"Let us cleanse ourselves" includes two aspects. First, the negative side involves putting off the carnal characteristics of the kind mentioned in Galatians 5:19-21, the works of the flesh. Second, there is the positive side of putting on godly characteristics, such as judgment, mercy, and faith (which, out of our Savior's own mouth in Matthew 23:23, are weighty matters of law).
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Sixteen)
This series of verses is not an appeal for us to break all of our worldly associations. Recall that Paul urges the Christian partner in a divided marriage to strive to maintain the relationship as long as possible. This, instead, is an appeal to avoid too close associations. He says not to go into the world, but come out of it (see Revelation 18:4). We should not deliberately make close associations with the peoples of the world. It is all right to do business with them and to work with them, but avoid becoming harnessed together with them.
The statement, "I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters," seems to hinge on whether or not we are allowing ourselves to become yoked into these associations. God does not want us in these close associations with the world because it almost inevitably leads to compromise with His standards. It jeopardizes the consistency of the Christian's witness for God because there is a spiritual force in the world that undermines the Christian because the unbeliever does not share the Christian's standards, sympathies, or goals in life.
Is it unfair that God should ask this of us? Remember, He has bought us with a price (I Corinthians 6:20). The price was the life of His Son, which obligates us to a life of purity and holiness. Once we accept that sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin, we belong to Him. He is our Master, and He says, "Come out of the world and be separate." That is a demand that He puts on us.
Does God ever ask us for something that is not for our good? Of course not! And how is this for our good? Because He knows that it is likely that His people, though they have the Spirit of God, will have an extremely difficult time resisting the spiritual force that wants to lead them to compromise on the standards of His Kingdom. He thus obligates us to purity of life, to holiness, to separation from evil. We owe our allegiance to Him alone, and we cannot allow ourselves not to be a fit vessel for Him to live in.
There is no surer way to go backward in our spirituality, to blunt our feelings about sin, to dull our spiritual discernment until we can scarcely tell evil from good, and to dry up the source of our spiritual strength than by needless mingling with the world. We should stress the word "needless" because Paul writes in I Corinthians 5:9-10 that to avoid all contact with the immoral, one would have to go out of the world. There is nothing in the New Testament to indicate separating oneself by moving into a commune of believers or living alone like a hermit.
John W. Ritenbaugh
New Covenant Priesthood (Part Two)
As the spiritual temple of God, as God's sons and daughters, we have a duty to make ourselves as "clean," "pure," or "holy" as possible. This "perfecting holiness" includes all areas of life, not just the spiritual. Paul makes an unmistakable distinction between flesh and spirit (II Corinthians 7:1) only two verses after he paraphrases Isaiah 52:11: "Do not touch what is unclean."
Clean and Unclean Meats
This principle clearly covers the care of our bodies. In an overall sense, our stewardship is not merely to labor not to destroy the established relationship but to improve it. Good health is extremely valuable. Even though one can overcome poor health in one's vanity, of greater importance is that good health promotes the strengthening of the relationship. This is so because it is bound within the sanctification process. It is tied directly to growing, overcoming, purifying one's life, avoiding the pitfalls of life, living the abundant life, as well as to our witness before the world in glorifying God.
We can undertake a great deal of serious effort in keeping ourselves from committing sins like idolatry, fornication, adultery, lying, or stealing, while virtually ignoring the physical care of the body itself. Oftentimes, we do this by being ignorant of the responsibility or foolishly thinking that maintaining or improving our health is of little concern. The younger among us may find it helpful to ask someone older—one whose health is deteriorating or who has had to deal with poor health much of his life—how important having good health throughout life is. In no way should this reduce our efforts to overcome spiritual weaknesses, but it should encourage us to add another area of overcoming that will glorify God.
Genesis 2:15 says, "Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend [dress, KJV] and keep it." Dressing and keeping is an overall responsibility for everyone in what we are to do with life. It applies to life's spiritual and physical aspects. We are to begin where we are and cultivate, embellish, and encourage growth, while at the same time preserving, guarding, and protecting through maintenance from decay and deterioration.
A direct line connects this concept and Jesus' instruction in the Parable of the Unjust Steward. The spiritual level is more important, but God wants faithfulness in the physical level also because both are inextricably bound in yielding to Him in the building of character. Both require study, meditation, and setting goals, as well as consistent, faithful application. We do both to glorify Him.
Unfortunately, some will not do what is necessary for success, perhaps because of ignorance of their responsibility. Others know but lack the character or the sense of responsibility. Some spend their time rationalizing and justifying the way they are or proclaim to themselves and others that they are victims of the system and have no way out. Nevertheless, God is in heaven, and He is the way out.
Eating is a major part of life, as substantiated by the Bible's 700 references to it. The abundant life that Jesus proclaims He wants all to lead hinges upon what we eat spiritually and physically. We must make a major effort to feed our minds and bodies with the best nutrition available, if we desire good spiritual and physical health.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part One)
This helps us to understand what holiness is. It is the opposite of the filthiness of the flesh and spirit, a transcendent cleanliness, a transcendent purity of heart and spirit. It is what God is—God is transcendent. He is otherly. There is no one like Him, yet He wants all to be like Him. Life, then, becomes a journey toward holiness.
John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is Prayer?
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing 2 Corinthians 7:1:
1 Corinthians 5:12-13
2 Corinthians 6:16-18
2 Corinthians 7:1
1 Peter 1:15
1 Peter 1:15
1 John 2:1-2
1 John 3:1-3