Come Out From Them And Be Separate
(2nd Corinthians chapter 6)
Last week when we left off at the end of chapter 5, we found that to be a believer in Christ means we become completely new persons, that this is a result of God’s ministry of reconciliation, and that we in turn can enable others to be similarly reconciled to God through Christ by being ambassadors for Jesus to the rest of the world. This week we’ll be going through chapter 6 in its entirety, where the apostle Paul exhorts all believers to rise up and be separate from the non-believing world as a necessary next step on the road to eternal life, beginning at verse 1.
“As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says, ‘In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you’. I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation. We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distress; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as imposters; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.” (2 Corinth. 6, verses 1-10, NIV)
The quote Paul uses from the Old Testament in verse two is from the book of Isaiah, chapter 49, verse 8. The context it is taken from has to do with the Israelites being led out of Egypt and freed from slavery (‘the time of my favor’) compared to the supreme sacrifice of Christ on the Cross (‘the day of salvation’). In the first case the Jews were freed, and in the second instance this liberty is extended to all of humanity as Jesus sets us free from the bondage of sin by His death and resurrection. These prophecies are prophesies no more – they have already been fulfilled. And so Paul writes that, “now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation”. The future, he is writing to all believers from that time until now, has already arrived. Paul then points out that they, the early church leaders, commend themselves not by words of boasting or knowledge or self-importance, but by their actions. Talk is cheap. Actions speak volumes, even if we say nothing in the process.
In describing the different trials the apostles and all the thousands of unnamed others who worshiped in Spirit and in truth went through, Paul writes quite frankly about all the junk he and the church leadership had to put up with in order to spread the Gospel. Paul describes being without food or shelter, enduring all kinds of hardships including being beaten and imprisoned while continuing to minister “in purity, understanding, patience and kindness”. In the same way we should emulate the apostle Paul in our daily contact with all kinds of people, adhering to truth and carrying “the weapons of righteousness” as we continue our willingness to go to any length to serve the Lord, “having nothing and yet possessing everything”. Even when we possess absolutely nothing and are desperately poor, we are rich if only we have Jesus Christ dwelling within us. Although some may say, “Yeah, but I can’t eat that”, they fail to realize that the indwelling of the Spirit empowers the individual in ways they can’t even imagine. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is Spiritual food, but its presence can and does lead to physical nourishment. To find out more about that, you will have to put it to the test. How you decide to do that is up to you. Now let’s continue this week’s study starting at verse 11.
“We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. As a fair exchange – I speak as to my children – open wide your hearts also. Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the Temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the Living God. As God has said: ‘I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people’. ‘Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing and I will receive you. I will be a father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty’.” (2 Corinth. 6, verses 11-18, NIV)
As freely as Paul shared the Gospel with the Corinthian church, he writes encouraging them to do the same without reservation. How can we be good witnesses and living examples of what it means to follow Christ if we are unwilling to share it with others? And as living examples of Christ living within us, we can work for the betterment of God’s Kingdom when we have like-minded partners working along side us. If you place your faith and trust in the Lord, don’t marry someone who doesn’t. If at all possible, don’t even have them as a landlord if you’re renting. On the other hand, if you do not yet believe, consider picking a partner who does for your own spiritual enrichment. Otherwise things are as Paul wrote, “What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?” Come out from their midst, Paul writes us. If we do so completely and without reservation, “I will be a father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty”. In the Kingdom of God, even an orphan can have a Father who lives in heaven who counts him or her among His sons and daughters. I should know. I started out in life that way. Plus, since the Family of God is the largest family ever, we can all have as many moms and dads, and as many sisters and brothers, as we want. The sky’s the limit in heaven, and that’s the best part of all.