Title: “Perfecting Holiness”
Text: 2 Corinthians 7:1
Subject: Practical Holiness
Date: Sunday Morning - November 30, 1997
The title of my message this morning is “Perfecting Holiness.” Read the text with me - “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.”
In this verse of Scripture the apostle Paul appeals to the noblest motives of the believer’s heart and exhorts us to live before God and men in this world in righteousness, godliness, and holiness. He is stirring up our hearts to the perfecting of holiness. I pray that God the Holy Spirit will graciously stir our hearts to the pursuit of this noble ambition.
This message is addressed to you who are born of God, my “dearly beloved” brothers and sisters in Christ. I am talking to you who are redeemed, justified, and sanctified in Christ. I am calling myself and you to the perfecting of holiness. The basis of my appeal is the free grace of God in Christ, which we have experienced. I offer no promises of reward. I make no threats of punishment. We are not mercenary soldiers, hired servants, or slaves in bondage to law. But I am calling upon us, for Christ’s sake, to set our hearts upon the business of perfecting holiness.
· I am not suggesting that we add anything to the work of Christ, seek to contribute anything to the work of the Holy Spirit, or in any way try to improve our standing before God (1 Cor. 1:30; Col. 2:10).
· And I am not forgetting the corruption of our nature, the weakness of our flesh, and the influence of the old man, Adam, upon our lives (Rom. 7:18; 1 John 1:8). I know that every believer is a person with two natures, which are constantly at war with one another (Gal. 5:17). And I know that the flesh will never serve, or be in agreement with, the Spirit. And the Spirit will never surrender to the flesh. This warfare will not end until we cease to live in this world.
· But I also know that you and I have a responsibility to live in this world, in the presence of God’s enemies and ours, in such righteousness, godliness, and holiness of character that men and women may see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven (Matt. 5:16).
NOTE: My character and conduct in this world cannot, in any way, alter my relationship with God. It neither improves it nor diminishes it. But my character and conduct in this world does reflect my relationship with God.
All who are born of God are responsible to glorify God in every aspect of their lives in this world, and willingly seek to do so.
There are four things in this verse to which I want to call your attention:
1. The promises God has given.
2. The cleansing we must perform.
3. The goal we seek.
4. The motive by which we are driven.
I. First, Paul uses THE PROMISES GOD HAS GIVEN to inspire our hearts to obedience.
“Having therefore these promises” - Paul is addressing believers, children of God. He takes the Corinthians at their word. They did not act much like believers. But they professed to be believers. Therefore Paul spoke to them as believers, men and women who were free from the law and motivated by grace. And he presumes that they will gladly obey God when they are reminded of God’s goodness to them. So he prefaced his exhortation with these words - “Having therefore these promises.”
What are the promises to which he is referring? They are the promises given in 6:16-18 to all who obey the gospel. If you have come out of the world and identified yourself with Christ by an open profession of faith in public baptism, these five promises are given to you. If you trust Christ God himself has promised you...
A. His abiding presence within you (v. 16).
He said, “I will dwell in them.” :You are the temple of God. Your very body, soul, and spirit is the place of God’s permanent residence. That God whom the heavens cannot contain, that God who refuses to dwell in shrines and temples made by the hands of men, that God dwells in you (John 14:18, 23; Col. 1:27). God dwells in you as...
1. The Giver of life.
2. The Revealer of truth.
3. The Preserver of grace.
4. The Seal of the covenant.
5. The Earnest of heaven.
6. The Comforter of your heart.
B. His manifest communion with you (v. 16).
God said, “I will walk in them.”
John Gill said, “This denotes the communion God is pleased to afford his church and people, and the gracious presence of his with them, whilst they are sojourners here, and passing on to the heavenly glory.”
Wherever the believer goes, the name of that place is “Jehovah-shammah,” the Lord is there! The Lord God goes with you...
· To work in the morning.
· Through the trials of the day.
· Into the wilderness of temptation.
· To the house of worship.
· To your bed at night.
C. His covenant faithfulness (v. 16).
The Lord God said, concerning you and me, “I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
This is the language of God’s oath in the covenant of grace, before the world began (Jer. 31:33). He is the God of all men as the Creator of all, and the Ruler of all, and the Judge of all. But he is our God by the special designs of his grace. And we are his people, his special, peculiar people, by the sovereign operations of his grace (Psa. 110:3).
· The people of his eternal love.
· The people of his redemptive purpose.
· The people of his saving grace.
· The people of his unfailing faithfulness.
D. Perfect, unconditional acceptance with Him (v. 17).
The Lord God said, “I will receive them.” What wonderful, good news. We are “accepted in the Beloved!” God receives every sinner who comes to him by faith in Christ because he has forever received us in Christ, our Substitute and Mediator.
· He received us before the worlds were made.
· He received us when we came to him (The Prodigal).
· He receives us now.
· He receives us forever.
· He shall receive us up into heaven.
E. The assurance of adoption (v. 18).
The Lord God says to every believer, “I will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” (Read Gal. 6:4-6; 1 John 3:1-2).
1. God himself is our Father!
· A father takes care of his children.
· A father provides for his children.
· A father prepares an inheritance for his children.
· A father disciplines his children.
2. We are the sons and daughters of God almighty!
Our Father is both able and willing to do all that he has in love purposed and promised to do for us!
Having such promises as these, we ought to be inspired to do anything we can for the honor of our God. We should be willing to give ourselves in unreserved love to our great God. Wouldn’t you agree?
II. Because we have such a great, good, and gracious God, Paul, in the second place, exhorts us to THE CLEANSING WE MUST PERFORM.
“Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit.”
You know, of course, that you cannot cleanse away your own sins. That is God’s work alone.
“What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus!
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus!”
Paul is not talking about our justification. We have been freely justified by the obedience of Christ as our Substitute (Rom. 3:24-26; 5:19). And he is not talking about our sanctification. We are fully sanctified by the application of Christ’s work to our hearts in regeneration (Heb. 9:14; 10:10). Paul is talking about he exercise of internal and external godliness, the purity of our hearts and our conduct. Being the heirs of such great promises, from such a great God, we ought to live in this world for the honor of our God (Tit. 2:10-14).
NOTE: Paul says, “Let us cleanse ourselves,” not “you cleanse yourselves.” In all things, he takes the lead.
A. We must cleanse ourselves.
Our business is not to cleanse one another, but to cleanse ourselves.
B. We must cleanse ourselves of all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, the body and the mind.
Inordinate sins of the flesh, the body, to my knowledge are not a great problem with any member of this congregation. - Adultery, fornication, drunkenness, theft, murder, and blasphemy are not, and must never become, matters of indifference to us. These evils are not among us. But let us take care that we avoid the appearance of evil.
Perhaps I need to say a little more about the filthiness of the spirit, or the mind. These are things that others do not see. They are inward more than outward. Therefore, we tend to be less on guard against them. But these inward evils are just as vile as the outward deeds of the flesh.
1. Envy and covetousness.
2. Malice and wrath.
3. Worry and unbelief.
4. A hard, critical, judgmental, unforgiving spirit.
5. All false religion (6:14-16).
C. How can we cleanse ourselves of these things?
We cannot eradicate sin from our nature, or even make the nature of flesh less sinful. We are going to have to live with sin as long as we live in this world. But we can and must cleanse ourselves. This is not a legal work. It is a work of faith (Acts 15:9; 1 Pet. 1:22).
1. We must continually flee to the Fountain opened, and wash ourselves by faith in the blood of Christ (Zech. 13:1).
Illustration: Old Faithful
2. We must bathe in the laver of God’s word (John 15:3).
3. And we must put off the old man, say “No” to the flesh, and put on the new man, say “Yes” to Christ (Eph. 4:21 - 5:2).
NOTE: Do not give place to sin. Anything you know to be evil, or anything that has the appearance of evil, forsake.
III. Thirdly, this is THE GOAL WE SEEK.
“Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness.”
When Paul speaks here of “perfecting holiness,” he is not talking about perfecting God’s work of justification or perfecting God’s work of sanctification. God’s work does not need the touch of man’s polluted hand to perfect it! Paul is talking about our lives in this world.
Paul is telling us that the believer is “to be carrying on a course of righteousness and holiness to the end. To the end of his life he is to persevere as in faith, so in holiness. As he is to go on believing in Christ, so he is to go on to live soberly, righteously, and godly to the end of his days” (John Gill).
We know that the perfection of holiness in this life is an impossibility. But we can never allow ourselves to be content, or satisfied, with anything less than the perfection of holiness in character and conduct.
A. Perfecting holiness is the goal we seek.
That perfection of holiness is neither more nor less than conformity to the character and conduct of Christ.
B. We must blame ourselves for falling short of this goal.
The weakness of my nature, the infirmity of my flesh, the sin dwelling in me is my own doing. It is my fault. I seek no excuses for it, but only cleansing from it.
C. Soon we will have that perfection of holiness which we desire (1 John 3:2).
1. We have been predestined and elected to it (Rom. 8:29; Eph. 1:4-5).
2. We have been redeemed for it (Eph. 5:25-27).
3. We have been born for it (Rom. 8:21).
4. We shall enter into it!
Child of God, set the perfection of holiness before you as your goal. Strive to attain it in experience. And trust Christ alone for it. Those two statements are not contradictory! Strive to attain perfect holiness in experience. And trust Christ alone for it.
IV. Now, fourthly, here is THE MOTIVE BY WHICH WE ARE DRIVEN.
“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.”
The fear of God is not the dreadful, terrifying fear of unbelief, but the reverential fear of faith and love.
· The fear of God casts out the fear of man, eliminating one common cause of sin.
· The fear of God is the root of faith, worship, and obedience.
· The fear of God works through love.
Need I say more? (Read 1 Cor. 6:9-11, 20 - 2 Cor. 7:1).
1 See Sermon #1461