2 Corinthians 7:1
Therefore, beloved, since we have these promises, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that defiles body and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
An Exhortation to PerfectionC. Lipscomb 2 Corinthians 7:1
Having the Promises of GodMatthew Henry.2 Corinthians 7:1
HolinessJ.R. Thomson 2 Corinthians 7:1
Holiness Inculcated on Gospel PrinciplesJ. Young.2 Corinthians 7:1
Hope and HolinessAlexander Maclaren2 Corinthians 7:1
Our Great Life WorkR. Tuck 2 Corinthians 7:1
Perfecting HolinessW. H. Lewis, D. D.2 Corinthians 7:1
Personal PurificationF. W. Robertson, M. A.2 Corinthians 7:1
The Christian in Various AspectsC. H. Spurgeon.2 Corinthians 7:1
The Difference Between Fearing God and Being Afraid of HimJ. H. Jowett, M. A.2 Corinthians 7:1
The Practical Power of the PromisesR. Tuck 2 Corinthians 7:1
The Promises of God an Incentive to Holy LivingE. Hurndall 2 Corinthians 7:1

Having therefore these promises, which the apostle had just mentioned (2 Corinthians 6:16-18), what were the Corinthians expected to be? "Sons and daughters" of the Father, God in Christ. But the condition was, "Be ye separate, touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you." There was a character involved ("sons and daughters"); there was something to be done ("come out from among them, and be ye separate"); then "I will receive you." St. Paul is specific in his appeal: "Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness [defilement] of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." The enlarged heart, of which he had been speaking and would soon speak again, has a tender voice, addressing them as "dearly beloved." Nothing magisterial appears; he is one of them - "Let us cleanse ourselves;" nor has he any doubt of their ability to do this thing. Separation from old associations, changes in customs and habits, call for firm resolution and self-denial; but he is well assured that God makes no promise without giving ample strength for the accepting party to comply with the terms offered. If the promises embraced every good connected with their relation to God as a Father, then they must be like God in Christ; they were to entertain no views of God, except as God in Christ, but were to reverence, love, serve him in this one single and complete relationship. The ground, motive, impulse of action, were to spring from this consideration - God in Christ as a Father. If so, the righteousness of Christ was not only to be the reason of their justification before the law of rectitude, but they were also to have that righteousness as a property of personal character. By nature they were far gone from righteousness; they were defiled, born in sin; grace had already been communicated to renew their evil character; he had written to them as "washed, sanctified, justified," in the "name" of Christ, and by "the Spirit of our God." As yet the work was only begun. Much was to be done. Sinful tendencies were in them which had never come under the eye of consciousness. Enemies lurked within and without, of whom they were unaware. Imperfect as they and he were, they must go on to perfection. Strength consisted in putting forth strength, to be stronger. First of all, this perfection was to be sought by purifying themselves from evil. What an amount of corruption still remained was seen in the fact of the filthiness in the flesh and spirit. Each part of our complex nature was vitiated, and each combined with the other in opposing the progress necessary to attain holiness. There were vices of the animal man. There were vices of the moral man. And there were vices resulting from the union of the two, so that a thorough and complete cleansing was required. "All filthiness;" no matter of what class or kind, hereditary or acquired, local as respected the wickedness of Corinth, or general as belonging to the human family, the wrong doing among you from the Judaizers, from the free thinkers, from all your ambitious partisanships, - "cleanse" yourselves from "all filthiness," whether of the "flesh" or the "spirit." This was the negative side of a great and imperative duty, not all, but much, and very much, since, until this were done, they could take no direct steps towards perfection. Observe now that gross bodily sins were not the only lusts. Tempers and dispositions were just as urgent as passions and appetites in seeking unlawful enjoyments. Reflect on this point. "The spirit in us lusteth to envy." Inordinate affections led to transgression. Nay, they often excited the body to wicked indulgences. Physical organs are frequently torpid; they are aroused by images in the intellect, and stimulated by an impure imagination; and, furthermore, after these organs, because of age or over gratification, have little or no originating force, and are well nigh worn out, the recollections of past pleasures kindle the expiring embers into a flame. Thus, indeed, depravity assumes its most licentious forms. For it is not the animal man that is the chief or the most dangerous factor in this sort of iniquity. The intellectual and moral man descends into corporeal abuses, and then it is these temptations are strongest. In many of these sins there is an element of sentiment supplied by an unholy imagination, which makes them far more tyrannical and debauching than they would be otherwise. And hence it is not the beastly possibility in man that is the greatest danger, but the Satanic agency brought to bear on the body by means of the spirit. It is the devil of the spirit that is the devil of the body. A terrible conjunction this, and yet it is not a common spectacle. Ordinarily the incipient stage of vice is a bodily evil merely. It is a matter of blood and nerves. Not such does it remain long. Satan knows his citadel, and hastens to its occupancy. While it does continue, a man may be reasoned with; he is open to shame, conscience may be reached, and concurrent motives made operative on his feelings, but when physical vice allies itself with spirit, men "glory in their shame," and are "taken captive by Satan at his will." In the final outcome there is but one will, and it is Satan's will. Much more than this cleansing from the "filthiness of the flesh and spirit" is necessary, if "these promises" are to be fully realized. Therefore he adds, "perfecting holiness in the fear of God." Here we have the positive side of that experience which is demanded of those who are the "sons and daughters" of God in Christ. It is inward holiness. Under the Law, beasts were clean and unclean; things, vessels, places, were externally holy; emblems and symbols of purity abounded; manners, customs, domestic and national usages, were so ordered as to impress on the senses the difference between good and evil. Under the gospel, spiritual holiness is demanded. The circumcision is of the heart, not of the flesh; the sanitary idea of the human body, so frequently set forth in the Old Testament, is changed into that of the body as the temple of the Holy Ghost; and hence, no sooner does the Lord Jesus begin to unfold the constitution of the new kingdom in the sermon on the mount, than he speaks directly to the heart. Righteousness must exceed the righteousness of scribes and Pharisees. Impure thoughts are forbidden. Passions that have no outward voice utter their sinfulness in the ear of God; and feelings that escape not into visible acts are realities in the light of eternity. Inasmuch as the cleansing was a purification of body and spirit, St. Paul argues that the sanctification, begun in regeneration, was to continue, body and spirit sharing together the Spirit's influence. Neither the one nor the other was to be lost sight of; neither part of the work was to be carried on in a way detrimental to perfect unity; neither was to be exaggerated at the expense of the other. But as body and spirit had been redeemed by Christ's blood, so were both to be hallowed by the indwelling of the Holy Ghost. Throughout St. Paul's Epistles there run these two leading ideas - the sanctification of body and of spirit and if, at times, the idea of the former is prominent, and then, at other times, the idea of the latter, we must recollect that this variation was necessary to the full presentation of his subject. Great truths are not to be vividly seen except in great moods, and great moods are not habitual, but occasional. Now, this mode of displaying his subject by a rotation of. its aspects exposes the apostle to misconception. The ascetic takes him in one mood of thought, dominant at the moment, because of the nature of his argument. The mystic takes him in another. And they both do him injustice, the ascetic by laying an undue stress on bodily mortifications, the mystic by extravagance in spiritual abstractions. St. Paul is always true to his theology. He never loses his balance, never exalts spirit at the expense of body, never forgets that body is mated with spirit under an economy of permanent neutrality. Hence the argument for inward holiness, that cleansing of spirit and flesh which proceeds from the Holy Ghost in the conscience and heart, and works from the centre and seat of vitality through all the organs of life. It is growing holiness. Growth is the law of existence. The body grows until it attains its physical development, say from twenty-one to twenty-five years of age in men, and then another and much higher growth sets in, that of intellectual and moral adaptiveness to the mind, whereby the nerves, the ganglia, the brains, are brought into closer union with thought, volition, sensibility, But it is in religious life that growth is most perceptible - a growth in the fear of God, a filial and tender fear, that is jealous of its sense of sonship, and ever watchful lest it grieve the witnessing Spirit. There is an increasing delight in the discharge of duty, in taking up the daily cross, in practising self-denial, and especially in a clearer view of the ground and reason of self-denial. How the Scriptures grow upon us, the exercises of the closet, the Holy Communion, the fellowship of Christians! And, as we advance, we feel more and more the evil of sin as it is in itself. "Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight." This psalm, the roost profoundly heart searching and personal of the psalms, is nevertheless most representative of that sense of sin which forgets all else in the thought of an offended God. In that bitterest hour of David's life, his home, other homes, a nation's homes, involved in his terrible transgression, there is the one overwhelming reflection, "Against thee!" The growing Christian sees the innate quality of sin, its deep-seated hold, its presence in the life blood of his old nature, and learns from thence to perfect holiness, by realizing, as far as may be, the holiness of God. "By studying the character of Christ and imitating his example, this Divine holiness defines itself to his mind and engages his affections. "Looking unto Jesus" is the secret of his growth. He looks to him as the "Author" of his faith; how long ago it was! How feeble then! What gracious forbearance! The bruised reed not broken, the smoking flax not quenched! And the "Author" is the "Finisher;" for he is "the same yesterday, and today, and forever." Law changes into love, and love advances from one degree of strength and beauty to another, from one relation of life to another, from one victory to a victory still greater, the holy ideal rising before him and assuming new glory, and yet, as it retreats to a loftier height, drawing him towards itself with a stronger charm. "Blessed are the pure in heart." It is far on in the Beatitudes; but it is there, thanks to God, it is there as an attainment. The pathway to it is very clearly marked out, the successive steps, the preparatory agencies, the gradual advances, the blessedness of poverty of spirit, of mourning, of meekness, of hungering and thirsting after righteousness, of mercifulness. One may know what progress he is making towards it, and this is the great thing to be known. Milestones along the road record the onward tread and assure the pilgrim of the certain goal. "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God." - L.

Having these promises... let us cleanse ourselves... perfecting holiness:
Under what notion have we the promises of God?

1. We have them as manifest tokens of God's favour towards us.

2. We have them as fruits of Christ's. purchase.

3. They are plain and ample declarations of the good-will of God towards men, and therefore as God's part of the covenant of grace.

4. They are a foundation of our faith, and we have them as such; and also of our hope, on these we are to build all our expectations from God; and in all temptations and trials we have them to rest our souls upon.

5. We have them as the directions and encouragements of our desires in prayer.

6. We have them as the means by which the grace of God works for our holiness and comfort, for by these we are made partakers of a Divine nature; and faith, applying these promises, is said to work by love.

7. We have the promises as the earnest and assurance of future blessedness.

(Matthew Henry.)

I. THE GROUND OF THE APOSTLE'S REQUEST — "Having these promises" (2 Corinthians 6:16-18). Observe the gospel principle of action: it is not, Separate yourself from all uncleanness in order that you may get a right of sonship; but, Because ye are sons of God, therefore be pure. It is not, Work in order to be saved; but, Because you are saved, therefore work out your salvation. "Ye are the temple of God": therefore cleanse yourself. The law says: "This do, and thou shalt live." The gospel says: "This do, because thou art redeemed." We all know the force of this kind of appeal. You know there are some things a soldier will not do, because he is a soldier: he is in uniform, and he cannot disgrace his corps. There are some things of which a man of high birth is incapable: he has a character to sustain. Precisely on this ground is the gospel appeal made to us.

II. THE REQUEST ITSELF. St. Paul demanded their holiness. In Jewish literalness this meant separation from external defilement, but the thing implied was inward holiness. We must keep ourselves apart, then, not only from sensual but also from spiritual defilement. The Jewish law required only the purification of the flesh; the gospel demands the purification of the spirit (Hebrews 9:13). There is a contamination which passes through the avenue of the senses, and sinks into the spirit. Who shall dislodge it thence? "Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man." "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts." The heart — there is the evil! And now what is the remedy for this?

1. The fear of God. An awful thought! a living God, infinitely pure, is conscious of your contaminated thoughts! So the only true courage sometimes comes from fear. We cannot do without awe: there is no depth of character without it. Tender motives are not enough to restrain from sin; yet neither is awe enough.

2. The promises of God. Think of what you are — a child of God, an heir of heaven. Realise the grandeur of saintliness, and you will shrink from degrading your soul and debasing your spirit. To come down, however, from these sublime motives to simple rules —(1) Cultivate all generous and high feelings. A base appetite may be expelled by a nobler passion; the invasion of a country has sometimes waked men from low sensuality, has roused them to deeds of self-sacrifice, and left no access for the baser passions. An honourable affection can quench low and indiscriminate vice.(2) Seek exercise and occupation. If a man finds himself haunted by evil desires and unholy images, let him commit to memory passages of Scripture, or passages from the best writers in verse or prose. Let him store his mind with these, as safeguards. Let these be to him the sword, turning everywhere to keep the way of the Garden of Life from the intrusion of profaner footsteps.

III. THE ENTIRENESS OF THIS SEVERANCE FROM EVIL — "perfecting holiness." Perfection means entireness, in opposition to one-sidedness. This expression seems to be suggested by the terms "flesh and spirit"; for the purification of the flesh alone would not be perfect, but superficial holiness. Christian sanctification, therefore, is an entire and whole thing; it is nothing less than presenting the whole man a sacrifice to Christ. "I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless."

(F. W. Robertson, M. A.)

I. AS POSSESSED OF MOST GLORIOUS PRIVILEGES — "Having these promises." Not promises in reversion merely, but in actual possession.

1. The promises referred to are —

(1)Divine indwelling.

(2)Divine manifestation:

(3)Divine covenanting.

(4)Divine acceptance.

(5)Divine adoption.

2. These promises are already fulfilled in our experience.


1. The matter has in it —

(1)Personality: "Let us cleanse ourselves."

(2)Activity; we must continue vigorously to cleanse both body and mind.

(3)Universality: "From all filthiness."

(4)Thoroughness: "Of the flesh and spirit."

2. If God dwells in us, let us make the house clean for so pure a God.

3. Has the Lord entered into covenant with us that we should be His people? Does not this involve a call upon us to live as becometh godliness?

4. Are we His children? Let us not grieve our Father, but imitate Him as dear children.


1. We must set before us perfect holiness as a thing to be reached.

2. We must blame ourselves if we fall short of it.

3. We must continue in any degree of holiness which we have reached.

4. We must agonise after the perfecting of our character.

IV. AS PROMPTED BY THE MOST SACRED OF MOTIVES — "In the fear of God." The fear of God —

1. Casts out the fear of man, and thus saves us from one prolific cause of sin.

2. Casts out the love of sin, and with the root the fruit is sure to go.

3. Works in and through love, and this is a great factor of holiness.

4. Is the root of faith, worship, obedience, and so it produces all manner of holy service.Conclusion: See how —

1. Promises supply arguments for precepts.

2. Precepts naturally grow out of promises.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

1. The tender compellation by which these Corinthians are here addressed — "dearly beloved." However deficient some of them were in affection for this apostle (1 Corinthians 4:14, 15), and with all their faults, he retained a paternal affection for them. How careful should both ministers and people be to guard against everything that tends to impair their mutual affection.

2. The duty to which the Corinthians are here exhorted, and we together with them.

3. The manner in which the apostle urges the exhortation. He speaks not in the second person, but in the first, "let us cleanse." The same exhortation that he gives to them he also takes to himself. We must recommend by our example the duties which we doctrinally inculcate.

4. The manner in which the exhortation is to be complied with, and the duty performed: "in the fear of God." Not slavish fear.

5. The motive by which this exhortation is enforced: "Having these promises," etc. It is the duty of public teachers in the Church to make known to their hearers both the precepts and threatenings of the law, as well as the promises of the gospel.

I. The first thing to be spoken of is THE DUTY HERE ENJOINED. This, in general, is self-sanctification.

1. Because the law of God necessarily requires it. That law, even before sin entered into the world, prohibited every species of moral pollution, and required the utmost perfection of holiness in heart and life, in nature and practice. Through the entrance of sin God neither lost His authority to command, nor did the law of God lose its binding obligation.

2. Because, when the Holy Ghost comes to accomplish this work, He always does it in a way of stirring up the person to diligence in the duty which is incumbent upon him in this respect. Thus we are made a kind of instruments in promoting His gracious design in ourselves. In justification we are wholly passive; because, this being a judicial deed, none can be active in it but He whose prerogative it is to forgive sins. In regeneration also, which, indeed, is the beginning of sanctification, we must be passive; because we can perform none of the functions of spiritual life while we continue dead in trespasses and sins. But the moment that the principle of life is implanted the soul begins to be active; and it continues to be a co-worker with God in every part of its own sanctification. Now, sanctification consists of two parts, usually called mortification and vivication; and we must be active in both.(1) To the duty of mortification, which is here expressed by our cleansing ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit. By all sin we contract filthiness as well as guilt. The guilt of sin exposes us to condemnation and punishment; and the filth of it renders us hateful in the sight of God. This filthiness has infected every part of human nature. Both body and soul are polluted. With regard to the body, being a piece of matter, it may be thought incapable of spiritual or moral pollution. And doubtless so it would if it subsisted by itself. But, being united to a rational soul, it is a part of a human person, who is a subject of moral government; and every part of the rational person is defiled. A great part of the filthiness of our corrupt nature consists in a disposition to gratify our appetites in a manner prohibited by the law of God, and ruinous to the dearest interests of the immortal soul. With regard to the soul or rational spirit, that also is become altogether filthy. Its whole constitution is depraved, its extensive desires are all perverted, being set upon sinful and vain objects. All its faculties are depraved. Though the cleansing of the whole man from this spiritual filthiness must be a work beyond the power of any mere creature, yet there are various things incumbent upon us by which we may actively contribute to the gaining of this desirable end. To this purpose let us betake ourselves, by renewed actings of faith, to the blood of Jesus Christ, in its sanctifying as well as in its justifying efficacy. Let us carefully abstain from all those outward acts of sin by which our corruptions might be gratified. Let us earnestly pray to God for His sanctifying Spirit. Let us confidently trust in God, that, according to His promise, He will cleanse us from all our filthiness. And if we are favoured with the motions of the Holy Ghost to this effect, let us cherish them with the utmost care.(2) We are exhorted to the duty of vivication, or living unto righteousness, here expressed by "perfecting holiness." Concerning this we may observe the following things. Holiness is that perfection which is opposed to moral impurity. In Scripture it is represented as the glory of the Divine nature (Exodus 15:11). Among creatures it is that which renders a rational being agreeable in the sight of God, and fit to be employed in His service. It consists not barely in freedom from spiritual filthiness, but is opposed to it, as light is opposed to darkness. Every corruption has an opposite grace. And grace does not barely consist in freedom from corruption, but includes something positive in opposition to it. Thus holiness is not only something required of us by the law of God, it is something highly ornamental to our nature. Hence we read of the beauty of holiness (Psalm 29:2). This holiness is not only a thing absolutely necessary to the happiness of a rational being, but is itself a principal branch of happiness. That it is necessary to happiness is clear from various considerations. There is no happiness adequate to the desires of a rational soul without the enjoyment of God; and this can never be attained without holiness. As happiness can never be perfect without the gratification of all the person's desires, it is manifest that an unholy person never can be happy. While he continues possessed of a rational soul his desires must be infinite; nor can anything satisfy them but an infinite object. Impure desires can never find an infinite object to fix upon; for nothing unholy can be infinite. The original standard of all holiness is in the nature of God. What is conformable to that infinite nature is holy; and what is contrary to it must be impure and unholy. But as the nature of God is not perfectly understood by any creature, nor is capable of being so, it is impossible for us to judge of our holiness immediately by that standard. For this reason God has given us in His holy law a transcript of His nature adapted to our capacities; and this is the rule of all holiness to mankind. As broad as that law is, so extensive is holiness. It must reach to the inward as well as the outward man. To perfect holiness every genuine Christian will aspire. In the text we are expressly required to "perfect holiness." "But why require of us an impossibility? For us to perfect holiness is not only impossible by any strength of our own, but it is impossible by the help of any grace that we can expect in this world?" Every argument that enforces holiness at all pleads equally for the perfection of it. The broad law of God requires it; and without it we never can be conformable to that unerring rule. It is absolutely necessary to perfect happiness; and as no man can satisfy himself with an imperfect happiness, no man can act as becomes a rational creature without aiming at perfect holiness. As much as our holiness is imperfect, so much pollution must remain about us, and it must be so far unfit for the full enjoyment of God. As our cleansing from filthiness, so, more especially, the perfecting of holiness in us must be the work of God. There are various things which you ought to do in order to your making progress in holiness. Make continual application by faith and prayer to that infinite fulness of grace and strength, that God has made to dwell in Christ, for all those supplies that are necessary to enable you to be holy. Strive to live in the constant exercise of all those graces which constitute that inward holiness of heart in which you wish to grow. The weapon that is seldom used gathers rust. Continue in the exercise of that love to God which is the principle of all practical holiness, and is therefore called the fulfilling of the holy law of God. Attend carefully and regularly upon all the ordinances of God's worship in their appointed seasons. Frequent the society of holy persons, and maintain communion with them in holy duties. Think much of the obligations that you lie under to be holy. Of all the different species of spiritual filthiness none is more hateful to God than the filth of legality. Bear it always in mind that no holiness of yours can ever be a righteousness to answer the demands that the law of works has upon you.


1. There is a slavish fear of God, such as a slave entertains of the whip in the hand of a rigorous master. Though this is not the fear mentioned in the text, it is in danger of being mistaken for it; and therefore it is proper that Christians should know something of the nature of it. It may be distinguished by the following marks. It is always the fruit of a legal principle, i.e., a disposition to seek righteousness as it were by the works of the law. It is always accompanied with a servile hope. In proportion as his fear prevails when he is under the conviction of sin, his hope preponderates when he can persuade himself that his services are regular. In proportion as he fears the punishment of his sin, he vainly hopes for happiness as a reward for his obedience. Where it reigns the person is neither affected with God's displeasure nor the dishonour done to him by sin. He fears for himself only. In a word, it is always accompanied with torment; and the degree of torment is always in proportion to the measure of fear.

2. There is a holy filial fear that God puts into the hearts of His people when He implants every other gracious habit in the day of regeneration. It includes a holy reverence of God and a profound awe of His omniscient eye. There may be reverence where there is no fear; but this fear cannot subsist without reverence. Neither can there be due reverence to God in any person who has sin about him without a mixture of fear. It includes a holy caution and circumspection in the person's walk. Knowing how ready he is to turn aside, he examines every step of his way before he takes it, and reflects upon it after he has taken it, comparing it with the Word of God. If it is asked, What influence this fear of God may be expected to have in exciting us to sanctify and purge ourselves? we answer, much every way. Where no fear of God is all manner of wickedness is indulged in the heart, and all kinds of immorality abound in the person's life. The fear of God impresses our minds with a sense of God's presence, which is always with us, and of His omniscient eye upon us in all that we do.

III. THE ARGUMENT BY WHICH THIS EXHORTATION IS ENFORCED — "Having therefore these promises." And here two things are to be inquired:

1. What promises are they to which the Spirit of God here refers? All the promises of the gospel are left to all that hear it. And there is no promise belonging to the covenant of grace that may not have influence to excite us to the duty here enjoined. And particularly —(1) We have a promise of God's gracious presence in the Church and in the hearts of believers — I will dwell in them, and walk in them, or among them, as some read it. In the literal temple there was but one particular apartment where God was peculiarly said to dwell, viz., the most holy place within the veil. But He dwells in every part of this spiritual temple, and is as really present in the heart of every Christian as He was upon the mercy-seat between the cherubim. His presence in the Church is neither inactive on His part nor unprofitable to her or to her members. He not only dwells, but walks in her, and among them. If a man sits still in any place and does nothing, His presence can be of little use. But if he walks up and down he sees everything as he passes.(2) We have a promise that He will be our God, and we shall be His people. This imports that God will graciously bring us within the bond of that covenant by which alone He can be so related to any of mankind, bringing us into a state of union to Christ, and of favour with God through Him. That He will do all that for us, which any people expects their God to do for them; subduing our enemies, delivering us from spiritual bondage, guiding us through the wilderness of this world, and bringing us at last to possess a city that hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. By the same promise we have security that His propriety in us, as His people, shall be acknowledged both on His part and on ours; on our part by a solemn dedication of ourselves to Him, and on His part by a gracious acceptance of that dedication; for, as He will have none to be His people but such as are made willing in the day of His power, so neither could our consent make us His peculiar property without His acceptance.(3) We have a promise that God will graciously receive us. By nature we are all unclean and hateful in the sight of God. This promise is conditionally expressed, though the others run in an absolute form. It is upon our coming out from among a wicked world, and abstaining from the practice of sin, here called touching the unclean thing, that we may hope to be graciously accepted of God. If any man, therefore, thinks that he is accepted of God, and yet indulges himself in the practice of sin, or in keeping society with sinners, or hopes to be accepted, while that continues to be the case he deceives himself, and the truth is not in him.(4) We have a promise of being received into God's family and made His sons and daughters. To be the people of God is much, but to be the children of God is more. Yet this honour have all His saints. Adam was the son of God, in his original estate as being created by Him, after His own image and likeness. But Christians, after having been the children of the devil in their natural estate, are created anew in Christ Jesus after the image of Him that made them.

2. What influence these promises, and others connected with them, should have in exciting us to comply with the exhortation in the text. Our having such promises left us is itself a benefit calling for such a return. The promises of men, especially of great men, are often made without any resolution to perform them. And often where there was such a resolution it is changed or forgotten. Hence the making of such promises, instead of being a benefit, proves a very great injury to those who trust in them. But none of these things can take place with God. Never did He make a promise without an unfeigned intention to perform it to all who trusted in it. Never did any change of circumstances produce a change of mind in Him. And surely our warmest gratitude is due to Him who has given us this security. We ought to be grateful for what we hope to enjoy, as well as for what we already possess. And there is no way in which we can express our gratitude to God acceptably, without endeavouring to cleanse ourselves and be holy; for there is nothing else in which He has so much pleasure. Besides, by the promises of God we are furnished with security that, if we are sincerely employed in what is here recommended, our endeavours shall be crowned with success. God has graciously promised to make you both willing and able to do what He requires of you in every other respect. He is ready to accomplish His promise. In a word, every particular promise contained in the gospel of Christ furnishes a corresponding argument for the study of holiness in both its branches. If we have a promise of God's dwelling in us and walking among us, shall we not endeavour to prepare Him a habitation? Being infinitely holy Himself, He cannot dwell with pollution. The promise that He will be our God, and that we shall be His people includes an engagement that we shall serve Him, and live to Him as our God, and shall walk as becomes His people. This we cannot do without being holy. We are now to conclude with some application of the subject. The subject affords us much useful information. It sets before us the polluted state in which all mankind are by nature. We could have no need of cleansing if we were not defiled. From this subject it appears that the doctrine of salvation by Divine grace through faith is so far from being inimical to holiness, that it sets the necessity of it in the clearest light, and affords the most powerful motives to it.

(J. Young.)

Perfecting holiness in the fear of God
"I was afraid... and hid thy talent" (Matthew 25:25); "Perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (2 Corinthians 7:8). "I was afraid." Why? "Because I knew thee that thou art a hard man." Then our thought of God determines the character of our emotion, and shapes and regulates our lives. "Thou art a hard man... I am afraid." The emotion follows upon the conception; the terror waits upon the severity; the life takes shape from the thought. What think ye of God? The thought you make of God is the thought which makes you. That is not a matter of chance and caprice; it is a fixed law. Your thinking colours your living. If you think God hard, you will live a life of terror and gloom. If you think God effeminate, your life will be characterised by moral laxity. Mark, then, how deeply vital is the occasion when we give ideas of God to little children. We are putting into their lives germs of tremendous power. I have met with old men who in their later years have not been able to shake themselves free from the bondage of a false idea received in the days of their youth. In the days of Isaiah social life was putrid and corrupt. Men and women were passionate and licentious. Drunken carousals and luxurious indolence were the daily delight of ruler and ruled. Yet, even when life was most debased, religious worship was most observed. Their idea of God permitted and encouraged immorality in life. Such is the blasting potency of a false idea. But now what is the idea of God which begets this paralysing terror recorded in our text? The Scriptures tell us the servant had thought of God as a "hard man." Was the idea a true one? No; it was a false idea. Why? Because it was only partially true, and partial truth is falsehood. Is God severe? No. Is severity an element in His character? Yes. Is a ray of light of violet colour? No. Is violet colour an element in the composition of a ray of light? Yes. "God is light." You must not pick out the violet element, the darker element, the severity, the justice, and say, "This is God." He is these in combination with others, and only of the resultant combination can you say, "This is God." And yet that is how many people profess to know their God. They know an isolated feature, but not their God; and features, when torn from their relationship, may become repellent. Take a most beautiful face, a face in which each feature contributes to the loveliness of the whole. All the features combine to form a countenance most winning, Now lay the face on the surgeon's table. Dissect it; separate its various features, Immediately each feature loses its beauty and becomes almost repulsive. It is not otherwise with spiritual dissection. Yet how many men base their religion upon a feature, and not upon a face! One of the most religious men I have ever known is also one of the gloomiest. His mind is fixed upon God's severity and justice, and all things are regarded from their sombre and terrible side. The Bible is to him a book of terrible judgments. When I turn away from separate features and gaze upon God's countenance as portrayed in this book, I see it wears, not a threat, but a promise; not a scowl, but a smile; not a look of hardness, but the attractive look of love. But when a man has isolated a feature of God's countenance, and by isolation made it dark and forbidding, and then regards it as his idea of God, see what happens. It makes him afraid of God. It fills his life with terror and gloom. It paralyses his spiritual growth. All the most luscious "fruits of the Spirit" find no place in his life. God's severity is an element to be mixed with the soil, to help us in resisting the vermin of sin, but is never intended to constitute the bed in which we are to rear our flowers. If your leading, uppermost thought of God is His hardness, you will grow no flowers; they will every one be scorched; you will bring nothing to fruition. Your talents will never blossom into flower or ripen into fruit. To be afraid of God means a flowerless garden, an empty orchard, a barren heart. Now turn away from this hard conception of God, with its accompanying terror, to consider a life which is full of spiritual activity and growth. Here is a man, the aged Paul, at work "perfecting holiness"; that is to say, he is busy consecrating everything to his Lord. He wants every little patch in his life's soil to be used and adorned by some flower growing for his Lord. He wants no waste corners. Let us read the whole clause: "Perfecting holiness in the fear of God." Then is Paul afraid of God? The man of the parable was afraid of God, and so brought nothing to perfection. Paul is seeking to bring everything to perfection. Can these two attitudes be the same? Is it the same thing to be afraid of God and to fear Him? One was afraid of God because he thought Him "a hard man." What was Paul's idea of God? He uses an exquisitely tender word in telling us his conception of God, "the Father of Jesus"! Listen to his jubilant saying: "He loved me, and gave Himself for me." Was he afraid of Him? "The fear of the Lord is to hate evil." Why, then, to fear the Lord is not to be afraid of the Lord, but to be afraid of sin. The fear of God is the God-begotten fear of sin. Beware of any conception of God which does not create in you a fear and hatred of sin. That is the only fear which God wishes our hearts to keep. Any other fear is powerless to accomplish His will. Men may be afraid of God, and yet may love their sins; and that is not living in the fear of the Lord! Now, how can we obtain this sensitiveness which will recoil with acute fear from all sin? You remember when Peter's eyes were opened to behold the foulness of sin, how he cried, "Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord." He had seen the King in His beauty, and he felt the awfulness and the fearfulness of sin.

(J. H. Jowett, M. A.)

I. OUR BUSINESS ON EARTH IS TO ACT WITH OUR LORD IN HEAVEN IN ATTAINING COMPLETE DELIVERANCE FROM SIN. One great reason why many Christians come so far short of what God requires is, because they do not aim at, or care for, any eminent degree of sanctification. They are satisfied with a decent mediocrity in the service of God, and aspire to nothing more than abstinence from grosser inconsistencies. How unlike is their spirit to that of St. Paul, who, after years of earnest endeavour, is still found exclaiming, "I count not myself to have apprehended," etc. If you ask an unfailing test of a true believer, it is that he is always aiming after higher attainments in the Divine life. Now what destruction is it to all such attainments to have in our minds the conclusion that it is not necessary to aspire after any very extraordinary sanctity. If one aims not high he cannot shoot high. Your attainments in holiness are proportionate to the standard you have adopted. The soul that pants not to be like God can be none of His.


1. Mutual exhortation. The Word of God speaks frequently of "exhorting one another." When I am in the country, I find that my watch is apt to get very much out of the way; but when I am in the city, where there is a dial-plate on every church, all regulated by a good standard, I am reminded of the incorrectness of my time if it varies, and set it right by that of others. So Christians, where they are faithful in their intercourse, regulate themselves by the common standard of God's Word, and help to regulate each other.

2. Faithfulness in private prayer. This is the thermometer of your souls, suspended in your closet of devotion, and as it stands so is it with you in the sight of God. Look at it by day, and see how it is between you and your God.

3. Gladness in service. We must not set about our religious duties as a sick man does about his worldly employments, without life, relish, or vigour. God loathes a lukewarm service. Do not let your devotions be like the turning of a chariot-wheel that needs oiling, betraying its every motion by a painful creaking and laboured progress; but as that which revolves on the moistened and well-polished axle, silent, swift, and with scarce an effort. Love makes all labours light.

4. Watchfulness against everything which is opposed to the smallest whisper of conscience. The finer and more perfect the instrument, the more carefully must it be kept for the work to be done with it. The heavy cleaver may be knocked about against wood and stone, but the surgeon's implements must be nicely locked, where nothing shall dim their polish or blunt their edge. Conscience must not be blunted if we would have its office faithfully performed. Sensual appetites, engrossing worldliness, and especially evil tempers, indulged, will ever prevent any high attainments in holiness. All the prayer in the world would never make one eminent in holiness who habitually gives way afterwards to evil tempers. To kindle devotion in the closet, and expose it to the gusts of unhallowed tempers would be like lighting a candle in the house and carrying it out into the wind of the open air. We must shield the flame with watchfulness which we kindle by prayer.

(W. H. Lewis, D. D.)

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