March 23, 2016


“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” (II Corinthians 7:1).

God expects born again believers to be making an effort to improve themselves. It is true that we will never be perfect in this life, but there is always room for improvement.  In theological terms, this is called sanctification.

The word “holiness,” found in our text, means something sacred. It is something separated or set apart for a special purpose.  The Apostle Paul is still developing the theme found in the last verses of chapter six.  He tells God’s people to separate themselves from that which is unclean.  If we do that, at the same time, we are perfecting holiness.

Sanctification is accomplished by obedience to God’s word. In the Bible we find sanctification in three stages.  At the moment of salvation the believer is sanctified.  We find that stage in I Corinthians 6:11.  “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”  It is an act of God whereby we are set apart to be a child of God.

Then there is progressive sanctification. The word isn’t used in II Corinthians 3:18, but  there we see the process.  “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”  It could be translated “are being changed.” That thought is also in mind in our text that speaks of perfecting holiness.

Then our sanctification will be complete after we leave this life and are clothed with our new body. I Thessalonians 5:23 speaks of that blessed hope. “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” There are some in the charismatic movement that teach that we can be completely sanctified in this life.  To do so, they have to overlook some things in their life or call them something other than sin.  Romans 3:10 contradicts what they teach.  “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one.” We have the righteousness of Christ, but in and of ourselves, we are not perfect.

I Peter 3:15 tells us that we should “sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.”  That means to give God a special place in our hearts.  It is to give him the respect that he deserves.  In II Corinthians 6:18 God offers to be a father unto us.

The Apostle Paul tells us that we need to clean up our life. By doing that we perfect holiness in our life.  God wants, and deserves to have, a people who will bring honor and glory to his name.  Paul exhorts us to cleanse ourselves “from all filthiness of the flesh and of the spirit.” Some of the works of the flesh are listed for us in Galatians 5:19-21.  “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,   Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,   Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”

The filthiness of the spirit is that mentioned in II Corinthians 6:16. It has to do with identification with and participation in false religions.  “And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” In verse 17 he tells us that we should come out of them.  Don’t leave people in doubt about where you stand.

I Peter 5:15-16 tells us that we should be holy. “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;    Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.”  One of the best ways to perfect holiness is to pray often or daily, and with sincerity, the prayer of David in Psalm 139:23-24 “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:    And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

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