Holy Living; Fellowship with a Holy God
Bible Study: 2 Corinthians 6:3-4a, 6-17; 7:1
James 4:8 says, "Cleanse your hands ... and purify your hearts." James is appealing for outward behavior and inward character that honor God. These are necessary for every minister and layman alike.
The father of a youth basketball player I was coaching asked, "How many ministers do you have at your church?" I responded: "Nine hundred and sixty-one. We have that many resident members, and every member is a minister." The concept surprised him!
What is taught in this passage of scripture applies to every member of the church, whether you are a vocational or lay minister.
• A good example (2 Corinthians 6:3-4a, 6-10)
Paul implores each of us to be a credit to the gospel, causing no one to stumble (6:3). In what Chrysostom calls a "blizzard of troubles" (6:4-5), Paul catalogues his personal experiences through which he demonstrated faithfulness and courage. This catalogue of adversity is expanded in 2 Corinthians 11:23ff. As William Barclay puts it, these included internal conflicts--afflictions, hardships, distresses (6:4); external tribulations--beatings, imprisonments, tumults (6:5); and intense efforts necessary to serve Christ--labors, sleeplessness, hunger (6:5). Paul was a good example through these difficult experiences.
On the positive side, Paul now cites qualities of mind--purity, knowledge, patience (6:6); qualities of heart--kindness, a spirit of holiness, genuine love (6:6); and God-given equipment--word of truth, power of God, weapons of righteousness (6:7) which enabled him not only to endure, but triumph as a good, Christian example. Seven additional contrasts (6:8c-10) reveal the criticism leveled against Paul by his critics and demonstrate Paul had his priorities in order.
• Personal transparency (2 Corinthians 6:11-13)
Paul opened his heart to the Corinth-ians about his personal struggles because he loved them. He tenderly calls them by name, "O Corinthians" (6:11). Whereas Paul might have been reticent to express such personal, intimate things to others, to the Corinthians his "heart is opened wide" (6:11). With personal warmth, Paul is reaching out to the Corinthians who have had difficulty in their faith and is hoping to break down barriers. He is hoping they will warm up enough to reciprocate. Likewise, an act of kindness or gesture of magnanimity on your part may tip the balance for someone in your sphere of influence!
• Warning against compromise (2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1)
It would be a vain reception of the grace of God (6:1) if the Corinthians chose to realign themselves with lawlessness, darkness, Satan, unbelief or anything in opposition to God (6:14-16). This is expressed in five rhetorical questions. Do not associate with what is unclean (6:17). What is unclean? Everything of "flesh and spirit" (7:1) which is contrary to the righteousness of Christ, his word and our being the "temple of the living God" (6:16). Everything that defiles or interferes with the goal of "perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord" (7:1). The promise of holy living results in fellowship with God (6:17-18).
Of course, the kind of separation of which Paul implores does not exclude implementation of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20).
Mark Bumpus is pastor of First Baptist Church in San Angelo, Texas.