2 Corinthians 7:2-4
The apostle Paul concluded the previous section of 2 Corinthians by calling his readers to live according to what they are in Christ; namely, the temple of the living God. One of the great truths about the new covenant people of God is that we do not have a temple but that we are the temple. God lives in us by the Holy Spirit. After doing that, he immediately reassures them of their friendship or fellowship or partnership in the gospel. What we want to think about today is the attitude that must saturate our approach to the Christian way of life. How ought we to live together as Christ’s people? We can profit greatly by learning how Paul reassured his dear friends in Corinth.
Paul told them to “make room” for him (7:2). A contrast of two churches, Corinth and Thessalonica, will help us understand the reason for this request. Both were started at about the same time by the same church planter (Paul), but they had developed different views of the Christian way of life, and Corinth’s view was very defective.
- The church of Thessalonica started in a time of persecution. They had a decisive break from idols and quickly became an effective partnership in the mission of the gospel. The word rang out from them (1 Thessalonians 1:8)! Yes, they needed to grow in grace, like all Christians do. Although they knew Paul only a short time, they were open to his ministry.
- Some conflict with the Jews in Corinth happened in Corinth, but this church did not start in the turmoil of persecution. In fact, the Lord Jesus guaranteed Paul release from persecution there (Acts 18:9-10). This was a great outward advantage that Paul used well. But at the same time, the believers in Corinth seemed a little too at home in the world. This attitude showed itself again and again in their opinions about worldly wisdom and their willingness to participate in contact with idolatry, which every new gathering of believers had been urged to avoid (Acts 15:29). Both of these combined together, with evil actions of false teachers, to make them rather closed to Paul’s new covenant ministry.
- So then, after telling them to separate from idolatry, which they had been too open towards, Paul commands them as Christ’s apostle to make room for him, whom they had been closed towards. They had been open toward the wrong things of idolatry and closed to their true gospel partner. So he repeats the command of 6:13 in different words. Each of us should evaluate ourselves to see if we are open to gospel influences and closed to the influence of the world and its idols.
He joins another personal defense of himself to this command. I think that here Paul gives a summary, forceful defense of himself of any supposed charges that anyone could possibly bring against him. He wants to end the past mess once and for all, in order to have a fresh start with them.
- He had mistreated no one. When he directed the church to take action against certain people, they were receiving what they deserved. Christ’s apostle was simply applying the Lord’s directives to them.
- He had corrupted no one. Teaching the way of grace does not provide a license to sin, regardless of how some have twisted the gospel. Gospel grace always leads to a godly way of life.
- He had taken advantage of no one. The fact that faith in Christ involves a break with a worldly and idolatrous way of life, which can lead to financial loss for some, does not mean than Paul was somehow out to ruin some of them. I will illustrate. Consider the book Radical by David Platt. Suppose a couple reads it and agrees to downsize their lifestyle in order to give more of their lives and finances for the gospel. In the process, something unexpected happens and they suffer financial loss. The author was not trying to cause them harm, but he redirected them to follow Christ more fully. Sometimes in God’s providence people suffer unforeseen difficulties, which might have happened anyway!
If people are going to work together as gospel partners (and all Christians are to be gospel partners with other followers of Christ), we must make room for each other in our hearts and lives. This is where our walk with one another can get messy. Part of the process involves getting rid of incorrect theological views. Sadly, many professing Christians don’t want to invest time in accurate Christian teaching. Then they wonder why the wheels have come off their lives and their relationships with others. Your doctrinal assumptions will affect your life. We must also try to clear out misunderstandings about our actions. This requires patience, which comes from the Holy Spirit.
Grace and peace, David