"Having therefore these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." (2 Corinthians 7:1)
This inspired directive on holy living is given for those who yearn for heaven. However, merely desiring heaven falls short of actually going there. We all know where the road paved with good intentions leads. In this verse the apostle Paul teaches that much more is involved if we would spend eternity in Gods glorious presence. Consider the contents of this scripture.
THE VALUE OF GODS WORD: "Having therefore these promises". We have the promises of God through his word. Therein contains Gods "precious and exceeding great promises" (2 Pet. 1:4). The word "therefore" contextually connects this verse with this divine promise previously expressed: "And will be to you a Father, and ye shall be to me sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty" (6:18). Only through the knowledge of Gods word can we know his promises for us. They will anchor our souls (Heb. 6:18-19; Rom. 4:20).
THE REALITY OF A SPIRITUAL RELATIONSHIP: "beloved". While many may quickly overlook this word, it suggests the presence of a special relationship which both Paul and the Corinthians had with God and one another. He had spent a year and a half in Corinth teaching many Gods word and baptizing those who were receptive to truth (see Acts 18:7-11). When he left Corinth, the scripture says he "took leave of the brethren" (Acts 18:18, emphasis mine, DR). Paul wrote in his first letter to the Corinthians, calling them his "beloved children... for in Christ Jesus I begat you through the gospel" (1 Cor. 4:14-15). Their fellowship together was based on their relationship with God in Christ as they walked in the "light" of truth (1 John 1:6-7).
THE POWER OF HUMAN CHOICE: "let us cleanse ourselves". There was something for these Corinthian Christians to do. Their involvement, however, did not mean that salvation relied on their human wisdom and strength, but rather describes their dependence on, and faithful response to, God for their holiness. That they could be cleansed from "all defilement of flesh and spirit" could only be accomplished by the effectual working of the blood of Christ (Eph. 1:7; Rev. 1:5; 1 Jn. 1:9; 2:2). But that these Christians could cleanse themselves also suggests the power of their will. Through Jesus, as our High Priest (Heb. 7:26-28), Christians may "draw near with boldness unto the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help us in time of need" (Heb. 4:16).
THE NECESSITY OF SPIRITUAL GROWTH: "perfecting holiness". "Perfecting" suggests a process of spiritual growth and maturity. W. E. Vine says it denotes "an end accomplished as the effect of a process" (Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Vol. 3, pg. 175). One doesnt receive holiness directly by a miraculous working of the Holy Spirit, but by working out his own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12). Recent converts to Christ ("newborn babes"), must "long for the spiritual milk which is without guile, that ye may grow thereby unto salvation" (1 Pet. 2:2). But those who have achieved a greater level of spiritual maturity must "abound more and more" (1 Thess. 4:1ff.). Factors which necessarily enter into the equation of spiritual growth are time (Heb. 5:14) and diligence (2 Tim. 2:15; 2 Pet. 1:10).
THE REQUIREMENT OF REVERENCE: "in the fear of God". Any spiritual "perfecting" that will be done in ones life will be accomplished in the fear of God. Such describes Gods purpose for man upon this earth: "Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man" (Eccl. 12:13). To fear God is to hold Him with the greatest adoration (reverence) and awe, based upon Gods goodness, but also being mindful of the consequences of disobeying Him. Thus, it is an attitude emanating in a life which will "offer service well-pleasing to God... for our God is a consuming fire" (Heb. 12:28). Reverence is not spasmodic, depending on circumstance nor present company, but will be a present directive in daily living as Solomon admonished,"be thou in the fear of Jehovah all the day long " (Prov. 23:17).
By Dan Richardson
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