Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (2 Corinthians 7:1)
2 Corinthians 6 ended with God’s promise of a close, meaningful relationship with those among His people who separate from the corrupt thinking and working of this world, Considering those promises, in 2 Corinthians 7:1, God gives His people two things to do.
First, there is something to take away, as we cleanse ourselves from all filthiness. There is a main aspect of cleansing that comes to God’s people as they trust in Jesus and His work for them. This work of cleansing is really God’s work in us and not our work. But there is another aspect of cleansing that God looks for us to do with the participation of our own will and effort; not that it is our work apart from God, but it is a work that awaits our will and effort: let us cleanse ourselves. This aspect of cleansing is mostly connected with a closer relationship with God and usefulness for service.
Sometimes it is easier to deal with the filthiness of the flesh than of the spirit. During Jesus’ earthly ministry, those who were stained by the filthiness of the flesh (such as harlots and tax collectors) found it easy to come to Jesus. But those stained by the filthiness of the spirit (such as the scribes and Pharisees) found it very hard to come to Jesus. Pride, legalism, self-focus, self-righteousness, bitterness, and hatred can all be far worse to deal with than the more obvious sins of the flesh.
Then, there is something to add, as disciples are perfecting holiness in the fear of God. It isn’t enough to only cleanse ourselves from all filthiness. The Christian life is not only getting rid of evil, but also continually doing good and growing complete in holiness. Paul wasn’t writing about a state of sinless perfection. Perfecting has the idea of “complete” and “whole.” Instead of a state of sinless perfection, Paul wrote about a complete, “whole,” holiness.
There are a couple more things to notice in the phrase, cleanse ourselves. Note that Paul included himself among the Corinthian Christians in the category of those who need to be cleansed. If Paul includes himself among those who needed to be cleansed, then what about us?
Also, note that we must take care that we cleanse ourselves and not concern ourselves with cleansingothers. Most of the time we are more concerned with the holiness of others than our own holiness! It’s easy to point at the sins, failings, and weaknesses of other people, but first we should give attention to our own. This is a principle from the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:3-5).
If you are a disciple of Jesus Christ, there are things God wants you to take away, and things He wants you to add. In the power of God’s Spirit, give attention to these today.