Come out from among them and be separate


(2 Cor. 6 : 16 – 7 : 1)
In his epistle to the Christians in Corinth, St. Paul sets the example of the Old Testament Prophets and uses their words to warn his contemporaries. “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord, do not touch what is unclean and I will receive you, I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty” (2 Cor. 6:17-18).

In a single sentence the Apostle included several sayings of the prophets from the Old Testament. This is proof that “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). Both the Old and New Testaments are equally important. The Apostle emphasizes this by saying “all Scripture.” Our Lord Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the word of God which is given to us in the Scriptures of the Old Testament. “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For, assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled” (Mt. 5:17-18). Since “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Tim. 3:16), it should be clear to anyone, including Protestants of all groups and subdivisions that the Bible (as they prefer to call the Holy Scriptures) is not something we are free to analyze according to our disposition and choice. We cannot say, “This is authentic and this is not, I will accept this, but I will reject this.”

St. Paul gives a choice to all the Christians of Corinth and, together with them, to us, as well: whom will we give our love to and whom will we entrust with our souls, God or the devil? In giving us this choice, St. Paul has in mind the words of the Lord given to us through the Old Testament: “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live. That thou mayest love the Lord thy God and that thou mayest obey His voice” (Deut. 30:19-20). The Lord commanded His people many times not to mingle with other nations that are among them, so that they would not bow down before their gods. “Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods and worship them; and then the Lord’s wrath be kindled against you, and He shut up the heavens that there be no rain, and that the land yield not her fruit; and lest ye perish quickly from the good land which the Lord giveth you (Deut. 11:16-17); and “Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence , touch no unclean thing, be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord” (Is. 52:11).

The holy Apostle Paul also warns the Christians in Corinth not to be “unequally yoked together with unbelievers” (2 Cor. 6:14). St, Paul uses the term “unequally yoked,” meaning that two different animals, such as an ox and an horse, for example, cannot be yoked together to pull one cart, because each one will pull to his own side. A Christian and a non-Christian in the same yoke of sin – this is a picture that the Apostle does not want to see.

The holy Apostle Paul spent a lot of his time and energy teaching the Corinthians. “He continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them” (Acts 18:11). He had a lot of work to do among them. In his epistles to the Corinthians the Apostle wrote about their many sins which were unknown at the time even among the godless  (1 Cor. 5:11). In those days Corinth was a city of lust, there were many immoral goings-on there at the time. Christians were subjected to many temptations, chiefly to fall away from witnessing Christ and going back to wallow in the sis of their compatriots, the pagans. The apostle exhorts them to be strong in their faith. “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers,” he pleads with them. “For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? And what accord has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols?” (2 Cor. 6:14-16). Then he adds, “for you are the temple of the living God” (2 Cor. 6:16) and continues to remind them of the words of the Old Testament, commanding them to cleanse themselves of every impurity of the body and soul and to live a holy life in fear of God (2 Cor. 7:1). They have heard all that is needed for them to know, for he has taught them rightly, “not handling the word of God deceitfully” (2 Cor. 4:2), nor, as some, “peddling the word of God, but as of sincerity, but as from God, speaking of the sight of God in Christ” (2 Cor. 2:17).

When he advises them to become separate, he does not mean for them to separate themselves physically from their surroundings, because that would have been both impossible and purposeless. If Christians hid themselves away from the world, they would not be the “light of the Gentiles,” (Is. 42:6) and the “light of the world” (Mt. 5:14). The Apostle wants the Christians to live in this fallen world, to have contact with lost souls, so that they would hear the world of God and see Christ in them.

Apostle Paul was very concerned after reading the reports from his disciples Titus that Christians eat together with the pagans in their temples and take part in their rites such as ritual prostitution and other immoral acts. He was also concerned about the false brethren who came among the Christians secretly in order to spy out their liberty which they had in Jesus Christ (Gal. 2:4). “I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people, yet I certainly did not mean the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or with extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner  – not even to eat with such a person” (1 Cor. 5:9-11).

St. Paul knew that after he had left them, savage wolves would come among them, which have no mercy on the flock and also that among them, men will rise up who speak perverse things to draw away his disciples after themselves (Acts 20:29-30). He warns them to beware lest anyone cheat them through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Jesus Christ (Col. 2:8). When St. Paul tells them to separate, he has in mind these false brethren, false apostles and their deformed Gospel. The Apostle reminds the Christians of Corinth of their high calling. “For you are the temple of the living God,” he says to them (2 Cor. 6:6). The temple must be sanctified in order for the living God to take His abode in it. Likewise, Christians must sanctify their lives in order for God to live in them through His Holy Spirit as in His temple.

“Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 7:1).