Purity is a necessity for ministry. We make a fatal mistake when we think that we can be successful in our service for Christ while pursuing impurity in our personal lives.
"Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (2 Cor. 7:1).
The present participle "having" (ἔχοντες) is best taken as a causal participle (Burton, Moods and Tenses, 170). The cause of our cleansing is the promises of God. Paul is referring back to the promises in 6:17-18 about God welcoming us and being a father to us. His loving promises motivate us to live pure lives. Paul uses the subjunctive "let us cleanse" (καθαρίσωμεν) to exhort other believers to join him in purifying their lives (Burton, Moods and Tenses, 74). Paul is not above the calling to purity. He, too, must cleanse his life of all impurity to maintain his integrity in ministry. The sad reality is that many of the biblical heroes of faith failed in the later stages of life and brought dishonor to God through impurity.
Christians should make a clean, hard break from all forms of compromise that might lead to impurity as Paul has argued at the end of chapter 6. 2 Corinthians 7:1 is the conclusion for the argument of 6:14-18 about spiritual compromise. The aorist tense of the verb adds to this sense of decisiveness (Hughes, 2 Corinthians, 258, fn 21), especially when combined with the preposition "from" (ἀπὸ) as in this case. Hebrews 9:14 uses the same combination to explain how Christ offered His blood "to cleanse" our "conscience from dead works" (καθαρίζειν ἀπό). Christ cleansed us positionally and calls us to cleanse ourselves experientially. The preposition "from" (ἀπό) carries the sense of "off" or "away from" indicating that we must wash off the pollution of sin that contaminates our flesh and spirit (Robertson, Grammar, 577-578).
Writers have argued over the meaning of the clause "flesh and spirit" (σαρκὸς καὶ πνεύματος). Paul commonly uses these terms in a technical and theological manner. Flesh is human nature controlled by sin and is incapable of being purified until heaven. Spirit is the good side of Christians and does not need to be purified. These terms spark debate because of their technical theological meanings. However, I think Paul is using these terms nontechnically. He is talking about the outer and inner parts of a human. Paul uses a similar expression, "body and spirit" (τῷ σώματι καὶ τῷ πνεύματι), to refer to a whole person, both the inward and outward parts (1 Cor. 7:34, cf. 1 Cor. 5:3,5). I think Paul is using "flesh and spirit" in a similar nontechnical sense to refer to the totality of a human. All we are in our humanity needs purifying (Martin, 2 Corinthians, 209-210).
Maintaining our purity is necessary for effective ministry. We are "perfecting holiness" (ἐπιτελοῦντες ἁγιωσύνην) as we cleanse our activities. The verb means to bring about, complete or accomplish our holiness (BDAG, 302). Positionally we are holy. Experientially, we bring about our holiness by cleansing ourselves from all impurity in our human lives. It only takes one hard blow from a sinful choice to leave us with an ugly husk where once there was a beautiful flower of ministry.
Lord, keep me from blowing it all the way to the end of my life!