2Co 7:1-3 “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. Receive us; we have wronged no man, we have corrupted no man, we have defrauded no man. I speak not this to condemn you: for I have said before, that ye are in our hearts to die and live with you.”
The promises Paul speaks of have nothing to do with things that Paul has determined in his own strength. Every promise that Paul has called to the attention of the brethren are promises from God. Paul certainly understood the frailty of his promises when he did not know from one minute to the next whether he was going to be bound and cast into prison at the very least. We today need to continue to remember that the promises we receive are not from the ministry but from God who has called us to minister.
Knowing that the promises we receive from God are sure and steadfast, we have a responsibility to act like those promises mean something. God’s promises are “yea [yes] and amen [so be it] (2Co 1:20).” We do not cleanse ourselves so that God’s promises can be fulfilled: we cleanse ourselves because we know that His promises will certainly be fulfilled. Our failure to cleanse ourselves only hinders our full appreciation of the fulfillment of God’s sure promises.
We are not being commanded to cleanse ourselves from sin. If we could do that, then Jesus would not have needed to come and save us. What we being told to cleanse our lives of (both in thought and action) is the entertaining of immoral actions. While there has been for many years a push toward a “new” morality, the only true morality is that which is defined by the word of God. Unless we are going to take the position that we have never failed in any aspect of God’s commandments, then we must acknowledge that we struggle with immorality.
It would be nice if we only had to cleanse ourselves once, or even once in a while. However, the truth is it is our nature to get dirty. We cannot get a bath today and expect to be clean for the rest of the week, much less the rest of our lives. Cleansing is a daily, on-going process for us. Jesus’ cleansing of our sins is the only cleansing we have that will never need to be repeated (Heb 10:10).
As we cleanse ourselves from all filthiness, we must also move to the perfecting of holiness. The word translated as “perfected” here means to execute or to perform. In other words, if we are truly cleansing ourselves by the unfeigned service of God, then we must behave ourselves in a godly manner according to His word and the leadership of the Holy Spirit. We do not do this by relying on our own strength but rather by walking in reverence to God.
When we live a life of godly service, then we can implore the saints to receive us. We can earnestly desire a place in the hearts and fellowship of His people. Only in daily cleansing ourselves from immorality and walking in the holiness that comes from the fear of the Lord can we say with Paul that we have wronged, corrupted, and made gain of no man. We see in this something vitally important about living in the promises of God today.
We know from Paul’s life before his experience on the road to Damascus that he could not claim he had never wronged any man. It is likely that he compelled others to go along with his persecution of the church, so he could not claim that he had never corrupted any man. He rose in power and approval among the Jewish elite because he was willing to make gain of others. He was a Pharisee of the Pharisees and considered himself to be morally blameless.
As Paul discovered in his own life, we can never be morally blameless without carrying out God’s holiness. We might be able to claim that we have never killed a man, but Jesus said if we have hated our brother we are still murderers. We might be able to claim that we have never physically been guilty of adultery, but I doubt any of us can claim we have never had a lustful thought. Only when we perfect the holiness of God in our hearts can we begin to move beyond these things and learn to guard against them (cleanse ourselves) on a daily basis.
We must always minister to His people with understanding. Paul did not say that the brethren were in his heart to live and die with them: he said he would die and live with them. To walk with Him, we must die daily (cleans ourselves) of the filthiness of the flesh and spirit: it is not a “one and done” where our actions are concerned. In daily putting aside this filthiness and performing the holiness of God, we daily live to His glory with all His saints who do the same.
May God give us the grace every day to lay down our lives so that we might live with His saints in the fear of God!