Gordon E. Johnson

DEVOTIONALS from Second Corinthians


Paul Speaks the Truth in Love to His Children

2 Corinthians 6:14 -7:1

Gordon E. Johnson
Rio Grande Bible Institute


The time does comes when truth must be spoken, but let it be in love (Ephesians 4:15). Paul has spoken often of his tender love for the Corinthians. But love for the sake of truth may have to be "tough love." Sometimes it may not be taken as love. But there is no deeper love than that which seeks ultimately the spiritual wellbeing of the one loved.

Paul had shared earlier the fountainhead of his ministry among them, the Message of the Cross. "For the love of Christ constrains, us because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died" (5: 14). Now: "O Corinthians! We have spoken openly to you, our heart is wide open. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted by your own affections. Now in return for the same (I speaks as to children), you also be open" (Corinthians 6:11-13).

The Moment of Truth   No Compromise with Relationships that God Forbids

Paul will buttress his argument against compromise by a mosaic of Old Testament commands and logical reasoning. His Corinthian detractors must face the reality that they are opposing God. Ultimately it is not about Paul, but about God whom they defy. James says it well: "Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God" (James 4:4).

Paul exercises the authority of the Old Testament Scriptures still very much in play for the New Testament believer. "For him (Paul), indeed, as for his Lord before him, the spiritual messages of the Old Testament are the very Word of God, through whatever human messenger they might come. As a fact, he is using here more than one such message, and blending them all into one. He takes one clause from Exodus/Deuteronomy, and another from Leviticus, and, in the immediate sequel goes on to Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, and Zachariah. But all alike is one thing as to its ultimate origin. It is, as ‘God has said"[1]

The Principle of No Compromise Whatsoever   

"Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers" (6:14) is the first command illustrated by the simple undisputed efficiency that any farmer would understand. Paul appeals to the Law: "You will not plow with an ox and a donkey together" (Deuteronomy 22:10).In an agricultural economy such an unlikely and disparate yoking together would be anything but efficient. And yet there was a deeper principle underlying the command. Things that are disparate in essence cannot coexist.  

This principle is fundamental for the believer. The most obvious application, of course, is the marriage of a believer with an unbeliever because a prior covenant commitment requires oneness of purpose. The two will become one flesh (Ephesians 5:31).  How many marriages have foundered on the false hope of a subsequent change in the husband or wife!  How parents should insist on this before relationships are begun! How much sorrow would be avoided! Any discipleship class or mentor should make that truth crystal clear to the believer. Paul's command must be taken literally. Custom and tradition may appear to allow it, but God's Word forbids it.

Any relationship that morally binds the believer to an unbeliever, be it in business, social or secret societies is forbidden. Jesus stated it clearly: "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon" (Matthew 6:24).

On the other hand, to accept this injunction and realize the sweetness and joy of a common Lord is worth any price. Our Lord invites and commands: "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30). Paul spoke of his Clement and others as his true yokefellows (Philippians 4:3-original rendering).

Six Rhetorical Reasons for No Compromise   2 Corinthians 6: 14-16

"For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness?  No answer is needed because this is an antithesis.  Of Christ it was prophesied: "You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness more than Your companions" (Hebrews 1:9). Paul had earlier said: "For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5:21).

"And what communion has light with darkness?"  There can be no more fundamental incompatibility than that which exists between darkness and light.  When darkness was on the face of the deep, the first creative command was: "Let there be light; and there was light" (Genesis 1:2, 3) Paul asserts: "You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night, nor of darkness . . .But let us watch and be sober" (1 Thessalonians 5: 5,8). Light chases darkness; light always triumphs over darkness.

"And what accord has Christ with Belial?"The contrast now is even starker; it is the Lord of Light against the Prince of Darkness. There can be absolutely no accommodation between Satan the Adversary and Christ the giver of life. "Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage" (Hebrews 2: 14, 15).

"Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? Paul has now established beyond question that the original command is valid (14). Be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers.  However ,it must be made clear that while there is no compromise with evil in the world, we are not called to leave this world, to become ascetics or recluses. In his High Priestly Prayer Jesus prayed: "I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth" (John 17;15-17).

"And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? Another absolute incompatibility is the temple and idols. The ancient prophets as the oracles of God denounced any defilement of the sanctity of the dwelling of God by pagan idols.  Jeremiah unleashes prophecy after prophecy that culminated in the 70  year captivity.  Idolatry was the curse of Israel and  the proof of apostasy.

The affirmation that we are the temple of God introduces additional reason for why we must never tolerate compromise with Satan and the world  Paul had exhorted earlier the Corinthians "Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's" (1 Corinthians 6: 19, 20).

Paul follows up these reasons with a medley of Old Testament promises. "I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God,And they shall be my people.'' This is a composite of promises from Ezekiel 37:27; Leviticus 26:12; and Jeremiah 31.33; 32:38. Bishop Moule speaks of

God's Habitation and his Haunt.[2] He adds a certain touch of intimacy as everyone has had his own haunts, places that remind him of very special times where in youth his imagination carried him away. God has his favorite haunt in being a Father to his own.

Paul states it clearly:"Having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are built together for a habitation of God in the Spirit" (Ephesians 2:20-22).  Can anything else be more precious and gracious? Our union with Christ far transcends anything the world could even offer us!

The Climatic Command and Promise   2 Corinthians 6:17, 18

The background of the final command  is especially applicable.  God was addressing the priests who had been faithless and so his punishment was their seventy years of captivity in Babylon. "Depart! Depart! Go out from there, Touch no unclean thing. Go out from the midst of her, Be clean,You who bear the vessels of the Lord" (Isaiah 52:11). The priests had had a special relationship with Jehovah and hence the additional reason to separate themselves from their own sins and the sins of the people. Isaiah concludes with the promise: "For you shall not go out in haste, Nor go by flight; For the LORD will go before you, And the God of Israel will be your rear  guard" (Isaiah 52: 11, 12). What a gracious promise after a stern word of warning!

Along with the commandment, however, comes the special promise and the reward, commensurate with their whole hearted obedience. "I will be a Father to you, And you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the LORD Almighty" (Jeremiah 31:1, 9). 

Paul's Final Appeal    2 Corinthians  7:1

Paul has one last heart appeal. He sums up the whole section with his final loving appeal, his heart's desire for the his beloved Corinthians. "Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear o f God. Once again after some strong commands, his love and his humility shine through. It is a mutual exercise for pastor and flock to respond  in heart obedience. He addresses his beloved and reminds then that they are God's commands that are indeed  promises--promises with gracious rewards.

Yet in his final appeal it is clear that the onus of responsibility is on the believer, whether pastor or flock, It's theirs to respond in obedience and let holiness be the ultimate description of the believer who makes full use of the means of grace always at his disposal from a gracious forgiving God. Let's take to heart Paul's admonition.

Yours in the Message of the Cross,

Gordon E Johnson

[1] Handley C. G. Moule, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, (London: Pickering & Inglis Ltd.), 1962, p. 59.

[2] Ibid, p/64.