The Editor’s Desk by Shawn McMullen
The New International Version translates 2 Corinthians 7:1, “Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.” The New Living Translation renders it, “Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God.”
Our pursuit of holiness doesn’t require sinlessness. If that were the case, we’d have no hope. Instead it refers to the Christian’s freedom from the penalty and bondage of sin, and to our living lives dedicated exclusively to God.
God calls all his children to holy living. He said to Israel in Leviticus 11:45, “I am the lord who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy.” The apostle Peter repeated the statement for us in 1 Peter 1:15, 16. Paul established holiness as God’s will for every Christian in 1 Thessalonians 4:3 by writing, “God’s will is for you to be holy” (NLT).
In 2 Corinthians 7:1, Paul calls us to “purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit” (NIV, emphasis added). Anything at all that could defile us—physically or spiritually—must be laid aside in our pursuit of holiness. It doesn’t matter how common, appealing, or culturally acceptable the thing is. If it can harm us physically or spiritually, we need to eliminate it. It seems there’s no limit to the things that contaminate our spirits: pride, jealousy, lust, anger, envy, deceit, laziness, and self-absorption are just a few. And what about things that contaminate our bodies? Smoking, abusing alcohol and drugs, and gluttony come to mind. Whatever the addiction, if it has potential to harm us spiritually or physically, we need to avoid it.
Then Paul calls on us to “[perfect] holiness out of reverence for God.” This is especially convicting. In the past, I’ve pursued holiness because it made me feel spiritually superior to my contemporaries. At other times I’ve pursued it because I perceived a connection between personal holiness and effective ministry (see 2 Timothy 2:20, 21). There’s certainly nothing wrong with positioning ourselves to receive God’s blessings on our ministries as he recognizes our commitment to personal holiness, but that can’t be our primary motivation.
We pursue holiness primarily because we revere God; we fear him, love him, and want above all other things to please him. Obedience plays a role (see again 1 Peter 1:15, 16), but only when it stems from love and devotion, and therefore reverence.
Perhaps you’ll accept a challenge similar to the one I’ve given myself—to rekindle my passion and renew my pursuit of holiness for no other reasons than my love for God and my desire to please him, to show him by my actions that I revere him.
Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.