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2 Corinthians 7:1

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Having therefore these promises - The promises mentioned in the three last verses of the preceding chapter, to which this verse should certainly be joined.

Let us cleanse ourselves - Let us apply to him for the requisite grace of purification; and avoid every thing in spirit and practice which is opposite to the doctrine of God, and which has a tendency to pollute the soul.

Filthiness of the flesh - The apostle undoubtedly means, drunkenness, fornication, adultery, and all such sins as are done immediately against the body; and by filthiness of the spirit, all impure desires, unholy thoughts, and polluting imaginations. If we avoid and abhor evil inclinations, and turn away our eyes from beholding vanity, incentives to evil being thus lessened, (for the eye affects the heart), there will be the less danger of our falling into outward sin. And if we avoid all outward occasions of sinning, evil propensities will certainly be lessened. All this is our work under the common aids of the grace of God. We may turn away our eyes and ears from evil, or we may indulge both in what will infallibly beget evil desires and tempers in the soul; and under the same influence we may avoid every act of iniquity; for even Satan himself cannot, by any power he has, constrain us to commit uncleanness, robbery, drunkenness, murder, etc. These are things in which both body and soul must consent. But still withholding the eye, the ear, the hand, and the body in general, from sights, reports, and acts of evil, will not purify a fallen spirit; it is the grace and Spirit of Christ alone, powerfully applied for this very purpose, that can purify the conscience and the heart from all dead works. But if we do not withhold the food by which the man of sin is nourished and supported, we cannot expect God to purify our hearts. While we are striving against sin, we may expect the Spirit of God to purify us by his inspiration from all unrighteousness, that we may perfectly love and magnify our Maker. How can those expect God to purify their hearts who are continually indulging their eyes, ears, and hands in what is forbidden, and in what tends to increase and bring into action all the evil propensities of the soul?

Perfecting holiness - Getting the whole mind of Christ brought into the soul. This is the grand object of a genuine Christian's pursuit. The means of accomplishing this are,

  1. Resisting and avoiding sin, in all its inviting and seducing forms.

2. Setting the fear of God before our eyes, that we may dread his displeasure, and abhor whatever might excite it, and whatever might provoke him to withhold his manna from our mouth. We see, therefore, that there is a strong and orthodox sense in which we may cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and of the spirit, and thus perfect holiness in the fear of God.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Having therefore these promises - The promises referred to in 2 Corinthians 6:17-18; the promise that God would be a Father, a protector, and a friend The idea is, that as we have a promise that God would dwell in us, that he would be our God, that he would be to us a Father, we should remove from us whatever is offensive in his sight, and become perfectly holy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
The promises of God are strong reasons for us to follow after holiness; we must cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit. If we hope in God as our Father, we must seek to be holy as he is holy, and perfect as our Father in heaven. His grace, by the influences of his Spirit, alone can purify, but holiness should be the object of our constant prayers. If the ministers of the gospel are thought contemptible, there is danger lest the gospel itself be despised also; and though ministers must flatter none, yet they must be gentle towards all. Ministers may look for esteem and favour, when they can safely appeal to the people, that they have corrupted no man by false doctrines or flattering speeches; that they have defrauded no man; nor sought to promote their own interests so as to hurt any. It was affection to them made the apostle speak so freely to them, and caused him to glory of them, in all places, and upon all occasions.
Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 7, 251

That the efforts of God's workers may be successful, they must receive the grace and efficiency that He alone can give. “Ask, and ye shall receive” (John 16:24), is the promise. Then why not take time to ask, to open the mind to the impressions of the Holy Spirit, that the soul may be revived by a fresh supply of life? Christ Himself was much in prayer. Whenever He had opportunity, He went apart to be alone with God. As we bow before God in humble prayer, He places a live coal from His altar upon our lips, sanctifying them to the work of giving Bible truth to the people. 7T 251.1

I am instructed to say to my fellow workers: If you would have the rich treasures of heaven, you must have secret communion with God. Unless you do this, your soul will be as destitute of the Holy Spirit as were the hills of Gilboa of dew and rain. When you hurry from one thing to another, when you have so much to do that you cannot take time to talk with God, how can you expect power in your work? 7T 251.2

The reason so many of our ministers preach tame, lifeless discourses is that they allow a variety of things of a worldly nature to take their time and attention. Unless there is constant growth in grace, we shall be wanting in words suitable for the occasion. Commune with your own heart, and then commune with God. Unless you do this, your efforts will be fruitless, made thus by unsanctified hurry and confusion. 7T 251.3

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, 592

Come out from among them, and be separate, saith the Lord, and I will receive you, and ye shall be sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty. What a promise is this! It is a pledge to you that you shall become members of the royal family, heirs of the heavenly kingdom. If a person is honored by, or becomes connected with, any of the monarchs of earth, how it goes the rounds of the periodicals of the day and excites the envy of those who think themselves less fortunate. But here is One who is King over all, the monarch of the universe, the Originator of every good thing; and He says to us: I will make you My sons and daughters; I will unite you to Myself; you shall become members of the royal family and children of the heavenly King. 2T 592.1

Says Paul: “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” Why should we not do this, when we have such an inducement, the privilege of becoming children of the Most High, the privilege of calling the God of heaven our Father? Is not that enough? And do you call this depriving you of everything that is worth having? Is this giving up everything that is worth possessing? Let me be united to God and holy angels, for this is my highest ambition. You may have all the possessions of this world; but I must have Jesus; I must have a right to the immortal inheritance, the eternal substance. Let me enjoy the beauties of the kingdom of God. Let me delight in the paintings which His own fingers have colored. I may enjoy them. You may enjoy them. We may not worship them, but through them we may be directed to Him and behold His glory who made all these things for our enjoyment. 2T 592.2

Again I say: Be of good courage. Trust in the Lord. Let not the enemy rob you of the promises. If you have separated yourselves from the world, God has said that He will be your Father, and you shall be His sons and daughters. Is not that enough? What greater inducement could be presented before you? Is there any great object in being a butterfly and having no substance or aim in life? Oh! let me stand on the platform of eternal truth. Give me immortal worth. Let me grasp the golden chain that is let down from heaven to earth, and let it draw me up to God and glory. This is my ambition; this is my aim. If others have no higher object than dress, if they can delight in outward display and satisfy their souls with bows and ribbons and fantastic things, let them enjoy these. But let me have the inward adorning. Let me be clothed with that meek and quiet spirit which is in the sight of God of great price. And I recommend it to you, young gentlemen and ladies, for it is more precious in His sight than the gold of Ophir. It is this which makes a man more precious than fine gold, even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir. My sisters, and you young people, it will make you more precious in the sight of Heaven than fine gold, yea, than the golden wedge of Ophir. I recommend to you Jesus, my blessed Saviour. I adore Him; I magnify Him. Oh, that I had an immortal tongue, that I could praise Him as I desire! that I could stand before the assembled universe and speak in praise of His matchless charms! 2T 593.1

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, 453

Elder Fuller has heard the testimony borne in public, that the professed people of God were not all holy, that some were corrupt. God sought to elevate them, but they refused to come up upon a high plane of action. The corrupt animal passions bore sway, and the moral and intellectual powers were overborne and made their servants. Those who do not control their base passions cannot appreciate the atonement or place a right value upon the soul. Salvation is not experienced or understood by them. The gratification of animal passion is the highest ambition of their lives. God will accept nothing but purity and holiness; one spot, one wrinkle, one defect in the character, will forever debar them from heaven, with all its glories and treasures. 2T 453.1

Ample provisions have been made for all who sincerely, earnestly, and thoughtfully set about the work of perfecting holiness in the fear of God. Strength, grace, and glory have been provided through Christ, to be brought by ministering angels to the heirs of salvation. None are so low, so corrupt and vile, that they cannot find in Jesus, who died for them, strength, purity, and righteousness, if they will put away their sins, cease their course of iniquity, and turn with full purpose of heart to the living God. He is waiting to strip them of their garments, stained and polluted by sin, and to put upon them the white, bright robes of righteousness; and He bids them live and not die. In Him they may flourish. Their branches will not wither nor be fruitless. If they abide in Him, they can draw sap and nourishment from Him, be imbued with His Spirit, walk even as He walked, overcome as He overcame, and be exalted to His own right hand. 2T 453.2

Elder Fuller has been warned. The warnings given to others condemned him. The sins reproved in others reproved him and gave him sufficient light to see how God regarded crimes of such a character as he was committing, yet he would not turn from his evil course. He continued to pursue his fearful, impious work, corrupting the bodies and souls of his flock. Satan had strengthened the lustful passions which this man did not subdue, and engaged them in his cause to lead souls to death. 2T 454.1

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, 441

Christ's followers are required to come out from the world, and be separate, and touch not the unclean, and they have the promise of being the sons and daughters of the Most High, members of the royal family. But if the conditions are not complied with on their part, they will not, cannot, realize the fulfillment of the promise. A profession of Christianity is nothing in the sight of God; but true, humble, willing obedience to His requirements designates the children of His adoption, the recipients of His grace, the partakers of His great salvation. Such will be peculiar, a spectacle unto the world, to angels, and to men. Their peculiar, holy character will be discernible, and will distinctly separate them from the world, from its affections and lust. 2T 441.1

I saw that but few among us answer to this description. Their love to God is in word, not in deed and in truth. Their course of action, their works, testify of them that they are not children of the light but of darkness. Their works have not been wrought in God, but in selfishness, in unrighteousness. Their hearts are strangers to His renewing grace. They have not experienced the transforming power which leads them to walk even as Christ walked. Those who are living branches of the heavenly Vine will partake of the sap and nourishment of the Vine. They will not be withered and fruitless branches, but will show life and vigor, and will flourish and bear fruit to the glory of God. They will be careful to depart from all iniquity and to perfect holiness in the fear of God. 2T 441.2

Like ancient Israel the church has dishonored her God by departing from the light, neglecting her duties, and abusing her high and exalted privilege of being peculiar and holy in character. Her members have violated their covenant to live for God and Him only. They have joined with the selfish and world-loving. Pride, the love of pleasure, and sin have been cherished, and Christ has departed. His Spirit has been quenched in the church. Satan works side by side with professed Christians; yet they are so destitute of spiritual discernment that they do not detect him. They have not the burden of the work. The solemn truths they profess to believe are not a reality to them. They have not genuine faith. Men and women will act out all the faith which they in reality possess. By their fruits ye shall know them. Not their profession, but the fruit they bear, shows the character of the tree. Many have a form of godliness, their names are upon the church records; but they have a spotted record in heaven. The recording angel has faithfully written their deeds. Every selfish act, every wrong word, every unfulfilled duty, and every secret sin, with every artful dissembling, is faithfully chronicled in the book of records kept by the recording angel. 2T 441.3

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