Come Out From Them

2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1 “14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, ‘I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17 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.’ 7:1 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.”
Good morning Grace, I appreciate Pastor Dave and the elders giving me this opportunity to preach to you this morning. It has been my pleasure to dive into this particular portion of Scripture for the past several weeks, searching for what the Holy Spirit is saying to through Paul. Our text today is going to be specifically 7:1. But this verse is really a command based off of the previous section we just read. So, in light of those five verses, here’s what I believe Paul’s main message is in our text. Believers, in the fear of the Lord, pursue perfect holiness by separating yourselves from the world because God has promised wonderful things for you. Let’s Pray. Context Before we dive into the meaning of this text and how it should affect us, I want us to briefly get a glimpse of the kind of people Paul is dealing with here in Corinth. Paul had planted this church in Corinth several years prior to this letter. But now his opponents from the East, false teachers, were corrupting their doctrine and slandering Paul. Most of the church had been converted, but there was still a remnant that were hostile to Paul and his teaching. So, he decided to write another letter to correct their behavior and call them to repentance, and also to affirm and celebrate the ones who were staying true to the Word of God. Here’s what’s going to be vital to understand for our sermon today. Paul is writing to people inside an extremely pagan culture. While the Corinthians seemed to be very artsy in their tastes; they loved literature, art, rhetoric and philosophy. The city was a mecca of paganism and idol worship. The Corinthians were known far and wide for their immorality. In fact, they had coined a term for themselves, corinthiazesthai, (to corinthianize) which meant “to practice fornication,” but its literal translation was “to behave like a Corinthian.” So, to behave like a Corinthian was to practice fornication. Their very identity was rooted in immorality. They worshipped all of the popular gods of the time. Apollo, Poseidon, Aphrodite, Athena, Hermes. Aphrodite’s temple is rumored to have had a thousand consecrated prostitutes. Throughout the Corinthian letters, Paul describes the city in very colorful terms; immoral, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, greedy, drunkards, revilers, and robbers. And he says in his first letter to the Corinthians, “Such were some of you” (1 Cor. 6). These things characterized their old lives. And this is the world that Paul is writing to. Now, let’s go to our text.
2 Corinthians 7:1 “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.”
The first thing to notice is who Paul is talking to. The beloved. Believers. 1. Believers The truth being conveyed here is that Paul is writing to God’s people who are loved by God. The beloved. In the NT, Paul exclusively uses the term beloved to refer to his disciples and God’s elect people—that set apart remnant that God has reserved for Himself (Rom. 16:8, Col. 3:12). Right from the start in 6:14, we can immediately see that Paul is making a distinction with this whole passage that there are two kingdoms. The kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness. The kingdom of righteousness and lawlessness. Christ’s kingdom and Satan’s kingdom. Thinking of two kingdoms in this way is helpful, because it helps to clarify our identity and to shape our worldview. It makes thinking about sin and justification easier. Once you’ve been regenerated or born again, you are placed into this new kingdom. God’s kingdom. One kingdom is a kingdom of righteousness and holiness and purity, and the other, wickedness, deceitfulness, and immorality. The citizens in the kingdom of darkness can’t do anything but sin, because they are in Satan’s camp. These are the enemies of God. Citizens of God’s kingdom are holy, set apart in one sense. Sinning is still possible for the believer, but we live and move and breathe in a new kingdom as part of a new people, the Church; with a new King, Christ. Paul is telling the Corinthians that these two kingdoms are completely incompatible. They can’t work together. They can’t have unity or agreement. They have nothing in common. No one can be a member of both kingdoms. One is worshipping idols and the other is worshipping God. Paul is also assuming some things about these beloved believers. Things that wouldn’t be true of an unbeliever. Things like…God only wants good things for His children. Consider this familiar passage written by Paul to the Romans.
Rom. 8:28-30 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”
These are Paul’s words. This is how he thought. So, when he was addressing the believers, he already knew that they had been called by God, that they were justified, that they were made spiritually holy, spiritually pure before God, they were being transformed into the image of Jesus, and soon will be glorified. The beloved are loved by this wonderful King, and He desires only their good. So, when Paul repeats God’s command to “come out from the world,” and to “perfect our holiness,” it’s a good command for us. Not to be looked on as boring or stifling. God’s not here to cramp our style. He’s calling us to live and be who we already are and who we are being made into. Forgiven children of the King. 2. In the fear of the Lord. Believers, in the fear of the Lord, pursue perfect holiness by separating yourselves from the world because God has promised wonderful things for you. Paul is talking about an attitude or state of being that we should be doing all this in. What should be our disposition as the beloved? Remember the king of our kingdom? He is a loving Father, but He is also at the same time, holy and just and righteous. So, if you love kittens, then you must hate it when someone kills a kitten. If you love babies, you must hate it when someone kills a baby, right? And if approximately 42 million babies are killed per year, then God must be burning with wrath waiting to be poured out on the kingdom that would commit such atrocities. Look at what Paul tells the Corinthians in chapter 5.
2 Cor. 5:9-11a “So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. 11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others.”
Because we know the fear of the Lord, we plead with others who don’t know the Lord.
Proverbs 14:26 “Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.”
Amen! I just love all this kingdom language. The kingdom of light is a secure fortress. See how God is both full of wrath, yet full of mercy, love and grace? I can’t help but picture Eric over in Iraq. He was a Sergeant in the Marines. Overseas he commanded a group of men. And those men had a great deal of respect and reverence for him. They knew that he was going to lead them right, and protect them at all costs. He would jump on a grenade for them, literally. And on the other side, you have the enemy sitting in little rooms popping off shots at the Marines. Just picture Eric fully loaded. In his uniform, gear, flack jacket, ammo, grenades, and flashbangs, and a high-powered automatic rifle. Breaking down their door and screaming, “Get down! Get down!” The utter fear the enemy must have at that moment. The enemy would be terrified and shaking with fear, not because of his rank, but because they have a real grasp of who he is and what he’s capable of. He is able at this moment to rip them apart and send them into eternity. That’s how we are to fear the Lord. When we see Him correctly, we see Him as both a Father and a Judge.
Hebrews 12:28-29 “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our ‘God is a consuming fire.'”
So this is to be our state of mind. Not that we live in a trembling state of fear, wearing sackcloth and ashes and beating ourselves. But it’s a constant awareness that guides our lives. It’s a healthy reverent fear, like that of a stove or bonfire or a Marine, those things can be used for good, but the awareness that it can burn or even kill you you keeps you from acting foolishly. A healthy fear of the Lord keeps us in a state of awe and reverence, and that’s how we are to be living our lives as believers. Believers, in the fear of the Lord, pursue perfect holiness by separating yourselves from the world because God has promised wonderful things for you. 3. Pursue perfect holiness
7:1 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.”
There are two areas of which Paul says we are to make holy or to cleanse. The body and the spirit. By body, Paul is specifically referring to the things the Corinthians were doing with their bodies. And spirit; Paul uses the word spirit as a generalization to refer to our inner being; be it our thoughts, desires, passions, etc… The Corinthians were desiring the physical pleasures of the old life, and they were also believing false teachings and doctrines, and many were mixing their pagan beliefs with Christian ones. Paul uses both of the words body and spirit, but really he’s not separating them, he’s just trying to cover all his bases to include everything. Anything you can think of either internal or external that doesn’t glorify God, cleanse it. This is how Paul put it to the Ephesians.
Ephesians 4:22 “…put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”
And to the Corinthians, Paul takes it further to say that we are to do this perfectly! We are to perfect our holiness, or bring it to completion. There’s no doubt he was thinking back to Leviticus 11:44 where God says,
Leviticus 11:44 “For I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. You shall not defile yourselves…”
He’s also thinking of Jesus when He said,
Matthew. 5:48 “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
And of course, we have Peter telling the same thing to the churches in Asia Minor.
1 Peter 1:16 “for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.'”
I know Paul is not suggesting that we are going to be perfect in this lifetime because he refers to himself as the chief of sinners. And to the Romans he laments his fleshly desires to do what he ultimately hates, and that is sin! (Romans 7:15-20) And yet, that same man is calling us to perfection. So, knowing that we will be glorified and we are being made into the image of Christ, he means that we are to strive for perfection. We are to pursue perfection in these areas, in order to bring holiness to completion in our entire being. 4. By separating yourselves from the world. Believers, in the fear of the Lord, pursue perfect holiness by separating yourselves from the world because God has promised wonderful things for you. Interestingly enough, the main way Paul intends for us to cleanse ourselves is implied and not directly written into the text. Paul is telling us to cleanse ourselves by separating ourselves from the world. That is, the world’s system, philosophy and influence. This is also the most controversial and challenging aspect of this passage. It’s easy to talk about holiness when it’s just an abstract thought, but it’s much harder to live it out in the real world with real people. Unfortunately, with the time I have today, I’m only going to scratch the surface of this great command, and it’s endless applications for our lives. Let’s look at the context again, and then the verse..
2 Corinthians 6:14-16 “For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial [Satan]? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?”
These are rhetorical questions, meaning Paul is assuming they knew the answers. And really, we all know the answers. Now, let’s look at our primary text in other translations to see if we can’t get a clearer picture of what Paul is commanding us to do.
ESV “let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit” NIV “let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit” NLT “let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit”
He’s speaking of things that are outside of us. Contaminates. They are external things that defile us. Paul isn’t only referring to intrinsic fleshly lust or desires, because those are indwelling and there is no way for us to avoid those things by separating ourselves from them. Our flesh is sinful and will travel with us everywhere on earth until the end of time. No. Here, Paul is talking about external influences and participation in unholy activities. He’s specifically addressing the Corinthians that were going into the temples of pagan gods, worshipping idols, and using their bodies sinfully to worship those pagan gods. And Paul is pleading with them saying, come out from those things, separate yourself from those things, stop participating in your old ways, stop believing your old sinful beliefs. Clarke’s commentary says it like this…
“avoid every thing in spirit and practice which is opposite to the doctrine of God, and which has a tendency to pollute the soul.” – Clarke’s Commentary
Looking back up at the rhetorical questions Paul asks the church. What partnership does the unbeliever have with the believer? First, I want to address two things Paul is NOT saying in this verse. Then we’ll look at what he is saying. 1) Paul is not saying that we are to divorce our unbelieving spouses. Yes, as believers we should not willingly and knowingly enter into a spiritual covenant relationship with a member of the other kingdom, because marriage is supposed to be an analogy of Christ’s relationship with the Church. But, if we find ourselves in a covenant relationship, we are not called to separate from the other person. Grace Church, remember this, those of you who have unbelieving spouses, have peace, take comfort, knowing that Paul also reminded the Corinthian women who were married to unbelievers to stay with their husbands, if their husbands were willing, as a testimony to Christ and the gospel (1 Corinthians 7:13). They are your authority, and Christ will bless you for your faithfulness to them. 2) Paul isn’t saying that we should never go into the world, or that we should ditch our friends, or quit our secular jobs. After all, where would you find Jesus on a Saturday night? Sitting with the least of these, the despised, the rejects, the sinners. Jesus was known as a friend of sinners. But Jesus wasn’t going into the temples and participating in idol worship or kicking back a few cold ones, so he was relevant. He was there to be the light in the darkness. To be the influencer. To bring the gospel to the perishing. So it is with wives and husbands, and anyone else in a relationship with an unbeliever. You are to be the influencer and a witness of Christ to your spouse. Got it? So, what is Paul saying? What Paul is saying is that when you walk out that door, you are entering pagan territory. We are aliens, a holy priesthood. This is not our world, and these are not our temples. The very real truth that the Corinthians were facing was that Christians can’t go back and worship in those temples. We don’t sit under their teaching. We don’t seek their ways of doing things. We don’t love their humor. We don’t fornicate with prostitutes. And we certainly don’t sneak up to the windows and watch. Paul is telling believers here in 7:1, that we are to cleanse ourselves from outward sinful impurities. Things of this world. We are not supposed to be indulging ourselves in the world’s pleasures, the world’s worship of money, power, and immorality. We are supposed to be set apart from those things and clearly distinct. A people consecrated to God. We have our own kingdom now, we have a new joy in our king, we worship Him only, we have the Holy Spirit living in us and we are new creatures. We must be worshipping and living and learning and growing inside our kingdom. Look back at what Paul wrote to the Corinthians in his first letter trying to encourage the same thing.
1 Corinthians 6:9-20 “9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” “12 ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be dominated by anything. 13 “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, ‘The two will become one flesh.’ 17 But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.”
Wow. You see the context in which he’s writing. You can see the imagery. Now the principle is the same for us. We are being called to remove yourself from those situations that we were once a part of our lives. To cleanse ourselves of all immorality. Just think about this for a minute. We have a direct connection from anywhere in the world straight into perfect privacy. We can access anything thing we want from the other camp at any time. Do you want the latest fix from the world’s doctors? Do you want the latest gossip about the world’s idols? Do you want the world’s parenting tips? Do you want the most depraved images humanly imaginable? The list is endless. And it all comes straight into your eyes and into your soul with the touch of a button. Secular media and the internet is the boiling water and we are the proverbial frog. And we can’t say it doesn’t affect us. Media is changing our entire culture and most Christians aren’t even noticing. Barna says that only 19% of born-again Christians even have a Christian worldview anymore. We need to start asking ourselves some serious questions. Not just about our viewing habits, that’s merely an example, but in every area of life. What are we still taking part in that is not morally inline with Christianity? What are we filling our spare time with? What parts of the world are we still holding on to? What advice are we continually receiving from the world about parenting, marriage, jobs, health? What do we still find humorous or enjoy watching that God hates? What pagan beliefs are we mixing with Christianity? Just outside our very doors the world is rampant immorality and wickedness, and Paul is writing this stuff to us, the Church. And this harsh language is all over the Bible.
1 John 2:15-17 “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes…”
Some would quote Paul here when he said that it’s not what goes in a person that defiles them. But Paul wasn’t referring to enjoying immoral behavior when he said that, he was speaking about food offered to idols and he’s right, food doesn’t defile us. He most certainly wasn’t saying, “Hey you can go to Aphrodite’s temple, pull up a chair and enjoy the show (as long as you don’t actively participate), because it’s not what goes into a person that defiles them.” That sounds ridiculous. This may seem harsh, but Paul and Jesus have a far greater standard for what we consume than you or I ever will. And he continues…
“and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”
What’s the will of God? Stop worshipping idols in the temple of God. Separate yourselves from sinful wicked things that defile us. We are called to stop loving the world’s stuff.
“We just come from an altar (church) and we go back the next week and we’re as fascinated, we haven’t spent a half hour with Jesus but will stay two stinking hours in a movie house…And Paul says that’s what the world is to me it’s a system of corruption and rottenness and vileness… It’s anti-Christ from the word go….Is the world crucified to you tonight?….Or does it fascinate you?” — A.W. Tozer
So, what is the motivation for all of this? What gives us strength to separate ourselves from the world? What prevents this from just being legalism? Because let me assure you, this is not legalism. So, why do we do this? 5. Because God has promised wonderful things for you. Believers, in the fear of the Lord, pursue perfect holiness by separating yourselves from the world because God has promised wonderful things for you. This is where it gets good! We separate ourselves because God loves us and has promised us great and wonderful things, if we come out from the world and be His people. Let’s look at these beautiful promises. Beginning halfway through verse 16.
  • We are the temple of the living God
  • I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them
  • I will be their God, and they shall be my people
  • I will welcome you,
  • I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me
What amazing promises! We will be the temple of God. God dwells in believers! God will dwell among us and we will worship Him. He will be our God and we, His people. He will be our Father and we, His children. Though we were living in the kingdom of darkness and we were enemies of God, He welcomes us. The creator of the universe is promising to adopt an orphan. Not just any orphan, but the worst kind. The kind that hates you, and fights against you, and bites you, and cusses you out, and doesn’t want to be in your home. The worst of the worst. That’s us. We are no different than the Corinthians. We were utterly depraved. Paul said in Romans, “no one is good.” Paul said, that while we were still enemies of God, Christ reconciled us to God! So that we could become sons and daughters of God! And this was God’s plan from eternity. To have a people set apart holy consecrated unto Him. To glorify him and worship Him eternally.
Ephesians 1:3-5 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world,”
Adopting us was His plan all along! This is not a reaction to the fall. God is not surprised by anything. He chose us, the beloved before the earth was created. For what? “that we should be holy and blameless before him.” See, we are a called-out people. Called out from the world. Made holy just because he loves us. That’s it. “In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,” Because of His great love, he adopted us before we knew Him! It was nothing you did. You weren’t good enough. You didn’t have enough faith for God to look through the halls of time and select you based on your faith. No, before the world existed, he predestined you for adoption. Beloved, that is no small thing. Don’t miss this. He’s is promising to be your heavenly Father. We need to embrace that concept and live it out. Look at John’s reaction to the knowledge of being a child of God! This should be our reaction!
1 John 3:1 “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!”
Now those are great promises! If we believe these things, why would we want the other kingdom ever again? These promises are the motivation for separating ourselves from the world. They give us strength and hope that our striving is not in vain. And God promised to complete our holiness, because he knew we are weak and insufficient, but he is strong, and He is able, and in the end, He will get all the glory for our holiness and our salvation. Conclusion So, there it is. Now you can see what Paul is getting at in 7:1. He’s wrapping up the previous section by applying his rhetorical questions. What do we do in light of these truths? We cleanse ourselves, pursuing holiness by separating from the things that defile us. Again, he’s not saying to cut yourself off completely from the people of the world. After all, Jesus was a friend of sinners. But we are to cut ourselves off from their influence. When it comes to interacting rightly with the world, we are to be fishers of men; not participants of their kingdom. We don’t enjoy and participate in their idol worship, worldly philosophy, violence, wickedness, fornication, and lust. Those things have no place in the kingdom of light. If you’re an unbeliever this morning, what does this mean for you? Give your life to Christ. Repent. Turn from your sins and trust in the King! If you’re a believer. Separate yourself from the world, consecrate yourself to God and pursue holiness. Here’s your challenge this week. Ask this question about everything you do. Can I honestly pray that God would be glorified and honored in whatever it is I’m about to take part in? This is our greatest challenge on earth, but is our greatest joy as well. Remember, nothing the world has to offer is worth holding onto compared to the promises we have in Christ. Believers, in the fear of the Lord, pursue perfect holiness by separating yourselves from the world because God has promised wonderful things for you.
Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.