2 Corinthians 7:1
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 stirs up our hearts to the perfecting of holiness. May God the Holy Spirit 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 addressing myself 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. Believers are not mercenary soldiers, hired servants, or slaves in bondage to law. 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). Every true believer is perfect and complete in Christ, redeemed, justified, and sanctified.
I have not forgotten 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, by painful, bitter experience, that it is impossible for us to even think, much less do, that which is truly good, righteous, and holy.
I know that every believer is a person with two natures, which are constantly at war with one another (Gal. 5:17). “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” Flesh will never be anything less than flesh. 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.
Yet, 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. We are commanded by our Redeemer to purposefully live before men in such a way that they are compelled to see our works and glorify our Father in heaven (Matt. 5:16).
I know as well as any that our character and conduct in this world cannot, in any way, alter our relationship with God. It neither improves it nor diminishes it. However, our character and conduct in this world does reflect our relationship with God. This fact is plainly revealed in Holy Scripture, as plainly revealed as any other aspect of grace and righteousness - 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 (Col. 3:17). Being motivated by gratitude and grace, by the constraint of Christ’s love experienced, we seek, and can never be satisfied with anything less than, perfect commitment to Christ, perfect communion with Christ, and perfect conformity to Christ in all things.