2 Corinthians 6:17
Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,
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(17) Wherefore come out from among them.—Another composite quotation follows, beginning with Isaiah 52:11. In their primary historical sense, the words were addressed as to the priests and Levites who were to return from Babylon. They were not to bring back with them any symbol of that “unclean” ritual which they had witnessed there. The local and historical meaning has for the Apostle passed away, and the “unclean thing” is identified with the whole system of heathenism. The close connection of this verse with the great prophecy of the atoning work makes it probable that, in writing of that work, St. Paul had remembered, or, perhaps, actually turned to Isaiah 53, as it stood in the LXX. version, and so was led on to the verse which almost immediately preceded it. “I will receive you” comes, in lieu of the ending of Isaiah, from the Greek of Ezekiel 11:17; Jeremiah 24:5.

2 Corinthians 6:17-18. Wherefore — Encouraged by this gracious promise, and that you may obtain the fulfilment of it; come out from among them — Withdraw yourselves from all intimate society with them; and be ye separate — As God’s promise of dwelling in a peculiar manner among the Israelites, obliged them to separate themselves from the converse of their heathen neighbours, that they might not be insnared with their superstitions; much more are Christians obliged, by that peculiar gracious presence of God which they enjoy, or may enjoy, to separate themselves from the society of the ungodly, and from all their sinful practices, customs, and habits. And touch not the unclean thing — Keep at the utmost distance from every person and thing whereby you might be drawn into evil, and contract guilt. And I will receive you — Into my house and family. And will be a father unto you — Will stand to you in the near relation of a father; loving you, caring and providing for you; allowing you near access to, and close intimacy with, myself. And ye shall be my sons and daughters — And therefore mine heirs, and joint-heirs with my only- begotten and beloved Son; saith the Lord Almighty — That infinitely great and omnipotent Being, who is the maker and upholder, the author and end of all things. This promise made to Solomon, (1 Chronicles 28:6,) is here applied to all believers; as the promise made particularly to Joshua is applied to them, Hebrews 13:5. Who can express the worth, who can conceive the dignity of this divine adoption? Yet it belongs to all who believe the gospel with a living, operative faith; to all who so receive Christ in his sundry offices as to be born of God, John 1:12-13. They have access to the Almighty; such free and welcome access as a beloved child to an indulgent father. To him they may flee for aid in every difficulty, and from him obtain a supply of all their wants.

6:11-18 It is wrong for believers to join with the wicked and profane. The word unbeliever applies to all destitute of true faith. True pastors will caution their beloved children in the gospel, not to be unequally yoked. The fatal effects of neglecting Scripture precepts as to marriages clearly appear. Instead of a help meet, the union brings a snare. Those whose cross it is to be unequally united, without their wilful fault, may expect consolation under it; but when believers enter into such unions, against the express warnings of God's word, they must expect must distress. The caution also extends to common conversation. We should not join in friendship and acquaintance with wicked men and unbelievers. Though we cannot wholly avoid seeing and hearing, and being with such, yet we should never choose them for friends. We must not defile ourselves by converse with those who defile themselves with sin. Come out from the workers of iniquity, and separate from their vain and sinful pleasures and pursuits; from all conformity to the corruptions of this present evil world. If it be an envied privilege to be the son or daughter of an earthly prince, who can express the dignity and happiness of being sons and daughters of the Almighty?Wherefore - Since you are a special people. Since God, the holy and blessed God, dwells with you and among you.

Come out from among them - That is, from among idolaters and unbelievers; from a frivolous and vicious world. These words are taken, by a slight change, from Isaiah 3:11. They are there applied to the Jews in Babylon, and are a solemn call which God makes on them to leave the place of their exile, to come out from among the idolaters of that city and return to their own land; see my note on that place. Babylon, in the Scriptures, is the emblem of whatever is proud, arrogant, wicked, and opposed to God; and Paul, therefore, applies the words here with great beauty and force to illustrate the duty of Christians in separating themselves from a vain, idolatrous, and wicked world.

And be ye separate - Separate from the world, and all its corrupting influences.

Saith the Lord - see Isaiah 3:11. Paul does not use this language as if it had original reference to Christians, but he applies it as containing an important principle that was applicable to the case which he was considering, or as language that would appropriately express the idea which he wished to convey. The language of the Old Testament is often used in this manner by the writers of the New.

And touch not the unclean thing - In Isaiah, "touch no unclean thing;" that is, they were to be pure, and to have no connection with idolatry in any of its forms. So Christians were to avoid all unholy contact with a vain and polluted world. The sense is, "Have no close connection with an idolater, or an unholy person. Be pure; and feel that you belong to a community that is under its own laws, and that is to be distinguished in moral purity from all the rest of the world."

And I will receive you - That is, I will receive and recognize you as my friends and my adopted children. This could not be done until they were separated from an idolatrous and wicked world. The fact of their being received by God, and recognized as his children, depended on their coming out from the world. These words with the verses following, though used evidently somewhat in the form of a quotation, yet are not to be found in any single place in the Old Testament In 2 Samuel 7:14, God says of Solomon, "I will be his Father, and he shall be my son." In Jeremiah 31:9, God says, "For I am a Father to Israel, and Ephraim is my first-born." It is probable that Paul had such passages in his eye, yet he doubtless designed rather to express the general sense of the promises of the Old Testament than to quote any single passage. Or why may it not be that we should regard Paul here himself as speaking as an inspired man directly, and making a promise then first communicated immediately from the Lord? Paul was inspired as well as the prophets; and it may be that he meant to communicate a promise directly from God. Grotius supposes that it was not taken from any particular place in the Old Testament, but was a part of a hymn that was in use among the Hebrews.

17. Quoted from Isa 52:11, with the freedom of one inspired, who gives variations sanctioned by the Holy Spirit.

be ye separate—"be separated" (Ho 4:17).

touch not the unclean thing—rather, "anything unclean" (2Co 7:1; Mic 2:10). Touching is more polluting, as implying participation, than seeing.

receive you—The Greek implies, "to myself"; as persons heretofore out of doors, but now admitted within (2Co 5:1-10). With this accords the clause, "Come out from among them," namely, so as to be received to me. So Eze 20:41, "I will accept you"; and Zep 3:19, "gather her that was driven out." "The intercourse of believers with the world should resemble that of angels, who, when they have been sent a message from heaven, discharge their office with the utmost promptness, and joyfully fly back home to the presence of God" (1Co 7:31; 5:9, 10).

The apostle here quoteth words out of the Old Testament, no where to be found there syllabically, without variation, but keeping to the sense of them, which is a thing very usual with the penmen of the New Testament. The first quotation seemeth to be taken from Isaiah 52:11: Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch no unclean thing; go ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord. Interpreters are not agreed as to the term from whence the prophet there admonisheth the Jews to depart: some make it to be their former sinful courses; others make it to be the kingdom of the devil and antichrist; others make it to be literal Babylon; the prophet foreseeing, that when the Jews should have a liberty given them to leave Babylon, (which happened in the time of Cyrus the Persian monarch), some of them (now as it were incorporated with the Chaldeans) would linger, and find a difficulty to pluck up their stakes in Babylon, though it were in order to their return to Jerusalem, heretofore the joy and praise of the whole earth. Whatever was the prophet’s meaning, certain it is, the apostolical precept cannot be interpreted of a leaving literal Babylon, for neither the Christian jews, nor Gentiles, were at this time there; he must therefore be understood of a mystical Babylon. And the sense must be this: Come out and be ye separate from those with whom your souls will be in as much danger as the Jews were in the literal Babylon. But whether by these are to be understood idolaters only, or all notorious scandalous livers, is the question: The true determination of which, I conceive, dependeth upon the sense of those words: Come out, be ye separated; which words, I think, are not fully interpreted by those that follow,

touch not the unclean thing; for, doubtless, the former words are a precept concerning the means to be used in order to that as an end, it being a hard thing to touch pitch, and not to be defiled therewith. On the other side, they interpret it too rigidly, who make it to be a prohibition of all commerce or company with such persons; for this is contrary to the apostolical doctrine in his former Epistle to this church, where he had allowed, 1 Corinthians 5:1-13, a civil commerce and traffic with the worst of men; and, 1 Corinthians 7:1-40, had forbidden the separation of Christians and heathens, once joined in marriage, unless the unbeliever first departed. The text therefore must be understood only of elective and unnecessary, intimate communion; and is much the same with that, 2 Corinthians 6:14: Be ye not unequally yoked with unbelievers. So as that it doth by no means justify the withdrawing of all civil or religious communion from those whose judgments or practice in all things we cannot approve; it only justifieth our withdrawing our communion from idolaters, and from notorious scandalous sinners in such duties and actions, or in such degrees, as we are under no obligation to have fellowship and communion with them in; and our forbearing to touch their unclean things in that fellowship and communion which we are allowed with them, having no fellowship with them in their unfruitful works of darkness, but reproving them, even while in civil things, and some religious actions, we have some fellowship with them.

Wherefore come out from among them,.... Since they were the temple of the living God, built up an habitation for the Most High; since he resided among them, took his walks in the midst of them, was their God, and they were his people. These words are taken out of Isaiah 52:11 where the several phrases here used may be observed. They seem to be directed to the Israelites, and particularly to the priests and Levites, who bore the vessels of the Lord; and are fitly applied to believers under the Gospel dispensation, who are by Christ made priests unto God. They are usually interpreted by the Jewish writers, as a call to the Jews to come out of captivity, to quit Babylon and Persia, and the several cities and countries where they were; and are applied in Revelation 18:4 to mystical Babylon, the church of Rome, as a call to God's people, to leave the superstitions and idolatries of that church, lest they be partakers of her plagues; and here, by the apostle, as an exhortation to believers in general, to forsake the company and conversation of the men of the world: who may be said to come out from among them at first conversion, when they are called to forsake their own people, and their Father's house, to leave their native country, and seek an heavenly one; and when, in consequence of effectual calling grace, their conversations are different from what they were before, and from other Gentiles; when they dislike their former companions, abhor their sinful conversation, abstain from it, keep out of it, as being infectious, hurtful, and detrimental to them; when they have no fellowship with the workers of iniquity, but reprove them both by words and deeds, which is their incumbent duty: the phrase in Isaiah is, "go ye out from the midst of her"; which Kimchi interprets, "out of the midst of every city in which thou art"; that is, in which idolaters lived; and well agrees with here, "out of the midst of them":

and be ye separate, saith the Lord; this phrase is not to be met with expressly in our version of the above text in Isaiah, but is signified by several expressions in it; the words rendered "depart ye, depart ye", are by the Targum, or Chaldee paraphrase on the place, expressed by , "be ye separate, be ye separate", which are the very words of the apostle here; and the phrase, "touch no unclean thing", is explained by R. Aben Ezra, "that they might be separate from the nations of the world" and another word, "be ye clean", signifies such a purgation as is made by separation, by removing the clean from the unclean, by separating the wheat from the chaff. The people of God are a separate people in election, redemption, and the effectual calling, and ought to be so in their conduct and conversation; they ought to separate themselves from all superstition and will worship in religious matters, and from the evil customs and manners of the world, though they are sure to become a prey, and to expose themselves to the contempt and rage of it:

and touch not the unclean thing. The allusion is to several laws under the former dispensation, which forbid touching many things which were accounted unclean, whereby pollution was contracted, and the persons were obliged to a ceremonial cleansing; see Leviticus 5:2 Numbers 19:11. It has no regard to touching, tasting, and eating any sort of food, which was forbid as unclean by the ceremonial law; for the difference between meats clean and unclean was now removed; but if anything is particularly designed by the unclean thing, it seems to be idolatry, and to be a prohibition of joining with worshippers of idols in their idolatrous practices, whereby a moral pollution is contracted; since in the beginning of the former verse it is said, "what agreement hath the temple of God with idols?" though it is rather intended in general, to forbid all communion and fellowship with unclean persons and things, not to touch them, to come nigh them, or have anything to do with them:

and I will receive you; this, and what follows in the next verse, are said to encourage believers to keep at a distance from wicked and immoral persons, whose company and conversation are dishonourable, ensnaring, and defiling. These persons had been already received into the love of God, his best and strongest affections, from which there can be no separation; and in the covenant of grace, which as it cannot be removed, so neither could they be removed out of that; they were received into the church of Christ, and had a place and a name in it, better than that of sons and daughters; and as they had been received by Christ, when they came to him as poor perishing sinners without him, so they were still received graciously, notwithstanding their many backslidings: neither of these therefore is the sense of this passage: but, that whereas by quitting society with carnal men, they would expose themselves to their resentments; the Lord here promises, that he would take them under the wings of his protection; he would take care of them and preserve them, keep them as the apple of his eye, and be a wall of fire round about them, whilst in this world; and when he had guided them by his counsel here, would "receive" them "to glory": this clause seems to be taken from the latter part of Isaiah 52:12 which may be rendered, "the God of Israel will gather you"; i.e. to himself, and protect them.

Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.
2 Corinthians 6:17. With the foregoing quotation Paul now combines another in keeping with his aim (2 Corinthians 6:14), containing the application which God has made of His previous promise. But this quotation is still freer than the one before, after the LXX. Isaiah 52:11, and the last words, κἀγὼ εἰσδέξομαι ὑμᾶς, are perhaps joined with it through a reminiscence of Ezekiel 20:34 (comp. Ezekiel 11:17; Zechariah 10:8). Osiander and most expositors find in κἀγὼ εἰσδέξ. ὑμ. a reproduction approximately as to sense of the words in Isaiah 52:12 : καὶ ὁ ἐπισυνάγων ὑμᾶς κύριος ὁ θεὸς Ἰσραήλ; but this is, at any rate, far-fetched, and, considering Paul’s usual freedom in joining different passages of the O. T., unnecessarily hars.

αὐτῶν] applies to the heathen.

ἀκαθάρτου μὴ ἅπτεσθε] Just as ἐξέλθετε κ.τ.λ. had referred (aorist) to the separation to be accomplished from the fellowship of heathen life, so this refers, in the sense of the prophetic fulfilment, to the continuing (present) abstinence from all heathen habits (not simply from offerings to idols), and κἀγὼ εἰσδέξ. ὑμ. to their reception into sonship, see 2 Corinthians 6:18. It is correlative to ἐξέλθατε; God wishes to receive those who have gone forth into His paternal house, i.e. into the fellowship of the true theocracy (2 Corinthians 6:18).

2 Corinthians 6:17. διὸ ἐξέλθετε κ.τ.λ.: wherefore, “Come out from among them and be separate” saith the Lord, “and touch not an unclean thing and I will receive you.” So, too, the Heavenly Voice of the Apocalypse cried “Come out of her” to those who were in danger of contamination with the sins of pagan Rome (Revelation 18:4). But the command must not be misapplied. St. Peter was wrong in “separating” himself from his Gentile brethren (Galatians 2:12), as he was wrong in calling that “unclean” which God had cleansed (Acts 10:14). And St. Paul never counsels any at Corinth to “separate” himself from the body of his fellow Christians on account of their sinful lives. (1 Corinthians 5:13 is a direction to the Church to excommunicate a sinful member, a quite different thing.) To the Apostle separation from heathendom was imperative, but separation from the Christian Church was a schism and a sin.

17. Wherefore come out from among them] A combination of Isaiah 52:11 with Ezekiel 20:34. This passage must be read in conjunction with 1 Corinthians 5:10, and must be understood not of absolute separation, but of abstinence from any kind of intimacy. “Wherever union in the highest cannot be, wherever idem velle atque idem nolle is impossible, there friendship and intimate partnership must not be tried.” Robertson.

and touch not the unclean thing] The passage (see Isaiah 52:11) refers to the priests and Levites, and relates to the ceremonial defilement caused by contact with whatever was unclean. See for instance Leviticus 11:8; Leviticus 11:24; Leviticus 11:31-40; also Revelation 18:4.

2 Corinthians 6:17. Ἐξέλθετεμὴ ἅπτεσθε) Isaiah 52:11, ἀπόστητε, ἀπόστητε, ἐξέλθετε ἐκεῖθεν, καὶ ἀκαθάρτου μὴ ἅψησθε· ἐξέλθτετ ἐκ μέσου αὐτῆς, ἀφορίσθητε, κ.τ.λ.—ἐκ μέσου αὐτῶν, from the midst of them) from the Gentiles.—λέγει Κυρίος, saith the Lord) The additional epithet follows [in 2 Corinthians 6:18, augmenting the force of the words by Epitasis (end.)], the Lord Almighty.—ἀκαθάρτου, unclean) The masculine, Isaiah 52:11; Isaiah 52:1 : comp. Isaiah 65:5. To this may be referred, let us cleanse ourselves, ch. 2 Corinthians 7:1.—μὴ ἅπτεσθε, touch not) To see, when it is necessary, does not always defile: Acts 11:6; to touch is more polluting.—εἰσδέξομαι, I will receive you [within] to me) as into a family or home [Comp. ch. 2 Corinthians 5:1-10.—V. g.] We are out of doors, but we are admitted within. The clause, Come out from, etc., corresponds to this. God is in the saints, 2 Corinthians 6:16, and the saints are in God. εἰσδέχομαι corresponds to the Hebrew word קנץ, Ezekiel 20:41; Zephaniah 3:19-20.

Verse 17. - From among them; i.e. from among the unbelievers. Touch not the unclean thing (Leviticus 11:8, etc.; Isaiah 52:11). I will receive you (comp. Ezekiel 20:34). These promises to Israel are naturally transferred to the ideal Israel, the Christian Church. 2 Corinthians 6:17Come out, etc.

Isaiah 52:11, Isaiah 52:12, after the Septuagint, with several changes.

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