July 12, 2020 Bringing Holiness to Completion

Bringing Holiness to Completion

Part One

 

Our scripture reading this morning is 2 Corinthians 6:14 – 7:1.

 

Paul begins this section by commanding the Corinthians not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers. What does he intend by this command? By using this word, “yoked,” he refers to the prior command in Deuteronomy 22:10:

 

Do not plow with an ox and a donkey yoked together. (NIV)

 

In this verse the owner is trying to get something done. He is trying to plow his field. There is a goal. There is a work to be done. But he is told not to carry this work out with two different kinds of animals. Just as an ox and a donkey were different, so believers and unbelievers are different.

 

This means that believers and unbelievers should not join together to carry out any kind of work or fulfill any purpose together that requires a yoking, that is, a. close partnership. The two most common applications would be business endeavors, such as a business partnership, and marriage.

 

According to the Old Testament some farming animals were clean and some were unclean. Oxen and sheep were clean. Donkeys, horses, and pigs were unclean.

 

By the apostle referring to this verse, he alludes to the fact that genuine believers in the Lord Jesus are clean, but unbelievers are unclean. We have been made clean solely by the grace of God. But, we are clean! Unbelievers are unclean. Some will be made clean because we all start out as unbelievers. Yet, while they are unbelievers we must not be yoked with them.

 

Oh! The great disappointment and heartaches that have been caused by those who married those who were not Christians thinking that they would come to Christ through the influence of the Christian. Besides being outright disobedience to God (the command is not to be yoked), it shows how ignorance of God’s word leads to suffering. For someone does not exercise faith merely by weighing the facts of history (e.g., that Jesus rose from the dead) or by the influence of others. One comes to faith by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit. God elects some and passes by others.[1] Prior to a person coming to faith we do not know, and cannot know, who is of the elect and who is not. Thus, to marry someone who is not a follower of the Lord Jesus is utter folly.believers and unbvelievers

 

Paul felt so strongly about this matter that he uses five illustrations to depict the difference between believers and unbelievers.

 

First, he asks:

 

For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness?[2]

 

To what kind of righteousness does Paul refer? Remember that there are two kinds of righteousness that the one who trusts in Christ possesses. They have an objective righteousness, that is, they have the actual righteousness of Christ applied to them when they exercise faith. They also have a subjective righteousness, that is, there is a right way of living that characterizes the follower of Christ. It is not easy to tell which Paul means here. But, in one sense, it makes no difference because the distinction between the person of the world and the follower of Christ is great in both cases.

 

If Paul means that the believer has the righteousness of Christ it is equally true that the unbeliever has the lawlessness of Adam. How great the difference this is! If Paul means that the believer lives by God’s directions (righteousness) and the unbeliever is lawless, this is also a true difference. An unbeliever may try to live by man’s law and may even be a good citizen. But Paul is not referring to man’s law. He means God’s law when he uses the word lawlessness. And, those who do not follow Christ do not seek to live by God’s laws. The follower of Christ seeks to live by Christ’s commands, not by their own power, but by energizing joy of the Spirit. The believer loves God’s laws and enjoys following them (Psalm 1:2; 119:97). Thus, there is no partnership between righteousness and lawlessness in any way.

 

The apostle then asks, “What fellowship has light with darkness?”

 

Light and darkness cannot coexist. In the natural realm light always conquers the darkness. But, in the spiritual realm this does not always happen. Darkness often overcomes the light. This is why the Lord says that we must come out from among them – because the darkness influences the light just as much, if not more than, the light influences the darkness.

 

Believers are light. Unbelievers are darkness. If you marry an unbeliever, you are marrying darkness. If you go into business with an unbeliever, you are going into business with darkness.

 

What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? [3]

 

How strong are Paul’s words here! Belial is another name for Satan. There can be no harmony between Christ and the devil. The genuine believer is of Christ and the unbeliever is of Satan. According to mere outward appearances, an unbeliever may not seem as if they are of Satan. They may have many good qualities about them, relatively speaking. But, I tell you, when things go awry in their lives they will turn to ungodly means to try and rectify what they deem to be unfairness to themselves. This is because Belial is the god of this world.

 

If we have intimate friendship with unbelievers then we are making harmony between Christ and Satan. I qualified what I said with the word “intimate” because I believe there is a place for casual friendships.

 

What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,

“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them,

and I will be their God,

and they shall be my people. [4]

 

The word translated “among” is the Greek word en, more often translated “in.” It can mean “among” just as well as “in.” Even if the meaning of this passage is that God lives among his people corporately, that is, when they are gathered, it is still true that he lives within his people individually, that is, He is within you if you are a Christian. This is revealed to us in so many NT passages. Therefore, I love what one commentator said about this verse:

 

“As the living God, God dwells in us and walks in us to be our God in a subjective way that we may partake of Him and be His people, experiencing Him in a living way.”[5]

 

That is so good because it is so true. The Lord is not just a God who is up in the heavens to whom we pray. If we have trusted in Christ, he is a God who lives within us. We can know this and experience this. As we fellowship with the Living God we experience Him in a living way!

 

When he says, “I will be their God and they shall be my people,” this means that He will be our God in a living way and that we will be his people in a living way.

 

Therefore, go out from their midst,

and be separate from them, says the Lord,

and touch no unclean thing;

then I will welcome you,

18 and I will be a father to you,

and you shall be sons and daughters to me,

says the Lord Almighty.” [6]

 

Here Paul quotes Isaiah (52:11). The command is simple. Be separate from unbelievers. Obviously, this does not mean in an absolute sense. We must work with those who do not have faith and we will go to school with those who do not have faith. I have mentioned before that about 90% of those who come to faith in Christ did so through the testimony of a relative or a friend. Friendships are a way to reach others for Christ. This is because when you get to know someone you come to trust them if they reveal a trustworthy character. When you trust someone you are more likely to listen to what they have to say.

 

Thus, Paul’s admonition here is against intimate relationships with unbelievers.

 

Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God. [7]

 

Since we have which promises? That God dwells in us, that he walks among us, that we are his sons and daughters, and that he is our Father. Because these things are true, we must be motivated to cleanse ourselves and to bring holiness to completion.

 

The author of Hebrews also writes about the necessity of personal holiness:

 

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.[8]

 

Paul tells us to bring holiness to completion. In Hebrews, the Spirit says that we are to strive for holiness because, if we do not have it, we will not see the Lord. These passages both refer to our own, personal sanctification. We do not strive to receive the righteousness of Christ (Righteousness and holiness are related but different words. Some people may think that the holiness to which the author of Hebrews refers is Christ’s, but it is not.) We are told to strive for holiness.

 

God is the one who makes us holy through the operation of His Spirit in our hearts. Although He is the one who does it, there is still a part for us in this process of being made holy. It is an important part. It is so important that unless we do it, we will not see the Lord!

 

Some take the position that every believer will be made holy, will be fully sanctified, when they die. Is that true? It cannot be true because I believe many of us have known Christians, people who we believe were true Christians, who passed away but whose lives were not holy. Death does not sanctify you. Whatever condition you die in, that is the condition you will have as a spirit before you receive a glorified body (every Christian will receive a glorified body eventually). The author of Hebrews reveals that if we are not holy when we die, we will not see the Lord. This does not mean that a genuine Christian will lose their salvation.[9] But it does mean that they will not see him until they are sanctified. There will be discipline applied at the Judgment Seat of Christ for those who did not overcome, for those who have not been sanctified.[10]

 

How can we bring holiness to completion? Paul gives us part of the answer in our verse: we must cleanse ourselves from every defilement. By “defilement” Paul means sin, for sin defiles us.

 

There is a town in northwest Cambodia called Siem Reap. It is a popular tourist destination because it has colonial and Chinese-style architecture in an Old French Quarter, and around the Old Market. In the city, there are traditional Apsara dance performances, craft shops, silk farms, rice-paddy countryside, fishing villages and a bird sanctuary near the Tonle Sap Lake.

Although Siem Reap is a popular tourist destination, it has been ranked as the second poorest province with the sixth highest illiteracy rate.

The elementary school, called Roka Primary School, was built over 60 years ago and had numerous additions to it to expand it. In 2009, during a rainstorm, the entire building collapsed. By God’s grace school was not in session at the time of the collapse and no one was injured. You can imagine, though, what may have happened if school was in session at the time of the collapse. What caused the building to collapse was not the wind or the rain, but something small: termites.

All the years that the children sat in their seats being taught the termites were eating away at the foundation and the support beams of the structure until it became so weak that it could no longer support the weight of the building.

However, in 2009, the termite-infested building collapsed during a heavy rain storm. Fortunately, no one was injured.

A non-profit organization built a new school with furniture, a flag pole, a well and a water system. In 2011 there was added a playground.

Our lives can be like the Roka Primary School. We can be going along thinking everything is fine when there is a termite eating away at the support structure of our lives. This termite of which I speak is sin. If we do not address the problem it all comes crashing down. One question we need to ask is when does it come all crashing down?

 

  1. It can come all crashing down after this life is over, taking us by surprise. Jesus talked about this alarming situation. Turn with me to Matthew 7:21-23.

 

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ [11]

 

This is one of the most frightening passages in the entire Bible. I remember reading this passage as a new disciple over 35 years ago. It disturbed me then and it still frightens me even now. It should. And it should concern all of us.

READ. Consider who Jesus is speaking about. He is speaking about followers of the Lord Jesus. Considering the fullness of the divine revelation I would argue that they were not genuine followers but it is important to realize that they thought they were! They believed that they were Christians.

Not only did they believe that they were Christians, but they were active in their service to the Lord. They prophesied in His name. They cast out demons in His name.

Not only were they active in their service to Christ but they were very active. They did many mighty works in His name.

How many of us can say that we are actively serving Christ now? Most of us are probably doing less than these ostensive followers in our passage. They were working with the power that is inherent in the name of Jesus Christ. A power so great that even those who were not known by the Lord could use his name and demons would be cast out.

The Lord Jesus said that he did not know them because they didn’t do the will of the Father. They disobeyed the law of God.

 

Knowing Christ and being known by Him go together with obeying the Father. You cannot have one without the other. We must never think that we must obey the Father and then, if we do, we get to be known by Christ. That is salvation by works which Paul calls an accursed gospel and is really no gospel at all. No, Christ knows us, we know Him, and obedience naturally flows from that. The knowing comes first, then the obedience; but you cannot separate them. If we think we are known by Christ and we live in disobedience we are self-deceived.

 

 

  1. It can come crashing down in this life. Our sins catch up with us. If you belong to Christ you can only get away with sin for so long. Then it overtakes you. That overtaking can be personal or it can be public. Neither are pretty. Paul writes to the Romans, and to us, so that we will not fall back into fear and into spiritual death, but so that we will live.

 

So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.[12]

 

When Paul writes, “…you will die,” he means spiritual death in the present. He means that, if we live according to our sinful nature, we will experience a separation from our Lord and this is nothing less than death.

 

Sin defiles us and we must put it to death in our lives. The Lord willing, we will talk about how we go about doing that. What are the practical things that we can do to cleanse our lives from sin and to bring holiness to completion? Do not miss next Sunday!

 

 


[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 6:14). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 6:15). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 6:16). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] Witness Lee, Life-Study of Second Corinthians (Living Stream Ministry, Anaheim, CA; 1984) p. 374.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 6:17–18). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 7:1). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[8] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Heb 12:14). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[11] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 7:21–23). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[12] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 8:12–13). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.