Paul had just commanded believers negatively: “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers” (2 Cor 6:14)—-that is, do not partner with unbelievers.
Now in 2 Corinthians 6:17 he lays out the positive command to “be separate” from anything “unclean,” sinful, or unbelieving. Paul is demanding that believers separate themselves from the immorality of the unsaved around them, while promising, “I will welcome you.”
The command to “urgently come out from their midst” demands a decisive action of withdrawal from the sinful attitudes and practices of unbelievers. To make it clearer, the believer is to “be separate” (which likewise demands an immediate and decisive decision).
This is followed by a third imperative, this time a present negative imperative, which means to “cease or stop touching the unclean thing.” Holiness means to be separated for God’s purpose.
This does not mean we should isolate ourselves from the unsaved: “I wrote you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or 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).
Separation from the world is not a matter of keeping our distance from sinners, or refusing to know them or befriend them; rather, we should keep ourselves from loving the same things as sinners: “Love not the world, or the things that are in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 Jn 2:15).
It has always been God’s will for His people to be distinct from unbelievers: “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (7:1).
As you read these verses does the Spirit speak to your conscience about some specific sins that you know offend His holiness? Now what are you going to do?
“Father, with all my heart I long to honor You with my life because of Your grace to me. Keep me pure and untainted by the corruption all around me. Make me a distinct light for You in the midst of the darkness of my world.”