2 Corinthians Chapter 6: Our Reasonable Service

Nov 18th, 2009 | By | Category: 1 & 2 Corinthians, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

2 Corinthians Chapter 6: Our Reasonable Service

2 Cor. 6:1 We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.

2 Cor. 6:2 (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.)

What did Paul mean when he said in verse 1, “We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain”?

Comment: Paul was beseeching those who were already consecrated not to receive the grace of God in vain. Having consecrated, if we draw back and do not make our consecration full and sincere, we will not receive the prize—or, even worse, life at all.

Reply: Yes, that would be the main thrust, but Paul’s words were expressed in a way that the lesson can also apply to the unconsecrated. If individuals who have considerable knowledge about God, Jesus, and the plan do not go on to consecrate but draw back instead, they receive the grace of God in vain. Little clues here and there throughout the epistle suggest that Paul had a mixed audience.

Frequently, throughout this epistle, Paul commended many in the church at Corinth, but the implication is that a few individuals were not as responsive to his ministry as he would have liked. Being a little recalcitrant, they were in danger if they remained too long in that attitude. If they turned away from their consecration, they would lose all hope.

Comment: Another example of a mixed audience is Romans 12:1, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”

Reply: The lesson is one of expediency, when a person hears truth, to respond as quickly as possible and not to procrastinate, for then the devil’s birds come along and carry away the seed of truth. (See the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13:3-6,18-21.) Many receive the truth with joy but then forget. This forgetting can be true of those who are not consecrated but are sympathetic to truth, and it can also be true of the consecrated, for they can slip away by not keeping the things always in remembrance (Heb. 2:1). If now is the day of salvation and we make our consecration now, we have to make our calling and election sure now, not in the next age. Many do not consecrate because they feel they cannot fulfill the requirements. They believe the truth, but they reason that they will get another opportunity in the Kingdom Age.

They fail to realize that God was calling them, and they do not respond because they are debating on their own capabilities. But it is impossible for any of us to fulfill consecration vows in our own capabilities and strength. Only by exercising faith can we please God. He will give us the understanding and the power to overcome if we fully open our hearts and respond to Him.

Of the 12 spies, only Caleb and Joshua brought back a favorable report, and the Israelites chose to believe the majority report of giants in the land. Many who debate consecration think of all the problems that lie ahead. The majority do not consecrate because they reason, “I do not think I can give up this or do that.” We should keep in mind, however, that the chief lesson of verse 1 in regard to receiving the grace of God in vain applies to those already consecrated.

In verse 2, Paul was quoting from Isaiah 49:8, “Thus saith the LORD, In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee: and I will preserve thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages.” Isaiah was speaking prophetically to Jesus, but in a secondary sense, Paul applied the text to the consecrated as prospective members of the body of Christ.

“(For he [God] saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation [the Gospel Age] have I succoured thee….” The use of past tense proves that verse 2 refers to those who are already consecrated. The verse gives an assurance: “I have accepted thee.” Paul brought in the Isaiah text to show that God can deal marvelously with an individual, and then the person can forget and go into a period of quiescence instead of being energized by the dealings. If the individual properly reflected on the matter, he would be active in the Lord’s service in some capacity.

When the parentheses are inserted as follows, the meaning of verse 2 is clearer. “(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.” The consecrated know that the Lord previously heard them, but Paul was saying, “The Lord did not just bless you in the past, for He hears you now. Therefore, activate your faith. Be up and doing. Be workers together with him in seeing that the gospel message goes to others.” The point is that when we are moved to do something good and worthwhile, especially with regard to consecration, we should not procrastinate until “tomorrow,” for tomorrow never comes.

Comment: David also mentioned an “acceptable time.” “But as for me, my prayer is unto thee, O LORD, in an acceptable time: O God, in the multitude of thy mercy hear me, in the truth of thy salvation” (Psa. 69:13).

Reply: Yes. There are additional Scriptures in the Psalms.

The nominal system uses verse 2 to justify the view that now is the only day of salvation. The belief is that if one does not accept the gospel in the present life, there is no further opportunity for salvation. Paul countermanded that type of reasoning in various ways. He referred to Isaiah 49:8, which was directed to the nation of Israel. God said to the natural seed, “If you accept my Word by the mouth of the Prophet Isaiah, you will be granted the opportunity of a special salvation.” Normally we think of this salvation being opened up at Pentecost, but an opportunity has existed ever since the Exodus. When the Israelites left Egypt and came into covenant relationship with God, they could have become a nation of priests and kings if they had pleased Him as a people (Exod. 19:5,6). However, during the 40 years in the wilderness, they forgot the Word of God and lacked implicit faith in His promises and thus forfeited the opportunity. Paul reasoned that the door was still open for other generations of the Jewish nation. And so it is today. The initial promise has remained open and exists up to the present time, although it is no longer exclusively proffered to the natural seed but is also open to the Gentiles. If any individual Israelite now accepts Christ, he will have the same opportunity of being blessed with this peculiar salvation to the high calling. What has been overlooked by both natural Israel and nominal spiritual Israel is that there are two opportunities of salvation, a spiritual calling in the Gospel Age and a natural calling in the Kingdom Age.

2 Cor. 6:3 Giving no offence in any thing, that the ministry be not blamed:

2 Cor. 6:4 But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses,

2 Cor. 6:5 In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings;

Paul was urging the brethren to be active in their faith, and now he added, “[But] giving no offence in any thing, that the ministry be not blamed.” If the Corinthians were not zealous and active, they would miss out on the high calling and thus receive the grace of God “in vain.”

In verse 1, Paul used the pronoun “we,” the emphasis being on his ministry and on that of Timothy and Titus, who were outsiders coming in and trying to help the church at Corinth. In verse 3, Paul was saying that the three of them were not receiving the grace of God in vain, and neither should the Corinthians. He was careful not to give offense in whatever he did so that the ministry would not be blamed, even though some criticized him and found fault. For example, when he collected money from the Corinthians to help the brethren in Jerusalem, he suggested that they appoint an individual to accompany him. He did not want them to impute evil motives that he was acting for his own aggrandizement.

Comment: Paul spoke from personal experience.

Reply: Yes. Notice his powerful reasoning in verses 3-10. In giving the qualifications of a true minister of God, he kept repeating the prepositions “in” (verses 4 and 5), “by” (verses 6-8a), and “as” (verses 8b-10) and followed them with nouns that described his experiences. Not only did the varied prepositions break up the monotony, but Paul was a mastermind in his thinking and just filled with information.

Comment: Paul’s responsibility was sobering. “We are ambassadors for Christ … giving no offence in any thing, that the ministry be not blamed” (2 Cor. 5:20). Who could live up to that responsibility in filling up the afflictions of Christ that are left behind (Col. 1:24)?

Reply: Yes, Paul expressed the ideal. Of course we are imperfect, but as ambassadors for Christ in an alien country, we become a spectacle. When a person consecrates, the neighbors look even more carefully to see if he is walking according to his profession. Others are not ashamed or bashful about calling attention to a slip. Thus it becomes important, to the best of our ability, not to give offense in anything, so that the ministry will not be blamed.

The two words “blameless” and “faultless” are a study in themselves. “Faultless” means “without fault,” but “blameless” has a different signification. As imperfect creatures, we cannot always do the things of a perfect creature. However, we are not worthy of blame if we are really trying and are leaning on the merit of Jesus Christ to cover our sins. “There is none righteous [faultless], no, not [even] one [of the consecrated]” (Rom. 3:10). From the standpoint of being blameless, one’s sins are covered.

Comment: The Apostle Peter said, “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation [conduct]” (1 Pet. 1:15). One who is blameless fulfills this Scripture.

We are to be ministers of God “in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings.” To be faithful in “much patience” implies fatigue. One’s patience can be worn to a frazzle, but perseverance in trying to help others pays off in the development of character. It is hard for a person who is impatient to deal sympathetically with others. Our judgment should be based on a person’s development. We do not put the head of a scholar or the understanding of principles on a baby. We deal with a babe as a babe, with a youth as a youth, with a teenager as a teenager, and with an adult as an adult. In other words, we make allowances for one’s development in the truth, and all are babes when they consecrate. A minister of reconciliation must have patience with the consecrated and make some allowance for their problems and try to help them. Sickness may be a factor, for example. A judge needs to know all of the facts, and in the Kingdom Age, the facts will be known.

While all of these categories can be given a spiritual twist and made applicable to us today, to be really honest requires a soul-searching examination on the part of the minister of God. Even though there has been no physical persecution in this country in the Laodicean period thus far, there are mental battles and judgments. In these areas, the Scripture “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” is applicable even now (2 Tim. 3:12). In other words, those who are faithful to truth will have enemies who persecute in word and/or deed.

Elsewhere Paul described these categories in more detail from a personal standpoint. For instance, he told how many times he received stripes. Paul was educating the Corinthians to understand how to properly judge a true minister of God. The judgments today are skewed with the result that people do not know how to judge what may be obvious character.

Paul was saying that in our various experiences, we should be “approving [proving] ourselves as the ministers of God” (verse 4). The disposition of the minister of God should be one of patient endurance both in our dealings with others and in God’s dealings with us; that is, we should try to control ourselves.

“Afflictions” would be bodily ailments and disease that are not the result of faithfulness in the truth. How do we regard our afflictions? Do we accept them as of the Lord, whether they are of a temporary or a permanent nature? Evidently, Paul was ill for a while with a fever, and he was afflicted with poor eyesight. He accepted the experiences and did not chafe under them.

He rose above them, not allowing them to deter or subdue his ministry. We, too, should have patient endurance in all our bodily afflictions. One might be lame, for example. Our attitude in how we take an experience is important.

Patient endurance is also needed in “necessities.” There were times when Paul was hungry, and there were times when he was rich (abounded). He accepted each experience as of the Lord, whether much or little.

An example of Paul’s “distresses” was when he was not considered an apostle and was criticized by others. Mistreatment by the brethren caused him anguish and distress of spirit, but he learned to control himself up to a certain point.

“Stripes” referred to beatings Paul received from the unconsecrated, from persecutors in the world. “Imprisonments” also came from outsiders. An example of “tumults” occurred at Ephesus, where the mob chanted and yelled for two hours, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians” (Acts 19:28,34).

“Labours” would be Paul’s working with his own hands to make tents, which was not an easy job. Another example was writing epistles to help the brethren, which required much thought and energy and resulted in fatigue. Thus Paul physically relieved the brethren of a financial burden by supporting himself while also laboring in the Word.

“Watchings” were Paul’s care of the churches, which showed his anxiety over the welfare of the brethren. Not only did he expend energy in writing letters, but he diligently inquired about their spiritual welfare. He rejoiced when he received favorable information, and if he got distressing information, he tried to help the brethren in their need. His desire was for them to be faithful. Accordingly, we are to watch and pray both for ourselves and for others. With regard to “fastings,” Paul fasted frequently.

Thus Paul experienced discomfiture in various ways, but the spirit in which he received the experiences and his desire to be of help were commendable. The question is, How do we react?

For example, when others differ with us, do we patiently try to reason with them? When Paul met opposition, he could easily have gotten offended, saying, “I am an apostle. I will leave this place and go elsewhere.” Instead he stayed and patiently took the criticism in the hope of finding the faithful few. He was patient in his experiences because he wanted to serve the truth.

2 Cor. 6:6 By pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned,

2 Cor. 6:7 By the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left,

2 Cor. 6:8 By honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report: as deceivers, and yet true;

Paul was now speaking in terms that the Corinthians could understand, even if they were not wholly spiritual but were carnally minded. The qualifications or evidences of a true minister of God are stated in simple, to-the-point language.

“Pureness” is purity in moral conduct. “Knowledge [of the Word of God]” refers to Paul’s carefulness in handling and teaching the Scriptures and his accuracy of interpretation.

“Longsuffering” pertains to opposition and misunderstanding. If a person does not have a spirit of bitterness but with a proper motive honestly differs with us because of a lack of understanding, we try to help him by taking the time to answer his criticisms and explain. As a result, his eyes are opened, and he is benefited. An opposite experience is where one is determined and adamant in his viewpoint and criticisms, and we know an explanation will not benefit him. However, even when the person persists in his disobedience or opposition and does not change his attitude, we are long-suffering for the sake of others who might benefit.

“Kindness” is manifested toward others. “By the Holy Ghost” should not be capitalized in this context, for the thought is “with a holy attitude.” (The definite article is not in the Greek, so the article “a” is proper.) We are to meet opposition with long-suffering and kindness, not rendering evil for evil but being patient with another’s teaching and having a spirit of holiness.

The opposite would be a spirit of malice, wickedness, envy, bitterness, jealousy, etc.

“Love unfeigned” is a love that is genuine and honest and not hypocritical. Those who flatter and praise a person to his face and criticize him behind his back show an inconsistency of character. Frequently the individual is a person of authority, so others are polite and gracious when speaking with him, but they mutter afterwards. While brethren may not act in this manner with each other, the same principle can occur. For example, one may be gracious to another brother’s face and even flatter and honor him but actually be his enemy. This type of love is feigned, or put on. All of us should search our attitude, for we are all fallen by nature.

Love is the supreme fruit we are trying to develop, and it is not based on emotion but on obedience to God and the principles of His Word. To be faithful, we have to love in the way He would have us love. From another perspective, “love unfeigned” is genuine love and concern for the welfare of the brotherhood in this “day of salvation” for the consecrated (verse 2).

Q: What should be our reaction if an ecclesia holds a “love feast” after a convention and one or more brethren present have violated Scripture by refusing to rebuke, reprove, or disfellowship one who has committed grievous, unrepented-of sin?

A: We should show a measure of reserve by not giving a hearty handshake or speaking exuberantly to the person or persons.

We are to approve ourselves ministers of God “by the word of truth.” Jesus said, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” (John 17:17). Therefore, in meeting the objections to his teachings, Paul answered the various arguments as far as possible with Scripture, the Word of God. He either did not use human reasoning or kept it to a bare minimum. In his first epistle, he said he was determined, when in their midst, not to speak with great (worldly) wisdom but to preach Christ and him crucified (1 Cor. 1:20-24). He thus eliminated the Greek oratorical style of reasoning with the Corinthians and was more blunt and direct and backed up his statements with Scripture as much as possible. Of course sometimes it was necessary for him to say, “Doesn’t common sense tell you?” Paul spoke the wisdom of God.

“By the power of God” indicates that by the authority of the Word of God, we can speak with power. In the first epistle, Paul said, “I command you, as though I were in your presence, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 5:3,4 paraphrase). When necessary, he used the authority of his office to speak with power. It is often said that we should not raise our voice but should speak calmly and reason on a matter, but there are times when we must raise our voice in order to be faithful. Jesus did not always speak dispassionately, with no special emphasis, but sometimes spoke with animation.

“The armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left” is like a shield. The sword is an offensive weapon, whereas the armor and the shield are for defense. Thus the expression means to make the truth our own as we try to develop a character pleasing to God. In developing that character, we become stronger and better able with the help of that part of the armor of God (Eph. 6:11-17). The mention of the right and left hands conveys the thought that we should use the armor ambidextrously. In hand-to-hand combat in ancient times, soldiers were frequently trained to use both hands to hold the shield as well as the sword. The reason was that if one lost or injured an arm in battle, his survival might depend on the ability to change hands. Accordingly, the minister of God, in connection with the armor of righteousness being on both hands, should be able both to speak the correct understanding and to show the error of the other view. The right hand enunciates the proper teaching of Scripture, thus showing favor, the “pro” side, and the left hand points out the fallacy of the opposition’s reasoning, thus showing disfavor, the “con” side.

“By honour and dishonour.” Any true minister (servant) of God will be appreciated by some brethren but not by others. In other words, there will be brethren both for and against him.

Therefore, it is not a good sign if either everyone or no one appreciates a brother or sister. An elder should be esteemed for faithfulness in the Word, and he should be disesteemed if he handles the Word of God deceitfully.

“By evil report and good report.” Although similar to “honour and dishonour,” which is done to one’s face and thus is more direct, this characteristic concerns words about someone. A true minister of God experiences both evil reports and good reports. To never have had a bad report indicates a diluted message.

“As deceivers, and yet true.” The characteristics of verse 8—by honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report, as deceivers and yet true—are all somewhat along the same line. The word “deceivers” implies bad motives, a wrong heart condition. Not only will faithful ministers of the Word be honored and dishonored and have favorable and unfavorable reports, but they will be accused of having wrong motives.

Consider the contrasts, or appositions, in verse 8: “[1] By honour and dishonour, [2] by evil report and good report: [3] as deceivers, and yet true.” While we know we are honest and trying to do God’s will, those who behold us may misunderstand. They see our efforts in a completely different light and thus misconstrue them. Even the Lord Jesus Christ, who perfectly obeyed God, was misunderstood in many things that he did. For instance, because he was young, the attitude was, “Does he know more than the scribes and Pharisees, who are aged and have studied for years and years?” Many felt he was an upstart and proud, and they did not like the fact that he was strong and positive in his statements. However, the trumpet of God should be blown with definition, not with uncertainty. A lot has to do with the heart condition of the beholder.

These verses help us to see the experiences of a true messenger of Christ, particularly as exemplified by the Apostle Paul’s own life. Paul was referring primarily to the experiences of himself and those closest to him. Inferentially, he was telling the Corinthians that if they were faithful, they would have somewhat similar experiences themselves.

The last phrase in verse 8, “as deceivers, and yet true,” should be the first part of verse 9 to bring it into harmony with the prepositions.

2 Cor. 6:9 As unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed;

2 Cor. 6:10 As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.

Verses 9 and 10 seem like a list of contradictions, but they are not. For example, “as unknown [by the brotherhood], and yet well known [by the angels, Jesus Christ, and God]” is not a contradiction. Although others knew about Paul, he was not recognized as a faithful child of God. Warnings were sent in advance to watch out for him because he was regarded as a troublemaker. Even in Corinth, Jews lay in wait to seize him, but Paul evaded them. Paul was unknown in the sense that he was not of the synagogue. He was unknown in the favorable sense but well known in the unfavorable sense by the public. The Jews who came with letters of commendation to serve the Corinthians and who had seen Jesus and thus claimed to personally know him looked down on Paul. They considered themselves to be authorized and Paul to be unauthorized.

With regard to “as dying, and, behold, we live,” the thought is that in proportion as we are responsible for the death of the old creature, for the perishing of the outward man, the new creature becomes increasingly successful and is built up. We are laying down our lives for the brethren. On another occasion, Paul was stoned and left for dead until the Lord awakened him.

“As chastened, and not killed.” From the literal standpoint, Paul was flogged and beaten but not killed, whereas many people died from receiving stripes. In the figurative sense, many regarded Paul’s experiences as punishments from God, but he did not let misunderstandings and sufferings discourage him. Paul was very much alive in that his ministry was not deterred in the least. He remained active in spite of what others thought of him. The principle is that if we are rightly exercised when chastened and disciplined, we grow stronger.

“As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.” For example, Paul suffered with other Christians in their experiences. He agonized over their spiritual development, praying and fasting for them in his grief, sorrow, and concern, yet inwardly he rejoiced. In other words, he did not rejoice over Christians who were going astray, but he rejoiced over his own relationship with the Lord.

The old man that is denied the pleasures of this world is sorrowful. The old heart is exceedingly wicked and deceitful, so the old creature feels the pain, but the new creature rejoices in overcoming or suffering for Christ. When a Christian recognizes that he has been faithful in a certain situation, even though it brought sorrow, he sees the value of the experience and rejoices. Thus the rejoicing is an attitude. The new creature is to be given the priority.

Comment: We do not feel joy at all times, but we can “count it all joy” (James 1:2). Christian joy does not necessarily mean that we always have a happy expression on our face. We look forward to the day when we will be relieved of all sorrow in the sense of distressful things that happen.

Reply: Paul said, “No chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous:

nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby” (Heb. 12:11).

“As poor, yet making many rich.” This expression is an anomaly too, for how can we make someone rich if we are poor? Paul was talking about two different levels—poor according to the world’s standard in earthly possessions, yet making others rich in spiritual things. Although poor in this world’s goods, he made others spiritually rich. He sacrificed earthly reputation, as did Jesus. Paul could have been recognized as a great teacher, but instead of studying to be a renowned dignitary, he resorted to the meek and the humble.

At times in his life, Paul was poor. For example, he lost all of his possessions in a shipwreck. At the end of his life, he apparently came into money, as manifested by the way he was treated as a prisoner in Rome. When arrested under Nero, he was placed under house arrest, where he could have guests, give lectures, and conduct studies. Prior to consecration, he sat at the feet of Gamaliel, and he purchased Roman citizenship at a great price. Therefore, at both the beginning and the end of his ministry, Paul was evidently a man of means. When he became a Christian, this one who had been a Pharisee of the Pharisees was considered a heretic and lost his associates. He had ups and downs, knowing how to be abased and how to abound from both material and religious standpoints (Phil. 4:12).

“As having nothing, and yet possessing all things.” In his first letter, Paul said, “All things are yours” (1 Cor. 3:21-23). Even death and life are the Christian’s. The principle is that godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Tim. 6:6). The Christian is satisfied with the meager things he has. When he looks into store windows and sees all the goodies, or looks at nature, he is not jealous. He gets pleasure in seeing these things but never thinks he should possess them.

Instead he is laying up treasures in heaven (Matt. 6:20).

As will be noticed, the appositions in verses 9 and 10 are “as … yet” combinations. (If the “yet” is not expressed, it is implied.)

  • As unknown,            yet well known As dying, yet living
  • As chastened,          yet not killed As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing
  • As poor,                    yet making many rich As having nothing, yet possessing all things

These categories can also be considered from the standpoint of all the consecrated rather than just Paul. For example, “as unknown, yet well known” indicates that we are unrecognized nobodies, yet we have the opportunity to inherit the high calling. Our experience is unique. The contrast goes back and forth. Those who behold us misconstrue what they see and do not realize that even if we sorrow, we do not sorrow to the extent that others do who have no hope. With our sorrow, we have the hope that eventually conditions will turn out all right.

The attitude in which we experience the providences that come into our life—sicknesses, accidents, persecutions for righteousness’ sake, etc.—is one of hope and encouragement, for even if we are chastened for wrongdoing, at least God is dealing with us as sons. He loves us and is trying to correct us with disciplinary chastening. Paul used not only rhythmic reasoning but brevity. His effective method of short, abrupt, to-the-point, clear, sharp reasoning goes into our memories in a more focused manner than verbosity.

The Apostle Paul was so brilliant in his reasoning that he could have excelled as an orator, but he purposely refrained. In his first epistle, he said to the Corinthians, “You are looking for an orator—for someone with flowery words who compliments you, speaks honeyed words, and has a wonderful vocabulary—but I would rather speak just a few words about Christ on the Cross, which is a stumbling block to many, than philosophize on Scripture.” In another place, he said, “I have the ability to speak in many tongues, so I could flaunt them in front of you. But I would rather speak five words with simplicity than 10,000 words that are mechanical and meaningless.” Paul intentionally curbed his exceptional capabilities. He felt that the terse, abrupt manner used here in chapter 6 was far more effective for those who had a receptive heart and wanted to retain the instruction. Many people like to be emotional and dramatic in delivering speeches, but the words do not always match.

2 Cor. 6:11 O ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged.

2 Cor. 6:12 Ye are not straitened in us, but ye are straitened in your own bowels.

Verses 11 and 12 are emotional. Earlier Paul said he was encouraged by the way the Corinthians received his advice, instruction, and counsel. He had asked for drastic measures, and their wholehearted compliance was deeply gratifying. Sometimes when advice is given, the recipients are robbed of acting of their own initiative, but the Corinthians were so lacking in understanding that their wholehearted response to Paul’s instruction was like acting on their own initiative. Thus Paul was giving the brethren credit for what they had done predicated on little understanding. All that Paul, Titus, and Timothy did was in the Corinthians’ best interest and because Paul loved them.

“Our mouth is open unto you.” Paul spoke confidentially to the Corinthians in a manner that was approachable. He felt relaxed in their presence, and he hoped that they, in turn, felt relaxed and open toward him. For example, he complimented the Bereans for not just accepting everything he said. Instead they received his teaching with humility and an open mind, and then went home and searched the Scriptures to see if his advice harmonized with the Word of God. Here Paul said he felt at liberty to speak to the Corinthians. He hoped they would listen to him with an open mind, an honest heart, and humility and then reason upon his instructions.

“Our heart is enlarged.” Since Paul was using an editorial “our,” he could have said, “My heart is enlarged,” which was really the case. However, he wanted the Corinthians to see that not only he but also those who cooperated with him in this ministry of danger, suffering, and want were compatriots. He generously included the others. Paul was compassionate toward the Corinthians, yearning for their prosperity in Christ, hoping they would make their calling and election sure. Therefore, he tried to use pithy words to help them remember.

“Ye [Corinthians] are not straitened in us [in me, Paul], but ye are straitened in your own bowels.” Paul’s concern, love, and labor on their behalf were not appreciated by some in the class. Although he labored hard and sacrificed for them, these individuals were not responsive.

One of the problems was that they did not recognize him as an apostle. In the first epistle, he went into great detail about his sufferings in connection with preaching the gospel of Christ.

Not only did the persecutions and deprivations not discourage him from continuing on, but Paul used this list as a proof of his apostleship. The element that did not recognize him as an apostle was a little nervous, for they knew that he had power, but they were critical because he had not seen Jesus at his First Advent. Later he said, “Ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, which to you-ward is not weak, but is mighty in you” (2 Cor. 13:3). Even after they received the first epistle, doubts lingered. Thus the more he labored, the less they seemed to appreciate his ministry because of the quandary that existed in their minds.

Comment: In 2 Corinthians 12:15, Paul said, “And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you, though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved.”

The word “straitened” means “narrowed” here. Though the hearts of this minority element were not enlarged and receptive to what Paul was saying, even the majority in the class needed to be informed, for they did not fully realize the love he had for them. They were narrowminded in their perception of Paul because of bigotry along several lines, including his appearance—his height, weak eyes, and baldness. While he had terrific knowledge, he did not seek to win them over by flattery, show, and other superficial methods. Therefore, Paul was saying, “Your heart is not enlarged toward me, but my heart is greatly enlarged toward you. I look at you with a different perspective than you look at me. Some of you look on me with askance, and many do not realize that my great sacrifices show how much I love you.” For one thing, since they knew about his poor eyesight, they should have considered the length of his two epistles and the concentration, time, and attention that went into them. To even get the parchment was difficult and expensive. All of the factors, let alone the content of the letters, were evidences of Paul’s love for them. They were “straitened” in their “own bowels” in not accepting him.

2 Cor. 6:13 Now for a recompence in the same, (I speak as unto my children,) be ye also enlarged.

The supplied word “my” should be omitted. “(I speak as unto children,) be ye also enlarged.”

The response of the majority of the Corinthians was favorable, so Paul was saying, “Continue in well doing. Be ye enlarged.” He wanted the spiritual fetus in the womb to grow naturally in preparation for the spiritual birth.

Comment: The RSV reads, “In return—I speak as to children—widen your hearts also.”

Reply: Paul’s heart was enlarged toward the Corinthians; he freely spoke to them out of his heart. In response to his love and concern for them, he hoped they would reciprocate by responding in similar fashion as a son would to his father. He hoped there would be an open line of communication between them with free interchange of thought and instruction.

In verse 13, Paul was saying, “Consider that with me, the situation is the opposite. As your father in understanding, I speak to you as unto children.” Paul was a mature individual, and he was trying to say, “When I speak strongly, my instruction is for your good. I speak to you as my children. Your hearts should also be enlarged.” If they would regard Paul as a father in understanding and concern, then their hearts would be enlarged like his.

2 Cor. 6:14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?

2 Cor. 6:15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?

2 Cor. 6:16 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.

Paul gave sound advice—”Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers”—and then categorized the unbelievers as infidels, those who were living in unrighteousness, and idol worshippers. But if the consecrated were already unequally yoked, he was not advising them to forget their marital responsibilities by loosing themselves to do colporteur work and preach as if they were single. Paul was speaking to brethren who were possibly considering marriage.

It was foolish to allow themselves to be attracted solely on an emotional basis without giving consideration to the new creature. A new creature who wanted to marry should be compatibly yoked with another new creature. When someone consecrated deliberately marries someone who is not consecrated, the marriage often becomes shipwrecked. “Be ye not unequally yoked” can also be stated in a positive fashion: “Be ye equally yoked.” Being equally yoked is a more balanced marriage.

Q: Does being equally yoked apply to fellowship as well as to marriage?

A: Yes, it applies to any close relationship, marriage being the closest. For example, it is unwise for one who is consecrated to become yoked in a business relationship with one who is not consecrated. Paul was using sanctified common sense.

Comment: Paul’s admonition to not be unequally yoked is often minimized as “advice that we can take or leave.” But the seriousness of what he was saying is indicated by his subsequent words: “For what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?” And verse 17 adds, “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord.”

Reply: Yes, he was not simply giving “advice” but was stating a commandment. The central core of his advice pertains to the marriage contract, but the principle is broader to include other matters of life. As far as possible, the Christian should try to stay separate from the world.

“And what concord hath Christ with Belial [another name for Satan]?” The Corinthians must have had some familiarity with the word belial, as names for the Adversary usually have a signification. In the Greek, belial means “senselessness”or “worthlessness.” To use as an illustration, young people today have rock music for entertainment, but that type of music is senseless confusion. Belial represents the Adversary in the sense that he entertains his followers according to the flesh. They become addicted to this type of pleasure so that it is like a drug which leads to progressively worse senseless behavior. Mesmerized and intoxicated by this spirit, they become a son of Belial. The music, singing, repetitious words and phrases, flashing lights, beat, and dancing are “belial,” the god or the pleasure of reckless abandonment. “Belial” is the New Testament translation of the god Baal, and in back of Baal is Satan.

In an unequally yoked marriage, the unconsecrated spouse is more subject to these influences.

The danger is that the unbeliever will lead the believer into such practices. “What part hath he that believeth with an infidel?” This language is strong.

Comment: The Israelites were commanded to be separate from other peoples. The principle of separation was given to the nation in regard to not marrying foreign wives. After the return from Babylon in 536 BC, Ezra commanded the Israelites to put away the strange (heathen) wives they had married in captivity.

Reply: What a strong leader and character Ezra must have been for the nation to obey in this matter! Generally speaking, he has been underestimated in favor of Nehemiah, but Ezra had to do the more distasteful things. His course of reproof would have been utterly unpopular, but the people obeyed him. Evidently, the element that returned to Israel, forsaking Babylon and going into the land of ruins, had strong characters. Therefore, they were willing to go even further and cut off all ties to the heathen. In addition, Ezra was largely responsible for codifying the Old Testament. The books of the Bible were separate until he compiled them into one canon. When he found the writings in the archives of Babylon, he took them out of oblivion and had them published, as it were, for the benefit of his own people.

2 Cor. 6:17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,

2 Cor. 6:18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.

“Wherefore come out from among them.” The Christian is to come out, or separate, from worldly associations he had prior to consecration. These could include false religion and loose living, for example. However, verse 17 could be misunderstood. Paul was not saying that the marriage yoke should be broken. Nevertheless, as stated in the first epistle, if a believer was yoked to an unbeliever prior to consecration, there was an allowance for a separation done on a relatively amicable basis. Spiritually speaking, at the end of the age, “wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate” can apply to coming out of Babylon.

“Be ye separate, saith the Lord [Jehovah], and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you.” Here we can see the close relationship of God as our Heavenly Father. Every good and perfect gift comes from Him by Jesus Christ (James 1:17).

“Touch not the unclean thing” can mean several things. For instance, it can be unclean habits.

We are to look ahead and make straight paths for our feet. If we see a murky, muddy situation, we should walk around it. In staying on the straight and narrow way, the new creature is to be careful not to submit to harmful influences. From a natural standpoint, if a person wants to give up smoking, he should avoid, as far as possible, a smoke-filled room. And an individual who is giving up drinking should avoid any closeness to the bar. The new creature should set his own rules and regulations as to how to best keep a safeguard. Blinders are put on a horse so that he is not distracted from the route ahead. In other words, we are to stay focused on the straight and narrow path of God’s will. To do this requires a lot of effort, but every bit of that struggle is pleasing to God. In the effort of trying to separate ourselves from harmful influences, we draw nearer and nearer to God. The ongoing reciprocal principle is, “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you” (James 4:8). As we try to please God as new creatures, He is very touched and will reward us in some way. The “separation” costs something, but the Heavenly Father thinks of the individual as a son or a daughter.

Not only is the Christian to separate himself from the unclean thing, but obedience brings the reward of closer fellowship and communication as “a Father” to a child. “I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” The mention of “sons and daughters” is very tender. Elsewhere Paul likened himself to a father. “As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children, That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory” (1 Thess. 2:11,12). Paul was saying to the Corinthians, “O how our mouth and our heart are open unto you. I would that you respond similarly. If you do, you will get the benefit of a closer communication with Jehovah based on the Scripture ‘Come out from among them, … and I will [then] … be [as] a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters’” (2 Cor. 6:11,13,17,18).

Q: In the expression “touch not the unclean thing,” what is the thought of “touch not”?

A: The Greek word is used in several ways in the New Testament according to context.

Essentially, it can mean to literally touch, to figuratively touch, or to embrace. Here Paul was saying, “Do not embrace that which is unclean; separate yourself from what you previously had the desire to cling to.”

Verse 18 is lovely from the standpoint that Jehovah, the Lord Almighty, is a Father to the consecrated. Paul is an apostle of Jesus Christ, but Jesus is an apostle of God. The expression “sons and daughters” (male and female) is also nice.

Comment: Paul gave a lot of correction, but now he summed up in such a tender way. God would be their Father if they would hearken to the instructions.

Reply: Not only were the Apostle Paul and Jesus Christ concerned, but also the Heavenly Father. Verse 18 is another way of saying, “The Father himself loveth you” (John 16:27).

Paul said earlier that his attitude toward the Corinthians was that of a father, but here he was showing that God is the Father in the highest sense. It is permissible to describe another person as “fatherlike,” but God is the real Father.

1979, 1997, and 2001 Studies

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