Separation Anxiety VI (2 Cor 7.1)

Paul has given the Corinthians commands to separate from the false teachers and reminds them that they are the place where God’s presence dwells. They have promises from God that he welcomes his children and will walk among them. Having all of God’s promises should compel us to complete devotion to him, for he is a Father who gives generously to his children.


A. We Are the Temple of God (6:14–18)

B. Bringing Holiness to Completion (7:1)

1 Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.

B. Bringing Holiness to Completion (7.1)

Because of the Old Testament promises, referenced in 6:17–18, Paul reminds his “beloved” children (6:13) that, as God’s temple, they, including Paul, are to cleanse themselves from all defilement of body and spirit and bring “holiness to completion in the fear of God” (7:1). But what promises are Paul referencing? Are the promises in 6:17–18 the only ones he is referring to? Beale points out,

The observation that 1:20 and 7:1 both refer to ‘promises’ . . . is one of the signposts that it is this section, at least, within which he expounds prophetic fulfilment. Certainly, Paul is thinking partly about the promises of a ‘new covenant’ with Israel (3:1–18), her resurrection (5:14–15), new creation (5:16–17) and restoration from captivity (5:18–6:18) . . . [and] the establishment of a new temple was to be part of Israel’s restoration (e.g., see Ezek. 37:26–28; 40–48). Accordingly, Paul lists the temple among the initial fulfilments of Old Testament prophecy.[1]

After recalling all of the promises Paul has mentioned since 1:20 which the Corinthians have in Christ, Paul displays his affections for the Corinthians by calling them “beloved.” Hafemann says, “The obedience in view is not the believer’s attempt to win God’s love, but the covenant… response that flows from already being loved by God in Christ” (1:1; 12:19).[2] 

The cleansing imagery picks up the images of priesthood from Isaiah 52:11 and the temple from Leviticus 26:11–12 in 2 Corinthians 6:16b. Inheriting God’s future promises means keeping his present commands which are brought about by the working of holiness already granted to God’s people (“saints,” 1 Cor 1:2; 2 Cor 1:1b). Because they are sanctified by Christ (1 Cor 6:11b) and are new creations in him (2 Cor 5:17), they can separate and cleanse themselves from all defilement (1 Cor 5:7) by the power of God (Phil 2:12; 2 Cor 6.18) Almighty. The way they are to cleanse themselves is through repentance and separation in 12:20–21.

The Corinthians are to remember that there will be a judgment at the end of history (5:10). “Knowing the fear of the Lord,” Paul and his associates persuade others to follow Christ (5:11). It is imperative that the Corinthians share this same fear of the Lord so that they will cleanse themselves from their immorality (12:20–21), including their infatuation of the false apostles. If they are God’s “saints,” then they must be “holy as he is holy” (Lev 19:1; 1 Pet 1.16).

Just as Jesus “cleansed” the temple (Mark 11:15–17), Paul exhorts the Corinthians that they would cleanse themselves of every defilement.[5] And as he does earlier in the book (2 Cor 1:11, 14b; 2:11; 3:18; 4:12), Paul includes himself here in 7:1 with the Corinthians. He does not lord his authority over their faith, but he works alongside of them for their joy (1:24; 2.3). However, if they do not rid themselves of the unclean influence now, when Paul returns for a third time he will “spare no one” (13.2) and punish all disobedience (10:6).

Those who do not separate from the unbelievers are not reconciled to God’s ambassador, Paul. They believe a different gospel and are neither reconciled to God nor to Christ. They are not new creations but are blinded not by the God who shines light, but by the god of this age who disguises himself as an angel of light. They will not be spared by Paul, and they will no longer be apart of the Corinthian family in Christ. God will not be their Father. Instead, their father will be the devil (Jn 8:44), Satan, who has outwitted them by his own designs—designs which they should not have been but were indeed ignorant to (2 Cor 2:11). They have been deceived by Satan’s cunning (11:3), for the gospel is veiled to them (3:14), and they are perishing (2:15). They will stand naked and ashamed (5:3) before the Judge on his throne (5:10). They have missed the day of salvation (6:2b) and have taken God’s grace in vain (6:1). The Holy Spirit will not have fellowship with them (13:14) for they are in darkness (6:14c; 4:4). They have no guarantee of future hopes and promises (1:22; 5:5). Their end will correspond to their deeds (11:15b). They have, indeed, failed to meet the test (13:5).

However, Paul remains hopeful. He believes they will complete their obedience (10:6; 13:5b), as he has already seen proof of this (2:6, 9; 7:7ff.; 8:7, 24). He is bold (3:12) because the Holy Spirit is at work (3:3) and Christ is in them (13:5). Opening their hearts wide to Paul means closing their hearts and separating from Paul’s opponents. Whether or not any of the Corinthians responds to Paul’s call will reveal whether or not any of them have been reconciled to God as a genuine believer.[6]

Christ initially fulfilled the temple promise (cf. 1:20), and the readers participate in that fulfilment also, as they are ones ‘having these promises’ (7:1).” Paul and the Corinthians are able to fulfill the same promise as Christ “because God ‘establishes [them] in Christ’ by ‘sealing’ believers and giving the ‘Spirit in our hearts as a down payment’ (1:21–22).”[7]


That was basically my paper for my Hermeneutics class (as the writing style represents). In my paper I tried to demonstrate that 2 Corinthians 6:14–7:1 is original to the letter by showing themes and literary connections. Paul was in his right mind when he wrote this text for the Corinthians (5:13). I hope I have built up (12:19) your confidence that this section was written to the Corinthian church by Paul. As God’s temple, we need to train our minds to know the true gospel and to be leery of any and all false sources of light which seek to tear down God’s temple-bride (6:14–16; 11.2). We have fled from Babylon, and we can never return to it. We have a Father who has welcomed us into his family (6:17–18). To make sure Babylon never again becomes appealing to our once blinded minds, fear God and freely repent from all big and small sins, for the promises God has given us are many (1.20–7.1).


Separation Anxiety V (2 Cor 6.17-18)

Paul has given the Corinthians commands to separate from the false teachers and reminds them that they are the place where God’s presence dwells. Because of this, they should follow God’s commands to separate from the unclean false teachers and and their followers. By doing so they will be welcomed by their Father as they are re-reconciled to his ambassador, Paul.

Detailed Outline

A. We Are the Temple of God (6:14–18)

1. God’s Commands and Promises (6:14–16)

2. Our Welcoming Father (6:17–18)

a. Leave (v. 17a-c)

17  Therefore go out from their midst,

and be separate from them, says the Lord,

and touch no unclean thing;

b. Welcome Home (v. 17d–18)

then I will welcome you,

18  and I will be a father to you,

and you shall be sons and daughters to me,

says the Lord Almighty.”

B. Bringing Holiness to Completion (7:1)

2. Our Welcoming Father (6:17–18)

a. Leave (v. 17a-c)

The Corinthians are God’s people (6:16). They are being transformed into his righteous image day by day (3:18; 5:21). Those who do not live for Christ “who for their sake died and was raised” (5:15) will be part of the old creation and will pass away (5:17). Because they are God’s own, they should separate from the unclean unbelievers (6:14a), “deceitful workmen” who teach a false gospel (11:13–15; cf. Gal 1:9).

In the first three lines of 2 Cor 6:17 Paul quotes from Isaiah 52:11. In Isaiah 52:7-10, God reigns as King from Zion and exhorts his people to leave Babylon and not touch any unclean thing. “Presumably, the sense is that a grand return to Zion, the city of the holy king, requires that anyone returning be pure.”[1] The “sprinkling” that occurs in v. 15 “will effect a purification that will enable not only exiled Jews but also ‘many nations’ to approach the holy king and be part of the holy community.”[2]

Because of the death of God’s Servant (53:4) which brings peace between the believer and God (53:5; cf. Rom 5:1; 2 Cor 5:18), the Corinthians have been sanctified (1 Cor 1:2) and are called to remain pure. In this second exodus, it is “precisely because that work has been accomplished for [the Corinthians, that] they therefore are to so act and do.”[3] Because God revealed his holy arm for all to see his salvific work (Isa 52:10), the priests are to bring the Lord’s vessels out of Babylon.

All of the Corinthians, likened to priests (cf. 1 Pet 2:5, 9 from Exod 19:5–6), are to separate from what is unclean. The unbelievers are not outside of God’s people; they are threatening the very life of his people from within. The Corinthians must not remain where they are, but they must actually do something. “In the new covenant, works are a God-elicited and necessary part of the life of the converted person, a constant theme in the New Testament.”[4]

Here the Corinthians are to “go out from their midst” (2 Cor 6:17a). “The city is naturally associated with its people” (Rev 18:4), and the people here are the false teachers (and perhaps, any who remain associated to them, [“from among them” in Exod 7:5; Ps 136:11]).[5] Yet, at one time, such were the Corinthians (1 Cor 6:11a) associated with “Babylon,” but they have been sanctified (1 Cor 6:11b). The imperative to separate is limited and defined by the larger context of God’s welcoming his people, despite their rebellions and ill-chosen actions.[6]

b. Welcome Home (v. 17d–18)

What is this larger context? If the Corinthians will obey this command, God will welcome them, be a father to them, and they will be his sons and daughters (2 Cor 6:17d–18). In Isaiah 52 God calls his people out of Babylon as a result of his “second exodus” redemptive act (Isa 43:18–19). As a result of their obedience, God promises to gather Israel back and bless them (Ezek 11:17; cf. 20:34, 41). Likewise, just as the Corinthians should separate because of their redemption out from Babylon’s sin and death, the result will be the God will welcome them as a father welcomes his children.

Besides the brief mention of Ezekiel 11:17, Paul conflates 2 Samuel 7:14 and Isaiah 43:6 here in 2 Corinthians 6:18. “During his public accession to the throne, the king underwent an enthronement ceremony in which he was designated as God’s son” (2 Sam 7:14a; Ps 2:7). In 89:27 the king cries a declaration that God is his Father, and he is promised an eternal throne (89:27, 36). Jesus, descending from King David, was declared to be the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead (Rom 1:3-4), and those in him are “sons of God” (8:14). Believers in Christ, the Davidic king who simultaneously shared in God’s kingship and Spirit and uniquely represented God’s people,[7] can cry a declaration that God is their Father (8:15; cf. 2 Cor 1:20).

Isaiah 43.6 expresses the second exodus in terms of God bringing back his sons and daughters. This promise is seen also in 60:4, which includes “in its context the promise that Israel will again worship at a restored temple” (Isa. 60:7, 13).[8] By using “sons and daughters,” Paul shows that God’s presence is not found in a mere temple, but in a family.[9]

Why should the Corinthians not be unequally yoked and separate from the false apostles? Because God is their Father and has redeemed them and reconciled them to himself; they are new creations in Christ. Who are God’s sons and daughters? The Corinthians who separate from the false teachers. They must detach themselves from the false teachers while anticipating God’s final promises of a continued relationship and of the final redemption of this world.

The Corinthians are able to be separate only by the power of the One who announced these Old Testament commands, “the Lord Almighty” (2 Cor 6:18c). This is the only time the phrase “the Lord Almighty” is used in Paul’s writings. It comes from 2 Sam 7:8 and 27 [LXX] and “stresses the invincible power that belongs to God.”[10] The Lord, as the loving Father, is almighty enough to give His children the ability they need to separate from unclean. He keeps his promises (2 Cor 1.20), and they must walk by faith in obedience to him (5.7).

Separation Anxiety III (2 Cor 6.14)

This section can be separated into three smaller sections: 6.14a begins with a command to separate from the unbelievers. 6.14b–16a contains five rhetorical questions to reveal to the Corinthians why they should not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. Finally, in 6.16b Paul conflates two Old Testament texts as the ground for their separation: the Corinthians are the dwelling place of God.

14Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.

For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness?

Or what fellowship has light with darkness?

15What accord has Christ with Belial?

Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?

16What agreement has the temple of God with idols?

For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, 

“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, 

and I will be their God, 

and they shall be my people. 

Paul closes 6.11–13 with a command for the Corinthians to open their hearts to him and opens this section with the command not to be “unequally yoked with unbelievers.” To be “unequally yoked” comes from Leviticus 19.19 and, primarily, Deuteronomy 22.10, where the “clean” ox and the “unclean” donkey were not to plow together. Paul’s intention may be for the Corinthians to not be in any kind of spiritual relationship with pagans (1 Cor 8.1–10; 10.14, 19–22).

Yet Craig Keener says the “warning against being ‘mismatched’ would at least include marital unions. . . . [because] Paul is thinking of the rivals; as Paul wishes to deliver them [the Corinthians] still virgin to Christ, Satan’s agents threaten to corrupt them with their deceptive gospel (2 Cor 11:2–4)” (194). While not all commentators agree on this point, the “idols” (v. 16) are the false teachers whom Paul refers to as “unbelievers.” These false teachers (or “apostles”) are not merely in competition with Paul but preach an entirely different gospel than he does.

Paul makes clear what is at stake if the Corinthians support his opponents. Much of the terminology used in this section is used to describe the necessity of breaking free from demon-dominated idolatry.1 Keener remarks, “It is not difficult to envision Paul’s conflict with his rivals here; if the Corinthians must be reconciled to Paul to be reconciled to God (5:20–6:13), they also must reject his rivals for their affection” (193). Although up to this point, Paul has not explicitly condemned the false apostles, “If Paul’s precautions, specifically the fortification of the Corinthians against the lies of this ‘present, evil age,’ are real, then so are the spokespersons for this age, whose influence Paul has been seeking to undermine (2 Cor 5:12) throughout the letter, even while they are scarcely mentioned.”2


The believers in Corinth must recognize the opponents as unbelievers and separate from them. If the Corinthians refuse to obey this command, they too will be considered “unbelievers.” The seriousness of the separation from Paul’s opponents is grounded in the five preceding rhetorical questions which each anticipate a negative answer. Paul reinforces the notion of being yoked together with the word “partnership” (seen also in 1.7; 8.4; 9.13) and continues to touch on this theme in his remaining four rhetorical questions (“fellowship” [6.14c], “accord” [6.15a], “portion/share” [6.15b], and “agreement” [6.16a]).

Next time I will cover Paul’s five rhetorical questions.

[1] Compare 2 Cor 6.14 // 1 Cor 10.16–21; 2 Cor 7.1 // 1 Cor 8.7.

[2] DeSilva, David A. “Recasting the Moment of Decision: 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1 in its Literary Context,” 4–5.

Separation Anxiety II

Detailed Outline

A. We Are the Temple of God (6:14–18)

1. God’s Commands and Promises (6:14–16)

a. The Command to Separate (v. 14–16a)

b. The Promise of Fellowship (v. 16b)

2. Our Welcoming Father (6:17–18)

a. Leave (v. 17a-c)

b. Welcome Home (v. 17d–18)

B. Bringing Holiness to Completion (7:1)


2 Corinthians 6:14–7:1 comes at the end of a lengthy defense of Paul’s apostleship, stretching from 2:14–7:4.

  • 6:14–7:1 is framed by two sections (6:11–13 and 7:2–4) which consist of Paul’s requests for the Corinthians to make room in their hearts for Paul and his associates (6:13; 7:2):

A  6.11–13, “widen your hearts”

B  6.14–7.1

A’  7.2–4, Make room in your hearts” 

  • In 7:5 Paul picks up where he left off in 2:13 about his uncomfortable travel plans and describes the joy and comfort he experienced when he met with Titus and heard the good news of the Corinthians’ repentance that came as a result of Paul’s previous tearful letter (2:1–4; 7:8).
  • 2 Cor 8–9: Paul encourages the Corinthians to give to the Jerusalem church knowing that God will fill them with many blessings.
  • 2 Cor 10-13: Paul pulls no punches combating the influence of the false teachers among the Corinthians. He shows Christ’s glory by explaining to the Corinthians that he has not been a burden to them out of love for them, nor has he harassed them or cheated them in anyway.
  • Finally, in 13.10, if he must, when he arrives in Corinth for the third time, he will spare no one who rejects his God-given gospel and authority.1

How Does 6.14-7.1 Fit?

G. K. Beale keenly points out, “This is not a general exhortation to separate from the world; rather, Paul likely has in mind that the readers are to separate from the world by not evaluating Paul’s apostleship according to the unbelieving standards of the world, as the preceding context has also focused upon.” While the unbelieving world did remain outside of the church, Paul here “viewed it as a force within the church (cf. 13:5) against whose influence believers needed to be on guard.” Rather than being an interruption, 6:14-7:1 “anticipates the main opposition to be elaborated on in chapters 10–13.” “Paul shows that the situation is so serious that their very salvation is at stake.”2

Some scholars don’t think Paul wrote this section. One in particular (i.e., Mitzi Minor) leaves this section out of her commentary completely. If not Pauline, why comment on it at all? But, if it is Pauline, then we’re missing out on a lot of theology in this section. This is more than a simple, “Don’t be married to an unbelievers.” Paul has Christ’s bride in view!

 In my paper, I didn’t have space to touch on arguments against Pauline authorship of 6:14–7:1. These arguments include the number of hapax legomena (terms which occur only once in the New Testament) Paul uses (ranging from six to nine) in this short passage, the amount of terms found in Qumran texts, and stylistic inconsistencies with Paul’s other letters. Pauline authorship will be argued for in the way I present how this section “hooks” with the rest of the letter.

2 Quotes from G. K Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology, 716-717.

Separation Anxiety I

Last semester in my Biblical Hermeneutics class I had to choose a 10-15 verses from any part of the Bible and write a 10-15 page paper. I had to figure out the thesis, explain the meaning and form of the text, and why it’s important to us today. Having taught 2 Corinthians twice in Bible college, I knew immediately which I would choose: 2 Corinthians 6.14–7.1, a highly contested passage of Paul’s with a number of scholars believing that Paul didn’t write this section. Instead, they think it was written by another author later on (see below). I’m no scholar, but it’s incredible some of the things people come up with.

This passage is only six verses, and I ended up writing 18 pages. It was probably my favorite paper that I’ve ever had to write simply because it dealt with 2 Corinthians. Here is my broad outline. I’ll give another slightly-more-expanded one next time.

General Outline

A. We Are the Temple of God (6:14–18)

A. God’s Commands and Promises (6:14–16)

B. Our Welcoming Father (6:17–18)

B. Bringing Holiness to Completion (7:1)

One reason I enjoy 2 Corinthians so much is that it’s so different. Many of Paul’s letters are fairly straightforward, though nonetheless difficult (per 2 Pet 3.15–16). My first memory reading 2 Corinthians was in Bible College (I was a late bloomer). After I finished I was more confused and knew less about the book than I did before reading it. This began my gradual appreciation for Paul’s “weighty” letter. I hope some of what I have learned comes out in these posts. Enjoy.

The title for my paper Separation Anxiety actually came from an old Spiderman game I played as a kid. In this section of 2 Corinthians, Paul commands the Corinthian church to separate themselves from their beloved false teachers. This separation may include rejecting in their own homes churches who do not repent and who remain with the false teachers (6.14a). After giving reasons the church reasons to separate (6.14b–16a), Paul gives the ground for their need to separate, commands from God to separate, and ends with more promises that will accrue if they obey (6.16b–18). Because God is a Father who can be trusted, and because his promises are good, The Corinthians should cleanse themselves of all defilement and strive to live the life that is pleasing to their Father (7.1; cf. 5.9).

I haven’t figured out how long this series will go, but you can take it in bites while you munch on your cereal. It may not even have time to get soggy before you finish reading.


In 2 Corinthians 5:13 the apostle Paul says, “For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.”1 Many scholars have taken Paul, or, rather, his second canonical letter to the Corinthians, to have been “beside itself,” having been written by different hands and compiled in a disoriented way.2 One can add to that some who do not believe 2 Corinthians 6:14–7:1 was even authored by Paul, but instead was inserted at a later point.3 In my paper I will examine the text of 2 Corinthians 6:14–7:1 and explain the original meaning of the text, draw literary and thematic connections from 6:14–7:1 and where it is situated in the letter, and build the reader’s confidence that this section was written to the Corinthian church by Paul, “an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God” (1:1).

After looking briefly at the context surrounding 6:14–7:1, I will examine Paul’s argument in three parts. In 6:14–16, because the Corinthians are God’s temple, they are not to be in fellowship with unbelievers, namely, the false teachers who oppose Paul and any who side with them. In 6:17–18, the Corinthian believers are to separate from the unclean knowing that God will welcome them as his sons and daughters. In 7:1, as a result of these promises, the Corinthians should cleanse themselves, be holy as God is holy, and fear and obey the Lord.

1According to Mark Seifrid, it would be as “if he spoke as one insane” (The Second Letter to the Corinthians [PNTC], 242).

2 See, for instance, Furnish, who provides a short overview of scholars and their arguments; Victor Paul Furnish, (II Corinthians. The Anchor Bible, 32–33).

3 Mitzi L. Minor (2 Corinthians [S&HBC], 132).