Out of this World!
2Co 5:21 For God caused Christ, who himself knew nothing of sin, actually to be sin for our sakes, so that in Christ we might be made good with the goodness of God.
In the previous chapter we left off with this verse. And this verse is one of the most powerful arguments to use in sharing the gospel with an unsaved person, a person blinded by the god of this world. More people have been won to Christ by the truth contained in this verse than by any one other gospel verse, even John 3:16.
As this verse states, Christ took all my sins upon Himself, died as if He were guilty, and did not argue His own innocence in front of Pilate. And in addition, He applied all of His holiness to me. That makes me a Saint … a holy one.
This work of Christ for me is incredibly humbling. It removes any chance for pride. Because what he has done for me is so humbling and wonderful, it is also motivating. It causes a response in me that answers his call for workers. “Who will go for me?” (Isaiah 6:8), He asks. “Here I am, send me” is my almost involuntary response.
This is what Paul meant when he said, “The grace of God, which can save every man, has now been shown for all men, and it teaches us to have no more to do with godlessness or the desires of this world but to live, here and now, responsible, honourable and God-fearing lives.” Tit us 2:11 ,12
Paul is not saying that grace is actually some kind of a teacher … he is saying that the wonderful work of Jesus, takng my sin into Himself, giving me His righteousness, when I let it sink in, automatically causes a response in me. Overwhelmed by His work on the cross for us we say … “You gave your life for me … I will live for You!”
It is with these thoughts in mind that Paul opens this chapter.
2Co 6:1 ¶ As co-operators with God himself we beg you, then, not to fail to use the grace of God which you have received.
If I allow myself to forget what Christ did for me … I will not be sharing the gospel with anyone. That is what it means to stop 'using' the grace of God.
Every time we observe communion together we read the words of Jesus … 1Co 11:25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.
Communion is remembering His death. It is remembering, with soberness, who caused His death. (I did . It was my sin that put Him there) It is appreciating … all over again … that he freed me of the death penalty and gave me His eternal life. It is a reminder of the grace of God that Paul refers to in verse 1. So, with His saving grace for you, fresh on your minds … let it motivate you to talk about it. “Let the redeemed of the LORD say so.” Ps 107:2
2Co 6:2 For God’s word is — “At an acceptable time I hearkened unto thee, And in a day of salvation did I succour thee”. Now is the "acceptable time," and this very day is the "day of salvation".
Paul is always keeping several things in mind as he writes to the people who make up the church in Corinth; he is writing to some church members who need to be reminded of the great favor that God has shown them in salvation, he is writing to some who have seriously discounted him and do not take Paul's words as the words of an apostle, he is writing to some who are church members in name only, but may actually be unsaved. It would be difficult for him to write and keep all of this in mind, all the time, but it is also important that we try to stay aware that he is speaking to a variety of sub-groups.
In verse two he is especially addressing the last group.
Paul is using scripture … and the only scripture that he had to use back then was the old Testament. He is quoting Isaiah 49:8. So let's look at it and try to get a clear understanding of it.
This is actually God talking to the Messiah. God talking to Jesus while He was on earth. But wait a minute … this is Isaiah's writing many years before Jesus became a man. So how does that work? We must remember that Isaiah is a prophet and he recorded and wrote things that were yet future. As he wrote, it sounded at times as though it was happening right then. But in actual fact Isaiah records God talking to the Messiah, an event which would take place years later.
Here is what God said to Jesus:
1. At an acceptable time I hearkened unto thee. “At just the right time I heard your prayer”. And what was that prayer? Here is what we find in the Psalms: Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. Ps 2:8
Jesus is being told by God the Father, that He could ask for the nations to come to salvation. The nations .. the gentiles, this means you and me. So obviously Jesus must have done that when He was here. Jesus prayed this prayer at 'the acceptable time'. What does that mean? It means that there would come a day when salvation would be a reality. In Isaiah's time it was not. They could be 'saved', yes … but in a prophetic sense. There sins could be acknowledged, confessed and a sacrifice made … but the sins would not actually be washed away until … just the right time. The sacrifice of Jesus has been mentioned and pictured from Genesis onward throughout the Old Testament. Jesus' sacrifice was alluded to in the Garden of Eden as God talked to the guilty pair. But Peter mentions these words about Jesus that were true even before creation, “... (You were redeemed) with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. 20 He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you. 1Pe 1:19 ,20
The sacrifice was fore-ordained … but the fulfillment of it was the 'acceptable time of salvation'.
2. “in the day of Salvation I have 'succored' thee.” God, for that limited time when His Son was on earth … sustained Him.
And so the Apostle Paul is emphasizing … Now is the "acceptable time," and this very day is the "day of salvation". This seems like old news to us, but to them it was quite fresh. Paul was asserting, “No more do we have to sacrifice and wait for salvation to actually be accomplished … it's here, right now”.
2Co 6:3 As far as we are concerned we do not wish to stand in anyone’s way, nor do we wish to bring discredit on the ministry God has given us.
Paul, after encouraging them to avail themselves of true salvation, encouraging them to allow God's grace to motivate them to 'talk about it', he refers to himself.
So now he is addressing the group who rejects the fact that Paul is an apostle. To them, every time he opens his mouth he is a 'discredit' to the gospel. To them he is a liar. He makes the claim that he is a genuine minister and apostle … but they think they know better. He is not an apostle. There were only 12. Judas has already been replaced by Mathias … so Paul is not an apostle.
If they are right … Paul says, he would be guilty as charged. But he wants to prove once and for all that he is indeed a real apostle, thereby removing their objections and hostility.
So here comes his proof.
2Co 6:4 Indeed we want to prove ourselves genuine ministers of God whatever we have to go through — patient endurance of troubles, hardship, desperate situations, 5 being flogged or imprisoned; being mobbed, overworked, sleepless and starving, 6 with sincerity, with insight and patience; by sheer kindness and the Holy Spirit; with genuine love, 7 speaking the plain truth, and living by the power of God. Our sole defence, our only weapon, is a life of integrity,
So who would put themselves through all of that if they were not sincere? The critics are put on the spot. Will they continue to say that Paul is in it for the money, in it for the fame and glory?
2Co 6:8 whether we meet honour or dishonour, praise or blame. Called "impostors" we must be true,
2Co 6:9 called "nobodies" we must be in the public eye. Never far from death, yet here we are alive, always "going through it" yet never "going under".
2Co 6:10 We know sorrow, yet our joy is inextinguishable. We have "nothing to bless ourselves with" yet we bless many others with true riches. We are penniless, and yet we possess everything.
What a testimony! What a wonderful attitude. How can we not love such a person? What an example. I think this is what a reminder and a what a re-look at the grace of God in my life produces in me and in you.
Paul says that he has tremendous joy. Happiness and joy are not necessarily the same. When we are involved in something 'fun', we are happy. But joy is more than that. It has to do with being convinced of what wonderful thing lies ahead of us. Jesus experienced that. Heb 12:2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Paul has some wonderful things to look forward to. He is convinced of it and it fills his heart with joy, even in the midst of present misery.
Paul gives a final word about the condition of his 'heart'.
2Co 6:11 ¶ Dear friends in Corinth, we are hiding nothing from you and our hearts are absolutely open to you. 12 Any restraint between us must be on your side, for we assure you there is none on ours. 13 Do reward me (I talk to you as though you were my own children) with the same complete candour!(openness, honesty)
“If you feel like there is some 'distance' between us (as far as fellowship is concerned) … it is not coming from me” he says. Now he moves on to some new teaching:
2Co 6:14 Don’t link up with unbelievers and try to work with them. What common interest can there be between goodness and evil? How can light and darkness share life together? 15 How can there be harmony between Christ and the devil? What can a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 16 What common ground can idols hold with the temple of God? For we, remember, are ourselves temples of the living God, as God has said: I will dwell in them and walk in them: And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17 Therefore Come ye out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord, And touch no unclean thing; And I will receive you, 18 And will be to you a Father, And ye shall be to me sons and daughters, Saith the Lord Almighty.
“Don't link up with unbelievers” Paul says. Before we explore that let's first look at Paul's list of contrasts.
Goodness and evil, light and darkness, Christ and the Devil, believer and unbeliever, idols and the temple of God.
It is important to recognize that Paul is stating the same thing five different ways. He is not listing five separate categories.
Evil, darkness, the Devil, unbelievers, and idols is a summary of the fallen world into which we were born and grew up in.
As Christians we are called into God's world which is summarized by the other side of the list: Goodness, light, Christ, believers, temple of God.
Paul quotes God as saying, “Come out from among them and be separate”.
Have we done that? Or should I ask it this way, are we doing that? If we are not doing that, why not?
The answer is that there could be a number of different reasons: Fear of standing out and being different, a false belief that if we are more like them we stand a bigger chance of winning them to Jesus, or a personal enjoyment of the 'goods and services' that the world offers .. etc.
We need to re-look at our perspective regarding this world by comparing it to how God depicts it.
Jesus prayed in John 17: “I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” Joh 17:14 -16
This is perspective:
We are not 'of' the world. We don't belong here. The 'world' is represented as a single category.
John writes this: “For all that is in the world — the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life — is not from the Father but is from the world”. 1Jo 2:16
John sums up EVERYTHING that is in the world under three categories.
Desires of the flesh - Desires of the eyes - Pride of life.
In the garden of Eden Satan used (had to use?) all three of these to get through to Eve.
Ge 3:6 ¶ So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.
Desires of the flesh: “good for food” - Desires of the eyes: “delight to the eyes” - Pride of life: “desired to make one wise”.
As you can imagine, the desires of the flesh include much more than physical enjoyment of food. The flesh has other appetites as well.
The second one, there are many things in this world that catch our eyes other than beautiful fruit in a bowl.
The last one is incredibly huge (not to minimize the other two!). This has to do with our 'image'. How do people see me? I am reminded of this verse: Ac 17:21 Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new. Am I seen as knowledgeable, important, wise, creative, witty, are all things that come under 'the pride of life'. And John boldly and plainly states: “is not from the Father but is from the world”
We are all infected with this, are we not? All the more reason to clarify our perspective.
Jesus said, as He prayed for us, that He was not requesting that the Father remove us from the world, but that we would be shielded from the evil one.
The command is for us to “come out from among them and be separate”.
Some have taken this quite literally. For example the Hutterites, Amish, some Mennonites etc. They physically develop a community. In some cases they preach that they must in no way be connected to the world. This means no overhead power lines, no drivers license, no insurance policies, no voting or joining the army or holding public office.
Is this what God is requiring? The disciples 'had all things in common' in the Jerusalem early church. But nowhere in the following chapters of the book of Acts is this practice followed.
If you follow the life of the apostle Paul in Acts, you will see how connected or how dis-connected with the world he was. He worked for a living and sold tents to the general public. At one point he asserted his Roman citizenship,1 (although I believe that was a mistake).
Here are some things you will NOT hear from Paul; any teachings regarding how to run for or hold public office, any teaching regarding how to improve education, any recommendations for low-cost housing, any comments on improving the communities in which we live. All of that is missing. Why? Because it would have robbed valuable time that he needed for his winning people to Jesus? That could have been part of it, but I believe in reality he saw himself living in a different world, divorced himself from the present one, and lived to build lives for the 'Christian world'.
So Paul says, Do not link up with them.
If we compare our Christian testimony to 'light' we could say that linking up with the world compromises our testimony – it mixes some dark with our light. The darker our light, the more difficult to draw people into it. Or should we say it this way, if we draw them into twi-light … are they really saved, are they really born again?
God is calling out of the darkness and asks us to refrain from 'touching that which is unclean'. That is how God sees the things of this world.
Paul gets even more specific about this 'separation from the world thing' in his letter to the Colossian church. “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ”. Colossians 2:8 (NASB)
Paul is inferring that this world has basic, elemental principles. Things that work. Things that are tried and true. This would include everything that the world offers and teaches in order for a person to be successful. Like Time Management seminars, How to dress for success, Core Management Principles etc.
Here is a sample list I gleaned off of the Web. The author calls these seven key principles that can serve as a foundation for successful living:
1. The Principle of Gratitude, 2. The Principle of Humility, 3. The Principle of Optimism, 4. The Principle of Generosity, 5.The Principle of Forgiveness, 6.The Principle of Intention, 7. The Principle of Expectation.
The list comes in the form of an article with comments describing each of the principles. If you were to look at it with a critical eye you might be inclined to say, 'This is good. I will have to remember these'. What are these principles? They are basics to success in life. They are basics that are taught by 'the world'.
But is there anything wrong with them? Yes. Basic principles such as these are a convenient way of living life to the fullest without any reliance on God. It is not good enough to argue, Yes, but these principles all find root in the scriptures. But therein lies the problem. A life principle, adopted in order to positively affect our lives, with an obvious absence of the mention of God, is sin. All righteousness, or good deeds, performed from the human heart, without the glory of God at the center, becomes in God's sight … filthy rags. The Christians life should be characterized by reliance on God.
… and I will receive you, 18 And will be to you a Father, And ye shall be to me sons and daughters, Saith the Lord Almighty.
Here is the heart of God in one short statement. Let's move closer and closer to Him. Let's walk in the light.
1Although there are view points that differ, I believe Paul was 'forced into it' by the situation that arose when he visited Jerusalem. God told Paul NOT to go there (Acts 21.4). Paul did not take it as a command and went there anyway. The problems that ensued could have been avoided had he obeyed.