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- Commentary: 2 CORINTHIANS 6 – COMMENTARY
v.1 “Paul directs his call for reconciliation specifically to the Corinthians (5:20), and he implores them not to receive God’s grace in vain (eis kenon). The grace refers to God’s reconciling work in Christ. Paul apparently took this warning to heart himself. He wrote to the Corinthians about his call to be an apostle: ‘But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect [kene]. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me’ (1 Cor 15:10). He assumes that they have received God’s grace, but what would make it all for nothing? Lapide cites Anselm: ‘He receives grace into a vacuum … who does not work with it, who does not give it his heart, and who, through sloth, makes that grace ineffectual, by not doing all that he can to express it in good works.’ This interpretation makes this statement an applicable warning to all Christians, but Paul has something more specific in view for the Corinthians than allowing God’s grace to produce fruit in their Christian life. The admonition that follows in 6:14–7:1 suggests that their continuing association with idols would cause their faith to founder on the rocks.”
v.3 “Paul now moves on to present what is commendable about his ministry. He commends himself by his purity of motives and the evident power of God that has sustained him through all his trials and afflictions. His deeds match his words. Paul lets the Corinthians know that he is just such a man whom God has enabled to hold up under every pressure. In listing his qualities he is trying indirectly to encourage them to emulate his cruciform life. His life and work are ‘a model and example of his message.’
“Paul expresses the purpose of his upright behavior: ‘so that our ministry will not be discredited.’ The apostle is not concerned about his own personal reputation but the reputation of the ministry and its effectiveness (see Phil 1:15–18). The censure he dreads does not come from humans but from God (see 1 Cor 4:2–5). To be discredited before humans is one thing; to be discredited before God is quite another. People inevitably find fault with human ministers, and trying to avoid this by ministering ‘defensively,’ skirting around anything that might evoke possible criticism, will still meet with criticism. Worse, a ministry directed by what others might think is so neutralized that it is ultimately worthless to God.”
THE PROBLEM THAT faced Paul is much the same as that which faces many contemporary ministers in their proclamation of the gospel. Now, as then, suffering and weakness call into question the power of the Spirit. But Paul is relentless in his response: The greatest display of God’s power is not the absence of pain or the presence of a miracle, but Paul’s faithful endurance in the midst of adversity, through which God “makes many [others] rich” (6:10). This section’s climactic appeal in 6:13 flows out of the reality of the presence of God in Paul’s life, a reality that radically transforms the significance of his circumstances.”
“In adducing his experiences of endurance through good times and bad as a testimony to the “open” condition of his “heart” and “affection” toward the Corinthians (6:11), Paul is not detailing a series of cold, calculated decisions to “gut it out” for the sake of the Corinthians. Paul is not to be pitied. He is not a masochist. The Corinthians are his “boast” (1:14; cf. 7:4; 8:24; 9:2) and a great source of joy in his life (cf. 7:7). His ministry grows out of such a “depth of … love” for them (cf. 2:4) that Paul would even be willing to die on their behalf (cf. 7:3). And Paul is not giving a news report. His words in this section are filled with pathos. As the Corinthians’ father, his appeal in this passage is pastoral and his tone affectionate. One can hear the emotion in his voice as he calls the Corinthians by name in 6:11 and breaks from his “apostolic plural” into the first person singular in 6:13. In short, Paul is speaking from his “heart.”
vv.14-18 “There are certain Old Testament pictures behind this. Paul begins by urging the Corinthians not to be joined to unbelievers in an alien yoke. Undoubtedly that goes back to the old commandment in Deuteronomy 22:10, ‘You shall not plough with an ox and an ass together.’ (cp. Leviticus 19:19). The idea is that there are certain things which are fundamentally incompatible and were never meant to be brought together. It is impossible for the purity of the Christian and the pollution of the pagan to run in double harness.
“In the demand, ‘What has the temple of God to do with idols?’ Paul’s thought is going back to such incidents as Manasseh bringing a graven image into the temple of God (2 Kings 21:1–9), and, in the later days, Josiah utterly destroying such things (2 Kings 23:3 ff.). Or he is thinking of such abominations as are described in Ezekiel 8:3–18. Men had sometimes tried to associate the temple of God with idol worship, and the consequences had been terrible.
“The whole passage is a rousing summons not to hold any fellowship with unbelievers. It is a challenge to the Corinthians to keep themselves unspotted from the world.”
Garland, D. E. (2001, c1999). Vol. 29: 2 Corinthians (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; The New American Commentary (304). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
Garland, D. E. (2001, c1999). Vol. 29: 2 Corinthians (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; The New American Commentary (306). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
 Hafemann, Scott J. “Bridging Contexts” In The NIV Application Commentary: 2 Corinthians. By Scott J. Hafemann, 271-272. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, © 2000.
The letters to the Corinthians. 2000, c1975 (W. Barclay, lecturer in the University of Glasgow, Ed.). The Daily study Bible series, Rev. ed. (2 Co 7:5). Philadelphia: The Westminster Press.
Bible Text: 2 Corinthians 6:1-2 (ESV)
1 Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. 2 For he says,
“In a favorable time I listened to you,
and in a day of salvation I have helped you.”
Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
Reflection & Application
2 Corinthians 6:1-2
- Reflect on what this passage shows about the heart of a Christian toward those outside the faith.
- How can I respond to the statement “now is the day of salvation”?