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"Perfecting Holiness"

2 Corinthians 6:11-7:1

Wednesday AM Bible Study
September 3, 2008

One of the great dangers that Christians face in our culture is that of conformity to this culture's values and priorities. Often, Christians believe that if they can become more like this world, they would be able to persuade the people of this world that they are "open" and "tolerant" and "broad-minded"—perhaps even winning them to faith in Christ. In reality, though, the opposite is true—we have the greatest impact in this world when we live in and but are distinct from values and priorities.

The Corinthian believers struggled greatly with this. They lived in the midst of a very paganized culture; and they often got fell into embracing the values and priorities of it in such a way as to be indistinguishable from the unsaved people in it. Paul wrote to his brothers and sisters in Christ to appeal to them to live the sort of holy lives in the midst of a dark world that conformed to what God had made them to be.


A. Note how he begins by saying, "O, Corinthians!" (v. 11). This wasn't a compliment. The name "Corinthian" was proverbial in those days for immoral behavior. In saying this, Paul was reminding the Corinthian believers of the sort of world that they lived in— and how they were conforming too easily with the values and priorities of their sinful environment.

B. Paul stresses that he and his co-workers had been an "open-book" to the Corinthians. In much of the earlier chapters of this letter, Paul had bared his soul to them. What's more, there was no ill-will on his part. He wasn't stand-offish toward them. His love for them was open and real; and so was his speech. Neither in word or in affection was he in any way constrained toward them (vv. 11-12a). If there was any constraint, it was on the part of the Corinthian believers. Their own "affections" constrained them (v. 12b). They had too much love for this world; and that worldly love sometimes blocked their ability to hear the loving exhortations God was giving them through Paul.

C. Paul, then, appeals to them that they "in return" be as open to him as he is to them (v. 13). He even speaks to them as if to children. Much as a loving parent would say, "Open wide; and receive what is good for you", so Paul urges them to be open to him.


A. Paul draws, most likely, from Deuteronomy 22:10; where God calls His people not to yoke an ox and a donkey together. In the law, an ox was a clean animal, but a donkey was an unclean animal; and to put them together was to put what was clean with what was unclean. Similarly, Paul urges the Corinthians not to join themselves in a vital way to unbelievers in any kind of relationship that binds them together (v. 14a).

B. He explains the reason for this through a series of couplets. A believer is "righteous"; but what fellowship can righteousness have with lawlessness? A believer is is in the light; but what communion has light with darkness? A believer is in Christ; but what accord can Christ have with Balial (a name which means "worthless", and that is associated in the New Testament with the devil)? A believer is one who has faith in the promises of God, and lives by the principle of faith; but what part does belief have with unbelief? The believer is the temple of the living God; but what agreement does the temple of God have with idols (vv. 14b-16a)?


A. Paul now supports his words by pointing to Scripture. First, to prove that the believer truly is the temple of the living God, he cites Ezekiel 37:26-27 (in v. 16b); where God Himself says that He will (1) dwell in the midst of His people, (2) walk among them (with the idea being that He would walk in them in such a way as to be conversant with them), (3) be their God, and (4) own them as His people.

B. Paul's use of the word "therefore" (v. 17) indicates that what he is about to say is a consequence of the promise he just quoted. Here, he cites Isaiah 52:11 and 2 Samuel 7:14 (in vv. 17-18); showing that God calls His people to be consistent with what they are. They are the temple of God. Therefore, they are to live as a separated people. They are to (1) distinguish themselves from the people of this world, (2) live lives that are separate from this world's values and priorities, (3) not touch what is unclean, and (4) know that God would receive them as His own sons and daughters. What could the world offer us that is greater than being a son or daughter of God?


A. Paul urges his brothers and sisters to look to these promises from God's word(vv. 16b- 18) and to cling to them. These promises give expression to the true identity of the believer in Christ.

B. In response to them, Paul calls his brothers and sisters to cleans themselves from all filthiness—both of the flesh (active sins), and of the spirit (attitudinal sins). He calls them to "perfect" holiness—in the sense that, already being made holy in position, they must now bring that position into full realization and practical fulfillment in the way they live. And they are to do so in the fear of God. So often, our conformity to this world is a product of the fear of man—and the cure is to fear God more than we fear man. (Note that "fear" here is always understood in relation to God's infinite and unmerited love. Paul calls them live this way as "beloved".)

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The way for us to become useful in God's kingdom, while living in a fallen world, is not by conforming to this fallen world. The true power of Christian witness is the distinction of a holy life through the indwelling Spirit of God. May God help us to live lives in the midst of this world that are so different from the values and priorities of this world that the people of this world look upon us and realize that we have "been with Jesus" (Acts 4:13).


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