Conditional Acceptance? (2 Corinthians 6:17-18)

grubby kid“God loves you just as you are and not as you should be.” That’s the gospel of grace in one sentence!

Manmade religion says you have to clean yourself up before you approach the Lord, but grace shouts, “Come as you are!” So how do we explain this passage which seems to say something different:

Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty. (2 Cor 6:17-18)

This sounds like conditional acceptance, as though we have to purify ourselves before we can come to God. At least that’s how DIY religion interprets it. “You have to separate yourself from the pollution of the world before God will accept you. You have to watch how you live or your Father may reject you.”

What a horrible thing to say! Can you imagine saying that to your children? “Sin and you’re out of the family!” Yech!

Is Paul preaching conditional acceptance?

If Paul is preaching conditional acceptance in 2 Corinthians 6, then he is contradicting himself when he declares “accept one another as Christ accepted you” (Rom 15:7). The good news is not “work hard and you might get accepted. (That’s not news and it’s certainly not good.) The good news is that Christ has accepted you! God has made us accepted in the Beloved (Eph 1:6).

In the covenant of grace, God takes all the initiative:

  • He loves us first (1 John 4:19)
  • He forgives us first (Col 2:13)
  • He accepts us first (Rom 15:7)

…and all we can do is respond to what he has done.

You need to settle this in your heart. You are not a son or daughter because you avoid unclean things. You are a child of God because you have been adopted:

For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. (Rom 8:15-16)

So what is Paul saying when he says “touch no unclean thing and you will be my sons and daughters”? He is not saying we purify ourselves to become his children. Rather, we purify ourselves because we are his children. He is saying the same thing that John says here:

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. (1 John 3:2-3)

Do you see? Paul and John are painting pictures of the holy lifestyle that holy people live.

It’s be holy, not do holy

Some people read these scriptures on purification and conclude, “I have to separate myself and withdraw from the world and make myself holy.” Yet Jesus never told his disciples to withdraw from the world. In fact, he sent them into the world while praying that God would “sanctify them in it” (see John 17:15–18). Paul said something similar:

I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. (1 Cor 5:9-10)

Jesus didn’t avoid sinners – he loved sinners. He ate with them and revealed God’s grace to them. Same with Paul. He travelled to some of the most pagan places on earth and he brought the aroma of Christ with him. Same with us. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit. We are God’s mobile home. Everywhere we go, there Jesus is.

Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God. (2 Cor 7:1)

This is a favorite scripture of holiness preachers because it’s a new covenant exhortation that can be made to sound like an old covenant command. But it must not be read through a graceless lens as though you could somehow perfect yourself through dead works.

Christ is our holiness and he is already perfect. How can you improve upon perfection? By his one offering he has perfected those that are sanctified (Heb 10:14). One with the Lord, you are just as holy and perfect as he is. That’s the gospel truth.

We cannot improve upon or perfect what Christ has done. This is not about withdrawing from society or locking yourself away in the hope of perfecting yourself. That’s how cults form!

In this passage Paul is saying, “Don’t get distracted by worldly concerns. Don’t follow or join yourself to those who reject Jesus. Don’t tear yourself in half by saying yes to the Lord and yes to those who oppose him. Don’t let the world manipulate and label you and diminish you, but stand secure as a dearly-loved child of God.”

Live as a beloved and accepted child of God and you will never be seduced by the hollow promises of this world. You will be free!

.

54 Comments on Conditional Acceptance? (2 Corinthians 6:17-18)

  1. Earl Hendricks // February 26, 2015 at 2:22 am // Reply

    I have been a Christian for nearly fifty years and a Pastor for ten years, but until I began listening to Joseph Prince and read your blogs I have to confess I never really understood about God’s Amazing Grace. You guys have really open my eyes. Thank you. Now I use what I am learning from both of you to teach this amazing grace myself.

    Be blessed.

    Earl

  2. Cooperating with the Holy Spirit is the only authentic way to keep ourselves out of the devil’s “poison ivy,” i.e. spiritual contaminants. (Some of us learn this the hard way, unfortunately.) Listening to Him and taking his excellent direction and course correction is a 24-7 way of life, not a chore but a wonderful adventure! Thanks for the great article, Paul.

  3. keep up the good work Paul, being delivered years ago from a spirit of rejection, it has always been of top importance to me to promote acceptance.

    • Earl

      How did you get delivered from the spirit of rejection?

      • well,I was in the kitchen one night,going threw a ruff time with the rejection ,divorce, and such,then all of a sudden I felt a heaviness lift off of me and I started laughing almost uncontrollably and I thought thats it ive lost it , I called my elder at the time who was trying to help me,he would say “you need to get past this little boy rejection problem.” and told him I wasnt sure what happened but I cant stop laughing. He was almost crying,and said ‘thats heavenly laughter brother” and after that I was at real peace. the rejection had gone. every once in a while it trys to pay a visit,but has no footing anymore.funny thing is I had relationships with men who had healing and deliverance ministry’s so I expected it to come in that fashion,but the way I look at it, is it was severe,so a private session with the Lord made sense, he loved me and was a gentlemen,and probably knew we didnt need the show

  4. I totally understand this. But i have a question Paul. This is about my mind, where I get bombarded with unwanted thoughts many a times. At that time there is restlessness and I immediately realize that the holy spirit is telling me that I am not in peace.At such moments I try to focus on the Lord but to no avail. How do I let Him in this because trying to change my focus seems to be having the opposite effect?

    • Could you be talking about obsessive compulsive thoughts? Or really any unwanted thoughts that could be from the devil or just a physiological disorder where your brain misfires? I have this. It is so controlling. Learning about God’s grace has showed me He is more powerful than those thoughts and they don’t control me so much anymore. His love melts them away without effort of my own. Letting his love in is the only effort I give. You can’t own every thought and let it condemn you when Jesus says those who believe in him are not condemned. You said they’re unwanted, right? God knows it’s not really you.

      • Thank you, great comment to me, letting asking trusting God’s Love and Mercy to melt all errors away that come from thought of the enemy in high places as in Eph 6:12 states, tk you for this revelation I got from you in saying God’s love melts it away. yes

      • Thank you Homwardbound for letting me know God used my words. He is using yours too!

        Bill,
        You would probably have to listen to one of those Joseph Prince sermons. I can’t remember the whole explanation. If I can find the exact one, I will post the link. But from what I understood, he was expounding on the idea that when God looks at us, He’s not seeing our sin (or bad thoughts in this case), but seeing the blood of Jesus covering us. His righteousness became ours. So His righteous thoughts cover our bad ones. The divine exchange- at the cross, he became our sin so we could become His righteousness forever.

    • P.S. Andrew Wommack talks about owning every thought. Sometimes they are just thoughts out of your control, not sin. But even if they were Jesus’ love is greater than those sins.
      And Joseph Prince talks about the Bible verse, “taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” Not our obedience, but Jesus’ obedience. God sees Jesus’ thoughts, not ours, once We accept His blood to cover us. When God sees us, he doesn’t see our own works, He sees the obedience of Jesus.

      • And as I see this truth you put here Sister, and God takes these thoughts and yes melts them away to where we are in Spirit with Him and walk as Christ walked in Faith alone to Father hearing Father and did as Father said to do or say as said to, this is for you, me and all who believe as shown to us at Pentecost in the disciples who later in Acts said Acts 17:28, we now move and have our being by God, the Holy Spirit and Paul said in Gal 2:20 he does not live anymore, it is God that lives through him instead. Our mind thoughts are being purged from sinful thoughts we had to God’s only, as we are told this in Hebrews 10:2, see that we are by his death and risen life form us are to be taught to have no more conscious of sin, and thus we walk in the Fait of Christ all thoughts captivated to his obedience and we are at rest even when we work at rest in this amazing graced given us at no cost of our own freely given us. The enemy has distorted truth and tried and done well at keeping believer’s under Law and stress to get no rest, I remember all the years being in that mess of religiosity and no freedom in secrecy was had then as is now, Hope you hear what is being said and trusting God to reveal this to you as I know God will, it is God’s will to set you and all free in truth over error

      • God sees Jesus thoughts and not ours?

    • Jehan, we have to understand that not all thoughts are OUR thoughts. Satan is broadcasting and with the help of the Holy Spirit we can reject those evil thoughts.

  5. Kaye Barnard // February 26, 2015 at 3:34 am // Reply

    Love all your posts. We met Andrew Wommack. He’s just as he appears…real. God bless you.

  6. Thank you for encouraging us in our “grace” walk which started one year ago.  Totally set free.

  7. Good discernment, we all discern truth over error and only God himself can confirm truth over error, have had much error in my life that I did, not God, yet God never left me, once. Sometimes thought he did, never did, loving me unconditionally, changed me to respond in thanksgiving and praise to God and purged me of sin thoughts, that cause one to sin, learning to walk in the Spirit of God 24/7, for every time I step out of that I am back in some sort of error and God is right there to correct me in it, reminding me I am forgiven, never condemning me as this world does, and teaches me where I stepped out of the Faith of Christ, and I learn as he teaches me
    Thank you for sharing the insights given you, Paul, it helps sharpen iron

  8. This is an awesome account of God’s amazing grace. We are bringing the grace message to Atlantic City and vicinity. Your books and blogs are continuing my education in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Thank You. Grace and peace upon you

  9. Paul, excellent explanation of 2 Cor 7:1. That was a tricky verse because through the lens of performance it seems to indicate we need to “do” something to “be” more holy. Identifying with our righteous new nature and pefect holiness, and sanctification through the finished work, and not identifying with the system of thought and actions of the World system perfects or assists us to walk out who we already are in Him!
    Awesome good news!

    • Thanks, John. It is awesome good news!

    • Nalinimatilda Appan Iyengar // February 26, 2015 at 11:03 pm // Reply

      Hi everyone. If we understand that birds are flying because they are birds but not because they are flying , they are birds. Same way Christians are raised up with Christ Jesus to do greater work for the Lord. Not because we do great works that we becone Christian. The Holy Spirit is enabling us to do the work of the Lord. Now where is boasting? If we are abiding in Christ we will bring forth good harvest. Glory n honours goes to our Lord. I can do nothing apart from Jesus Christ.

  10. “He is not saying we purify ourselves to become his children. Rather, we purify ourselves because we are his children.” Hi Paul, does that mean those who don’t purify themselves are not God’s true children? What does it mean to purify ourselves? Thx.

  11. Brian Midmore // February 26, 2015 at 8:47 pm // Reply

    There is an old aphorism which surely sums up St Paul intent: ‘Christians are to be in the world but not of the world’. Paul is talking of about spiritual realities, that Christians should not compromise in any way with the spirit of the world. To love the world is to be an enemy of God. Christians should be God’s friends since they are his children.

  12. Hi Jason.This is Jehan, answering ur question.Jesus has purified us once and for all. When we accept His work on the cross we are born again. Now that the believer is a new creation, the holy spirit dwelling in him, his life has a whole new meaning. The light in him shows the believer the ways that lead to life, which contradict the flesh.
    Now here is a choice before the believer to go in ways of Jesus or to remain the same. This is the choice of purifying oneself.

  13. Paul,

    When I decided to revisit what I believed (and without even knowing there was such a ‘movement’ back to the gospel), I found a message that said “God’s righteousness not mine”. “Jesus plus nothing”, “focus on the solution (Christ) not the problem. Then I found many authors such as Yourself. And I appreciate your teachings (even when I don’t agree (and of course you should change and agree with me🙂 ).

    But today, Moreso, I want to thank you for an encouragement that I need right now. Though some disagree in a reasonable way. I have seen you called names, thrown to the wolves, denounced etc.

    I want you to know that it It is your strength and conviction at those times that encourages me.
    Thank you.

  14. That the bastard that is myself does not find Him, but is found by Him, is the ceaseless stream of ontology which irreparably shatters all gospels but one – that of *Christ* the All-Sufficient One – Who adds to me, not I to He – Whom I have not found – Who has found me. This bastard – me – He is my Hope. This I see – not in spying me – but in spying Him. It is You and not I. Thine and not mine. Other and not self. Thee and not me. Thy and not my. More than this no Man can speak – for Contingency must say, “Not me but Necessity”.

  15. Thanks for the focus Paul. I dont do in order to be but do because I am.

  16. Paul, have you thought about offering a question and answer part to your website?

  17. Very encouraging article.Appreciate the true representation of Gods grace as the means to holiness/Godliness.There are many other blogs that are misrepresenting Gods grace and not surprisingly,they hardly mention scripture except for some random verse or two they take out of context to justify their own preference for what scripture says is sin. How can we not be blown away by scriptures such as Romans8:15-16,1 John3:2-3,and Hebrews 10:14 ?

  18. Paul,
    you mentioned verses in 1 Corinthians 5, so I read the whole chapter. Yikes! This doesn’t sound like the grace message you preach and I have seen. It sounds like grace for the non-Christian, but watch out Christian! No wonder churches are teaching this. I can see how they Interpret the Bible that way.
    Through your blog, and listening to Joseph Prince, I started to see radical grace, even for the Christian, and it has started to change my life. But how do you explain verses like these? I hope you can help. I don’t want to go back to fear driven religion.

    • hi Amber, I like to point out that in 2 cor 5:5, TO me is a support for eternal security,because of the fact that if the guy where to not turn around, his spirit would be saved on the day of the Lord

    • I too would love a grace filled interpretation of 1 Corinthians 5 for the Christian. I feel like, yes, we can perhaps believe that this man was an unbeliever, but then he would fall under the verse quoted in Paul’s post here. And the Apostle Paul goes on to tell us to not associate with brothers who display an assortment of sins (v. 11) which indicates a principle. I guess the best explanation is the “weak” name of brother… He “bears the name of brother” but is not necessarily a true part of the family, but this again would put him in the outsider camp, so disassociation with him seems opposite…this passage does not convince me that the message of radical grace is wrong, but it does confuse me, and fuels the anti-grace message that is so rampant in my local churches and therefore among my friends.

      • I pray for this below to help, anyone see to be at peace in Jesus where all is done for them to appreciate and ;love as you are loved by God through Son

        Well I see this as for me to personally see not to do as I know not to do. or be taken in again under any yoke of bondage, fro I am freed from the Law that reveals my need for Jesus, (not the dead one) the risen one to lead me and this can only be Father given by one’s belief to Father in have asked for this to see this personally between Father and you.

        He The Son came here to earth in the flesh to kill the flesh nature in his death once on the cross for all, not a few

        All are reconciled in Father’s sight, by the Christ ate the cross once for all. That is what is done
        John 19:30 states this fact as he right prior to giving up hid life in the flesh he yelled

        “IT IS FINISHED” So what was finished did he do as was prophesied to do, and said he was here to do, even John the
        Baptist said this too. Then three days Christ was risen from death in the flesh and blood he died in and ate with the Disciples as alive in flesh and blood as Father saying this is my Son whom I am well pleased in

        Colossians 1:22Authorized (King James) Version (AKJV)

        22 in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:

        So since all are forgiven at his death and not all saved, there has to be more. so what might that be??????

        Romans 5:10Authorized (King James) Version (AKJV)

        10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.

        I, you and all the believe seriously are freed from man’s judgments, and under God’s lead as Jesus was when here on earth

        Grace is so misunderstood, it is by one being free in appreciation to Father and Son, one responds in thanksgiving and praise and never takes it for granted to use as was being done by the Corinthians

        So one can associate with anyone and not be brought into them., Rather by the Love and Mercy given thee is how one in truth repents and can’t in truth harm anyone ever on purpose that be the one leading thee, The Risen Son in Father’s Spirit and truth fro thee to rest in as you go now with a joy, love and peace that no human can fathom

  19. Amber,
    So appreciate your fear, but it is unfounded nonetheless. Much can get lost in language translation. You are reading one side of a conversation, and you might be making assumptions. Paul obviously knew of this person. person somehow. Possibly by discripline in a letter he received, or a verbal message; who knows. So when he writes this he, and they, knew exactly who Paul was writing to. For example, and I defer to the Language scholars; but tell me > was this person a believer in the first place? “….for a man has his father’s wife.” And “…..you are to deliver this man to Satan….” .

    Now please don’t get me wrong, I have encountered many who say he was a “believer” and, as stated” this could be seen as a believer because of the reference to “so that his spirit may be saved”. (The original language might be referring to a believer, but that statement could also be saving so that the unbeliever might be saved by repenting and believing in Jesus. BUT more to my point. We can read a verse with many assumptions, and many interpretations based on our cultures. I am from the USA visiting a third world country as we speak. In the USA, “do you take plastic?” means “do you take charge cards”; to a local who has not been around such terminology. This might be asking them if they take plastic bags. The a national here hears the word dining; it conjures up a totally different picture than my picture. Even the term “family dog” is totally different (very few local have a little dog named Fluffy on their couch (it they have a couch🙂 ).

    In Hebrews there is a often translated word “rule over you” but the word “over” is not in the original Greek (according to my research). This changes the verse a lot. “”them which have the rule over” are a paraphrase of one Greek word – hegeomai (2233) – a verb – meaning to lead”.

    Don’t get frightened, trust the message of the Gospel; realize much can get “lost in translation”.
    I hope this helps you find peace.

    • Jimmi,
      Thank you! I’m just reading this from nearly a year ago. Yes I understand what you’re saying, and it does help. I’m listening, as we speak, to “Good, Good Father” by Chris Tomlin. And I just have to remember the God that I know and have experienced (no matter how any certain verse may be coming across). I know God is good, and pure grace is real. If I ever doubt that based on any particular verse, I should just look to the cross. That is the ultimate love above any harsh- sounding verse. My life has been affected too much for this super abounding Grace to not be the real deal!
      “You opened my eyes to your wonders anew.
      You captured my heart with this love.
      And nothing on earth is as beautiful as You.”

  20. Yes, our acceptance IS conditional; it is obedience to God’s Law.
    What is God’s Law?
    The Law of Faith.

  21. The whole story of man up until Jesus is a story if how God put things in place to get man into a position to have access to an unconditional gift, if you miss this you not only miss a part of the story you miss it all.
    Thanks for more light Paul.

  22. Jerry Nendel // March 18, 2015 at 11:33 pm // Reply

    When I read ‘adopted’ I tend to think in human terms – that God regards me as his son.,But the truth is that with God’s adoption he has made it so that through Jesus Christ I am literally begotten of God. In Acts when Paul spoke of the resurrection he quoted the 2nd Psalm ‘Thou art my Son. Today I have begotten you.’ The only begotten died and then rose as the first begotten of many brethren. We are now as begotten of God as Jesus is. There is a huge difference between being created (the first creation) and being begotten!

  23. It is good to know that we are eternally accepted not by anything we do to maintain it but by Jesus sacrifice alone. It is tiring to try and keep salvation and makes you feel angry toward God if he did have you have to maintain your own salvation but that’s not the kind of God he is. Thanks Paul, I’m starting to see Gods amazing grace and renewing my mind from burdening religious mindsets through your writing.

  24. Holiness is not a behavior. God is Holy because there is none like God. The word “holy” speaks of uniqueness and nothing about what is done. We are holy because we have been set apart from the flesh, death, wrath, and sin. We are children of God, unique from those who are separated from God

  25. But paul, what about the clause, “and I will receive you”

  26. Hi Dr. Paul. I think there is a flaw in your argument… see “But now I write to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of [Christian] brother if he is known to be guilty of immorality or greed, or is an idolater [whose soul is devoted to any object that usurps the place of God], or is a person with a foul tongue [railing, abusing, reviling, slandering], or is a drunkard or a swindler or a robber. [No] you must not so much as eat with such a person.

    1 Corinthians 5:11 | AMP

    I’m writing this because i’m so fritghened… For years I’ve been addicted to pornography and struggled with homosexuality… I have tried to live by grace and believe it, but that’s not what the scriptures seem to tell us! I love Joseph’s Prince messages, and he’s explaining of the bible makes a lot o sense, but some verses make me believe otherwise… I don’t know what to do. I want to believe in hyoergrace, but, sincerely, some of your explanations seem to be twisting the biblical text… Can someone give me an advice? Because I can perfectly relate to the example Paul gave. I live an imoral live (pornography)… But i’m still trying, and I want to recover and believe in my salvation… Can anyone help me?

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