2 Corinthians 6 COMMENTARY (Pulpit)

2 Corinthians 6
Pulpit Commentary
We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.
Verse 1. - We then, as fellow workers. Continuing the entreaty of 2 Corinthians 5:20, he adds, "But as [his] fellow workers we also exhort you." The "also" shows that he does not rest content with merely entreating them (δεόμεθα), but adds to the entreaty an exhortation emphasized by a self-sacrificing ministry. "Fellow workers with God" (1 Corinthians 3:9). Beseech. The word is the same as that rendered "beseech" by the Authorized Version in 2 Corinthians 5:20, and it should be rendered "exhort:" "God exhorts you by our means; we therefore entreat you to be reconciled to God; yes, and as Christ's fellow workers we exhort you." That ye receive not. The word means both passively to receive and actively to accept as a personal boon. The grace of God. To announce this is the chief aim of the gospel (Acts 13:43; Acts 20:24). In vain; that is, "without effect." You must not only accept the teaching of God's Word, but must see that it produces adequate moral results. It must not, so to speak, fall "into a vacuum (εἰς κενόν)." "He," says Pelagius, "receives the grace of God in vain who, in the new covenant, is not himself new." If you really are in Christ you must show that you have thereby become "a new creation" (2 Corinthians 5:17). The branches of the true Vine must bear fruit. (For the phrase, "in vain," see Galatians 2:2; Philippians 2:16.) What the grace of God is meant to effect is sketched in Titus 2:11, 12.
(For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)
Verse 2. - For he saith; that is, "God saith." The nominative is involved in the "fellow workers,"so that this is hardly to be classed with those rabbinic methods of citation found also in Philo, which deliberately omit the word "God" as the speaker, and use "He" by preference. I have heard thee, etc. The quotation is from the LXX. of Isaiah 49:8, and is meant to express the necessity for receiving the grace of God, not only efficaciously, but at once. The "thee" in Isaiah is the Servant of Jehovah, the type primarily of Christ, and then of all who are "in Christ." In a time accepted; literally, in the Hebrew, in a time of favour. It is the season of grace, before grace has been wilfully rejected, and the time for judgment begins (Proverbs 1:24-28). The accepted time; literally, the well-accepted opportunity. St. Paul in his earnestness strengthens the force of the adjective. The same word occurs in 2 Corinthians 8:12; Romans 15:16, 31.

"There is a deep nick in Time's restless wheel
For each man's good."

(Chapman.) Now. No doubt St. Paul meant that, as long as life lasts, the door of repentance is never absolutely closed; but it is probable that he had specially in view the nearness of the advent of Christ. Compare the stress laid upon the word "today" in Hebrews 3:7, 8, and "at least in this thy day" (Luke 19:42).
Giving no offence in any thing, that the ministry be not blamed:
Verse 3. - Giving no offence in anything. An undercurrent of necessary self defence runs through St. Paul's exhortation. The participle is, like "fellow workers," a nominative to "we exhort you" in ver. 1. Offence. The word here is not skandalon, which is so often rendered "offence," but proskope, which occurs here alone in the New Testament, and is not found in the LXX. It means "a cause of stumbling." Proskomma, a stumbling block, is used in 1 Corinthians 8:9. Be not blamed. When any just blame can be attached to the minister, the force of the ministry of reconciliation is fatally weakened. (For the word, see 2 Corinthians 8:20.)
But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses,
Verse 4. - Approving ourselves; rather, commending ourselves, He is again referring to the insinuation, which had evidently caused him deep pain, that he was not authorized to preach, as his Judaic opponents were, by "letters of commendation" (2 Corinthians 3:1-3) from James or from the ciders at Jerusalem. His credentials came from God, who had enabled him to be so faithful. As the ministers of God (1 Corinthians 4:1). The article should be omitted. In much patience. Christ had forewarned his apostles that they would have much to endure, and had strengthened them by the promise that "he that endureth to the end shall be saved" (Matthew 10:22). In afflictions. This word, as we have seen, is one of the haunting words in 2 Corinthians 1:4-11. In necessities. St, Paul was poor, and was often in want (Acts 20:34). In distresses. The same word which occurs in 2 Corinthians 4:8. It means "extreme pressure" (literally, narrowness of space), and is a climax of the other words.
In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings;
Verse 5. - In stripes (comp. 2 Corinthians 11:23-28). The stripes were of two kinds - from Jewish whips and Roman rods. But of the five scourgings with Jewish whips not one is mentioned in the Acts, and only one of the three scourgings with Roman rods (Acts 16:23). Nothing, therefore, is more clear than that the Acts only furnishes us with a fragmentary and incomplete record, in which, as we gather from the Epistles, either the agonies of St. Paul's lifelong martyrdom are for some reason intentionally minimized, or else (which is, perhaps, mere probable) St. Paul was, as his rule and habit, so reticent about his own sufferings in the cause of Christ that St. Luke was only vaguely, if at all, aware of many scenes of trial through which he had passed. In imprisonments. St. Paul was frequently in prison, but St. Luke only tells us of one of these occasions (Acts 16:24) - at Philippi; the Roman imprisonment and that at Caesarea were subsequent to this Epistle. In tumults. These were a normal incident of St. Paul's life, both up to this time and for years afterwards (Acts 13:50; Acts 14:19; Acts 16:22; Acts 17:4, 5; Acts 18:12; Acts 19:28, 29; Acts 21:27-39; Acts 22:22, 23; Acts 23:9, 10; Acts 27:42, etc.) The word akatastasiai might also mean "insecurities," i.e. homelessness, wanderings, uncertainties (comp. 1 Corinthians 4:11); but New Testament usage seems decisive in favour of the frowner meaning (2 Corinthians 12:20; 1 Corinthians 14:33; James 3:15). In labours (2 Corinthians 11:28; 1 Corinthians 4:12; 1 Corinthians 15:10; Acts 20:34; 1 Thessalonians 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:8). In watchings. "Spells of sleeplessness" were a necessary incident of such a life; and an eminently nervous nature like that of St. Paul is rarely capable of the habitual relief of sound steep. Hence he again refers to this in 2 Corinthians 11:27. His "sleeplessness" was sometimes the necessary result of labours "night and day" (Acts 20:31; 1 Thessalonians 2:9, etc.). In fastings. St. Paul never inculcates the practice of voluntary fasting as a duty (for the reading in 1 Corinthians 7:5 is more than dubious); but it is probable that he found it personally useful at times (Acts 13:2, 3; Acts 14:23; Acts 9:9). The nine forms of suffering hitherto mentioned - three general, three specific, and three voluntary - are all physical sufferings borne with "much endurance."
By pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned,
Verse 6. - By pureness; rather, in pureness, as the preposition is the same. He now gives six instances of special gifts and virtues. The "pureness" is not only "chastity," but absolute sincerity (1 John 3:3; 2 Corinthians 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 2:10). By knowledge. The knowledge is the true knowledge of the gospel in its fulness (Ephesians 3:4). In his depth of insight into the truth St. Paul was specially gifted. The word gnosis had not yet acquired the fatal connotations which afterwards discredited it. By long suffering (2 Timothy 3:10; 2 Timothy 4:2). The patient endurance of insults, of which St. Paul shows a practical specimen in this Epistle, and still more in Philippians 1:15-18. By kindness. "Love suffereth long, and is kind" (1 Corinthians 13:4); "Long suffering, kindness" (Galatians 5:22). By the Holy Ghost. To the special gift of the Spirit St. Paul attributed all his success (1 Thessalonians 1:5; Romans 15:18, 19). By love unfeigned; which is the surest fruit of the Spirit, and the best of all spiritual gifts (2 Corinthians 12:15; 1 Corinthians 8:1; 1 Corinthians 13; Romans 12:9, etc.).
By the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left,
Verse 7. - By the word of truth. St. Paul now passes to the more specific endowments of the true teacher (comp. 2 Corinthians 2:17; 2 Corinthians 4:2; 1 Corinthians 2:4; Galatians 2:5). By the power of God; literally, in power of God (2 Corinthians 4:7; 1 Corinthians 2:4; 1 Corinthians 4:20). "For the kingdom of God is not [only] in word, but in power." By the armour of righteousness. Here first the preposition "in" (ἐν) is changed for "through," "by means of" (διὰ). Armour; rather, arms. On the right hand and on the left. That is, both by offensive weapons and a defensive panoply (2 Corinthians 10:4; Ephesians 6:11-17; 1 Thessalonians 5:8).
By honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report: as deceivers, and yet true;
Verse 8. - By honour and dishonour; rather, by glory and dishonour. There is no need to change here the meaning of διὰ, "by means of," to "through," i.e. "amid." The honour and dishonor are alike means which contribute to the commendation of the ministry. Of our Lord some said, "He is a deceiver," while others said, "He is a good man" (John 7:12); and the dispraise of some is the highest praise (Matthew 5:11). Compare with the whole passage 1 Corinthians 4:9-13, where we see that "abuse," "insult," and "slander," constituted no small part of the apostle's daily trial. By evil report and good report. The beatitude of malediction (Luke 6:22; 1 Peter 4:14). St. Paul had deliberately abandoned the desire to win the suffrages of men at the cost of undesirable concessions (Galatians 1:10). As deceivers. The Jews called Christ "a deceiver" (mesith, i.e. a deliberate and misleading impostor), Matthew 27:63; John 7:12. This is an illustration of the "evil report," and in the Clementine homilies, a century later, St. Paul, under the disgraceful pseudonym of "Simon Magus," is still defamed as a deceiver. And yet true. There is no "yet" in the original, and its omission gives more force to these eloquent and impassioned contrasts.
As unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed;
Verse 9. - As unknown; literally, as being ignored; as those whom no one cares to recognize. And yet well known. "And becoming fully recognized." "Recognized" by God (1 Corinthians 13:12), and ultimately by all good men (2 Corinthians 11:6), though they might be contemptuously ignored by men. As dying (2 Corinthians 1:9; 2 Corinthians 4:10, 11). Behold. The word calls attention to what seemed like a daily miracle. The paradox of the Greek tragedian -

"Who knows if life be death, and death be life?" which seemed so supremely amusing to Aristophanes and the wits of Athens, became a familiar fact to the early Christians (Romans 8:36; 1 Corinthians 15:31; Ephesians 2:5, 6; Colossians 2:13, etc.). As chastened. The daily Divine education of suffering (Psalm 118:18).
As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.
Verse 10. - As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing. The early Christians always insist on "joy" as one of the fruits of the Spirit (comp. Matthew 5:10-12), and especially joy in the midst of grief and anguish (Romans 5:3; Romans 14:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:16, "Rejoice always"). The best proof that this was no mere phraseology, but an amazing and new charism granted to the world, may be seen in the Epistle to the Philippians. It was written when St. Paul was old, poor, deserted, imprisoned, in danger of immediate death. and apparently in the lowest deeps of forsakes sorrow; vet the spontaneous keynote of the whole Epistle is, "I rejoice; rejoice ye" (Philippians 4:6, 12). As poor. The word means even "paupers," and describes a very literal fact. St. Paul, for Christ's sake, had suffered "the loss of all things" (Philippians 3:8). Yet making many rich. Not by getting collections for them (which would be a most unworthy antithesis, though it is strangely accepted by Chrysostom and others); but "by imparting to them the true riches, in the form of spiritual gifts, and the teaching of the gospel" (comp. James 2:5). Possessing all things; rather, as having nothing, and fully having all things. The verb means "possessing all things to the full." For "all things are ours" (1 Corinthians 3:21, 22).
O ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged.
Verses 11-18. - An appeal to the Corinthians to reciprocate his love for them, and separate themselves from evil. Verse 11. - Corinthians! A rare and very personal form of loving appeal, which occurs nowhere else in these Epistles (comp. Philippians 4:15). Our mouth is open to you. St. Paul has evidently been writing in a mood of inspired eloquence. The fervour of his feelings has found vent in an unusual flow of beautiful and forcible language. He appeals to the unreserved freedom with which he has written as a reason why they should treat him with the same frank love. Our heart is enlarged. After writing the foregoing majestic appeal, he felt that he had disburdened his heart, and as it were made room in it to receive the Corinthians unreservedly, in spite of all the wrongs which some of them had done him (comp. 2 Corinthians 7:3, 27). On the antithesis of the mouth and the heart, see Matthew 12:34; Romans 10:10.
Ye are not straitened in us, but ye are straitened in your own bowels.
Verse 12. - Ye are not straitened in us. Any narrowing of the sympathy or straining of the relations between us does not rise in any way from me. (For the verb, see 2 Corinthians 4:8.) Ye are straitened in your own bowels; rather, in your own hearts. Any tightening or pressure of the feelings which should exist between us rises solely from your own hearts. Enlarge and open them, as I have done, and we shall once more love each other aright. The verb has already occurred in 2 Corinthians 4:8 ("distressed"). Your own bowels. It is to be regretted that the Authorized Version adopted the meaningless and often rather incongruous word "bowels" for the Greek word σπλάγχνα used in its Hebraic sense of "feelings," "affections" (Song of Solomon 5:4; Isaiah 16:11). This literalism is always out of place, and especially in Philemon 1:7, 12, 20.
Now for a recompence in the same, (I speak as unto my children,) be ye also enlarged.
Verse 13. - Now, for a recompense in the same. He begs them to give him "a reward in kind;" in other words, he wishes them to be as frank with him as he has been to them. As unto my children. And therefore, as a spiritual father, I may surely ask for sympathy. St. Paul uses the same metaphor in 1 Corinthians 4:14; 1 Thessalonians 2:11. Be ye also enlarged. Treat me as I have treated you (comp. "Be as I am," Galatians 4:12).
Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
Verse 14. - Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers. Ewald, followed by Dean Stanley, Holsten, and others, thinks that here there is a sudden dislocation of the argument, and some have even supposed that the section, 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1, is either an after thought written by the apostle on the margin of the Epistle after it was finished; or even an interpolation. The latter view has arisen from the unusual expressions of the section, and the use of the word "Belial," and the command of Greek shown by the varied expressions. There is no adequate ground for these conjectures. Every writer is conscious of moods in which words come to him more fluently than at other times, and all writers of deep feeling, like St. Paul, abound in sudden transitions which correspond to the lightning-like rapidity of their thoughts. It is doubtful whether the readers would not have seen at once the sequence of thought, which depends on circumstances which we can only conjecture. Probably the alienation from St. Paul had its root in some tampering with unbelievers. Such might at any rate have been the case among the Gentile members of the Church, some of whom were even willing to go to sacrificial feasts in heathen temples (1 Corinthians 8-10.). "Unequally yoked" is a metaphor derived from Leviticus 19:19 and Deuteronomy 22:10, and is the opposite of "true yoke fellow" (Philippians 4:3). What fellowship; literally, participation (Ephesians 5:6-11). Unrighteousness; literally, lawlessness (1 John 3:4). It was a special mark of heathen life (Romans 7:19). Light with darkness. This antithesis is specially prominent in Ephesians 5:9-11 and Colossians 1:12, 13, and in the writings of St. John (John 1:5; John 3:19; 1 John, passim).
And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?
Verse 15. - Concord; literally, harmony or accord. The word does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament or in the LXX. The adjective sumphonos occurs in 1 Corinthians 7:5. Christ with Belial (see 1 Corinthians 10:21), Belial. Here used in the form Beliar, as a proper name, because no Greek word ends in the letter τ. In the Old Testament it does not stand for a person, but means "wickedness" or "worthlessness." Thus in Proverbs 6:12 "a naughty person" is adam belial. "A son of Belial" means "a child of wickedness" by a common Hebraism (Deuteronomy 13:13; Judges 19:22). And hence, since Belial only became a proper name in later days -

"To him no temples rose,
No altars smoked."
Perhaps, as has been conjectured, this clause, which contains two such unusual words, may be a quotation. It is, however, no ground of objection that Belial does not occur elsewhere in St. Paul, for until the pastoral Epistles he only uses diabolos twice (Ephesians 4:27; Ephesians 6:11). What part, etc.? This is not, like the other clauses, an illustration, but the statement of the fact itself which "has come in amidst the lively, sweeping flow of the discourse." With an infidel; i.e. with an unconverted Gentile.
And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Verse 16. - What agreement. The word means "unity of composition." This is the fifth synonym which St. Paul has used in this clause - μετοχὴ κοινωνία συμφώνησις, μερὶς συγκατάθεσις. The verb συγκατάθημι occurs in Luke 23:51. St. Paul in this chapter shows an almost unwonted command over the Greek language. With idols (Matthew 6:24; 1 John 5:21). Ye. "We" is the reading of א, B, D, L. Ewald, without sufficient ground, makes it one of his arguments for regarding this section as interpolated (comp. 2 Corinthians 5:21). Are the temple of the living God. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit in every Christian heart, which is the distinguishing result of the new covenant, was very prominent in the thoughts of St. Paul (1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 6:19; Ephesians 2:21, 22; 1 Timothy 3:15; comp. 1 Peter 2:5; Hebrews 3:6). As God hath said. The quotation is altered slightly from the LXX. of Leviticus 26:12. But in this and the next verses we have "a mosaic of citations" from this passage and Exodus 29:45; Isaiah 53:11; Ezekiel 20:34; 2 Samuel 7:14; comp. Jeremiah 31:9; Isaiah 43:6. This mode of compressing the essence of various quotations into one passage was common among the rabbis. In them. In the original Hebrew this means "among them" (Exodus 29:45; Leviticus 26:12). since the indwelling of God by his Holy Spirit belongs only to the new covenant.
Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,
Verse 17. - From among them; i.e. from among the unbelievers. Touch not the unclean thing (Leviticus 11:8, etc.; Isaiah 52:11). I will receive you (comp. Ezekiel 20:34). These promises to Israel are naturally transferred to the ideal Israel, the Christian Church.
And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.
Verse 18. - And will be a Father unto you. These reminiscences are sufficiently near to 2 Samuel 7:8-14; Isaiah 43:6; Jeremiah 31:9, to render needless the supposition that they come from any apocryphal book (Ewald) or Jewish hymn (Grotius). Saith the Lord Almighty. The phrase, not elsewhere used by St. Paul, is taken from 2 Samuel 7:8 (LXX.). The epithet indicates the certain fulfilment of the promises. Pantokrator, for "Almighty," is used in the LXX. for "Lord of sabaoth," and in the New Testament only occurs elsewhere in the Apocalypse.

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