2 CORINTHIANS 7
1Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.
What promises do we have? Paul is referring to the promises he listed in chapter 6. There were three:
the presence or indwelling of God (6:16);
God’s favor or reception (6:17); and
that they would be God’s sons and daughters (6:18).
These are promises made in the Old Testament to Israel that Paul now applies to the church.
So Paul says, since we have these promised from God, let us purify ourselves. The NKJV is very graphic here. It says “…let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit…” What does he mean by this? Haven’t we been purified by Christ’s blood? After, Hebrews 1:3 says about Christ “…after he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Father.” We have been purified of our sins in Christ. We can stand before the Father without fear of punishment for sin because we have believed in Jesus as his son and received purification. When Peter spoke of the salvation of the Gentiles in Acts 15:19, he said “…he purified their hearts by faith”.
We also know that God continues to work in us for our sanctification. We quote Philippians 1:6 “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ.” What is sanctification? It is becoming like Christ. Romans 8:29 says that “those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”
The Westminister Shorter Catechism puts it this way: [sanctification is] the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness. God is freeing us from sinful desires and habits and forming in us Christ’s nature and virtues. He also gives us the desire to be holy and pure.
We still sin. So, we must deal with both the sin and the nature that makes us sin. We must purify ourselves. 1 John 3:3 says that “everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.” No one is exempt from this.
We cannot do this on our own. But, we cannot ignore it either. We struggle to purify ourselves, but in dependence on God. For example, Philippians 2:12-13 says “…work out you own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” So, he speaks of our work, but acknowledges it is God who works in us.
Paul says we must purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit. Some sins clearly contaminate the body. Our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, according to 1 Corinthians 6:19. That same passage cites sexual immorality as a sin that contaminates the body. Other sins contaminate the spirit. They may never show on the outside, but kill your spirit. Sins of attitude, such as jealously, bitterness, anger, pride and others contaminate the spirit. We are to purify ourselves of both kinds of sin.
Here is how I think you would do this. First, ask God to reveal your sins to you. David did this. Look at Psalm 139:23. This is scary, I know, but realize that God knows you already, inside and out. In fact, that same Psalm begins with that recognition by David. Look at Psalm 139:1-3. He knows you and he will reveal to you those parts of your life with which he is not pleased. It may happen when you read your Bible. You will read along and the Holy Spirit will convict you that a verse or a passage applies to your life. For example, you wounded a friend, even unintentionally, and they are hurt. You read Matthew 5:23, which says “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to our brother; then come and offer your gift.” Then you feel convicted to go and make things right with your friend.
Sometimes God works during prayer. You pray and he says obey me in this, or repent of that. Sometimes he works through another person. A humbling experience for me was having a non-Christian point out that one of my attitudes was not very Christian. She was right and I had to work on changing that attitude. (The funny thing about that attitude was the God showed me it really was a lack of trust in him to take care of me.)
Second, after asking God to reveal your sins, determine to avoid sin. That means you won’t seek it, you won’t play with it and you won’t rationalize it. You realize it does not please God, so you will avoid it. That may mean you can’t hang out with some people, or you can’t read certain things or see certain movies or shows, or do certain things. In Psalm 17:3, David said “…I have resolved that my mouth will not sin.” In Matthew 18, Jesus said to gouge out your eye and throw it away if it causes you to sin. That is how serious he is. Avoid the things that cause you to sin and it will help you avoid sin.
Remember how Joseph fled from Potipher’s wife? She grabbed him and he left his cloak behind to get out of the house. Why did he do that? He did it to avoid sin. He didn’t hang around and make out with her or flirt with her or anything else, he fled. Several verses in the Bible speak of fleeing sin, such as idolatry and immorality.
Third, confess you sin. (See 1 John 1:9) It not only keeps you clean, it forces you to admit to God that you are sinning. If you are honest about your sin and realize how it displeases God, you will want to have less to confess. That would be a good New Year’s resolution: less to confess.
Fourth, fill your mind and heart with good things. Pray. Read, study and meditate on the Bible. Worship. Fellowship with those who are trying to be holy. Have a quiet time in the morning so that you start your day thinking of pleasing God and not just trying to get to work on time or get the kids ready. Colossians 3:1-2 says “If then you are raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.”
Paul said we are to perfect holiness out of reverence for God. We are to continue this process of purification and sanctification until it is complete. The motive for doing so is reverence for God. We do it only to please him. That is what we live for.
7:2 Paul's Plea, Part II
2Make room for us in your hearts. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have exploited no one.
Paul resumes his request, from back in 6:13, for reconciliation and affection. He gives 3 reasons for it: (1) he has not wronged anyone; (2) he has not corrupted anyone; and (3) he has not exploited anyone. He stood on his integrity and could say there was no barrier to them accepting him into their affection and fellowship.
7:3-4 Paul’s Joy
3 I do not say this to condemn you; I have said before that you have such a place in our hearts that we would live or die with you. 4I have great confidence in you; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds.
Paul is saying that, in defending himself and his conduct in verse 2, he is not condemning them. In fact, he tells them how much they mean to him. He would live or die with them, he had great confidence in them and he took great pride in them. He, in fact, experienced boundless joy even in his troubles because of them. He was comforted by them.
This passage picks up where Paul left off back in 2:13. You may remember we spoke of these chapters in between as a diversion. So, if you turn back to 2:13, you’ll see he was saying when he went to Macedonia, he had no peace of mind because he had not heard from Titus about his trip to Corinth to deliver a letter from Paul. Now, in verse 5 of chapter 7, Paul will pick that story back up.
7:5-7 Paul In Macedonia
5For when we came into Macedonia, this body of ours had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside, fears within. 6But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, 7and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him. He told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever.
In verse 5, Paul reiterates his lack of peace of mind. But, in verse, 6, he said God comforted him by bringing Titus. So, they finally met up. Titus was returning from Corinth. Paul was making his way toward him, and they finally met in Macedonia.
And Titus brought good news. He said the people of Corinth longed for Paul, felt deep sorrow, presumably over the things he corrected them for in his letter, and felt concern for him. When Paul go this news, his joy was greater than ever. You can imagine him fretting over the reception of the letter. He loved them and desired their affection, but felt he had to correct them. Now he waited to see how they had reacted. He feared they would cut themselves off from him, but they did not, and he is practically giddy with joy over the news.
7:8-12 Paul’s letter
8Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while— 9yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. 10Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. 11See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter. 12So even though I wrote to you, it was not on account of the one who did the wrong or of the injured party, but rather that before God you could see for yourselves how devoted to us you are.
Paul regretted sending the letter, at least while he was waiting for news of their reception of it. But, now, knowing they received it as they ought to have, he does not regret it. The letter did cause them sorrow for a while. Realizing their sin, they were sorrowful until they repented and resolved the problem. Anytime we learn of sin in our lives, we should feel Godly sorrow and the need for repentance. Then, it should spur us on to do good. That is what happened here.
For Paul, their repentance and obedience had extra meaning. It meant they were still devoted to him. They loved him enough to accept his correction and continue in fellowship with him.
13By all this we are encouraged. In addition to our own encouragement, we were especially delighted to see how happy Titus was, because his spirit has been refreshed by all of you. 14I had boasted to him about you, and you have not embarrassed me. But just as everything we said to you was true, so our boasting about you to Titus has proved to be true as well. 15And his affection for you is all the greater when he remembers that you were all obedient, receiving him with fear and trembling. 16I am glad I can have complete confidence in you.
Paul continues this exclamation of happiness by telling the effect the Corinthians had on Titus. He was happy because they had received him and refreshed him. All the good things Paul said about them turned out to be true. You can imagine Titus and Paul sitting up into the late hours talking about this trip. Titus told the story, Paul asked questions, Titus marveled at how well they treated him, and Paul reacted like a proud father. His spirit is at peace now. He says “I am glad I can have complete confidence in you”.
That, of course, is how we want to be: the kind of people in which God and his ministers have complete confidence. If he sends us someone in need, we will minister to them. If he sends us correction, we will repent. If he sends us blessing, we will thank him for it. If he sends us suffering, we will rejoice and bear it for his glory.