Sermon #14611 Miscellaneous Sermons
Title: “Perfecting Holiness”
Text: 2 Corinthians 7:1
Reading: Philippians 3:1-21
Subject: Every Believer’s Responsibility Regarding Holiness
Date: Thursday Evening – July 5, 2001
Rescue Baptist Church – Rescue, CA
Tape # W-49b
Let me begin my message to you tonight by stating publicly and as dogmatically as I know how that which the Holy Spirit has taught me out of this Book. These are not debatable points of doctrine. These are matters inscribed upon my heart by the finger of God. I state them without apology. They are the essential elements of my doctrine. I have believed and preached them since I was a young man. With regard to these essential matters, my doctrine has not varied a hair’s breadth in 33 years; and it will not change tomorrow.
I believe them more fully, preach them more confidently, and rejoice in them with greater hope than I did in my youth; but my doctrine is the same as it was from the beginning. I am not swayed either by the approval or disapproval of any.
1. Salvation (Justification – Sanctification – Glorification) is, in its entirety, the work of God’s free and sovereign grace in Christ, grace granted, bestowed and flowing freely to sinners through the merits of Christ’s blood and righteousness. -- This salvation is in no way dependent upon or determined by the will, worth, or work of any man, to any degree, or at any point.
2. The comfort and joy of this salvation is experienced and know in the hearts of God’s elect by faith in Christ, that faith which is wrought in and given to regenerate sinners by the omnipotent, irresistible work and grace of God the Holy Spirit. – Our faith in Christ contributes nothing to our justification and righteousness before God, but rather is the result of it.
3. This holy faith in Christ, which receives and enjoys God’s salvation, excites, animates, inspires, motivates, governs, and rules the believer’s life. – God’s elect, being entirely free from Sinai’s fiery law of death are under law to Christ. We are ruled by the law of faith, and refuse to be ruled by any other. – Let the work monger hoot and holler all he will, crying “Antinomianism! Licentiousness!” – I am totally unaffected by their slander.
Free from the law! O happy condition!
Jesus hath bled and there is remission!
Cursed by the law and bruised by the fall,
Now I am free, there’s no condemnation. –
Blessed salvation, once for all!
4. All who are born of God, all who have experienced this glorious thing called salvation, all who know the blessed liberation of grace in Christ, all who walk not after the flesh (law) but after the Spirit, seek to live in this world for the glory of God, seeking to “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things.”.
[Titus 2:11-14] "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,  Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;  Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;  Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works."
With these things in mind, I want you to turn with me to 2 Corinthians 7:1. The title of my message tonight 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 true 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.
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>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).
[1 Corinthians 1:30-31] "But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:  That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord."
[Colossians 2:9-10] "For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.  And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:"
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>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.
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>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).
[Matthew 5:16] "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."
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.
Proposition: 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.
[1 Corinthians 10:31] "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God."
Divisions: There are four things in this verse to which I want to call your attention:
<![if !supportLists]>1. <![endif]>The Promises God Has Given.
<![if !supportLists]>2. <![endif]>The Cleansing We Must Perform.
<![if !supportLists]>3. <![endif]>The Goal We Seek.
<![if !supportLists]>4. <![endif]>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.” – Great Promises! – Precious Promises! – Many Promises! – Covenant Promises! – Sure Promises! – In Christ!
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, public profession of faith in believer’s 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 says, “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...
<![if !supportLists]>1. <![endif]>The Giver of life.
<![if !supportLists]>2. <![endif]>The Revealer of truth.
<![if !supportLists]>3. <![endif]>The Preserver of grace.
<![if !supportLists]>4. <![endif]>The Seal of the covenant.
<![if !supportLists]>5. <![endif]>The Earnest of heaven.
<![if !supportLists]>6. <![endif]>The Comforter of your heart.
B. His manifest communion with you (v. 16). -- The Lord God says, “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...
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>To work in the morning.
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>Through the trials of the day. – The Water and the Fire!
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>Into the wilderness of temptation.
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>To the house of worship.
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>To your bed at night.
C. His covenant faithfulness (v. 16). -- The Lord God says, 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, 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).
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>The people of his eternal love.
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>The people of his redemptive purpose.
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>The people of his saving grace.
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>The people of his unfailing faithfulness.
D. Perfect, unconditional acceptance with Him (v. 17). -- The Lord our God says, “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.
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>He received us before the worlds were made.
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>He received us when we came to him (The Prodigal).
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>He receives us now.
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>He receives us forever.
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>He shall receive us up into heaven.
E. The assurance of adoption (v. 18). – God himself 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 3:1-3).
[Galatians 4:4-6] "But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,  To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.  And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father."
[1 John 3:1-3] "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.  Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.  And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure."
1. God himself is our Father!
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>A father takes care of his children.
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>A father provides for his children.
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>A father prepares an inheritance for his children.
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>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<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> 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). – His name is “The Lord that doth sanctify you” – (Ex. 31:13). Christ is our Sanctification (1 Cor. 1:30).
[Hebrews 9:14] "How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?"
[Hebrews 10:10-14] "By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.  And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins:  But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;  From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.  For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified."
Paul is talking about the 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).
[Titus 2:10-14] "Not purloining, but showing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.  For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,  Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;  Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;  Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works."
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. So far as I know these evils are not among us. Yet, we must avoid such corruptions of the flesh and take care that we avoid the appearance of such evils.
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. However, these inward evils are just as vile as the outward deeds of the flesh.
<![if !supportLists]>1. <![endif]>Envy And Covetousness.
<![if !supportLists]>2. <![endif]>Malice And Wrath.
<![if !supportLists]>3. <![endif]>Worry And Unbelief.
<![if !supportLists]>4. <![endif]>A Hard, Critical, Judgmental, Unforgiving Spirit.
<![if !supportLists]>5. <![endif]>All False Religion (6:14-16). – We must make a clean break with all false religion!
[2 Corinthians 6:14-16] "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?  And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?  And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people."
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).
[Acts 15:9] "And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith."
[1 Peter 1:22] "Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:"
<![if !supportLists]>1. <![endif]>We must continually flee to the Fountain opened, and wash ourselves by faith in the blood of Christ (Zech. 13:1).
[Zechariah 13:1] "In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness."
Illustration: Old Faithful
<![if !supportLists]>2. <![endif]>We must bathe in the laver of God’s Word (John 15:3).
[John 15:3] "Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you."
<![if !supportLists]>3. <![endif]>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).
[Ephesians 4:21-32] "If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus:  That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;  And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;  And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.  Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.  Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:  Neither give place to the devil.  Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.  Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.  And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.  Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:  And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you."
[Ephesians 5:1-2] "Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children;  And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour."
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.” <![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>
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 finish and perfect it! Paul is talking about our lives in this world. He is talking about consecration to God.
He 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 -- (“When we see him we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is!” -- 1 John 3:2).
<![if !supportLists]>1. <![endif]>We have been predestined and elected to it (Rom. 8:29; Eph. 1:4-5).
<![if !supportLists]>2. <![endif]>We have been redeemed for it (Eph. 5:25-27).
<![if !supportLists]>3. <![endif]>We have been born for it (Rom. 8:21).
<![if !supportLists]>4. <![endif]>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, fourth, 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.
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>The fear of God casts out the fear of man, eliminating one common cause of sin.
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>The fear of God is the root of faith, worship, and obedience.
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>The fear of God works through love.
Application: Need I say more?
[Romans 12:1-2] "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.  And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."
[1 Corinthians 6:9-11] "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,  Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.  And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God."
[1 Corinthians 6:19-20] "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?  For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's."
[Colossians 3:1-3] "If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.  Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.  For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God."
[Hebrews 12:14] "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:"
[Philippians 3:7-14] "But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.  Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,  And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:  That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;  If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.  Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.  Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,  I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
[Philippians 3:20-21] "For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:  Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself."
[2 Corinthians 7:1] "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."
Illustration: “My Daddy died for me.”
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> The word here translated cleanse is the word from which our feminine name “Katherine” is derived. It means “purify.” However, in this context, it would be better translated as it is in John 15:2 – “purge” or “prune.” The Holy Spirit is here calling for us not to purify ourselves from sin. (That is God’s work alone.), but to cut ourselves off from it. – To cut ourselves off from the filthiness of flesh and spirit.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> The word translated “perfecting” (epiteleo -- ep-ee-tel-eh’-o), means to “execute,” “ put into force,” “ perform,” or “bring through to the end.” – This is the word used in Philippians 1:6. -- "Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." – The Apostle Paul is here telling us, as we cut ourselves off from the filthiness of the flesh and spirit, to “do holiness.” – He is not telling us to make ourselves holy, but to live in and exercise that holiness the Lord God has given us and wrought in us by his grace.
The word “holiness” is never used in the Word of God in a relative sense when referring to people. Our God is holy. In Christ God’s elect are made holy. We have been brought into a state of righteousness and holiness before the Lord. And we have been given a holy nature in the new birth. Christ is that Holiness we must have, without which no man shall see the Lord. But as the word is used here, it refers to our consecration to God, that consecration of heart and life which is the character of true faith.
The Amplified Bible gives the exact sense of this verse best – “Therefore, since these great promises are ours, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that contaminates and defiles body and spirit, and bring our consecration to completeness in the reverential fear of God. ”
1 See Sermon #668 Danville (11/30/97 -- AM). This message preached at Danville on Sunday Evening June 24, 1001 and at Rescue, CA on Thursday Evening July 5, 2001.