Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord.

2 Corinthians 6:17


I dare to say that Christians who have genuinely come to love and trust Jesus Christ have also renounced this world and have chosen a new model after which to pattern their lives.

Further, we should say that this is the aspect of the Christian life that most people do not like. They want comfort. They want blessing. They want peace. But they recoil from this radical, revolutionary break with the world.

To follow Christ in this rough and thoroughgoing way is too much for them!

Actually, the true Christian dissents from the world because he knows that it cannot make good on its promises. As Christ’s believing disciple, he is not left without a “norm” to which he seeks to be adjusted. The Lord Jesus Christ is Himself the norm, the ideally perfect model, and the worshiping soul yearns to be like Him. Indeed, the whole drive behind the Christian life is the longing to be conformed to the image of Christ!


Dear Lord, it is difficult to be a future citizen of heaven yet live and function in this present world. Help me live each day in a manner worthy of Jesus Christ (see Philippians 1:27).[1]


“Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,” says the Lord. “And do not touch what is unclean”; (6:17a)

To be bound together with unbelievers is not only foolish and irreverent, but it also disobeys God’s explicit command, expressed in the two imperative verbs translated come out and be separate. Therefore links the command in this verse with the principle expressed in verse 16. As those personally indwelt by the living God, believers are to avoid any joint spiritual effort with unbelievers. As the temple of the living God, they must not be linked for the cause of the advancement of divine truth with any form of false religion.

The thought in this verse hearkens back to Isaiah 52, where God commanded His people, “Depart, depart, go out from there, touch nothing unclean; go out of the midst of her, purify yourselves, you who carry the vessels of the Lord” (v. 11; cf. Rev 18:4). Christians, like Israel at the time of her salvation (vv. Isa. 52:7–10), must make a clean break with all false religion to avoid its contaminating influence (cf. 2 Tim. 2:16–17). Paul repeated this principle in Ephesians 5:5–11:

For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them.

The “children of Light” must “not be partakers” with the “sons of disobedience.” They must be concerned with “pleasing … the Lord,” not sinful men. To that end, they must “not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them.” The church’s goal is not to make unbelievers feel comfortable and nonthreatened. On the contrary, it is to make them feel uncomfortable with their sins and threatened by God’s judgment and the terrors of hell that they face.

It has always been God’s will for His people to be distinct from unbelievers. In Leviticus 20:24, 26 God said to Israel, “I am the Lord your God, who has separated you from the peoples.… Thus you are to be holy to Me, for I the Lord am holy; and I have set you apart from the peoples to be Mine.” In the New Testament Peter reiterated that principle, exhorting believers,  “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’ ” (1 Peter 1:14–16).

Strengthening the point that failing to separate from unbelievers is disobedience is the third command in this verse, Do not touch what is unclean. Touch is from haptō and refers to a harmful touch, as in 1 John 5:18. Believers are not to be involved with unclean, false teaching. They are to “save [those trapped in false religions], snatching them out of the fire … hating even the garment polluted by the flesh” (Jude 23). But the church cannot worship, evangelize, or minister with those who pervert or reject the truth of the Word of God.[2]

17 In keeping with the promise of his presence and protection, God demands purity of life and separation from evil: “Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing” (cf. 1 Th 5:22). Isaiah 52:11 is the source of Paul’s citation; the differences may be explained by Paul’s quoting from memory and applying the text to the Corinthian situation. In Isaiah, the call was for separation (= departure) from Babylon (autēs, “her,” in the LXX), with its pagan idolatry. In Paul, the call is for separation from unbelievers (autōn, “them,” v. 17 = apistoi, “unbelievers” [GK 603], v. 14), with their pagan way of life. This verse, therefore, should not be used in defense of separation from other believers on the ground of doctrinal differences.

“And [or “then,” kai] I will receive you” stems from Ezekiel 20:34, 41. God’s approval of his people is dependent on their obedience to his commands. Separation from the world (vv. 14, 17a–c) leads to fellowship with God (vv. 17d–18; cf. Jas 4:4).[3]

[1] Tozer, A. W. (2015). Mornings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2003). 2 Corinthians (pp. 254–255). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[3] Harris, M. J. (2008). 2 Corinthians. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, pp. 488–489). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

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