2 Corinthians 7:1
Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
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(1) Having therefore these promises . . . let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness.—The thought is identical with that of 1John 3:3. In each there is the contrast between the high ideal to which the believer in Christ is called and the infinite debasement into which he may possibly sink. St. John characteristically presents the law of the spiritual life as a generalised fact of experience: “Every man who has the hope actually does purify himself.” The word for “filthiness” does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament. In 2 Maccabees 1:27, it is used of the “pollution” of idolatry; in the LXX. of Jeremiah 23:14 (where the English version gives “a horrible thing,” and the margin “filthiness”) of the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah. The cognate verb is used of sexual impurity in Revelation 14:4, and probably with the same sense in Revelation 3:4, and this is manifestly what St. Paul has in his thoughts here. The two thoughts—idolatry and impurity—were inextricably blended in his mind. He had been warning men against the feasts that were held in the idol’s temple. He cannot close his eyes to the “hidden things of shame” that were their constant and inevitable accompaniments. But that contagion of impurity might spread to the inward parts. Mind and conscience might be defiled (Titus 1:15). The literature of the Empire, as seen in Catullus and Martial and Juvenal, shows only too terribly what St. Paul meant by “filthiness of the spirit.” The very element in man by which he is raised above the brute creatures that lead a simply animal or natural life—his imagination, fancy, discernment of analogies—sinks him to an infinite depth below them.

Perfecting holiness in the fear of God.—The word for “holiness” involves the idea of consecration, and grows out of the thought that the “saints” of God make up collectively, as in 2Corinthians 6:16, the Temple in which He dwells. As the former clause of the verse presents the negative aspect of purity, abstinence from all that desecrates, this presents the positive, the perfect consecration, and this is wrought out in its completeness, in “the fear of God”—the reverential awe before the thought of God’s presence. The word is the same as that mis-translated “terror” in 2Corinthians 5:11.

2 Corinthians


2 Corinthians 7:1It is often made a charge against professing Christians that their religion has very little to do with common morality. The taunt has sharpened multitudes of gibes and been echoed in all sorts of tones: it is very often too true and perfectly just, but if ever it is, let it be distinctly understood that it is not so because of Christian men’s religion but in spite of it. Their bitterest enemy does not condemn them half so emphatically as their own religion does: the sharpest censure of others is not so sharp as the rebukes of the New Testament. If there is one thing which it insists upon more than another, it is that religion without morality is nothing--that the one test to which, after all, every man must submit is, what sort of character has he and how has he behaved--is he pure or foul? All high-flown pretension, all fervid emotion has at last to face the question which little children ask, ‘Was he a good man?’

The Apostle has been speaking about very high and mystical truths, about all Christians being the temple of God, about God dwelling in men, about men and women being His sons and daughters; these are the very truths on which so often fervid imaginations have built up a mystical piety that had little to do with the common rules of right and wrong. But Paul keeps true to the intensely practical purpose of his preaching and brings his heroes down to the prosaic earth with the homely common sense of this far-reaching exhortation, which he gives as the fitting conclusion for such celestial visions.

I. A Christian life should be a life of constant self-purifying.

This epistle is addressed to the church of God which is at Corinth with all the _saints_ which are in all Achaia.

Looking out over that wide region, Paul saw scattered over godless masses a little dispersed company to each of whom the sacred name of Saint applied. They had been deeply stained with the vices of their age and place, and after a black list of criminals he had had to say to them ‘such were some of you,’ and he lays his finger on the miracle that had changed them and hesitates not to say of them all, ‘But ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.’

The first thing, then, that every Christian has is a cleansing which accompanies forgiveness, and however his garment may have been ‘spotted by the flesh,’ it is ‘washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb.’ Strange cleansing by which black stains melt out of garments plunged in red blood! With the cleansing of forgiveness and justification comes, wherever they come, the gift of the Holy Spirit--a new life springing up within the old life, and untouched by any contact with its evils. These gifts belong universally to the initial stage of the Christian life and require for their possession only the receptiveness of faith. They admit of no co-operation of human effort, and to possess them men have only to ‘take the things that are freely given to them of God.’ But of the subsequent stages of the Christian life, the laborious and constant effort to develop and apply that free gift is as essential as, in the earliest stage, it is worse than useless. The gift received has to be wrought into the very substance of the soul, and to be wrought out in all the endless varieties of life and conduct. Christians are cleansed to begin with, but they have still daily to cleanse themselves: the leaven is hid in the three measures of meal, but ‘‘tis a life-long task till the lump be leavened,’ and no man, even though he has the life that was in Jesus within him, will grow up ‘into the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ’ unless, by patient and persistent effort, he is ever pressing on to ‘the things that are before’ and daily striving to draw nearer to the prize of his high calling. We are cleansed, but we have still to cleanse ourselves.

Yet another paradox attaches to the Christian life, inasmuch as God cleanses us, but we have to cleanse ourselves. The great truth that the spirit of God in a man is the fontal source of all his goodness, and that Christ’s righteousness is given to us, is no pillow on which to rest an idle head, but should rather be a trumpet-call to effort which is thereby made certain of success. If we were left to the task of self-purifying by our own efforts we might well fling it up as impossible. It is as easy for a man to lift himself from the ground by gripping his own shoulders as it is for us to rise to greater heights of moral conduct by our own efforts; but if we can believe that God gives the impulse after purity, and the vision of what purity is, and imparts the power of attaining it, strengthening at once our dim sight and stirring our feeble desires and energising our crippled limbs, then we can ‘run with patience the race that is set before us.’

We must note the thoroughness of the cleansing which the Apostle here enjoins. What is to be got rid of is not this or that defect or vice, but ‘_all_ filthiness of flesh and spirit.’ The former, of course, refers primarily to sins of impurity which in the eyes of the Greeks of Corinth were scarcely sins at all, and the latter to a state of mind when fancy, imagination, and memory were enlisted in the service of evil. Both are rampant in our day as they were in Corinth. Much modern literature and the new gospel of ‘Art for Art’s sake’ minister to both, and every man carries in himself inclinations to either. It is no partial cleansing with which Paul would have us to be satisfied: ‘_all_’ filthiness is to be cast out. Like careful housewives who are never content to cease their scrubbing while a speck remains upon furniture, Christian men are to regard their work as unfinished as long as the least trace of the unclean thing remains in their flesh or in their spirit. The ideal may be far from being realised at any moment, but it is at the peril of the whole sincerity and peacefulness of their lives if they, in the smallest degree, lower the perfection of their ideal in deference to the imperfection of their realisation of it.

It must be abundantly clear from our own experience that any such cleansing is a very long process. No character is made, whether it be good or bad, but by a slow building up: no man becomes most wicked all at once, and no man is sanctified by a wish or at a jump. As long as men are in a world so abounding with temptation, ‘he that is washed’ will need daily to ‘wash his feet’ that have been stained in the foul ways of life, if he is to be ‘clean every whit.’

As long as the spirit is imprisoned in the body and has it for its instrument there will be need for much effort at purifying. We must be content to overcome one foe at a time, and however strong may be the pilgrim’s spirit in us, we must be content to take one step at a time, and to advance by very slow degrees. Nor is it to be forgotten that as we get nearer what we ought to be, we should be more conscious of the things in which we are not what we ought to be. The nearer we get to Jesus Christ, the more will our consciences be enlightened as to the particulars in which we are still distant from Him. A speck on a polished shield will show plain that would never have been seen on a rusty one. The saint who is nearest God will think more of his sins than the man who is furthest from him. So new work of purifying will open before us as we grow more pure, and this will last as long as life itself.

II. The Christian life is to be not merely a continual getting rid of evil, but a continual becoming good.

Paul here draws a distinction between cleansing ourselves from filthiness and perfecting holiness, and these two, though closely connected and capable of being regarded as being but the positive and negative sides of one process, are in reality different, though in practice the former is never achieved without the latter, nor the latter accomplished without the former. Holiness is more than purity; it is consecration. That is holy which is devoted to God, and a saint is one whose daily effort is to devote his whole self, in all his faculties and nature, thoughts, heart, and will, more and more, to God, and to receive into himself more and more of God.

The purifying which Paul has been enjoining will only be successful in the measure of our consecration, and the consecration will only be genuine in the measure of our purifying. Herein lies the broad and blessed distinction between the world’s morality and Christian ethics. The former fails just because it lacks the attitude towards a Person who is the very foundation of Christian morality, and changes a hard and impossible law into love. There is no more futile waste of breath than that of teachers of morality who have no message but Be good! Be good! and no motive by which to urge it but the pleasures of virtue and the disadvantages of vice, but when the vagueness of the abstract thought of goodness solidifies into a living Person and that Person makes his appeal first to our hearts and bids us love him, and then opens before us the unstained light of his own character and beseeches us to be like him, the repellent becomes attractive: the impossible becomes possible, and ‘if ye love Me keep My commandments’ becomes a constraining power and a victorious impulse in our lives.

III. The Christian life of purifying and consecration is to be animated by hope and fear.

The Apostle seems to connect hope more immediately with the cleansing, and holiness with the fear of God, but probably both hope and fear are in his mind as the double foundation on which both purity and consecration are to rest, or the double emotion which is to produce them both. These promises refer directly to the immediately preceding words, ‘I will be a Father unto you and ye shall be My sons and daughters,’ in which all the blessings which God can give or men can receive are fused together in one lustrous and all-comprehensive whole. So all the great truths of the Gospel and all the blessed emotions of sonship which can spring up in a human heart are intended to find their practical result in holy and pure living. For this end God has spoken to us out of the thick darkness; for this end Christ has come into our darkness; for this end He has lived; for this end He died; for this end He rose again; for this end He sends His Spirit and administers the providence of the world. The purpose of all the Divine activity as regards us men is not merely to make us happy, but to make us happy in order that we may be good. He whom what he calls his religion has only saved from the wrath of God and the fear of hell has not learned the alphabet of religion. Unless God’s promises evoke men’s goodness it will be of little avail that they seem to quicken their hope. Joyful confidence in our sonship is only warranted in the measure in which we are like our Father. Hope often deludes and makes men dreamy and unpractical. It generally paints pictures far lovelier than the realities, and without any of their shadows; it is too often the stimulus and ally of ignoble lives, and seldom stirs to heroism or endurance, but its many defects are not due to itself but to its false choice of objects on which to fix. The hope which is lifted from trailing along the earth and twining round creatures and which rises to grasp these promises ought to be, and in the measure of its reality is the ally of all patient endurance and noble self-sacrifice. Its vision of coming good is all directed to the coming Christ, and ‘every man that hath this hope in Him, purifieth himself even as He is pure.’

In Paul’s experience there was no contrariety between hope set on Jesus and fear directed towards God. It is in the fear of God that holiness is to be perfected. There is a fear which has no torment. Yet more, there is no love in sons or daughters without fear. The reverential awe with which God’s children draw near to God has in it nothing slavish and no terror. Their love is not only joyful but lowly. The worshipping gaze upon His Divine majesty, the reverential and adoring contemplation of His ineffable holiness, and the poignant consciousness, after all effort, of the distance between us and Him will bow the hearts that love Him most in lowliest prostration before Him. These two, hope and fear, confidence and awe, are like the poles on which the whole round world turns and are united here in one result. They who ‘set their hope in God’ must ‘not forget the works of God but keep His commandments’; they who ‘call Him Father,’ ‘who without respect of persons judgeth’ must ‘pass the time of their sojourning here in fear,’ and their hopes and their fears must drive the wheels of life, purify them from all filthiness and perfect them in all holiness.

2 Corinthians 7:1. Having therefore these promises — Of blessings so unspeakably great and precious, encouraged by them, and in order to our obtaining their complete accomplishment; let us — By the exercise of a lively faith in them, and in God’s word in general, by fervent prayer for the purifying influences of the Divine Spirit, and by obedience to the truth, 1 Peter 1:22; cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh — All irregular appetites, all outward sin; and of the spirit — All unhallowed affections, corrupt passions and tempers, and all unholy designs and desires; all inward sin; perfecting holiness — Universal, in all things; constant, at all times, and persevering to the end of our days; not resting in a mere negative religion, but aspiring after all the mind that was in Christ, a full conformity to the image of God; in the reverential, loving fear of God — Setting him always before us, in whose presence we always are, by whom all our actions are examined, and to whom our hearts lie open; and therefore, guarding against every disposition, word, and action, whereby we might grieve his Spirit, and deprive ourselves of the light of his countenance.

7:1-4 The promises of God are strong reasons for us to follow after holiness; we must cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit. If we hope in God as our Father, we must seek to be holy as he is holy, and perfect as our Father in heaven. His grace, by the influences of his Spirit, alone can purify, but holiness should be the object of our constant prayers. If the ministers of the gospel are thought contemptible, there is danger lest the gospel itself be despised also; and though ministers must flatter none, yet they must be gentle towards all. Ministers may look for esteem and favour, when they can safely appeal to the people, that they have corrupted no man by false doctrines or flattering speeches; that they have defrauded no man; nor sought to promote their own interests so as to hurt any. It was affection to them made the apostle speak so freely to them, and caused him to glory of them, in all places, and upon all occasions.Having therefore these promises - The promises referred to in 2 Corinthians 6:17-18; the promise that God would be a Father, a protector, and a friend The idea is, that as we have a promise that God would dwell in us, that he would be our God, that he would be to us a Father, we should remove from us whatever is offensive in his sight, and become perfectly holy.

Let us cleanse ourselves - Let us purify ourselves. Paul was not afraid to bring into view the agency of Christians themselves in the work of salvation. He, therefore, says, 'let us purify ourselves,' as if Christians had much to do; as if their own agency was to be employed; and as if their purifying was dependent on their own efforts. While it is true that all purifying influence and all holiness proceeds from God, it is also true that the effect of all the influences of the Holy Spirit is to excite us to diligence to purify our own hearts, and to urge us to make strenuous efforts to overcome our own sins. He who expects to be made pure without any effort of his own, will never become pure; and he who ever becomes holy will become so in consequence of strenuous efforts to resist the evil of his own heart, and to become like God. The argument here is, that we have the promises of God to aid us. We do not go about the work in our own strength. It is not a work in which we are to have no aid. But it is a work which God desires, and where he will give us all the aid which we need.

From all filthiness of the flesh - The noun used here (μολυσμὸς molusmos) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. The verb occurs in 1 Corinthians 8:7; Revelation 3:4; Revelation 14:4, and means to stain, defile, pollute, as a garment; and the word used here means a soiling, hence, defilement, pollution, and refers to the defiling and corrupting influence of fleshly desires and carnal appetites. The filthiness of the flesh here denotes evidently the gross and corrupt appetites and passions of the body, including all such actions of all kinds as are inconsistent with the virtue and purity with which the body, regarded as the temple of the Holy Spirit, should be kept holy - all such passions and appetites as the Holy Spirit of God would not produce.

And spirit - By "filthiness of the spirit," the apostle means, probably, all the thoughts or mental associations that defile the man. Thus, the Saviour Matthew 15:19 speaks of evil thoughts, etc. that proceed out of the heart, and that pollute the man. And probably Paul here includes all the sins and passions which pertain particularly to mind or to the soul rather than to carnal appetites, such as the desire of revenge, pride, avarice, ambition, etc. These are in themselves as polluting and defiling as the gross sensual pleasures. They stand as much in the way of sanctification, they are as offensive to God, and they prove as certainly that the heart is depraved as the grossest sensual passions. The main difference is, that they are more decent in the external appearance; they can be better concealed; they are usually indulged by a more elevated class in society; but they are not the less offensive to God. It may be added, also, that they are often conjoined in the same person; and that the man who is defiled in his "spirit" is often a man most corrupt and sensual in his" flesh." Sin sweeps with a desolating influence through the whole frame, and it usually leaves no part unaffected, though some part may be more deeply corrupted than others.

Perfecting - This word (ἐπιτελοῦντες epitelountes) means properly to bring to an end, to finish, complete. The idea here is, that of carrying it out to the completion. Holiness had been commenced in the heart, and the exhortation of the apostle is, that they should make every effort that it might be complete in all its parts. He does not say that this work of perfection had ever been accomplished - nor does he say that it had not been. He only urges the obligation to make an effort to be entirely holy; and this obligation is not affected by the inquiry whether anyone has been or has not been perfect. It is an obligation which results from the nature of the Law of God and his unchangeable claims on the soul. The fact that no one has been perfect does not relax the claim; the fact that no one will be in this life does not weaken the obligation. It proves only the deep and dreadful depravity of the human heart, and should humble us under the stubbornness of guilt.

The obligation to be perfect is one that is unchangeable and eternal; see Matthew 5:48; 1 Peter 1:15. Tyndale renders this: "and grow up to full holiness in the fear, of God." The unceasing and steady aim of every Christian should be perfection - perfection in all things - in the love of God, of Christ, of man; perfection of heart, and feeling, and emotion; perfection in his words, and plans, and dealings with people; perfection in his prayers, and in his submission to the will of God. No man can be a Christian who does not sincerely desire it. and who does not constantly aim at it. No man is a friend of God who can acquiesce in a state of sin, and who is satisfied and contented that he is not as holy as God is holy. And any man who has no desire to be perfect as God is, and who does not make it his daily and constant aim to be as perfect as God, may set it down as demonstrably certain that he has no true religion, How can a man be a Christian who is willing to acquiesce in a state of sin, and who does not desire to be just like his Master and Lord?

In the fear of God - Out of fear and reverence of God. From a regard to his commands, and a reverence for his name. The idea seems to be, that we are always in the presence of God; we are professedly under His Law; and we should be awed and restrained by a sense of his presence from the commission of sin, and from indulgence in the pollutions of the flesh and spirit. There are many sins that the presence of a child will restrain a man from committing; and how should the conscious presence of a holy God keep us from sin! If the fear of man or of a child will restrain us, and make us attempt to be holy and pure, how should the fear of the all-present and the all-seeing God keep us not only from outward sins, but from polluted thoughts and unholy desires!


2Co 7:1-16. Self-Purification Their Duty Resulting from the Foregoing. His Love to Them, and Joy at the Good Effects on Them of His Former Epistle, as Reported by Titus.

1. cleanse ourselves—This is the conclusion of the exhortation (2Co 6:1, 14; 1Jo 3:3; Re 22:11).

filthiness—"the unclean thing" (2Co 6:17).

of the flesh—for instance, fornication, prevalent at Corinth (1Co 6:15-18).

and spirit—for instance, idolatry, direct or indirect (1Co 6:9; 8:1, 7; 10:7, 21, 22). The spirit (Ps 32:2) receives pollution through the flesh, the instrument of uncleanness.

perfecting holiness—The cleansing away impurity is a positive step towards holiness (2Co 6:17). It is not enough to begin; the end crowns the work (Ga 3:3; 5:7; Php 1:6).

fear of God—often conjoined with the consideration of the most glorious promises (2Co 5:11; Heb 4:1). Privilege and promise go hand in hand.2 Corinthians 7:1 Paul exhorteth the Corinthians to purity of life,

2 Corinthians 7:2 and to receive him, who had done nothing to forfeit

their esteem.

2 Corinthians 7:3-7 He repeateth the assurance of his love for them, and

showeth what comfort he had received in all his

troubles from the report which Titus had brought of

their good dispositions toward him.

2 Corinthians 7:8-12 So that, upon the whole, he did not repent of having

grieved them a little by letter, considering the good

effects which that godly sorrow had produced.

2 Corinthians 7:13-16 Above all, he rejoiced to observe the good impressions

which their behaviour, so answerable to his former

boastings of them, had left in the mind of Titus.

Having therefore these promises; i.e. of God’s dwelling in us, and walking with us; of God’s being our Father, and making and owning us as his sons; which promises are made to true penitents that will touch no unclean thing.

Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and the spirit; let us, through the assistance of Divine grace, endeavour to cleanse ourselves, or keep ourselves clean, not only from fleshly filthiness, such as are sins of intemperance, drunkenness, uncleanness; but also from spiritual filthiness, extravagant passions, corrupt affections, pride, envy, rash anger, idolatry, contention, division.

Perfecting holiness in the fear of God; and that, because we are not only obliged to holiness, but to perfect holiness, in, or through, the fear of the Lord; awing our hearts, lest we should profane the temple of the Lord, or behave ourselves as undutiful sons to so good a Father. So far are God’s promises, and our belief of them, or affiance in God for the fulfilling of them, from hindering us in the practice and exercise of holiness, that there can be no more potent motive to persuade the perfection of holiness; and that not only from the argument of Divine love, contained in the promises, but from the consideration of the persons to whom, and the conditions upon which, the promises are made.

Having therefore these promises,.... That God will walk in his temple, and dwell in his churches, be their God, and they his people, that he will receive them, and be their Father, and they his sons and daughters; which promises they had not in hope, as Old Testament saints had the promises of the Messiah and his kingdom, and as New Testament saints have of the resurrection, the new heavens and new earth, and of appearing with Christ in glory; but in hand, in actual possession; for God was really become their God and Father, and they were his people and children; they had had communion with him, and were received, protected, and preserved by him; which promises and blessings of grace, and which are absolute and unconditional, the apostle makes use of to engage them to purity and holiness; and is a clear proof, that the doctrine of an absolute and unconditional covenant of grace has no tendency to licentiousness, but the contrary: and that his following exhortation might be attended to, and cheerfully received, he uses a very affectionate appellation,

dearly beloved; so they were of God, being his people, his sons and daughters, adopted, justified, called, and chosen by him; and so they were by the apostle and his fellow ministers, who, as he says in a following verse, were in their hearts to die and live with them; some copies read brethren, and so the Ethiopic version. The exhortation he urges them to, and, that it might be the better received, joins himself with them in it, is,

let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit: by "the filthiness of the flesh" is meant external pollution, defilement by outward actions, actions committed in the body, whereby the man is defiled; such as all impure words, filthiness, and foolish talking, all rotten and corrupt communication, which defile a man's own body; as the tongue, a little member, when so used does, and corrupts the good manners of others; all filthy actions, as idolatry, adultery, fornication, incest, sodomy, murder, drunkenness, revellings, &c. and everything that makes up a filthy conversation, which is to be hated, abhorred, and abstained from by the saints: by "filthiness of the spirit" is meant internal pollution, defilement by the internal acts of the mind, such as evil thoughts, lusts, pride, malice, envy, covetousness, and the like: such a distinction of , "the filthiness of the body", and , "the filthiness of the soul", is to be met with among the Jews; who say (r), that when a man has taken care to avoid the former, it is fit he should take care of the latter; they also call the evil imagination, or corruption of nature, "the filth of the body" (s). Now when the apostle says, "let us cleanse ourselves", this does not suppose that men have a power to cleanse themselves from the pollution of their nature, or the defilement of their actions; for this is God's work alone, as appears from his promises to cleanse his people from their sins; from the end of Christ's shedding his blood, and the efficacy of it; from the sanctifying influences of the Spirit; and from the prayers of the saints to God, to create in them clean hearts, to wash them thoroughly from their iniquity, and cleanse them from their sin: besides, the apostle is not here speaking either of the justification of these persons, in which sense they were already cleansed, and that thoroughly, from all their sins and iniquities; nor of the inward work of sanctification, in respect of which they were sprinkled with clean water, and were washed in the layer of regeneration; but what the apostle respects is the exercise of both internal and external religion, which lies in purity of heart and conversation, the one not being acceptable to God without the other; he is speaking of, and exhorting to the same thing, as in the latter part of the preceding chapter; and suggests, that it becomes those who have received such gracious promises to be separate from sin and sinners, to abstain from all appearance of sin, and to have no fellowship with sinners; to lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of haughtiness, and, under a sense of either external or internal pollution, to have recourse to the fountain opened; to deal by faith with the blood of Christ, which cleanses from all sin, of heart, lip, and life; and which is the only effectual method a believer can make use of, to cleanse himself from sin; namely, by washing his garments, and making them white in the blood of the Lamb:

perfecting holiness in the fear of God; by "holiness" is not meant the work of sanctification upon the heart, for that is wholly the work of the Spirit of God, and not of man; he begins it, carries it on, and perfects it of himself; but holiness of life and conversation is here designed, which in conversion the people of God are called unto, and which highly becomes them: and this they are to be "perfecting"; not that a believer is able to live a life of holiness, without sin being in him, or committed by him; this is in, possible and impracticable in the present life; but the sense of the word is, that he is to be carrying on a course of righteousness and holiness to the end; to the end of his life, he is to persevere as in faith, so in holiness; as he is to go on believing in Christ, so he is to go on to live soberly, righteously, and godly, to the end of his days; which requires divine power to preserve him from sin, and keep him from falling; and the grace of God, the strength of Christ, and the assistance of the Spirit, to enable him to perform acts of holiness, and the several duties of religion, and to continue in well doing: all which is to be done, "in the fear of God"; not in a servile slavish fear, a fear of hell and damnation, but in a filial fear, a reverential affection for God, an humble trust in him, and dependence on him, for grace and strength; it is that fear which has God for its author, is a blessing of the new covenant, is implanted in regeneration, and is increased by discoveries of pardoning grace; and it has God for its object, not his wrath and vindictive justice, but his goodness, grace, and mercy. This shows from what principle, and upon what views believers act in a course of righteousness and holiness; not from the fear of hell, nor from the fear of men, or with a view to gain their applause, but as in the sight of God, from a reverential affection to him, a child like fear of him, and with a view to his glory.

(r) Tzeror Hammor, fol. 111. 2.((s) Zohar in Lev. fol. 43. 2.

Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the {a} flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

(a) Both of body and soul, that by this means the sanctification may be perfect, consisting in both the parts of the flesh.

2 Corinthians 7:1 closes the previous section.

Since we accordingly (according to 2 Corinthians 6:16-18) have these promises (namely, that God will dwell among us, receive us, be our Father, etc.), we wish not to make them null in our case by an immoral lif.

ταύτας] placed at the head, bears the emphasis of the importance of the promise.

καθαρίσωμεν ἑαυτούς] denotes the morally purifying activity, which the Christian has to exert on himself, not simply the keeping himself pure (Olshausen). He who has become a Christian has by his faith doubtless attained forgiveness of his previous sins (Romans 3:23-25), is reconciled with God and sanctified (comp. 2 Corinthians 5:19 ff., and see on Acts 15:9); but Paul refers here to the moral stains incurred in the Christian condition, which the state of grace of the regenerate (1 Peter 1:22 f.) as much obliges him to do away with again in reference to himself (Romans 6:1 ff; Romans 8:12 ff.), as by the power of God (Php 2:12-13) it makes him capable of doing so (Romans 6:14; Romans 8:9). And no one forms an exception in this respect; hence Paul includes himself, with true moral feeling of this need placing himself on an equality with his reader.

σαρκὸς καὶ πνεύματος] The Christian is in the flesh, i.e. in the material-psychical part of his nature, stained by fornication, intemperance, and such transgressions and vices as directly pollute the body (which ought to be holy, 1 Corinthians 6:13 ff; 1 Corinthians 7:34); and his spirit, i.e. the substratum of his rational and moral consciousness, the seat of the operation of the Divine Spirit in him and therewith the bearer of his higher and eternal life (1 Corinthians 2:11; 1 Corinthians 5:3; Romans 8:16), is stained by immoral thoughts, desires, etc., which are suggested to him by means of the power of sin in the flesh, and through which the spirit along with the νοῦς is sinfully affected, becomes weak and bound, and enslaved to sin (comp. on Romans 12:2; Ephesians 4:23). The two do not exclude, but include each other. Observe, further, that Paul might have used σώματος instead of σαρκός; but he puts σαρκός, because the flesh, in which the principle of sin has its seat and hence the fomes peccati lies, serves as the element to which every bodily defilement ethically attaches itself. This is based on the natural relation of the σάρξ to the power of sin, for which reason it is never demanded that the σάρξ shall be or become holy, but that the body (1 Corinthians 7:34) shall be holy through the crucifixion of the flesh, through putting off the old man, etc. (Colossians 2:11). By these means the Christian no longer lives ἐν σαρκί (Romans 8:8 f.) and κατὰ σάρκα, and is purified from everything wherewith the flesh is soiled; comp. 1 Thessalonians 5:23; Romans 8:13; Romans 12:1. The surprising character of the expression, to which Holsten especially takes objection (see z. Evang. d. Paul. u. Petr. p. 387), is disposed of by the very consideration that Paul is speaking of the regenerate; in their case the lusts of the σάρξ in fact remain, and the σάρξ is defiled, if their lusts are actually gratified. Calovius, we may add, rightly observes: “ex illatione etiam apostolica a promissionibus gratiae ad studium novae obedientiae manifestum est, doctrinam apostolicam de gratuita nostri justificatione et in filios adoptione non labefactare pietatis et sanctitatis studium, sed ad illud excitare atque ad obedientiam Deo praestandam calcar addere.”

On μολυσμός, comp. Jeremiah 23:15; Jeremiah 3 Esdr. 8:83; 2Ma 5:27; Plut. Mor. p. 779 C.

ἐπιτελοῦντες ἁγιωσύνην] This is the positive activity of the καθαρίζειν ἑαντούς: while we bring holiness to perfection (2 Corinthians 8:6) in the fear of God. To establish complete holiness in himself is the continual moral endeavour[254] and work of the Christian purifying himself. Comp. Romans 6:22.

ἐν φόβῳ θεοῦ] is the ethical, holy sphere (Ephesians 5:21) in which the ἐπιτελεῖν ἁγιωσ. must move and proceed. Comp. Romans 11:19-22, and already Genesis 17:1. Thus the apostle closes the whole section with the same ethical fundamental idea, with which he had begun it at 2 Corinthians 5:11, where, however, it was specifically limited to the executor of the divine judgment.

[254] Although with this the moral perfection itself, which the ideal injunction of it requires, is never fully reached. It is “non viae, sed metae et patriae” (Calovius); but the Christian labours constantly at it, striving towards the goal at which “finis coronat opus.” Comp. BengeL The success is of God (Php 1:6), the fear of whom guides the Christian.

2 Corinthians 7:1. ταύτας οὖν ἔχοντες κ.τ.λ.: having therefore these (note the emphasis given to ταύτας by its position) promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all contamination of flesh and spirit (cf. 1 Peter 2:11, 1 John 3:3). We find the construction καθαρίζειν ἀπό again in Sir 38:10 and Hebrews 9:14 (see also Deissmann, Neue Bibelstud., p. 44). We have already pointed out (on 2 Corinthians 6:14) that μολυσμός is always used of the defilement which springs out of evil (and especially heathen) associations; this may affect the πνεῦμα (see on 2 Corinthians 2:13) as well as the σάρξ.—ἐπιτελοῦντες ἁγιωσύνην κ.τ.λ.: perfecting holiness in the fear of God, sc., the fear that man ought to feel towards God (see 2 Corinthians 5:11), which is, indeed, one of the gifts of the Divine Spirit (Isaiah 11:3), and which was repeatedly commended to the chosen people (Deuteronomy 6:2, Psalm 111:1). The practical issue of belief in the promises of the Old Covenant (which have a yet larger meaning under the New) is positive as well as negative, sanctification as well as separation. St. Paul’s word for man’s sanctification is ἁγιασμός, the result of which process is here expressed by ἁγιωσύνη (see reff.); this is especially an attribute of God in the O.T. (Psalm 95:6; Psalm 96:12; Psalm 144:5, 2Ma 3:12).

Ch. 2 Corinthians 7:1. Having therefore these promises] Literally, promises such as these (soche promeses, Tyndale and Cranmer), i.e. those that have just been mentioned.

let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness] Rather, defilement (see last note but two), sin taking the place of ‘the unclean thing’ under the law. For what is meant by defilement in the case of a Christian, see Matthew 15:18-20; Mark 7:20-23, where, however, the word translated ‘defile’ means to make common, i.e. to reduce to the same condition as the rest of mankind. Here it is the stain of sin which is the predominant idea.

of the flesh and spirit] i.e. inward as well as outward. See 1 Samuel 16:7; Matthew 12:34-35. The outward defilement is caused by sins of the flesh, or bodily part of man, the inward by those of the spirit, such as pride, unbelief, and the like.

perfecting holiness in the fear of God] Perfection, and nothing less, is to be the aim of the Christian. Cf. Matthew 5:48; Romans 12:2; Colossians 1:22; Colossians 1:28; Colossians 4:12. With this view he is to cleanse himself daily by sincere repentance from every defilement of sin, and to watch that he offend not in like kind again. Cf. also 1 Thessalonians 4:3; 1 Peter 3:15. The fear of offending God (cf. ch. 2 Corinthians 5:11) is a very necessary element in the process of sanctification. “We cannot do without awe: there is no depth of character without it. Tender motives are not enough to restrain from sin.” Robertson.

2 Corinthians 7:1. Καθαρίσωμεν, let us cleanse) This is the last part of the exhortation, set forth at 2 Corinthians 6:1, and brought out ib. 2 Corinthians 7:14. He concludes the exhortation in the first person. The antitheses are the unclean thing, 2 Corinthians 6:17, and filthiness in this passage. The same duty is derived from a similar source, 1 John 3:3, Revelation 22:11.—μολυσμοῦ, filthiness) Filthiness of the flesh, for example, fornication, and filthiness of the spirit, for example, idolatry, were closely connected among the Gentiles. Even Judaism, occupied, as it is, about the cleanness of the flesh, is now in some measure filthiness of the spirit. Holiness is opposed to the former; the fear of God, promoting holiness (comp. again 1 Corinthians 10:22) to the latter.—πνεύματος, of spirit) Comp. Psalm 32:2; Psalm 78:8.—ἐπιτελοῦντες, perfecting) even to the end. It is not enough to begin; it is the end that crowns the work. The antitheses are ἄρχομαι, ἐπιτελέω, I begin, I finish, ch. 2 Corinthians 8:6; 2 Corinthians 8:10-11; Galatians 3:3; Php 1:6.—ἁγιωσύνην, holiness) corresponds to be ye separated, ch. 2 Corinthians 6:17.—ἐν, in) he does not say, and [perfecting] the fear. Fear is a holy affection, which is not perfected by our efforts, but is merely retained. [The pure fear of GOD is conjoined with the consideration of the most magnificent promises, ch. 2 Corinthians 5:11; Hebrews 4:1.—V. g.]

Verse 1. - Having then these promises. The promises of God's indwelling and fatherly love (2 Corinthians 6:16-18). Dearly beloved. Perhaps the word is added to soften the sternness of the preceding admonition. Let us cleanse ourselves. Every Christian, even the best, has need of daily cleansing from his daily assoilment (John 13:10), and this cleansing depends on the purifying activity of moral effort maintained by the help of God's grace. Similarly St. John (1 John 3:1-3), after speaking of God's fatherhood and the hopes which it inspires, adds, "And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself even as he is pure" (comp. James 4:8). From all filthiness; rather, from all defilement. Sin leaves on the soul the moral stain of guilt, which was typified by the ceremonial defilements of the Levitical Law (comp. Ezekiel 36:25, 26). The word used for "filth" in 1 Peter 3:21 is different. Of the flesh and spirit. From everything which outwardly pollutes the body and inwardly the soul; the two being closely connected together, so that what defiles the flesh inevitably also defiles the soul, and what defiles the spirit degrades also the body. Uncleanness, for instance, a sin of the flesh, is almost invariably connected with pride and hate and cruelty, which degrade the soul. Perfecting holiness. This is the goal and aim of the Christian, though in this life it cannot be finally attained (Philippians 3:12). In the fear of God. There is, indeed, one kind of fear, a base and servile fear, which is cast out by perfect love; but the fear of reverential awe always remains in the true and wisely instructed Christian, who will never be guilty of the profane familiarity adopted by some ignorant sectarians, or speak of God "as though he were some one in the next street" (Hebrews 12:28; 1 Peter 3:15). 2 Corinthians 7:1Filthiness (μολυσμοῦ)

Rev., defilement. Only here in the New Testament. For the kindred verb μολύνω to defile, see on Revelation 14:4. Compare 1 Corinthians 8:7.

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