2nd Corinthians – Wayne Barber/Part 28A
By: Dr. Wayne Barber
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2005|
The Requirements of Right Relationships – 2 Cor 7:1-5
A new sound as we enter another chapter tonight, 2 Corinthians 7. We’re going to be looking at verses 1-5, and we’ve started a new little series as we push our way through this book. And this particular series is on the Importance of Right Relationships. Hasn’t it been awesome to watch what God has put together all the way through? The God of all comfort, when your walk matches your talk, all the different things we’ve seen up until now. But now we’re talking the importance of right relationships. This is part 2 tonight. We’re going to be talking about the requirements of right relationships. Last week we talked about the recipe, what goes into it to make them right. But tonight we’re going to talk about what’s required. If we’re going to walk in right relationships what are the requirements of a right relationship?
Isn’t it interesting—and I ask this truly in wonder—how that wrong doctrine, which produces wrong thinking, which in turn produces wrong living, how that divides the body of Christ? You know, it even causes us to become suspicious of our true brothers that we walked with before. When you start thinking wrong you start living wrong and it immediately affects that relationship. It doesn’t seem to matter where the wrong thinking, the wrong doctrine comes from. It could come from false teachers who live unaccountable to nobody but themselves. It could come from them. It could come from the humanistic doctrine of this world which we, all of us have to deal with every time you turn your television set on, you’re being bombarded with it. Or, whether it could have, it could come from just rumor that flows out of the mouths of poisonous people. But when a believer who’s walking in tune with God and walking in tune with his brother embraces something that’s wrong, a wrong doctrine, wrong information, immediately his relationships with his fellow believers becomes ruined. It’s over because they cannot walk together.
The psalmist said in Psalm 133:1, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity.” Boy, that’s a beautiful verse there. But it’s impossible when there is wrong doctrine being believed. It’s incredible how this disturbs the unity of the Spirit in the body of Christ. Years ago when I was in youth work, I was working in Mississippi, associate pastor there in charge of the youth. We had a wonderful group and I lost about half of them when we got started, then God began to bring the ones that were hungry for the Word and God did a special work there.
But we had one young man that was probably the leader of the group. You know how you always have that leader amongst others. You have equals, but you have always that unequal above among equals, he just stood out. I depended on him. I counted on him. He was at my house half the time. It was amazing how this young man was growing in the Lord and how the relationships of the whole group seemed to even focus with him and his leadership. And one day he fell into some wrong doctrine. Got into a Bible study group through his parents and whatever happened, he got into wrong doctrine. One of the first things I could have told you he was in something wrong because there was no fellowship. There was no unity when I was around. Have you ever noticed that? All of a sudden, that which was there before that was unspeakable and untouchable really, but God was doing it, was gone.
Christmas came that year and he came over to my house and had a gift for me and I liked that. If anybody wants to give me a gift I always take it. I’m still a little kid at Christmas time, every year, even to this day. And when he came up there with a gift and I opened it and it was a shirt. It was one of those big wide striped ones, old sick green, and this sick color of yellow, but back in that day it was supposed to be pretty and it fit me. That’s the big thing. He shopped to find this shirt, double extra large tall. Man, it was right. You all write that down. It was just right. And I thanked him for it and, I mean, I was just tickled to death.
We walked out on my front porch and he turned and tears were in his eyes. I thought he was just so overjoyed at giving me a gift. And he said, “Oh, Wayne, if you could just have the second baptism, God could really use you.” And I said “What?” You know Ephesians tells me I’ve got every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus. I don’t need a second one. I’ve already got, I’m working on about the 93,000th one. But when he walked off my step I realized immediately he had bought it hook, line and sinker. And the fellowship between he and I had been broken. I didn’t do anything. I just noticed it was gone.
This kid went from one thing to another to another always had to have an experience, always had to be emotional. Years went by, he left our group. I lost track of him as they moved out of town, him and his family. And one day I got a phone call, years later, from another fellow who was in the group. And he said “Wayne, you remember,” and he gave the name. And I said, “Oh, man, yeah, whatever happened to him?” He said, “Well, I’m calling you to tell you. Yesterday, he was on his way down to New Orleans and he was killed. A truck pulled out in front of him and he was hit and just dead in a second.” I said, “Awe man, that’s so sad.” He said, “No, Wayne, that’s not what’s sad.” I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “He was on his way to New Orleans to become the leader of the New Age movement of the Southern United States.” They were going to induct him there. He was going to take that over.
He never was satisfied with Jesus. He always had to have something different. And as a result of that the relationships that were so close to him broke. Immediately they were disturbed by the wrong doctrine.
Now in Paul’s case a very similar thing has happened. You see the rift between him and the Corinthians, and this has been a tough church for him, was on the account of the fact that they had chosen on their own to embrace the bad doctrine of false teachers that had plagued the city of Corinth. There was all kinds of stuff going on there and I haven’t got time to go back to 1 Corinthians and teach that. I mean, it’s rampant in that book. Suspicion, they began to become suspicious of Paul. Contempt for him, had a judgmental attitude towards Paul, even accusing him of not being an apostle. And these attitudes now because of wrong information had begun to surface between the two of them.
The apostle Paul, in trying his best to make that relationship right, bared his heart in 6:3-10 in an effort to counter the wrong information they had chosen to believe about him. He says in verse 11, “Our mouth has spoken freely to you, O Corinthians, our heart is open wide.” He says “I have held nothing back. There’s nothing that we’ve done in our behavior that is in any way brought discredit to the gospel.” And he says the only restraint in the relationship that they had with one another was the unwillingness of the hard headed Corinthians who wouldn’t turn loose of this false doctrine, this wrong information so that they could come back into that unity, that oneness that the Spirit would produce with them and Paul.
Paul says in 2 Corinthians 6:12, “You’re not restrained by us.” There’s not a thing in the world we have done or are doing that’s causing any restraint on your side. But “you’re restrained in your own affections.” Boy, isn’t that interesting? Just like in the book of the Revelation, the Ephesians, the church at Ephesus, the Ephesians hadn’t lost their first love. I used to think that when I was trying to quote the verse. They didn’t lose anything; they left their first love. You see, what’s happened to the church at Corinth is their affections were no longer for the pure teaching of God’s Word. Their affections were no longer for the purity of the things of God. But now they had shifted, to be sure, to the lure of the deceivers false teaching. Now they were restrained from being in oneness with Paul. They couldn’t walk together. They weren’t in agreement with one another because they weren’t willing to give up the wrong doctrine that they had bought into.
Paul urges them to open up and deal with what was really hindering the relationship. And he knew what it was and they knew what it was. He’s asking them to separate themselves from the poisonous people that were telling them all these lies about Paul. He warns them to never form a binding relationship with them and he’s going to say separate yourself. He says in verse 14 through the first part of verse 16, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers.” Don’t be unequally yoked as some translations say. “For what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols?”
Now Paul doesn’t say don’t be around them. That’s the evangelistic heartbeat all of us have when we’re walking with God. What he says is don’t be bound together with them. Don’t be unequally yoked with them. They’re of a different kind; an unbeliever doesn’t come from the same well that a believer comes from. Don’t be isolated from them, but be insulated around them by the truth that lives in you, that’s in you. His reasoning is clear. He gives five examples that you can’t miss that I’ve just read as to how absurd a partnership, a covenant, a yoke with an unbeliever is. He shows us that we will never experience the fullness of all that we have in Christ and he tries to tell them this, until they separated themselves from those relationships they had formed with the people who gave the wrong information.
Well, in the last part of verse 16, and “just as God said,” and I love that. It wasn’t what Paul said or what Moses said or anybody else, “just as God said,” and he quotes out of the Old Testament and it’s sort of like a hodgepodge. He doesn’t take one particular passage, but he says, “‘I will dwell in them and walk among them; I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Therefore, come out from the midst and be separate,’ says the Lord. ‘And do not touch what is unclean; and I will welcome you.’” And then He says, “And I’ll be a Father to you and you shall be sons and daughters to Me.” What it means is not that you’ll get saved; they’re already saved. But what He’s talking about is you can walk in the fullness of the adult privileges in the family. And the word for “sons” is that word of adult privileges, the full mature son. Because of being in Christ you can enjoy the full privileges, the fullness of what God offers to you, “says the Lord God Almighty.” The promise is in verse 16, the command is in verse 17, the fulfillment and the rejoicing in it is in verse 18.
Well, today, Paul continues to deal with these relationships with the Corinthians. He wants it to be right. And he teaches us what’s required if we’re going to have right relationships in the body of Christ. I’ve said many times if it wasn’t for people I could live the Christian life. You ever have days like that? What I’m learning is if it wasn’t for people—I had it wrong—I would never even understand the Christian life; because that’s where Christ enables me to love when I know I cannot do it myself. Let’s just see what God has for us. I believe any time we study a book it’s God’s message to us in the day and hour that we live.
Right relationships begin with ridding oneself of pagan influence
First of all, right relationships in the body of Christ begin with ridding oneself of pagan influence. You’ve got to get it out. That’s why he says separate yourself from it. You see, our main relationship is not with people, it’s with God and we’ve got to honor this. It says in verse 1, “Therefore.” Any time you see a “therefore” always look to see what it’s there for. “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit.” Let’s just stop right there. When Paul says “Therefore, having these promises,” he’s referring to what we just read in the last part, 16-18 of chapter 6 and that God said. And we read what God said. This is His promise to us in chapter 6.
Now the Corinthians had a choice to make. Either walk in the fullness of what God offered—and the only way to do that was to separate themselves from the relationships and partnerships with the wrong doctrine that they had embraced—or continue to embrace the wrong doctrine which produces the wrong thinking which produces the wrong living and ruins relationships that you have chosen. But they couldn’t have both. The two can’t go together. “Therefore, having these promises, beloved,” he says, “let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit.”
Now the verb “having” in the little phrase “having these promises,” is neat. It’s in the present tense: always having these promises. “Therefore, always having these promises.” In other words, what God says continues to be even today. He’s faithful to what He says. Paul says since God has promised all these things and since they’re constantly and consistently available in Christ then “let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit.” Now this is not the cleansing that God does. This isn’t the cleansing of the blood. Yes, there is a cleansing He does within, but this is what we’re to do. This is not what God does here. This is what we do enabled by Him, but we have to make a choice.
The word for “cleanse” is the word katharizo. It means literally to cleanse something from filth, to purify it. But here it has the idea to rid oneself of what is causing so much harm in his life. Get it out of your life. Get it away from you. Now the verb cleanse is in the aorist tense subjunctive mood. You say, why do you bring this stuff up? Because it’s important. The aorist tense means do it. It has a punctiliar sense to it when it’s in a command form. Do it tomorrow; do it the next day; do it the next day; next day do it; next day do it. Do it like the Nike commercial, just do it. That’s the aorist tense. In other words, get with it. Don’t let any grass grow. Get with it. You want a right relationship start here. Get rid of the things that are poisoning your mind. Get rid of the things poisoning your lifestyle. This is, it has the sense, since it’s an aorist tense, it has the sense of a command. He’s not giving a suggestion here. He’s saying you want a right relationship, there’s nothing on our end that’s restraining it, but you’re restraining it by your own affections. Now do something about it.
The subjunctive mood involves a choice that may or may not happen. In other words, that’s a real interesting mood there. Paul knows that some of the Corinthian believers are going to hear him, and it’s true even in the 21st century that some people are hearing. Some people’s hearts are receptive to truth and they’re going to move immediately when the Spirit of God speaks to them and they’re going to do what Paul asks them to do because he’s an apostle and this is God speaking through him. But others are going to be so stubborn and hard headed, they’re not about to do it. Paul knows that. That’s why he uses the subjunctive mood there. He knows that some will, some won’t.
If you want to know, by the way, if you’re looking for the perfect church, I told a guy one time he says “I’m going to start me a church”. I love these young whippersnappers that think they’ve got it all together. This cracks me up. “I’m going to start me a church and we’re going to do it right”. Well, bless your sweet heart, if you start one it’s going to be perfect. Don’t join it. You’re going to mess it up to start with. They forget that they bring people in, then people come in and they bring the baggage with them and before you know it you’ve got the denomination of the non-denominationals, you’ve got the same ole, same ole that you’re dealing with.
Anybody looking for a perfect church and can’t find one that measures to the expectations that he has, he finds his answer right here in the subjunctive mood and the aorist tense that Paul just used with the Corinthians. You see, some people in every church have chosen to walk with God. They’ve chosen to walk with Him on a plain that many of the people who come, sit and look and they don’t have a clue what you’re talking about. There are others, though, that are so stubborn they won’t give up the wrong thinking the world has given to them. Their flesh responds to it and they won’t walk away from it, so you have every kind of person sitting in a congregation even like they had in Corinth in Paul’s day. They’d rather listen to the poison than they would walk in the truth.
Well, verse 1 again, “having therefore these promises,” you always have them. They’re available, dearly beloved. “Let us cleanse ourselves,” not a suggestion, but a command, “from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit.” Now the word “filthiness” is an interesting word. It’s the word molusmos. It refers to the act of one’s flesh that has caused something to be stained or defiled. It’s a rare word. It’s not used that many times. Paul uses it in 1 Corinthians when he talks about how they’d stained themselves by eating meat sacrificed to idols. He says in 1 Corinthians 8:7, “However, not all men have this knowledge, but some being accustomed to the idol until now eat food as if it were sacrificed to an idol and their conscience therefore being weak is defiled.” So the act of sin that causes the stain is what this word refers to. So in our context it would be the stained, the defilement of having participated, having embraced not only the false teaching, but the pagan, the pagan ways of Corinth. That’s what they’ve done.
This is why in 1 Corinthians 6 he has to say run from the immorality that you’ve fallen into. In chapter 7 he says straighten your families out. In chapters 8-10 he says come on, man, grace is not a license. In chapter 11 he says you desecrate the Lord’s Supper because of your behavior. In chapter 12 he says you think anything’s that’s emotional is spiritual. In chapter 13 he says you don’t have a clue what love is. In chapter 14 you think that speaking in another tongue is a great thing. He said it’s not for believers and it’s confusion. And then in chapter 15 he says, hey, you don’t even believe in the resurrection of the body of Christ. You don’t even believe the gospel if that’s the case. And in chapter 16 he says you don’t have clue what stewardship is and where it fits into your walk.
You see, they had chosen to believe wrong things and embrace wrong doctrine which had caused the church to be an absolute mess. And Paul says if you want to have right relationships start there and get rid of it. Get it out of your life. I hope you’re beginning to see what I’ve been saying in this little series about having a partnership with unbelievers and how the damage it can cause. I hope you’re realizing what wrong doctrine, wrong thinking does to the body of Christ. It affects how one lives. It affects how one has his values. It changes his values. It affects their choices, which is why it affects their relationships. When you don’t have unity in the body—that’s a birthright; unity is never to be produced by the body, it’s to be preserved, Paul says in Ephesians 4:1. We can’t produce it. But the way we preserve it is to walk in that covenant relationship with God to where we have separated ourselves from the things that have caused us to think wrongly and the things that have caused us to live wrongly.
But that was not the only unrighteous thing that the immorality that was there. The immorality of Corinth was prostitution. They had a temple there and the women would come down and they actually had illicit sex and thought it was religious and spiritual and that was part of it. But that wasn’t the only thing that polluted and stained the Corinthians. In 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 he says “Or do you not know that the unrighteous,” and you find out what the unrighteous, what they’re preaching and how they’re listening to them, “the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God.” He says, “Be not deceived, neither fornicators,” that’s a sexual sin, “nor idolaters” that’s an idolatrous sin, “nor adulterers,” another sexual sin, “nor effeminate,” another sexual sin, “nor homosexual” another sexual sin; you see what was going on, “nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers,” he says they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. And he says, “And such were some of you.” See, many, they’ve come out of this thing and now they’re buying it again. “But you were washed, you were sanctified and you are, were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”
So all that defiled, all that stained the believers of Corinth emanated out of wrong doctrine. It all started right there when they stopped believing the truth and they embraced something that was wrong information. It all started right there. And Paul is real inclusive. He makes two inclusive statements. He says “Let us cleanse ourselves.” You know, Paul didn’t get to the point he thought he’d arrived. Every day of his life he had to deal with his flesh. And then he says, “From all,” that’s an inclusive word, “filthiness of the flesh and of the spirit.”
Now the spiritual sins would probably be back in that idolatrous realm. They had a temple 30 miles down the road, the temple of Delphi, and this is where that woman would come and proclaim herself to be an oracle, a prophetess of that day. And she would sit up in a tripod over a pit that was full of herbs and it would form a drug and it would come up and she’d get so high she didn’t even know where she was. And she’d begin to babble language that wasn’t language and they had some people there that was just as crazy as she was and they’d write down what she said. She didn’t say anything because it wasn’t any a language that could be written down.
At the time that Paul wrote that they had miles and miles and miles, people would stand in line. They had to have three of these oracles working all the time because people wanted to hear from the gods. That’s why he says in 1 Corinthians 12, he says, “Remember how when you were pagans how you were led astray to the dumb idols.” And so that’s a lot of garbage going on in Corinth. And some of these people found more excitement in that kind of stuff than they found in the truth, because the truth required them to make some choices and they weren’t willing to make those choices. And since they weren’t willing to make those choices then they were separated in their relationship with Paul, and that’s the deal. Paul says right relationships, if you’re going to have them, involves and requires us to live to rid ourselves of the pagan influence.
Right relationships require us to live in respect of who God is
But the second thing he says is right relationships require us, and once you’ve done that, to live in respect of who God is, to revere Him, to be in awe of Him. He says, the last phrase of verse 1, let me read the whole thing: “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.” Now, that’s a powerful phrase there, “perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” Perfecting holiness does not mean that any of us are ever going to arrive at perfection. That’s not what he’s saying. The word “perfecting” is the word epiteleo. Epi intensifies the word. It pushes it to the furthest degree. But the real word is teleo. Teleo means to accomplish something, to fully accomplish something, to accomplish it to the point nobody doubts it’s being accomplished.
But he’s talking about a process here. It’s in the present tense: Be about perfecting yourself. You’re not going to arrive. Paul says that of himself in Philippians. But be in the process of perfecting yourself. It can be translated “maturing.” Spiritual maturity is what he’s talking about here of what he’s dealing with. You see, while one is ridding himself of that which influences him wrongly and destroys his relationships, at the same time he is perfecting holiness in his life. Holiness means to be set apart unto God. He’s setting himself apart unto God by the way he lives, maturing spiritually.
Proverbs 28:13 says, “He that confesses and forsakes his sin shall receive mercy.” He didn’t just say he who confesses it. What Paul’s dealing with here, get it out of your life. It’s hard, as much as it hurts your flesh, get it out of your life. Get the wrong information out of your mind. Get back into the Word of God. Get back where He needs to be so that you can walk in truth and your relationships will take their own course. This is the way one matures in his faith. It’s not the whole way, but it’s part of the way. He gets that which causes him harm out of his life.
As Paul said in Romans 13:14, he “makes no provision for his flesh”, but “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” And I love this, because in Corinthians he doesn’t tell you what to do on the other side of it, but he does in Romans. “And make no provision for the flesh in regards to its lusts.” If we want to walk together in right relationships we should all be ridding ourselves by putting on Christ in our life. That’s the way you rid yourself. You can’t put on Christ; you can’t yield to Him; at the same time entertain the fleshly desires that we’re talking about. There’s no room for Christ in the wrong thinking of the world at the same time.
The motivation for living this way. Now, what would make a person want to live this way? What would God have to do in a human heart to make somebody want to live this way? He says, “In the fear of God.” Now there’s your motivation right there. The word “fear” doesn’t mean terror. We’ve already seen it earlier in our study. It refers to the reverence and respect for who God is. You see, fear or divine respect for God is part of an ethical sphere that a believer who’s maturing operates in day by day, choice by choice. And understand what I’m saying here. There are two sides inside this ethical sphere. By ethical sphere I mean choices that he makes every day. There’s the side of love which motivates us to do what pleases God to honor His word. But the opposite side of this, the opposite side of the coin, is a divine respect for God which motivates us not to do what displeases God.
So this respect and this reverence for God is what caused Paul to live the way Paul lived. “Therefore knowing the fear of the Lord,” he says back in 5:11, “we persuade men.” Paul says I understand a respect for God. Of course he had a beautiful privilege in that. God stopped him on the Damascus road, revealed Himself to him, blinded him for three days, and he sort of had a respect for who He was. That’d do it. So not only does our respect for God, for who God is, motivate us to do positive things, such as what Paul said back in chapter 5, persuade men to live a certain way, but also it motivates us not to do the negative things that displease God such as making partnerships with poisonous people.
Well, let’s take some inventory before I go on tonight. Is it okay if I do that? Who is influencing you in a negative way right now in your life, feeding you information that you don’t even need to hear, much less that’s not even true? Who’s doing that? Years ago when my wife and I were in another church I noticed when I came home she just wasn’t the same. Something was bugging her, and she’s always been just such a light to me. Finally one day I said, “What is wrong?” She said, “Well, I’ve got to tell you. This particular lady calls me every morning after you leave for the church and she’s always filling my head full of negative stuff. And every time she calls she’s telling me all the garbage I don’t even want to fool with and I can’t deal with.” And we prayed about it. I said, “The best way in the world to handle that is don’t answer the phone.” And she quit answering the phone and quit talking to this woman, and in three days I had a brand new wife.
I’m telling you, folks, who is it that’s influencing you in the way you think right now? Now think about it. Ask God to reveal that to your heart. Who is it that feeds the poison in your life? Who is it that’s so full of contempt and suspicion of everybody that’s causing you to be exactly the same way? What wrong thinking have you bought into today that is causing a rift in your relationships in the body of Christ? What’s going on?
In 7:1 it really completes what happens in chapter 6. You know they didn’t have chapters and verses. They didn’t even have sentence structures there when the Bible was put together, and somebody went in and put chapters and verses. This is one of those chapters that, really verse 1 should have fit back in chapter 6, because it fits everything he said. He addresses the problem and then shows them how to deal with it.
Well, if you’re going to have a right relationship, he says, he helps us; he tells the Corinthians who don’t have those relationships that are right, he says you’re going to have rid yourself of pagan influences causing you to think wrong. It’s causing you to act wrong. But then secondly, you’re going to have to learn to live in respect of who God is. There’s that ethical sphere that we talked about where you make your choices, and if what drives you is a fear of the Lord, a respect, a reverence for who He is.
Right relationships require that we choose to trust Christ and other believers
Well finally, thirdly, right relationships require that we choose to trust Christ and other believers. Now this blows me away. There were no real indicators there that Paul had toward the Corinthians, that they would do what was right, that they would even listen to him. But for whatever reason, God working in him, he chose to give the benefit of the doubt to the Corinthians and believe in the Christ that lived within them. You see, right relationships require that we choose at times in our life to trust Christ. I’ve told my wife many times, don’t trust me as far as you can throw me, but trust Christ in me. Trust the Christ in me, because that’s the way a believer is. If a believer’s in covenant with God you can come to that point even when there’s no indication they’re even going to do any better, you can come to that point of giving them the benefit of the doubt.
Let me read the next text then I’ll come back. Verse 2, “Make room for us in your hearts,” Paul says, “we wronged no one, we corrupted no one, we took advantage of no one. I do not speak to condemn you,” that’s not my heart, “for I have said before that you are in our hearts to die together,” oh, I love this, “and to live together. Great is my confidence in you; great is my boasting on your behalf. I’m filled with comfort; I’m overflowing with joy in all our affliction. For even when we came into Macedonia our flesh had no rest, but we were afflicted on every side: conflicts without, fears within.” Then he’s going to go on to say, “but when Titus came he comforted us”. We’ll get to that.
Paul repeats what he said back in 6:13 in verse 2, when he says “Make room for us in your hearts.” You know, somebody’s got to drop anchor in relationships and somebody’s got to get totally gut honest and be willing to lay it all down. And that’s what Paul has done. And he says, now make room for us. I’ve made room for you. We can walk in oneness together. Any time you have relationships that aren’t right in the body of Christ somebody is not willing to obey God. Somebody’s not willing to lay it down and make room for others.
Well, this statement also connects however, not only with what he says in 6:13, but it connects with what he says in 6:14. I want you to see that. In 6:14 he says, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers,” and he goes on to show why. And what he’s saying here is that the only way you can make room for us is to separate yourself from those other relationships. There is no room for us if you’re going to embrace unbelievers and make a partnership with them which has affected your wrong thinking and which has affected your wrong way of living.
Make room for us, Paul says, by separating yourselves from the pagan influence in your lives. Just like loving and loving God and fearing God go together, so do these two things go together. If you’re going to make room you’ve got to get rid of the other. As a believer you cannot walk in unity with those who love God and live to honor Him at the same time embracing wrong doctrine and wrong thinking. You cannot have, and I want to make this statement real clear. I don’t say many profound things and when I do I just want to draw your attention to it. Impure doctrine—now listen to me carefully—always breeds impure devotion, always. Impure doctrine breeds impure devotion. Pure doctrine and pure devotion both go together. Devotion to God and devotion to man and the doctrine has to marry together. You can’t find somebody with pure devotion who has a wrong a doctrine. No sir. It’s impure. He says in verse 2 again, “Make room for us in your hearts.” And Paul believes that they’re going to do that and he also believes that they’re going to listen to him. He says, “we wronged no one.” They knew that. He says “we corrupted nobody, no one.” They knew that. “We took advantage of no one.”
And then Paul asserts that they are eternally bound together in Christ. You talk about relationship, whether they’re going to live that way or not, they are bound together in Christ. He says, “I don’t speak to condemn you, for I said before that you’re in our hearts to die together and to live together.” Now that’s covenant language right there. You talk about being in a partnership with somebody, when you receive Christ, and another person receives Christ you’re bound together. Now, if you’re not living this way it doesn’t alter that fact. Now, you’re not enjoying it, the unity you could have in the Spirit, but if there’s disunity somebody doesn’t have a clue what being a Christian is. We’re in a covenant. We’re in a family and we’re bound together. To die together and to live together. They had all died the same death to sin and they were seeking to live the same spiritual life unto God.
And I love the order he puts this. It’s profound: Death always comes before life. He uses the aorist tense. So yes, we did die. You have to die in order to become a believer. But daily we need to die, die to Wayne by saying yes to God. And this is really what he’s dealing with the Corinthians. He’s saying, “Corinthians, it’s not that big of a deal. If you’ll just go on and say yes to God, then you will break those relationships because you can’t marry the two together. And when you do that we’re already in oneness to die together and to live together.” Talk about a partnership in Christ. What a difference between forming an alliance with an unbeliever and being in alliance in covenant with a believer. That’s what he’s trying to get across to them.
There’s no sense in this kind of thing. I’ve always thought this, every place I’ve ever lived, and this is coming out of my heart, but every place I’ve ever lived it’s musical churches. I’ll tell you what. “Brother Wayne, I don’t like the music. I’m going down here.” And they go to here and then get down there and they don’t like the preacher. So they tell him “I don’t like your preaching. You’re not feeding me. So I’m going to go down here.” And I’m thinking, what God’s thinking all along this time? What in the world are people doing? They’re trying to form a covenant or a partnership with people they don’t even relate to. The people that they’re in covenant with, they won’t walk with because they won’t separate themselves from that which has caused the wrong thinking which has caused the broken relationships with others.
Well, we find out here about his third letter that he wrote that Titus took. And when he went down to Troas and couldn’t find Titus, buddy, that really bothered him and he goes to Macedonia and finds Titus. Paul was so anxious. He wrote them a letter that scalded them to deal with some things. Some people think it’s the incest the situation in chapter 5. I don’t. I think it was the false teachers. Somebody in there had propagated a lot of lies against Paul, probably both, I don’t know. But he wanted to see how they dealt with it. And we’ve studied this. Remember he said, “I wrote you a letter because I didn’t want to hurt you.” Paul says, “Buddy, if I come to you you’re going to regret the day I walked in your midst so I decided not to come to you. I decided to write you a letter.” Boy, he must have been one tough nut, you know it.
And he said, “Man, I so believed in you. I chose to give you the benefit of the doubt. I chose to believe that you’re going to respond to what I’ve asked you to do. I chose to believe that and I was so anxious.” He says in verse 4, “Great is my confidence in you; great is my boasting on your behalf.” He even told Titus, he told everybody, “I believe they’re going to respond. I just believe the Christ in them are going to, it’s going to help them to see what I’m saying.”
“I’m filled with comfort; I’m overflowing with joy in all of our affliction.” And he says in verse 5, “For even when we came into Macedonia our flesh had no rest, but we were afflicted on every side: conflicts without, fears within. But God,” verse 6, “who comforts the depressed, comforted us by the coming of Titus.” And old Titus saw him in Macedonia and, hey, can’t you just seem him? Hey, Paul! Come here man, come here. And Paul said, “What did they do? What did they do?” And he says, “Man, you’re going to shout till Jesus comes back. They responded, Paul. They did exactly like you thought they were going to do. They are believers over there. They’re in covenant with us. The relationship was broken, but they’re dealing with it and you can walk with them again.” That thrilled his heart. It thrilled his heart.
There’s going to come a point in your life when you’re going to be in a rift between you and another believer. But if that person’s a believer and you have confidence that he’s a believer, and you’ve done everything you know to do on your part, you may have to lay it down and give them a benefit of the doubt and trust the Christ that lives in them and let God bring that relationship back to where it needs to be. You can’t do another thing, but God can do that. God can establish that in your heart.
You know what I want to share with you? Giving a brother the benefit of the doubt to me is the first real fruit of a person who’s spiritually mature walking with God. That’s the first thing. You don’t ever accept what somebody says. You don’t ever accept what you see on the surface alone, because if he’s a believer you die together and you live together and God’s going to somehow bring that covenant full circle. And you believe it, you believe it. You just choose to believe it. Don’t you wish everybody in your life would give you the benefit of the doubt when you’re not living the way you ought to live and say, you know what, I’m going to trust Christ in you. I’ve told you what to do. You know exactly what the problem is. I’m just going to commit you over to Him and I’m going to wait with rejoicing. I’ll be a little anxious, but I want to hear how God’s brought you full circle.
I have several friends that are college presidents. They’re Christian presidents of colleges. One of them several months ago said to me, “Wayne, would you pray for me?” And I said sure. What’s up? He said, “I have a board at the school who have always done it a certain way and they won’t get off of that.” And he says “everything I try to do that’s innovative or creative,” he said, “Man, you know my stand on the word of God.” And, buddy, he doesn’t budge. But he said, “They can’t stand change and they always somehow connect me to other presidents of colleges that have gone the way of the world, Christian colleges, and have walked away from their devotion to truth and to God’s Word.” And he said, “I’m not that way, but they won’t give me the benefit of the doubt.” And I thought welcome to Christianity in the 21st century.
The wrong information that people embrace, and will not turn loose of causes them not to be able to give another the benefit of the doubt and they can’t walk together any more. So what’s the first thing we do? Get rid of that which is causing the poison in our life. What’s the second thing that we do? We live in respect for who God is and what His Word says. And the third thing choose, once you’ve gone as far as you can go, choose to trust the Christ in the one that you’re really bound to, but he doesn’t get it, because you died together and you’re going to live together and he just doesn’t get it yet, because that’s the birthright of all believers is to be in oneness together. That’s the key.
Well, I hope this says to you what it sure has said to me.