot complete our consecration apart from actually living as God’s living temple. Idle stones become the devil’s workshop.
B. We must do this out of fear of the Lord. (The word translated “reverence” is the same one translated “fear” earlier, cf. 5:11.)
1. We must take God very seriously about bringing our separation to him to completion. God doesn’t want to live in idol temples. He wants his covenant people to be devoted to him.
2. We maintain a proper fear of God by learning and living his promises. If we really believe that he lives and walks among us, we will keep ourselves consecrated to him. If our faith falters, we will substitute formal actions and attitudes for living in his presence to please him and in joy of him.
Apply: Brothers and sisters, let us become what we are in Christ—the temple of the living God. The old covenant temple was made of physical things. The new covenant temple is made of new men and women in Jesus Christ. May this reality remake and renew us, as God gives us grace.
[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]