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Second Corinthians

Separation

2 Corinthians 6:1 - 7:4

A Preliminary - On Logic.

 

It is a characteristic of modern debate that we proceed in the deductive manner. You may remember your high school geometry: start with the general rules, and proceed to the individual consequences. Our current debate on health care goes something like this:

 

"Everybody should be able to have basic health care"

 

"Not everybody does."

 

"Therefore, we need my new national health care system." (QED)

 

 

There is another method. In mathematics it is called induction; it starts with the instance and proceeds to the general. Paul will use this method in his statements today. He will start with his own personal example; go from there to the principle - and thence to the application.

 

The Example - Paul's conduct.

 

{6:1} As God's fellow workers we urge you not to receive God's grace in vain. {2} 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. {3} We put no stumbling block in anyone's path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. {4} Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; {5} in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; {6} in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; {7} in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; {8} through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; {9} known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; {10} sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything. ‑‑ 2 Corinthians 6:110 (NIV)

 

In this passage, Paul contrasts what might be called the "world view" with the "kingdom view." In the world view, Paul would put a stumbling block in front of people - so that he himself would not be inconvenienced. It's the "last man on the blimp" principle - I'm aboard, why shouldn't I pull up the ladder and avoid the extra weight?

 

Paul takes the opposite road. He would rather suffer than see his followers fall. His suffering is very broad:

 

Emotional suffering- endurance, troubles, hardship and distress. The word for distress here is interesting: stenochoria, it means "to be in a tight place." It was said of a ship, or of an army caught in a canyon. Have you ever felt like you had no options but the bad ones?

 

Societal suffering- beating, imprisonment, riots. Paul has seen them all - by now he is an experienced campaigner. He's a living example of Tertullian's epigram: "The blood of martyrs is the seed of the church."

 

Physical suffering- hard work, sleepless nights and hunger. The word for hard work is the Greek kepos, which means "to toil to exhaustion." Sleepless nights may have been in prayer ["momma used to burn the midnight oil down on her knees in prayer."]

 

Spiritual suffering - Paul put himself through the disciplines of purity, of understanding, patience and kindness. Purity - the Greeks defined it as "prudence at its highest tension." Understanding here means knowing what to do in a practical sense - studying what must be done and doing it. Patience in the Greek original applies to patience with people. Kindness, of course, does also.

 

This suffering yields positive action on Paul's part. Before action comes the preparation:

 

- preparation in the Holy Spirit, the Christian's comforter.

- sincere love (checked your motives lately?) How do I know I taught a "great lesson?" When you say "I'm going to go out and do that!"

- truthful speech (no preacher's stories)

- the power of God (just whose kingdom is this anyway?)

- the weapons of righteousness - both defensive and offensive (see Ephesians)

 

And so it goes. The result is a series of contrasts - the world's view (Paul the imposter) versus God's view (Paul the genuine article). The word for imposter is interesting: it means a quack. Perhaps the most interesting contrast is poor versus making many rich. The picture from the world is that of the beggar. The view from the kingdom is that of a man who is so wealthy that he makes other people millionaires - by gift.

 

Just what makes a man rich anyway?

 

 

Conclusion: Paul looks very different from the kingdom view. Does this surprise you? It shouldn't:

 

{24} "A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. {25} It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub, how much more the members of his household! {26} "So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. ‑‑ Matthew 10:2426 (NIV)

 

So Paul now comes to the principle of which is such a superb example. But before he does, he pleads with the Corinthians to listen to him with an "open heart."

 

{11} We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. {12} We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. {13} As a fair exchange‑‑I speak as to my children‑‑open wide your hearts also. ‑‑ 2 Corinthians 6:1113 (NIV)

 

Perhaps he has something important to say. Indeed, it is the principle of the lesson.

 

 

 

The Principle: Separation

 

{14} Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? {15} What harmony is there between Christ and Belial ? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? {16} 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." {17} "Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you." {18} "I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty." ‑‑ 2 Corinthians 6:1418 (NIV)

 

The expression "yoked" comes from an Old Testament example, well known to any Jew:

 

{10} Do not plow with an ox and a donkey yoked together.

‑‑ Deuteronomy 22:10 (NIV)

 

This is one of the many regulations that Jehovah gave the ancient Israelites that seem to have no particular purpose other than to teach them that they are separate from the rest of the people around them. I've heard it argued that "old farmers knew that this wouldn't work; it's just practical advice, that's all." If they all knew it, why did God give them such a regulation? Is it really a temptation? No, it will work just fine - unless you have been called out to be separate.

 

Paul starts with an obvious example: what fellowship do righteousness and wickedness have together. He then uses a common - but high - example: light and darkness.

 

{8} For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light {9} (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) {10} and find out what pleases the Lord. {11} Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. ‑‑ Ephesians 5:811 (NIV)

 

Note that this is not so much a command as a statement. If you are children of the light, you will be separate, and you will expose the deeds of darkness merely by being around. Ever notice how the cockroaches scurry from the light?

 

Next comes Christ and Belial (an obscure reference to Satan). We sometimes think we must have something in common. After all, haven't we all been in a place where we have to compromise? I like Tertullian's example here. Someone once came to him, explaining how he could not follow Christ in some particular matter, ending his argument with, "after all, I have to live." "Must you?"

 

This usually comes to head in the form of another person: believer and unbeliever. We wind up giving up something to remain loyal to Christ, and the something is often the aid and friendship - or profit by - another person. But, as my father taught me, "If a man's principles don't cost him anything, they aren't worth much."

 

Finally, Paul takes the issue to the symbol most Jews would closely identify with holiness: the temple. Perhaps he is thinking back to Manasseh:

 

{21:1} Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fiftyfive years. His mother's name was Hephzibah. {2} He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, following the detestable practices of the nations the LORD had driven out before the Israelites. {3} He rebuilt the high places his father Hezekiah had destroyed; he also erected altars to Baal and made an Asherah pole, as Ahab king of Israel had done. He bowed down to all the starry hosts and worshiped them. {4} He built altars in the temple of the LORD, of which the LORD had said, "In Jerusalem I will put my Name." {5} In both courts of the temple of the LORD, he built altars to all the starry hosts. {6} He sacrificed his own son in the fire, practiced sorcery and divination, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the LORD, provoking him to anger. {7} He took the carved Asherah pole he had made and put it in the temple, of which the LORD had said to David and to his son Solomon, "In this temple and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put my Name forever. {8} I will not again make the feet of the Israelites wander from the land I gave their forefathers, if only they will be careful to do everything I commanded them and will keep the whole Law that my servant Moses gave them." {9} But the people did not listen. Manasseh led them astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the LORD had destroyed before the Israelites. ‑‑ 2 Kings 21:19 (NIV)

 

Here we see the greatest sin against separation: bringing the idol into the church. No doubt Manasseh thought he was being so wise. You can almost hear the reasoning: "We'll unite the religions of the people, one common believe, mutual tolerance, no more religious strife..." Do you see what that does? It makes God the servant of (in this instance) "unity, tolerance..." The church becomes merely a tool for another cause. C.S. Lewis parodied this (in Screwtape) as "Christianity and Spelling Reform."

 

 

The root of separation must be seen here. Paul is referencing the Old Testament again:

 

{12} I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people. ‑‑ Leviticus 26:12 (NIV)

 

There are three principles of separation shown in our passage:

 

- come out from them. Spiritually remove yourself from the danger of the contamination of unbelievers. (Playboy has done more damage in philosophy spreading than in centerfold spreads.)

 

- touch nothing unclean. Sometimes we don't think about where we are going or what we are touching (example: the company will never miss that!) This is taken from Isaiah:

{11} Depart, depart, go out from there! Touch no unclean thing! Come out from it and be pure, you who carry the vessels of the LORD. ‑‑ Isaiah 52:11 (NIV)

 

- know whose child you are - accept the fatherhood of God. Act like one of the family.

 

 

The Application

 

{7:1} Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God. {2} Make room for us in your hearts. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have exploited no one. {3} I do not say this to condemn you; I have said before that you have such a place in our hearts that we would live or die with you. {4} I have great confidence in you; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds. ‑‑ 2 Corinthians 7:14 (NIV)

 

It is not sufficient to separate yourself. Remember the principal of the "spiritual vacuum."

 

{24} "When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, 'I will return to the house I left.' {25} When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. {26} Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first." ‑‑ Luke 11:2426 (NIV)

 

Paul here begins with the purification of the body. Why? Because we are amphibians. We inhabit both the physical and spiritual worlds. What we do in one affects the other. So if the body is not pure (which generally references such little things as adultery) then the spiritual life will not be pure.

 

Next comes purification in the spirit. Paul explains this in an interesting phrase: "perfecting holiness..." It's as if God has given us the Corvette - but we are expected to polish it, showing how much we value it. If I give my kid a Corvette, he'd better polish it - out of fear of the old man, if nothing else. So should I perfect my holiness in reverence of the Lord.

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