“Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1).
Holiness is more than cleansing, though cleansing must come first. This is taught in more than one passage of the New Testament. “Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word” (Ephesians 5:25-26). “If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified” (2 Timothy 2:21).
Cleansing is the negative side: the removal of impurity, being separate, and not touching the unclean thing. Sanctifying is the positive union and fellowship with God: participation in the divine life and holiness (2 Corinthians 6:17-18).
Let Us Cleanse Ourselves
Cleansing is sometimes spoken of as the work of God (Acts 15:8-9; 1 John 1:9), and sometimes as that of Christ (John 15:3; Ephesians 5:26; Titus 2:13-14). In our verse, we are commanded to cleanse ourselves. How is this cleansing to be done?
When Hezekiah called the priests to sanctify the temple that had been defiled, we read, “the priests went into the inner part of the house of the Lord, to cleanse it, and brought out all the uncleanness that they found” (2 Chronicles 29:16). Only then could God’s service be restored.
In this way, all that is unclean in us must be searched out, brought to light, and utterly cast out. The Holy Spirit stirs us up and enables us to accomplish this difficult work. The Spirit is the strength of the new life; in that strength we must set ourselves determinedly to cast out whatever is unclean.
We are called to the careful exercise of perfecting holiness. Holiness must be carried out into the whole of life, and carried on even to its end. Let us not be afraid of the word “perfect.” Our blessed Lord used it when He gave us the command, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). A student striving after perfection in knowledge is told by his teacher that the way to the perfection he hopes for at the end of his training is to be perfect in the lessons of each day. To be perfect in the small portion of the work that each hour brings is the path to the perfection that will crown the whole.
As teachable students, let us in every act of worship or obedience, in every temptation and trial, do the very best which God’s Spirit can enable us to do. “Let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” (James 1:4). “Now the God of peace … make you perfect in every good work to do His will” (Hebrews 13:20-21).
—Condensed from The Believer’s Secret of Holiness by Andrew Murray.