2nd Corinthians – Holiness: A Serious Separation from Sin
March 28, 2009
An intensely personal epistle, Second Corinthians has a great deal to say about the Christian life, its requisite hope, and its standards. By itself, the law can only lead to condemnation, as God’s holiness is inaccessible. Yet, the law is always preceded by God’s promise of instruction and grace. After the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus, Christians gained access to the Father and the Gospel; Paul’s entire life was devoted to spreading this Gospel. How devoted are American Catholics to this mission?
In chapter six, Paul concludes his argument that he has remained available, open, and honest with the Corinthians and that his ministry has the integrity of God (v. 11-13). Shifting entirely, he then focuses on the need for Christians to remain separate from secular men. Chapter seven, verse two resumes the thread of 6:11-13 seamlessly, leading scholars to speculate whether Paul’s exhortation to leading lives of holiness and separation was inserted within the epistle at a later date.
To expound on the ”separation” section of 6:14-7:1, these verses are sufficiently Pauline. Being unequally yoked refers to a Christian marrying an unbeliever; this directly follows the Levitical prohibition on mixed-breeds or plowing with an unequal yoke. As plowing a field is hard work, so is a marriage; God deigns that Christians bear the labor of marriage with another believer rather than with one who does not follow God’s will. Paul’s words here are strong: ”For what partnership have righteousness and iniquity? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Be’lial? Or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?” (v. 14-15). Because the average citizen has some involvement in immorality, Paul does not instruct every Christian to become a hermit, but rather to avoid unnecessary interactions with those who are immoral. His approach is somewhat Pharisaical, except he hates immorality, not Gentiles.
Since Christians are the temple of the living God, this requires an extreme holiness (which is entirely a gift from God) and, thus, a lack of any defilement. Not a static location like the Temple Mount, the Christian body is the movable temple–Christ inside man, a holy glory. Not only is Christ in each individual, but He is present wherever two or more are gathered. For all these reasons, tolerating immorality or nonessential association with immoral people must always be avoided. Making allusions to the Old Testament he writes, ”Therefore come out from them, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch nothing unclean; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty” (v. 17-18). Christ has fulfilled many prophesies by making sons of His followers. ”For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God through faith” (Gal 3:26). Therefore, it is not the nature of the Christian to touch or associate with anything unclean.
Music: Boismortier’s Sonata 4 in D Minor – Adagio, from the album ‘Six Sonatas for Flute and Violin – Opus 51 – Boismortier’ performed by Duo de Bois. www.magnatune.com