Summary: The only reward Paul wanted from the Corinthians was conduct in accordance with the Gospel of Christ.

July 25, 2014

Tom Lowe

The Second Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians

Lesson II.C.1.b: Separation from the world. (6:14–7:4)

2nd Corinthians 6:11-13 (NKJV)

14 Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?

15 And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?

16 And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people."

17 Therefore "Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you."

18 "I will be a Father to you, And you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the Lord Almighty."

1 Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

2 Open your hearts to us. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have cheated no one.

3 I do not say this to condemn; for I have said before that you are in our hearts, to die together and to live together.

4 Great is my boldness of speech toward you, great is my boasting on your behalf. I am filled with comfort. I am exceedingly joyful in all our tribulation.


14 Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers

This seems to be an allusion to the law in Deuteronomy 22:10—“You shall not plow with an ox and an ass together.” It is not meant to forbid associating and conversing with unbelievers, since this is impractical and would require believers to go out of the world. There are many natural and civil relationships existing among men that are absolutely necessary; and in many cases they are both lawful and commendable, especially when there is any opportunity or likelihood of doing them any service in a spiritual way.

This is not to be understood as a command to avoid entering into marriage with unbelievers; since the apostle had conceded such marriages to be lawful in his first epistle. They may be lawful, but are certainly not recommended; believers would do well to avoid such an unequal yoke, since many times such a union will expose the believer to many snares, temptations, distresses, and sorrows, which generally occur, more or less, in such marriages. But there is nothing in the text or context that lead to such an interpretation; rather, if any particular thing is referred to, it is to joining with unbelievers in acts of idolatry; since one of the apostle's arguments to dissuade from being unequally yoked with unbelievers is, “what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? (v. 16)” And from the first epistle it looks as if some in this church had joined with idolaters in such practices—“Why, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry” (1 Corinthians 10:14). There is evidence that some among the Gentile members of the Church, were even willing to go to sacrificial feasts in heathen temples (1 Corinthians 8-10.). But it is probable that these words are meant to discourage Christians from having any fellowship with unbelievers in anything sinful and criminal, whether in worship or in conversation.

Evidentially, there were some at Corinth who might have been indifferent about whether they married a heathen or a Christian, whether they chose their intimate friends among the worshippers of Aphrodite or of Christ. Against that “attitude” the Apostle feels bound to protest. The Greek word for “unequally yoked together” is not found elsewhere, and was probably coined by St. Paul to give expression to his thoughts. Its meaning, however, is derived from Leviticus 19:19—“You shall not let your cattle engender (propagate) with a diverse kind.” Cattle were unequally yoked together when ox and ass were drawing the same plough (Deuteronomy 22:10). Men and women are unequally yoked when they have no common bond of faith in God: for example; Christians with Jews or heathen, godly persons with the ungodly, spiritual with the carnal. The apostle particularly speaks of marriage; but the reasons he gives equally hold against any needless closeness or involvement with them.

The Christian is justified by faith—“For he has made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21)—and this condition excludes immoral conduct—“Whoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4)—which is an element of heathen life—“I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as you have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity to iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness to holiness” (Romans 6:19). The two elements, faith and immoral conduct, have nothing in common with each other—“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Romans 8:1).

The only reward Paul wanted from the Corinthians was conduct in accordance with the Gospel of Christ. Therefore he touches on some of the points on which they were in the habit of doing the most damage to their Christian profession. They did not keep sufficiently aloof from unbelievers, but even went so far as to ‘sit at meat’ with them ‘in the idol-temple’ (see 1 Corinthians 8, 10) and thereby become partakers with them in their idolatry, which caused infinite harm to the souls of their brethren.

For what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness?

This, with what is said in the following verse, and in the beginning of the verse that comes after that, contain reasons or arguments for believers to obey the counsel given Paul had given them to not keep company with unbelievers. In order to understand this verse, we only need to clarify three words—“fellowship,” “righteousness,” and “unrighteousness.”

“Fellowship” literally, “participation” (Ephesians 5:6-11) or “share.”

By "righteousness" is meant righteous persons, or the state of the believer who are made the righteousness of God in Christ, to whom Christ is made righteousness, or to whom the righteousness of Christ is imputed for justification; and who also have principles of grace and holiness in their hearts, or have the kingdom of God in them, which consists of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost; and who being made free from the dominion of sin, are become servants of righteousness. The righteous are justified by faith, and can have no profitable, agreeable, or comfortable association or conversation with the unrighteous.

“Unrighteousness,” literally, lawlessness, the normal condition of the heathen man; the fruit of unbelief—“I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as you have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity to iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness to holiness” (Romans 6:19); while the Christian is endowed with “God’s righteousness” (2 Corinthians 5:21). By “unrighteousness” is meant unrighteous persons, who are destitute of a justifying righteousness, are filled with all unrighteousness, and are, as it were, a mass and lump of iniquity; now, what fellowship can there be between persons of such conflicting characters?

And what communion hath light with darkness?

As with the preceding clause, in order to understand this verse, we only need to clarify three words—“communion,” “light,” and “darkness.”

“Communion” is defined as the act of sharing, or holding in common; participation—very similar to fellowship in the preceding clause. Another definition given is “a group of persons having a common religious faith; a religious denomination. “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42).

“Light” signifies the condition of man in Christ—“For you were sometimes darkness, but now are you light in the Lord: walk as children of light:” (Eph. 5:8). Regenerate men are made “light” in the Lord; they are enlightened into their state and condition by seeing the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and the glory, beauty, fullness, and suitableness of Christ, and their need of Him, and to be able to look to Him for life and salvation; they are enlightened more or less into the doctrines of the Gospel, and the duties of religion; and their path is a shining light that others may follow. Believers are said to be the children of light—“You are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness” (1 Thess. 5:5).

“Darkness” is that deplorable state of ignorance and foolishness, vice and misery, in which they continue to be lost? Unregenerate persons are “darkness” itself; they are dark and ignorant of God in Christ, of the way of salvation by Christ, of the work of the Spirit of God upon the heart, and of the mysteries of grace; they do not know themselves, nor the sad condition they are in; they are born, and brought up in darkness worse than Egyptian darkness; they go on in it, and if grace doesn’t stop them, they will be cast into utter and eternal darkness. Simply stated, it is the condition of any man “without Christ.”

Now, what “communion” can there be between persons who are so different from each other? What could be more different than light and darkness? Nature has divided them from each other; and they are in nature irreconcilable to one another, and so are they in grace. They could have no comfortable communion with each other; they were righteousness, those persons were unrighteousness; they were light, those persons were darkness, that is, full of the darkness of sin and ignorance. In the meantime, this precept ought not to be extended to a total avoiding of contact with, or being in the company of, either heathens, or sinful persons; for the same apostle had beforehand determined it lawful (1 Corinthians 5:11). Whatever communion with such persons is either necessary from the law of God or nature, or for the support or upholding of human life and society, is lawful even with such persons; but all other is unlawful.

15 And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?

And what accord has Christ with Belial

Two words are key to understanding this clause: “accord” and “Belial.”

“Accord” has been rendered concord in other versions. The meaning is harmony, sympathy, unison. This word denotes the unison or harmony produced by musical instruments, where there is a chord. What accordance, what unison is there; what strings are there which when struck will produce a chord or harmony? The idea is that there is as much that is discordant between Christ and Belial as there is between instruments of music that produce only discordant and jarring sounds.

“Belial” is a Hebrew word, and is only used in this place in the New Testament, but often in the Old; and the list of what it means is lengthy: one in a very low condition, a lowlife that never rises higher, and never amounts to any thing; a wicked man, one that is without a yoke, without the yoke of the law; one who breaks off the yoke of God; lawless persons, who are not in subjection to God or man; one that is unprofitable and does no good, and is good for nothing; and in Scripture it is applied to any wicked person, or thing; an apostate, vileness; sometimes the corruption of nature is called "Belial" by the Jews; it is also a name of the devil or Satan; Most interpreters understand Belial to refer to the devil, who has cast off the yoke of obedience to God, and is unprofitable, toxic and hurtful to men.

‘Children of Belial,’ are children that break off, ‘the yoke of heaven’ (the law) from their necks; and the “sons of Belial” (as in Deuteronomy 13:13; 1Samuel 2:12; 1Samuel 25:17) were therefore the worthless and the vile; “a child of wickedness.” ‘Daughter of Belial,’ signifies a worthless person. "A son of Belial" means "a child of wickedness."

The idea is that the persons to whom Paul referred, the pagan, wicked, unbelieving world, were governed by the principles of Satan, and were “taken captive by him at his will”—“And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will” (2 Tim. 2:26)—and that Christians should be separate from the wicked world, as Christ was separate from all the feelings, purposes, and plans of Satan. He had no participation in them; he formed no union with them; and that is the way it should be with the followers of the one in relation to the followers of the other. Christ had no fellowship with the devil, therefore we ought to have no unnecessary communion with such who manifest themselves to be of their father the devil, by their doing his works; nor had Christ any communion with the sons of Belial. No one and nothing can be more contrary to Christ, than Belial

Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever

This is not an illustration, like the other clauses, but a statement of fact.

The word “part” means portion, share, participation, fellowship; and it usually refers to a division of an estate—“Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God” (Acts 8:21). Some believe that here part refers to the person’s portion in the life to come. In this sense it teaches that we should have intimate communion in this life only with those who will share our portion in another life. But the most astute interpreters think this is not what is intended here.

“Believer,” of course, is he that believes—a Christian; a man who believes on the Lord Jesus. The believer's part and portion are God, Christ, righteousness, peace and an eternal inheritance—“Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light” (Col. 1:12).

“Unbeliever,” of course, refers to an infidel—A man who does not believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God—whether a pagan idolater, a sacrilegious man, a scoffer, a philosopher, a man of science, or a moral man. His part and portion will be in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone. It may be pointed out that it does not mean, as commonly with us, one who has rejected the faith, but simply one who has not as yet received it.

The idea is that with respect to religion there is no union; nothing in common; no participation, between the two. They are governed by different principles; have different feelings; are looking for different rewards; and are heading to a different destiny; we might say, “They march to different drums.” What can there be between them? The believer, therefore, should not select his partner in life and his chosen companions and friends from this class, but from those with whom he is in agreement, and with whom he has common feelings and hopes.

16 And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people."

And what agreement has the temple of God with idols

This may be a quotation which has been combined and condensed from Leviticus 27:11, 12: “If what they vowed is a ceremonially unclean animal—one that is not acceptable as an offering to the LORD—the animal must be presented to the priest, who will judge its quality as good or bad. Whatever value the priest then sets, that is what it will be”—and Ezekiel 37:27: “My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people.” Paul asks the question, “What association, confederation, or covenant agreement can the saints, who are the temple of God, have with idols, or their worshippers? No more than the ark of the Lord had with Dagon, or Dagon with the ark; which when brought into his temple, and set by him, the idol fell down, and part of him was broke to pieces. (See 1 Sam. 5:2-4).

“The temple of God”—that is, you believers (see 1 Co 3:16; 6:19; below).

“With idols”—those objects which God hates, and on which he cannot look except with loathing. The sense is that for Christians to mingle with the sinful world; to partake of their pleasures, pursuits, and follies, is as detestable and hateful in the sight of God as if His temple were profaned by erecting a deformed, and shapeless, and senseless block of wood into an object of worship, and placing it there. And, undoubtedly, if Christians had such a perception of the abomination of mingling with the world, they would feel the obligation to be separate and pure.

Here we see clearly the gist of the Apostle’s thoughts. His mind travels back to the controversy about things sacrificed to idols by those who claimed the right to take part in an idol’s feast even within the confines of the idol’s temple—“For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol's temple, won't that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols?” (1Corinthians 8:10)? In order to counter that perversion he thinks it necessary to enter this protest. And the ground of the protest is that they, collectively—“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in your midst?” (1Corinthians 3:16); and individually—“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own” (1Corinthians 6:19); are the temples of God, and that there can be no “agreement” between that temple and one dedicated to an idol. The word translated “agreement” means assent, accord, a compact or treaty, or a laying down together. “Elijah went before the people and said, "How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him." But the people said nothing.” (1 Ki 18:21). In modern terminology, an agreement between the two antagonistic systems was an impossibility. The two are contraries, which stand negatively related to one another; if the temple of God should come into contact with idols (as was the case, under Ahaz), it would be desecrated.

The apostle gives this as one particular instance where he would have them avoid close association with unbelievers. The Apostle Paul does not stress the abuse of liberty to which he devotes so large a portion of the first Epistle (see notes on verse 14), but we may gather from this hint that there was still some need of improvement in this particular area as well as in the general relations between Christians and heathens.

For you are the temple of the living God

“For you are the temple,” and what has a temple of God to do with idol worship? It is erected for a different purpose, and the worship of idols in the temple of God would not be tolerated. It is implied here that Christians are themselves the temple of God, and that it is as absurd for them to mingle with the infidel world as it would be to erect the image of a pagan god in the temple of Yahweh. This is strong language that the apostle is using.

“For you are the temple of the living God,” for we are the temple of God who is alive. “Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in your midst? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy that person; for God's temple is sacred, and you together are that temple” (1 Cor. 3:16, 17). The Spirit of God, dear reader, dwells in you as a spirit of regeneration, sanctification, faith, and adoption, and as the earnest and pledge of their future glory. The promises, made to Israel, also belong to us. I will dwell in them (my people)—“I will put my dwelling place among you, and I will not abhor you. I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people” (Leviticus 26:11-12). You are the temple of the “living God.” The indwelling of the Holy Spirit in every Christian heart, which is the distinguishing result of the new covenant, was very prominent in the thoughts of Paul (see 1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 6:19; Ephesians 2:21, 22).

Solomon's temple was built on an outcropping, on Mount Moriah, similarly the church is built upon a rock, higher than men, than angels, than the heavens, and out of the reach of men and devils, who would hurt and destroy it. Solomon's temple was a very stately magnificent building; it was overlaid within with pure gold, expressing the internal glory of Christ's church, which is all glorious within, having the Lord himself as the Glory in the midst of her: the church of Christ may be compared to the temple also, for the firmness of its foundations and pillars; Christ is the foundation of His church. The temple was holy, being set apart for the worship and service of God, as the church of Christ is sanctified by the Spirit of God, and is built up a spiritual house, to offer the spiritual sacrifices of prayer and praise to God: it is called the "temple of God", because it was built by Him, and it is where He dwells. “Of the living God,” means He has life in himself, and gives both spiritual and eternal life to His people; and in opposition to the idols of the Gentiles, who have no life in them; are representations of dead men, cannot give life, nor any of the comforts of life to their followers; and who, by worshipping them, expose themselves to eternal death. The evidence of the saints, or church of Christ being the temple of the living God, is as follows,

As God has said: "I will dwell in them

“As God has said” is a quotation from Lev. 26:12; Jer. 31:33; 32:38; Eze. 37:26, 27.

“I will dwell in them” does not refer to His omnipresence, by which He dwells everywhere, or to His omnipotence, by which He dwells in, and with all His creatures, supporting them by the word and His power; but to His Spirit and grace, or by His spiritual and gracious presence, which He favors his people with, and according to His promises they may expect it. The implied principle is that wherever God dwells there is His temple. “I will dwell in them” implies, when used with reference to Christians, that the Holy Spirit would abide in them, and that the blessing of God would go to them (see Romans 8; Colossians 3:16; 2 Timothy 1:14). God dwells with us, because Christ has become God with us. The indwelling of God in the body of Christians as in His temple, and the interaction of His gracious rule in it take place through the medium of the Spirit (See 1 Corinthians 3:16; John 14:23).

And walk among them

This denotes the communion God is pleased to provide His church and people, and that gracious presence of His with them, while they are sojourners here, and passing on to the heavenly glory; as God is said to “walk in a tent and tabernacle” with the “Israelites,” while they were travelling through the wilderness to Canaan; so He walks in His temple, and with His church and people, while they are travelling home to the heavenly Canaan. He walks in them, as in His court and palace, or as in His garden, where He takes much pleasure and delight in them, and takes great notice and care of them. This passage regards the presence of God with his people here, and not hereafter: That is, I will walk among them now. I will be one of their number. He was present among the Jews by the public manifestation of His presence by a symbol (the Shekinah); he is present with Christians by the presence and guidance of his Holy Spirit in them. In the original Hebrew this means "among them" (Exodus 29:45; Leviticus 26:12). The indwelling of God by his Holy Spirit belongs only to the new covenant.

Just as “dwell” implies the divine presence, so “walk,” implies the divine action. God's dwelling in the body and soul of saints may be illustrated by its opposite, the demoniacal possession of body and soul. “I will dwell” signifies the continuance of the Divine presence; “I will walk,” its operation.

I will be their God

Not as the God of nature and providence only, but as the God of all grace; as their covenant God and Father in Christ; which is the greatest happiness that can be enjoyed: and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Paul here boldly transfers the prophecies that relate to the earthly Israel to the spiritual Israel, the Christian Church. “As he saith . . . I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God” (Romans 9:25-26). (Also see 1 Corinthians 10:1-11; Galatians 4:26; Hebrews 12:22; 1 Peter 2:9-10; Revelation 3:12; Revelation 21:2; Revelation 21:10)

“I will be their God”—not only the God whom they worship, but the God who will protect and bless them. I will take them under my special protection, and they shall enjoy my favor. This is certainly as true of Christians as it was of the Jews, and Paul has not departed from the spirit of the promise in applying it to Christians. His object in quoting these passages is to impress on Christians the seriousness and importance of the truth that God dwelt among them and with them; that they were under His care and protection; that they belonged to Him, and that they therefore should be separate from the world.

And they shall be My people."

“My people”—rather, they shall be to me a people. Christians are His special people, loved by Him with a peculiar love, and on whom he bestows peculiar blessings, and who are made a willing people; willing to be his people by powerful grace, and are shaped for Him, His service, and His glory. There is a Father-son relationship intended here: “And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:18). (Also see Revelation 21:3; Revelation 21:7; Jeremiah 31:1; Jeremiah 31:9.

17 Therefore "Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you."

Therefore Come out from among them

If we are to fully understand this clause, two questions must be answered: (1) “Why should they ‘Come out from among them?’” and (2) “Who is the ‘them’ in this verse?” We shall look at these questions separately.

1) “Why should they ‘Come out from among them?’”

a. Because believers are the temple of the living God, which makes them a habitation for the Most High. They are a special people.

b. Because He resided among them, took His walks in the midst of them, was their God, and they were his people.

c. These words are 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. 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. But the command must not be misapplied. Peter was wrong in “separating” himself from his Gentile brethren (Galatians 2:12), and he was wrong in calling that “unclean” which God had cleansed (Acts 10:14). And Paul never counsels any at Corinth to “separate” himself from the body of his fellow Christians on account of their sinful lives. To the Apostle separation from heathens was imperative, but separation from the Christian Church was a sin.

d. Because the heathen life and heathen habits (not simply giving offerings to idols) places believers in danger of contamination.

2) “Who is the ‘them’ in this verse?”

a. First and foremost, they are unbelievers. But Paul is not advocating absolute separation, but abstinence from any kind of intimacy.

b. These words seem to be directed to the Israelites, and particularly to the priests and Levites, who bore the vessels of the Lord.

c. It could appropriately applied to believers under the Gospel dispensation, who are by Christ made priests unto God.

d. It is 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, so they do not become partakers of her plagues—“And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that you be not partakers of her sins, and that you receive not of her plagues” (Rev. 18:4). They were not to bring back with them any symbol of that “unclean” ritual which they had witnessed there.

e. They are usually interpreted by the Jewish writers, as a call to the Jews to come out of captivity, to leave Babylon and Persia, where many Jews stayed, and didn’t return after the captivity.

f. It is definitely an exhortation by Paul 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 a heavenly one; and by God’s grace, their conversations are different from what they were before, and from other Gentiles; when they dislike their former companions, abhor their sinful conversation, and abstain from it; when they have no fellowship with the workers of iniquity, but rebuke them both by words and deeds.

And be separate, says the Lord

What is it that Paul’s readers are to separate themselves from? Several things come to mind:

1. Interpreters are not agreed upon what the apostle warns the Jews to depart from. Some believe it was their former sinful ways; others say it is the kingdom of the devil and antichrist; yet others make it to be literal Babylon. Whatever was the prophet’s meaning, it is certain that the apostle’s instruction cannot be interpreted as meaning ‘literal Babylon,’ for neither the Christian Jews, nor Gentiles, were there at this time; he must therefore be understood to be referring to a mystical Babylon. And the sense must be this: The Jews were to be separate from the nations of the world;" separating the clean from the unclean—“Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone” (Hos. 4.17).

2. Gentiles, as 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 from the evil customs and manners of the world.

Just as God’s promise of dwelling in a peculiar manner among the Israelites, obliged them to separate themselves from the activities of their heathen neighbors, so that they might not be ensnared with their superstitions; so much more are Christians obliged, by that peculiar gracious presence of God which they enjoy, to separate themselves from the society of the ungodly, and from all their sinful practices, customs, and habits.

Paul does not use this language as if it originally had reference to Christians, but he applies it as if it contained 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 Testament

Do not touch what is unclean

The reference, is possibly, to several laws under the former dispensation, which forbid touching many things which were considered unclean, and by contact with them pollution was contracted, and the persons were obliged to submit to a ceremonial cleansing. Compare:

• Leviticus 5:2: “Or if a soul touch any unclean thing, whether it be a carcass of an unclean beast, or a carcass of unclean cattle, or the carcass of unclean creeping things, and if it be hidden from him; he also shall be unclean, and guilty.”

• Numbers 19:11: “He that touches the dead body of any man shall be unclean seven days.”

It does not have to do with touching, tasting, and eating any sort of food, which was forbidden as unclean by the ceremonial law; for the difference between meats clean and unclean had been removed; but if anything is particularly meant by the unclean thing, it seems to be idolatry, and to be a prohibition against joining with worshippers of idols in their idolatrous practices, by which a moral pollution is contracted; since in the beginning of the former verse it is said, "what agreement has the temple of God with idols?"; though it is intended in general, to forbid all communion and fellowship with unclean persons and things; not to touch them, to come near them, or have anything to do with them:

“Do not touch what is unclean” (Leviticus 11:8; Isaiah 52:11); "anything unclean" (2Co 7:1; Mic 2:10). Touching is more polluting than seeing, since it involves participation. Keep “anything unclean” at the greatest distance from every person and thing, in case you might be drawn into evil, and contract guilt. 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." On the other hand, these words may be interpreted too rigidly, by those who make it a prohibition of all commerce or company with such persons; for this is contrary to the apostolic doctrine in his former Epistle to this church, where he had allowed in 1 Corinthians 5:1-13, civil commerce and trade 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 departed first. The text therefore must be understood only of elective and unnecessary, intimate communion; and is in agreement with 2 Corinthians 6:14: “Be ye not unequally yoked with unbelievers.” Therefore, it by no means justifies withdrawing from all civil or religious communion with those whose judgments or practice in all things we cannot approve; it only justifies withdrawing our communion from idolaters, and from notorious scandalous sinners in such duties and actions, or in such degrees, in which we are under no obligation to have fellowship and communion with them. The clause (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.

And I will receive you

Keep in mind that Paul is writing to believers in the Christian church in Corinth. This and the next verse, are said to encourage believers to keep at a distance from wicked and immoral persons, whose company and conversation are dishonorable, ensnaring, and defiling. These persons already had a place in the love of God, His best and strongest affections, from which there can be no separation; and in the covenant of grace, which cannot be removed, so neither could they be removed out of that. They had been received into the church of Christ, and had a place and a reputation in it; and since they had been received by Christ, when they came to Him as poor perishing sinners without him, so they were still received graciously, in spite of their many backslidings. Neither of these situations, therefore, is the sense of this passage: but, since, by giving up associating with carnal men, they would expose themselves to their resentment and anger; the Lord promises, that he would take them under the wings of His protection; He would take care of them and sustain them, keep them as the apple of His eye, and be a wall of fire round about them, while they are in this world; and when He had guided them by His counsel, He would "receive" them “into glory.” These promises to Israel are naturally transferred to the ideal Israel, the Christian Church.

The Greek implies, “to myself”—“And I will receive you to myself;” into my house and family. And will be a father unto you—will relate to you as a father, as my adopted children; loving you, caring and providing for you; allowing you access to, and close intimacy with, myself. This could not be done until they were separated from an idolatrous and wicked world. The association 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. Perhaps we should regard Paul here as speaking as an inspired man, and making a promise communicated directly 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.

18 "I will be a Father to you, And you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the Lord Almighty."

I will be a Father to you

The same thing is promised to Solomon—“I will be his father, and he shall be my son . . .” (2 Samuel 7:14); and said of Israel—“. . . I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn” (Jeremiah 31:9).

A “father” is the protector, counselor, and guide of his children. He instructs them, provides for them, and counsels them in times of confusion. No relation is tenderer than this. In accordance with this, God says that he will be to his people their protector, counsellor, guide, and friend. He will cherish them like the feeling of a father for his children; he will provide for them, he will acknowledge them as his children. No higher honor can be conferred on mortals than to be adopted into the family of God, and to be permitted to call the Most High our Father. No rank is higher than that of being the sons and the daughters of the Lord Almighty. Yet this is the common designation by which God addresses his people; and the most humble in rank, the most poor and ignorant of his friends on earth, the most despised among people, may regard themselves as the children of the ever-living God, and have the Maker of the heavens and the earth as their Father and their eternal Friend. How meager are all the honors of the world compared with this!

The ideal relationship of Israel to Jehovah was that of a son to a father (Exodus 4:22, Jeremiah 31:9, Hosea 1:10); but the teaching of the full meaning of such words was reserved for Christ, who came to reveal the Father—“All things are delivered to me of my Father: and no man knows the Son, but the Father; neither knows any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him” (Matthew 11:27). The full blessedness of these words can be realized only by the heir of the Father’s kingdom who “overcomes” at last—“He that overcomes shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son” (Revelation 21:7).

And you shall be My sons and daughters

Translation: “My relationship to you is that of a Father, and your relationship to Me will be that of sons and daughters.” This is much more endearing than the relationship expressed in 2 Corinthians 6:16, “I will be their God, and they … My people.” Compare the promise to 1 Chronicles 28:6; Isaiah 43:6; Revelation 21:3, 7; Jeremiah 31:1, 9.

This does not relate to the first act of adoption, when these persons first became the sons and daughters of God; for they were by adopting grace, in the mind, counsel, and covenant of God, from eternity. They were considered His sons and daughters when given to Christ, when He assumed their human nature, and died in order to bring them to glory; and as predecessor to faith and the work of the Spirit upon their souls. The meaning is that since they were the sons and daughters of God, they should be treated as such; whenever He spoke to them, or dealt with them in providence, He would speak to them and deal with them as children; or it may refer to the more full and open manifestation of their sonship, before angels and men, at the appearance of Christ.

These words, which are a promise of God receiving them, who for his sake withdraw from a sinful relationship with idolaters and immoral persons, are taken out of Jeremiah 31:1, 9, and teach us this: That no one can reasonably expect that God would fulfil his covenant with those who make no conscientious effort to fulfil their part in in this relationship with Him; nor can they claim the benefits of a Father, if they don’t perform the duties of His children: but on the contrary, those who are conscientious in the discharge of their duties of faithful obedience, may expect from Him both the kindness and the protection of a Father.

Says the Lord Almighty

“The Lord Almighty”— The Greek word used here (pantokrato¯r) occurs nowhere else except in the book of Revelation: Revelation 1:8; Revelation 4:8; Revelation 11:17; Revelation 15:3; Revelation 16:7, Revelation 16:14; Revelation 19:6, Revelation 19:16; Revelation 21:22. It means one who has all power; and is applied to God in contract to idols that are weak and powerless. The Hebrew equivalent to the Greek means “Lord of Hosts” or “Lord of Sabbath.” God is able to protect his people, and those who put their trust in Him shall never be confounded. What has he to fear who has a Friend with almighty power?

The purpose of this clause is to encourage the faith of the saints, and confirm that the One who said all this is the Lord God Almighty, and therefore, He is certainly able to perform it; and no one can question His willingness to do it, since He is the One who said it. The greatness of the Promiser enhances the greatness of the promises.

Chapter 7

1 Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

Therefore, having these promises

Many of God’s promises are included in 2 Corinthians 6:17-18: He would walk in His temple, and dwell in His churches, be their God, and they his people, that he will receive them, indwell them, and be their Father, and they his sons and daughters; which were promises they had not merely in hope, like 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 they were promises they had in hand, in actual possession; for God had really become their God and Father, and they were his people and children. And they had had communion with him, and were received, protected, and preserved by him. Those promises and blessings of grace were absolute and unconditional; the apostle uses them to engage them in the pursuit of purity and holiness. It is a clear proof, that the doctrine of an absolute and unconditional covenant of grace has no tendency to impiety, but instead, the contrary is true. The charge is often made against professing Christians that their religion has very little to do with common morality. This taunt has sharpened multitudes of jokes and has been echoed in all sorts of characters: it is very often too true and perfectly just, but whenever it is, let it be distinctly understood that it is not because of Christian men’s religion but in spite of it. Their bitterest enemy does not condemn them half as ardently as their own religion does: the sharpest condemnation of others is not as 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 which, after all, every man must submit to, is what sort of character does he have and how has he behaved—is he pure or profane? All pompous airs, all heartfelt emotion has at last to face the question which little children ask, ‘Was he a good man?’

The promises of God are strong reasons for us to seek to be holy; 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 like 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.

God only urges us to make an effort to be entirely holy. 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 ever been perfect (except Jesus) does not lessen the obligation; the fact that no one will be perfect in this life does not weaken the obligation. It only proves the deep and dreadful depravity of the human heart, and should humble us under the feeling of guilt.

The obligation to be perfect is one that is unchangeable and eternal (see Matthew 5:48; 1 Peter 1:15). The unceasing and steady goal 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 words, and plans, and dealings with people; perfection in prayer, and in submission to the will of God. No man can be a Christian who does not sincerely desire to be perfect, and who does not constantly work at it. No man is a friend of God who can accept 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 as perfect as God is, and who does not make it his daily and constant aim to be as perfect as God, may know for certain that he has no true religion, How can a man be a Christian who is willing to go along in a state of sin, and who does not desire to be just like his Master and Lord?

There are three aspects of a Christian’s life which must become evident and as plain as the nose on your face:

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

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

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


They were “beloved” by God, since they were His people, His sons and daughters, adopted, justified, called, and chosen by Him; and they were beloved by the apostle and his fellow ministers, who, as he says in a following verse, “You are in our hearts, to die together and to live together.”

Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit

“Let us” by exercising faith in His promises, and in God’s word in general, by fervent prayer for the purifying influences of the Holy Spirit, and by obedience to the truth—“Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth . . .” (1 Peter 1:22)—“let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh”—All improper appetites, all outward sin; and of the spirit—All unholy feelings, corrupt passions and attitudes, and all unholy plans and desires; all internal and external sin.

“Let us cleanse ourselves,” that is, let us purify ourselves. Paul was not afraid to bring-up the actions of Christians themselves in the work of salvation. Therefore he says, “let us purify ourselves,” as if Christians had something to do with it; as if their own efforts were 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 motivate us to make an effort to purify our own hearts, and to urge us to make persistent efforts to overcome our own sins. The man who expects to be made pure without any effort on his part, will never become pure; but, anyone who ever becomes holy will become so as a 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 help us. We do not go about the work in our own strength. It is not a work in which we are to have no divine assistance. But it is a work which God desires, and where he will give us all the aid which we need.

Every Christian, even the best of them, has need of daily cleansing from his daily assortment of sins, and this cleansing depends on the purifying activity of moral effort maintained by the help of God's grace. Similarly, John in 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.” And James wrote a similar verse: “Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (James 4:8).

Although moral perfection is never fully reached, it is a goal which the Christian labors constantly to achieve, but success is entirely up to God: “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns” (Phil. 1:6).

“From all filthiness” or rather, from all defilement. Sin leaves the moral stain of guilt on the soul, which was represented by the ceremonial defilements of the Levitical Law—“I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:25, 26). “Filthiness” is “the unclean thing of 2 Corinthians 6:17.

“Of the flesh and spirit,” includes everything which outwardly pollutes the body and inwardly pollutes the soul; the two being closely connected together, so that what defiles the flesh inevitably also defiles the soul, and what defiles the spirit also degrades the body. Uncleanness, for instance, a sin of the flesh, is almost invariably connected with pride and hate and cruelty, which degrade the soul—filthiness.

By "the filthiness of the flesh" is meant external pollution, defilement by outward actions, actions committed in the body, by which 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, can corrupt a man; all filthy actions, such as idolatry, adultery, fornication (which was prevalent at Corinth; 1 Cor. 6:15-18), incest, fleshly desires, carnal appetite, sodomy, murder, drunkenness, carousing, etc., and everything that makes up a filthy conversation, which is to be hated, and abstained from by the saints. “The filthiness of the flesh” as used here also denotes the gross and corrupt appetites and passions of the body, including all such actions of all kinds which 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 which the Holy Spirit of God would not produce.

By “filthiness of the spirit,” the apostle probably means, internal pollution, defilement by the internal acts of the mind, such as evil thoughts, lusts, pride, malice, envy, covetousness, and the like: all the thoughts or mental overtones that defile the man, which the Saviour calls evil thoughts, etc. that proceed out of the heart, and that pollute the man—“For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander” (Matthew 15:19). And probably Paul includes here all the sins and passions which pertain particularly to the mind or to the soul rather than to carnal appetites, such as the desire for revenge, pride, greed, ambition, etc.—the very worst being idolatry, direct or indirect (1Co 6:9; 8:1, 7; 10:7, 21, 22). The spirit receives pollution through the flesh, the instrument of uncleanness. 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 in by a more elevated class of society; but they are not any less offensive to God. It may be added, that they are often found 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 effect through the whole body, and it usually leaves no part unaffected, though some part may be more deeply corrupted than others.

We must bear in mind that the apostle is writing to Christians who face many of the same temptations we do, and who, at times fall, backslide, and go astray. He is not speaking here either of the justification of these persons, in which sense they were already cleansed, and thoroughly so, from all their sins and iniquities; nor of the inward work of sanctification, in regard to which they were washed in the water of regeneration; but what the apostle refers to is the exercise of both internal and external religion, which rests in purity of heart and conversation, the one not being acceptable to God without the other; he is speaking of, and urging 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 aside all filthiness and arrogance, and, with regard to either external or internal pollution, to have the remedy; to deal by faith with the blood of Christ, which cleanses from all sin, of heart, lip, and life; and which is the only effective 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

We will understand this clause if we know the meaning of three words, as they are used here; “perfecting,” “holiness,” and “the fear of God.” We will also come to know the meaning of “perfecting holiness,” and finally, “Perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”

“Perfecting” means to bring to an end, to finish, complete. The idea here is “carrying it out to the completion.” Holiness had begun in the heart, and the appeal of the apostle is that they would make every effort to insure 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 Corinthians to make an effort to be entirely holy; and this obligation is not affected by the question of whether anyone has been or has not been perfect. It is a duty and commitment which results from the nature of the Law of God and his unchangeable claims on the soul. The fact that no one has ever been perfect (except Jesus, of course) does not reduce the claim; the fact that no one will be perfect in this life does not weaken the obligation to attempt to be so. It only proves the deep and dreadful depravity of the human heart, and should humble us under the stubbornness of guilt.

“Perfecting holiness” is the goal and aim of the Christian, though in this life it cannot be attained: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (Philippians 3:12). “Perfecting holiness” means the cleansing away of impurity which is a positive step towards holiness: “Therefore, come out from among unbelievers, and separate yourselves from them, says the LORD. Don't touch their filthy things, and I will welcome you” (2 Co 6:17). It is not enough to begin the process; the completion of it crowns the work: “How foolish can you be? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?” (Ga 3:3).

The obligation to be perfect is one that is unchangeable and eternal: “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do” (1 Peter 1:15”). The constant and relentless 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 aspire to attain it. No man is a friend of God who can accept a state of sin, and who is satisfied and contented with not being as holy as God is holy. And any man who has no desire to be as perfect as God is, and who does not make it his daily and constant aim to be as perfect as God, may inscribe it in stone as patently certain that he is not following true religion. How can a man be a Christian who is willing to live in a state of sin, and who does not desire to be just like his Master and Lord?

“Holiness” does not stand for the work of sanctification upon the heart, for that is solely the work of the Spirit of God, and not of man; he begins it, carries it on, and perfects it by Himself; but holiness of life and conversation is intended here, which begins with the conversion of the people of God, and “perfecting” it is a life-long process. But a believer is unable to live a life of holiness, without sin being in him, or committed by him. “Holiness” is impossible and impracticable in the present life; but the sense of the clause is that he is to be continually pursuing a course of righteousness and holiness to the end of his life. He is to persevere in holiness as he does in faith, and in holiness, as he does in believing in Christ; so, he is to go on to live soberly, righteously, and godly, to the end of his life; which requires divine power to protect him from sin, and keep him from falling. He will need help, so he must depend on the grace of God, the strength of Christ, and the assistance of the Spirit, to enable him to perform acts of holiness, and the duties of religion, and to continue in doing good; and all is to be done, "in the fear of God"; not in slavish fear, a fear of hell and damnation, but in a loving fear, a reverential affection for God, a humble trust in Him, and dependence on Him, for grace and strength. It is that respect which has God for its author, is a blessing of the new covenant, is implanted at regeneration, and is increased as one discovers His pardoning grace; and it has God for its object, not his wrath and justice, but his goodness, grace, and mercy. This shows the principle on which believers act in the pursuit of righteousness and holiness; not from the fear of hell, nor from the fear of men, or from a desire to gain their approval, but from a reverential affection for Him, a childlike fear of him, and with a view to His glory.

The fear of God

“The fear of God” refers to respect and reverence for God; respect for His commands, and a reverence for His name. The idea seems to be, that we are always in the presence of God; we are under His Law; and we should be awed and restrained from the commission of sin, and from involvement in the pollutions of the flesh and spirit, by a sense of His presence. There are many sins that the presence of a child will restrain a man from committing; and how much more should the awareness of the presence of a holy God keep us from sin! If respect for a man or for a child will restrain us, and make us attempt to be holy and pure, how much more should respect for the all-present and the all-seeing God keep us not only from outward sins, but from polluted thoughts and unholy desires! There is, undeniably, one kind of fear, a sordid 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 sects, who speak of God "as though He were some one living on the next street"

Perfection, and nothing less, is to be the aim of the Christian. Compare:

• Matthew 5:48: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

• Colossians 1:22: “But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation”

With these things in mind, he is to cleanse himself daily by sincere repentance from every corruption of sin, and to take care that he doesn’t repeat the same offense. The fear of offending God—“Because we understand our fearful responsibility to the Lord, we work hard to persuade others. God knows we are sincere, and I hope you know this, too” (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. Right motives are not enough to restrain from sin.

2 Open your hearts to us. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have cheated no one.

Open your hearts to us.

Most versions have “receive us.” The clause can also be rendered in the following ways: make room for us; let us have a place in your hearts; admit or receive us as your friends; let your hearts be enlarged towards us; accept us.

Paul has moved on—his thoughts turning now from that faction at Corinth, the so-called party of license, with whom he had pleaded so earnestly in 1 Corinthians 8-10—to the awful, unspeakable contaminations to which they were exposing themselves by their companionship with idolaters. He now, seemingly, in between sobs, entreats them once more: “You can find a place for such as these in your heart. Have you no place for me?”

The under-current of thought flows on. He had complained of their being destitute in their affections for him, had pleaded with them to enlarge their hearts towards him, as his heart was enlarged towards them. Receive us with that affection which is due to the faithful servants of Christ, and to those who have been instruments in your conversion and edification; regardless of what may have been insinuated to the contrary, by devious persons.

Let us have a place in your hearts, as you have in ours: Gospel ministers ought to be received with love and respect, both into the hearts and houses of the saints; for "he that receiveth you", says Christ, "receiveth me" (Matthew 10:40). Their doctrines ought to be received with love for them, and with faith and meekness; and this may be another part of the apostle's meaning here; receive the word and ministry of reconciliation, which we bring as the ambassadors of Christ, as well as the exhortations we give in His name, particularly the last ones mentioned.

We have wronged no one

The triple repetition—“we have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have cheated no one”—indicates Paul's insistence on the fact that whatever his enemies might insinuate, there was no single member of their Church who could complain of injury, moral harm, or unfair treatment from him. Clearly he is again thinking of definite slanders against himself. His severity in dealing with the offender may have been condemned as being wrong; his generous endorsement of broad views about clean and unclean meats, idol-offerings, etc., may have been represented as corrupting others by false teaching—“Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God” (2 Corinthians 2:17); or bad example—“Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves” (2 Corinthians 4:2); his urgency about the collection for the saints—“Be that as it may, I have not been a burden to you. Yet, crafty fellow that I am, I caught you by trickery!” (2 Corinthians 12:16); or his claim of legitimate authority, may have been specified as greed for power.

The apostle could say with a clear conscience, “if I or my fellow apostles have wronged you in anything, it is in not being ‘burdensome’ to you for our maintenance, "forgive me this wrong” (2 Corinthians 12:13) for in no other respect have we done you any wrong. Some understand this as any lordly power, or tyrannical domination they had exercised over them, which was denied by the apostle—we have not behaved in an insolent manner towards you, we have not lorded it over you, or claimed any authority over your faith, or required any unreasonable obedience and submission from you. In other words “we wronged no man;” but we find reference to charges of greed and self-interested motives that had been whispered against him, and to which he refers to again in 2Corinthians 8:20 and 2Corinthians 12:18.

“We have wronged no one” is given as a reason why they should welcome him into their full confidence and affection. It is not improbable that he had been charged with injuring the incestuous person by the severe discipline which he had found it necessary to inflict on him (1 Corinthians 5:5). This charge could have been brought against him by the false teachers in Corinth. But Paul says here that whatever was the severity of the discipline, he was certain he had not injured any member of that church. It is possible, however, that he does not refer to any such charge, but that he says in general that he had injured no one, and that there was no reason why they should not receive him into their confidence. It shows great awareness of his integrity when a man who has spent a considerable time, as Paul had, with others, is able to say that he had wronged no man in any way. Paul could not have made this solemn declaration unless he was certain he had lived a very blameless life—“I have not coveted anyone's silver or gold or clothing” (Acts 20:33).

We have corrupted no one

The word for “corrupt” is the same as the word translated “defile” in 1Corinthians 3:17—“If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are;” and the word is used with apparent reference to sensual impurity in 2 Peter 2:12; Jude 1:10; Revelation 19:2. The word means in general to bring into a worse state or condition, and is very often applied to morals. The idea presented here is that Paul and his fellow ministers had not defiled the morals of anyone by their doctrines and principles, which perfectly agree with the word of God, and are good for the souls of men, and are likely to advance the glory of Christ. Moreover, they have not corrupted anyone by their example, because they have been careful to lead lives and have conversations which are becoming to the Gospel of Christ, embellish the doctrine of God our Saviour, and are models for them that believe; nor have they corrupted any of their leading men by flattery, or with bribes, in order to gain their good will and respect, and prestige among others. The idea here is that Paul had not by his teaching or example made any man worse. He had not corrupted his principles or his habits, or led him into sin.

We have cheated no one.

The word translated here as “cheated” is the same word rendered “make a gain of” in 2 Corinthians 12:17-18—“Did I make a gain of you by any of them whom I sent unto you? I urged Titus, and with him I sent a brother. Did Titus make a gain of you? walked we not in the same spirit? walked we not in the same steps?” The word “cheated” means literally to have more than another, and then to take advantage, to seek unlawful gain, to circumvent, defraud, deceive. The idea is, that Paul had not taken another man's property by cunning, by trick, or by deception; and under no circumstances had he extorted money from them, deceived them, or cheated them. It is the conviction of a man who was conscious that he had lived honestly, and who could appeal to all of them as proof that his life among them had been blameless. It appears from this that the apostle had been accused of his ministry being motivated solely by the monetary rewards. To this he replies by challenging them to prove their assertions, to name a single instance in which he had “corrupted” or “defrauded” another person. Some Bible scholars regard the words ‘corrupted’ and ‘defrauded’ as referring to sensual sin, and they illustrate their point by the revolting charges of immorality brought against the Christians by those who misinterpreted their brotherly and sisterly affection. It is true that the word translated here as ‘cheated’ seems to have a reference to something more than mere greed. And, however common such charges were in Paul’s day, they are not hinted at elsewhere in Scripture, but rather the contrary—“They insult you now because they are surprised that you are no longer joining them in the same excesses of wild living” (1 Peter 4:4).

3 I do not say this to condemn; for I have said before that you are in our hearts, to die together and to live together.

I do not say this to condemn

“I do not say this to condemn,” or rather, “I do not speak this with any desire to reprimand you.” I do not complain of you for the purpose of condemning, or because I have a desire to find fault, though I am compelled to speak in some respect of your lack of affection and generosity toward me. It is not because I have no love for you, and wish to have reason to use words implying complaint and condemnation. He is referring either to the instructions he had given before—to have no sinful conversation with unbelievers, and to cleanse themselves from all impurity, external and internal; and to continue along a path of holiness, and in the fear of God, to the end of life; or to the account just given of himself and fellow ministers. His meaning is this—the appeals I have given must not be understood as charges and accusations I have made that you are keeping company with unbelievers, or that you were not concerned about purity of life and conversation. When I remove those things mentioned above from myself and others, I do not mean to lay them upon you, as if I thought that you had wronged, corrupted, or defrauded any person or persons; when I clear myself and others, I do not plan to accuse or condemn you; my condemnation is only for the false apostles, who have done these things, when we have not, and therefore we have the best claim to your affections. My goal is to maintain the old love between us; what I say, therefore, is merely to defend myself, not to condemn you—“For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judges me is the Lord” (1 Corinthians 4:14).

At this point there may have rushed upon his memory the recollection of all the good news which Titus had brought. Indignation and jealous sensitivity are swallowed up in the overflowing thankfulness to which those tidings had given birth at the time, and which were now renewed. Therefore, the apostle deals very tenderly with this church, which was (as he knew very well) full of many touchy members; who seemed to always ready to accuse him of something; to stave off such insults, the apostle tells them, that he did not say this to expose them, as if they had wronged or defrauded him; for the love which he had for them would not permit it; he loved them so much that he would live and die with them.

For I have said before that you are in our hearts

“I have said before;” he has not said it in so many words, but has implied it in 2 Corinthians 3:2, 3; 2 Corinthians 6:11-14. “You are in our hearts,” so he says to his beloved Philippians, “I have you in my heart” (Philippians 1:7).

“For I have said before that you are in our hearts; you are inscribed on our hearts, engraved there, “ye are our epistle written in our hearts” (2 Corinthians 3:2); “We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us” (2 Corinthians 6:12).

“There is one thing in Paul’s character which often escapes observation. He is called an “unkempt Apostle Paul,” and some say, “He was a man who was rude, brave, true, and unpolished.” We all know of his integrity, his truth, his daring, his incorruptible honesty. But besides these, there was a refined and delicate politeness, which was continually taking the edge off his sharpest rebukes, and perceptively anticipating every pain his words might cause. He refers to Philemon 1:8, 12, 14; Acts 26:29; and Philippians 3:18.

To die together and to live together

“To die together and to live together” is like saying, neither death nor life shall separate our love, or destroy our friendship; there is nothing we desire more than to live with you; and should there arise any reason for it, we could freely die with you, and for you. This was an expression of the tenderest attachment. It was true that the Corinthians had not shown themselves remarkably worthy of the affections of Paul, but from the beginning he had felt toward them the tenderest attachment. And if it had been the will of God that he should cease to travel, spreading the knowledge of the Saviour, he would gladly have confined his labors to them, and stay with them until the end of his days.

“To die together and to live together” is no mere conventional expression of deep affection, nor is it the description of some pact for life and death. It has the deeper meaning which was indicated by the words “live” and “die” from the lips of a Christian—“For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body” (2 Corinthians 4:11). And one whose life was, for Christ's sake, a daily death, naturally mentions death first. Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11).

4 Great is my boldness of speech toward you, great is my boasting on your behalf. I am filled with comfort. I am exceedingly joyful in all our tribulation.

Great is my boldness of speech toward you

There is a change here for the first time to the first person. This verse seems designed to soften the apparent harshness of what he had said 2 Corinthians 6:12, when he indicated that there was a lack of love in them toward him, as well as to refer to the bluntness which he had used all along in his letters to them. He says, therefore, that he speaks freely; he speaks as a friend; he speaks with the utmost openness and frankness; he conceals nothing from them. He speaks freely of their faults, and he speaks freely of his love for them; and he frankly commends them and praises them. It is the open, undisguised language of a friend, when he throws open his whole soul and conceals nothing.

I faithfully tell you your faults; I am uninhibited in my advice and counsel to you, as in the case of the incestuous person, and in other instances, which is a sign of true friendship; for had I any misgivings toward you, or no warm affection for you, I would have been more aloof, more upon my guard, and have spoken and wrote with more caution. “Great is my boldness of speech toward you,” because I dearly love you. The context shows that he is not apologizing for bold and plain speaking, but uses the word to imply confidence—“Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus” (1Timothy 3:13).

Great is my boasting on your behalf

“Great is my boasting” of your faith in Christ, your love for the people of God, respect for the ministers of the Gospel, obedience to us, and very great liberality to the poor saints, about which the apostle frequently boasts in this epistle. He speaks freely to them when he is present with them, and when writing to them; so he boasts of them, and speaks well of them when absent, which clearly showed the opinion he had of them, and what sincere deep-rooted respect he had for them. He refers here to the fact that he had boasted of their liberality in regard to the proposed collection for the poor saints of Judea—“So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to visit you in advance and finish the arrangements for the generous gift you had promised. Then it will be ready as a generous gift, not as one grudgingly given” (2 Cor. 9:5). He had previously boasted of them to Titus, and of their readiness to obey his commands—“I had boasted to him about you, and you have not embarrassed me. But just as everything we said to you was true, so our boasting about you to Titus has proved to be true as well” (2 Corinthians 7:14); and now he had abundant evidence, from what he had heard from Titus (2 Corinthians 7:5, 6), that they were willing to yield to his commands, and obey his rulings. He had probably often had occasion to boast of their favorable regard for him.

I am filled with comfort

I am filled with comfort (joyfulness), he says; not only for the divine and spiritual helps he had received from God, but with the news Titus brought (2 Co 7:6, 7, 9, 13; 2 Co 1:4) of the state of this church, of the good effect the apostle's criticism and advice had brought upon them, and the offender among them, and of their tender and affectionate respect for him: this brought him great comfort.

I am exceedingly joyful in all our tribulation

“I am exceeding joyful”—Greek, I over-abound with joy—“and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given Titus. He told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever . . . yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us . . . I am glad I can have complete confidence in you” (2Co 7:7, 9, 16). In all our tribulation; yea, (saith he), the report I have received of your demeanor and behavior, upon your receipt of my former Epistle, has filled me with a joy that balances all the affliction and tribulation that I meet with for the gospel. So good news to a faithful minister is the repentance and reformation of any member or members that belong to his flock; whereas the hireling, or false teacher, is not concerned much, whether the souls of his people do well or not.

“I am exceeding joyful,” I abound, I over-abound in joy, I super-abound, I overflow with joy; such is the joy that possesses my soul, at the tidings Titus brought me, that it super-abounds all the sorrow and anguish of spirit, out of which I wrote to you, which was caused by the unhappy affair among you. It makes me inexpressibly joyful in all our tribulation, which we meet with wherever we go, in preaching the Gospel of Christ.

For “our tribulation” see the following:

• 2Cor. 7:5: “For when we came into Macedonia, this body of ours had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn--conflicts on the outside, fears within.

• 2 Cor. 6:4, 5: “Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger”

• 2 Cor. 1:8: “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life.”

“I am exceeding joyful”—I am overjoyed. Paul's heart was full of joy; and he pours out his feelings in the most impassioned and glowing language. I have joy which cannot be expressed.