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Bible Commentaries

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible
2 Corinthians 6

 

 

Verse 1

1.Assisting. He has repeated the instructions of embassy with which the ministers of the gospel have been furnished by God. After they have faithfully communicated these instructions, they must also use their endeavor, that they may be carried into effect, (572) in order that their labor may not be in vain. They must, I say, add continual exhortation’s, (573) that their embassy may be efficacious. This is what he means by συνεργοῦντες, (fellow-workers,) that is, devoted to the advancement of the work; for it is not enough to teach, if you do not also urge. In this way, the particle σύν would have a relation to God, or to the embassy, which he assigns to his servants. For the doctrine of the gospel is helped by exhortations, so as not to be without effect, and ministers connect their endeavors with God’s commission; (574) as it is the part of an ambassador to enforce by arguments, what he brings forward in the name of his prince.

The particle σύν may also be taken as referring to the endeavors of ministers in common; for if they do the Lord’s work in good earnest, they must mutually lend a helping hand to each other, so as to give assistance to each other. I rather prefer, however, the former exposition. Chrysostom interprets it as referring to the hearers, with whom ministers are fellow-workers, when they rouse them up from slothfulness and indolence.

Ministers are here taught, that it is not enough simply to advance doctrine. They must also labor that it may be received by the hearers, and that not once merely, but continually. For as they are messengers between God and men, the first duty devolving upon them is, to make offer of the grace of God, (575) and the second is, to strive with all their might, that it may not be offered in vain.


Verse 2

2.For he saith, In an acceptable time. He quotes a prediction of Isaiah, exceedingly appropriate to the exhortation of which he speaks. It is without doubt of the kingdom of Christ that he there speaks, (576) as is manifest from the context. The Father, then, appointing his Son a leader, for the purpose of gathering together a Church, addresses him in these words:

“I have heard thee in an acceptable time.” (Isaiah 49:8.)

We know, however, what a degree of correspondence (577) there is between the Head and the members. For Christ was heard in our name, as the salvation of all of us is entrusted into his hand, and nothing else has he taken under his charge. Hence we are all admonished in the person of Christ — not to slight the opportunity that is afforded for obtaining salvation. While the rendering of the Greek interpreter is, εὐπρόσδεκτον, (acceptable,) (578) the word made use of by the Prophet is, רצון, (ratson,) that is, benevolence, or free favour. (579)

The quotation must be applied to the subject in hand in this way: “As God specifies a particular time for the exhibition of his grace, it follows that all times are not suitable for that. As a particular day of salvation is named, it follows that a free offer of salvation is not made every day.” Now this altogether depends on the providence of God, for theacceptable time is no other than what is called in Galatians 4:4, the fullness of the time (580) The order of arrangement also must be observed. First, he makes mention of a time of benevolence, and then afterwards of a day of salvation By this it is intimated, that salvation flows to us from the mercy of God exclusively, as from a fountainhead. Hence we must not seek the cause in ourselves, as if we by means of our own works moved God to assign to us his favor, for whence comes the day of salvation? It is because it is the acceptable time, that is, the time which God has in his free favor appointed. In the mean time, we must keep in view what Paul designs to teach — that there is need of prompt expedition, that we may not allow the opportunity to pass unimproved, inasmuch as it displeases God, that the grace that he offers to us should be received by us with coolness and indifference.

Behold now is the time The Prophet had spoken of the time, when Christ was to be manifested in the flesh for the redemption of men. Paul transfers the prophecy to the time when Christ is revealed by the continued preaching of the gospel, and it is with good reason that he does so, for as salvation was once sent to the whole world, when Christ appeared, so now it is sent to us every day, when we are made partakers of the gospel. Here we have a beautiful passage, and affording no ordinary consolation, because, while the gospel is preached to us, we know assuredly that the way is opened up for us into the kingdom of God, and that there is a signal of divine benevolence raised aloft, to invite us to receive salvation, for the opportunity of obtaining it must be judged of by the call. Unless, however, we embrace the opportunity, we must fear the threatening that Paul brings forward — that, in a short time, the door will be shut against all that have not entered in, while opportunity was afforded. For this retribution always follows contempt of the word.


Verse 3

3.Giving no offense We have already on several occasions remarked, that Paul sometimes commends the ministry of the gospel generally, and at other times his own integrity. (581) In the present instance, then, he speaks of himself, and sets before us in his own person a living picture of a good and faithful apostle, that the Corinthians may be led to see how unfair they were in their judgment, in preferring before him empty blusterers. (582) For as they assigned the praise to mere pretences, (583) they held in the highest esteem persons that were effeminate and devoid of zeal, while, on the other hand, as to the best ministers, they cherished no views but such as were mean and abject. Nor is there any reason to doubt, that those very things that Paul makes mention of to his own commendation, had been brought forward by them in part as a ground of contempt; and they were so much the more deserving of reproof, inasmuch as they converted into matter of reproach, what was ground of just praise.

Paul, therefore, treats here of three things: In the first place, he shows what are the excellences, on the ground of which preachers of the gospel ought to be esteemed; secondly, he shows that he is himself endowed with those excellences; thirdly, he admonishes the Corinthians not to acknowledge as Christ’s servants those who conduct themselves otherwise than he prescribes here by his example. His design is, that he may procure authority for himself and those that were like him, with a view to the glory of God and the good of the Church, or may restore it where it has fallen into decay; and secondly, that he may call back the Corinthians from an unreasonable attachment to the false apostles, which was a hinderance in the way of their making so much proficiency in the gospel as was necessary. Ministers give occasion of stumbling, when by their own misconduct they hinder the progress of the gospel on the part of their hearers. That Paul says he does not do; for he declares that he carefully takes heed not to stain his apostleship by any spot of disgrace.

For this is the artifice of Satan — to seek some misconduct on the part of ministers, that may tend to the dishonor of the gospel. For when he has been successful in bringing the ministry into contempt, all hope of profit is at an end. Hence the man who would usefully serve Christ, must strive with his whole might to maintain the credit of his ministry. The method is — to take care that he be deserving of honor, for nothing is more ridiculous than striving to maintain your reputation before others, while you call forth upon yourself reproach by a wicked and base life. That man, therefore, will alone be honorable, who will allow himself in nothing that is unworthy of a minister of Christ.


Verse 4

4.In much patience. The whole of the enumeration that follows is intended to show, that all the tests by which the Lord is accustomed to try his servants were to be found in Paul, and that there was no kind of test to which he had not been subjected, in order that the faithfulness of his ministry might be more fully established. (584) Among other things that he enumerates, there are some that are under all circumstances required for all the servants of Christ. Of this nature are labors, sincerity, knowledge, watchings, gentleness, love, the word of truth, the Spirit, the power of God, the armor of righteousness. There are other things that are not necessary in all cases; for in order that any one may be a servant of Christ, it is not absolutely necessary, that he be put to the test by means of stripes and imprisonments Hence these things will in some cases be wanting in the experience of the best. It becomes all, however, to be of such a disposition as to present themselves to be tried, as Paul was, with stripes and imprisonments, if the Lord shall see meet.

Patience is the regulation of the mind in adversity, which is an excellence that ought invariably to distinguish a good minister. (585) Afflictions include more than necessities; for by the term necessity here I understand poverty. Now this is common to many ministers, there being few of them that are not in poor circumstances; but at the same time not to all. For why should a moderate amount of riches prevent a man from being reckoned a servant of Christ, who, in other respects, is pious, is of upright mind and honorable deportment, and is distinguished by other excellences. As the man that is poor is not on that account to be straightway accounted a good minister, so the man that is rich is not on that account to be rejected. Nay more, Paul in another passage glories not less in his knowing how to abound, than in knowing how to be in want. (Philippians 4:12.) Hence we must observe the distinction that I have mentioned, between occasional and invariable grounds of commendation. (586)


Verse 5

5.In tumults In proportion to the calmness and gentleness of Paul’s disposition was there the greater excellence displayed in his standing undaunted in the face of tumults; and he takes praise to himself on this account — that while he regarded tumults with abhorrence, he nevertheless encountered them with bravery. (587) Nor does the praise simply consist in his being unmoved by tumults, (this being commonly found among all riotous persons, (588)) but in his being thrown into no alarm by tumults that had been stirred up through the fault of others. And, unquestionably, two things are required on the part of ministers of the Gospel — that they should endeavor to the utmost of their power to maintain peace, and yet on the other hand go forward, undaunted, through the midst of commotions, so as not to turn aside from the right course, though heaven and earth should be mingled. (589) Chrysostom, however, prefers to understand ἀκαταστασίαις to mean — frequent expulsions, (590) inasmuch as there afforded him a place of rest. (591) In fastings He does not mean — hunger arising from destitution, but a voluntary exercise of abstinence.


Verse 6

Knowledge may be taken in two senses — either as meaning doctrine itself, or skill in acting properly and knowingly. The latter appears to me the more likely, as he immediately adds — the word of truth The Spirit is taken by metonymy, to denote spiritual graces. Frivolous, however, is the cavil of Chrysostom, who infers from this, that the other excellences are peculiar to the Apostle, because he makes mention of the Spirit separately, as if kindness, knowledge, pureness, armor of righteousness, were from any other source, than from the Holy Spirit. He makes mention, however, of the Spirit separately, as a general term in the midst of particular instances. (592) The power of God showed itself in many things — in magnanimity, in efficacy in the maintaining of the truth, in the propagation of the Gospel, in victory over enemies, and the like.


Verse 7

7.By the armor of righteousness Byrighteousness you must understand — rectitude of conscience, and holiness of life. He employs the metaphor of armor, because all that serve God require to fight, inasmuch as the devil is always on the alert, to molest them. Now they must be completely armed, because, if he does not succeed in one onset, he thereupon makes a new attempt, and attacks them at one time from before, at another from behind — now on this side, and then on that. (593)


Verse 8

8.By honor and dishonor This is no slight test for subjecting a man to trial, for to a man of a noble spirit nothing is more unpleasant, than to incur disgrace. Hence we may observe in all histories, that there have been few men of heroism that have not fallen back, on being irritated by insults. (594) Hence it is indicative of a mind well established in virtue, not to be moved away from one’s course by any disgrace that may be incurred — a rare virtue, but one without which you cannot show that you are a servant of God. We must, it is true, have a regard to good character, but it must be only in so far as the edification of our brethren requires it, and in such a way as not to be dependent on reports (595) — nay more, so as to maintain in the same even course in honor and in dishonor. For God allows us to be tried even by the slander of wicked men, with the view of trying us, (596) whether we act uprightly from disinterested motives; (597) for if one is drawn aside from duty by the ingratitude of men, that man shows that he had not his eye directed to God alone. As then we see that Paul was exposed to infamy and insults, and yet did not on that account stop short, but held forward with undaunted courage, and broke through every impediment so as to reach the goal, (598) let us not give way, if the same thing should befall us.

As deceivers Here he relates, not simply in what estimation he was held by the wicked and those that were without, (1 Corinthians 5:12,) but also what views were entertained of him by those that were within. Now let every one consider with himself, how unseemly was the ingratitude of the Corinthians, and how great was his magnanimity in struggling forward, in spite of such formidable obstacles. By indirect representations, however, he sharply reproves their perverse judgment, when he says that he lives and is joyful, while they despised him as one that was dead and overwhelmed with grief. He reproaches them, also, with ingratitude, when he says, that he made many rich, while he was contemned on account of his poverty. For they were of the number of those whom he enriched by his wealth: nay more, all of them to a man were under obligations to him on many accounts. Thus he said previously, by way of irony, that he was unknown, while at the same time the fruit of his labor was everywhere known and celebrated. But how cruel to despise the poverty of the man who supplies you (599) from his abundance! He means spiritual riches, which ought to be much more esteemed than earthly.


Verse 11

11Our mouth is opened. As the opening of the mouth is a sign of boldness, (602) if you are inclined to connect this with what goes before, the meaning will be this, — “I have ample ground of glorying, and an upright conscience opens my mouth. Your entertaining unfavorable views of us, is not owing to any fault on our part, but arises from your being unfair judges. For you ought to have entertained more favorable views of my ministry, which God has rendered honorable to you in so many ways.” I explain it, however, otherwise; for he says that the reason why his mouth was opened was, that hisheart was enlarged Now what is meant by enlargement of heart? Undoubtedly it means the cheerfulness that springs from benevolence. (603) It is quite a common figure, to speak of a narrow and contracted heart as denoting either grief, or disgust, while, on the other hand, an enlarged heart is employed to denote dispositions of an opposite kind. Hence Paul here says nothing but what we every day experience, for when we have to do with friends, our heart is enlarged, all our feelings are laid open, there is nothing there that is hid, nothing shut, — nay more, the whole mind leaps and exults to unfold itself openly to view. (604) Hence it is, that the tongue, also, is free and unfettered, does not faulter, does not with difficulty draw up from the bottom of the throat broken syllables, as usually happens when the mind is influenced by a less joyful affection.


Verse 12

12.Ye are not straitened in us That is, “It is owing to your own fault that you are not able to share in this feeling of cheerfulness, which I entertain towards you. My mouth is opened, so that I deal familiarly with you, my very heart would willingly pour itself forth, (605) but you shut up your bowels.” He means to say, that it is owing to their corrupt judgment, that the things that he utters are not relished by them.


Verse 13

13.Now the same requital He softens his reproof by addressing them kindly as his sons, and also by this exhortation, by which he intimates that he still entertains good hopes of them. By the same requital he means — mutual duty, for there is a mutual return of duty between a father and his sons. For as it is the duty of parents to nourish their children, to instruct them, to direct them by their counsel, and to defend them, so it is the dictate of equity, that children should requite their parents. (1 Timothy 5:4.) In fine, he means what the Greeks call ἀντιπελαργίανaffection exercised in return. (606) “I cherish,” says he, “towards you paternal affection: show yourselves then to be my sons by affection and respect in return.” At the same time there is a particular circumstance that must be noticed, That the Corinthians, having found so indulgent a father, may also show gentleness in their turn, and may requite his kind condescension by their docility, he exhorts them with this view to be enlarged in their own bowels. The Old Interpreter, not having caught Paul’s meaning, has added the participle having, and has thus expressed his own view rather than Paul’s. In our exposition, on the other hand, (which is Chrysostom’s, also,) there is nothing forced. (607)


Verse 14

14.Be not yoked As if regaining his authority, he now reproves them more freely, because they associated with unbelievers, as partakers with them in outward idolatry. For he has exhorted them to show themselves docile to him as to a father: he now, in accordance with the rights that belong to him, (608) reproves the fault into which they had fallen. Now we mentioned in the former epistle (609) what this fault was; for, as they imagined that there was nothing that was unlawful for them in outward things, they defiled themselves with wicked superstitions without any reserve. For in frequenting the banquets of unbelievers, they participated along with them in profane and impure rites, and while they sinned grievously, they nevertheless thought themselves innocent. On this account Paul inveighs here against outward idolatry, and exhorts Christians to stand aloof from it, and have no connection with it. He begins, however, with a general statement, with the view of coming down from that to a particular instance, for to be yoked with unbelievers means nothing less than to

have fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness,
(
Ephesians 5:11,)

and to hold out the hand to them (610) in token of agreement.

Many are of opinion that he speaks of marriage, but the context clearly shows that they are mistaken. The word that Paul makes use of means — to be connected together in drawing the same yoke. It is a metaphor taken from oxen or horses, which require to walk at the same pace, and to act together in the same work, when fastened under one yoke. (611) When, therefore, he prohibits us from having partnership with unbelievers in drawing the same yoke, he means simply this, that we should have no fellowship with them in their pollutions. For one sun shines upon us, we eat of the same bread, we breathe the same air, and we cannot altogether refrain from intercourse with them; but Paul speaks of the yoke of impiety, that is, of participation in works, in which Christians cannot lawfully have fellowship. On this principle marriage will also be prohibited, inasmuch as it is a snare, by which both men and women are entangled into an agreement with impiety; but what I mean is simply this, that Paul’s doctrine is of too general a nature to be restricted to marriage exclusively, for he is discoursing here as to the shunning of idolatry, on which account, also, we are prohibited from contracting marriages with the wicked.

For what fellowship He confirms his exhortation on the ground of its being an absurd, and, as it were, monstrous connecting together of things in themselves much at variance; for these things can no more coalesce than fire and water. In short it comes to this, that unless they would have everything thrown into confusion, they must refrain from the pollutions of the wicked. Hence, too, we infer, that even those that do not in their hearts approve of superstitions are, nevertheless, polluted by dissimulation if they do not openly and ingenuously stand aloof from them.


Verse 15

15.What concord has Christ with Belial? As to the etymology of the word Belial, even the Hebrews themselves are not agreed (612) The meaning, however, is not doubtful. (613) For Moses takes a word or thought of Belial (614) to mean a wicked and base thought, (615) and in various instances (616) those who are wicked and abandoned to iniquity, are called men, or sons of Belial. (Deuteronomy 13:13; Jude 19:22; 1 Samuel 2:12.) Hence it is, that Paul has employed the word here to mean the devil, the head of all wicked persons. For from what holds good as to the two heads, he comes down without delay to the members: “As there is an irreconcilable variance between Christ and Satan, so we also must keep aloof from partnership with the wicked.” When, however, Paul says that a Christian has no participation with an unbeliever, he does not mean as to food, clothing, estates, the sun, the air, as I have mentioned above, but as to those things that are peculiar to unbelievers, from which the Lord has separated us.


Verse 16

16.What agreement hath the temple of God with idols? Hitherto he has in general terms prohibited believers from associating with the wicked. He now lets them know what was the chief reason, why he had prohibited them from such an association — because they had ceased to reckon the profession of idolatry to be a sin. He had censured that liberty, and had exposed it at great length in the former Epistle. It is probable, however, that all had not yet been gained over, so as to receive the counsel which he had given. Hence it was that he complained of their being straitened in their own bowels — the only thing that hindered their proficiency. (617) He does not, however, resume that subject anew, but contents himself with a short admonition, as we are accustomed to do, when we treat of things that are well known. At the same time his brevity does not prevent his giving sharp cuts. For how much emphasis there is in that single word, where he teaches that there is no agreement between the temple of God and idols! “It is a sacrilegious profanation, (618) when anidol or any idolatrous service is introduced into the temple of God Now we are the true temples of God. Hence it is sacrilege to defile ourselves with any contamination of idols. This one consideration, I say, should be to you as good as a thousand. If you are a Christian, what have you to do with idols, (Hosea 14:8,) for you are the temple of God?” Paul, however, as I have already in part noticed, contends rather by way of exhortation than of doctrine, inasmuch as it would have been superfluous to be still treating of it, as if it were a thing doubtful or obscure.

As God saith, I will walk. He proves that we are the temples of God from this, that God of old promised to the people of Israel that he would dwell in the midst of them. In the first place, God cannot dwell among us, without dwelling in each one of us, for he promises this as a singular privilege — I will dwell in the midst of you Nor does this dwelling or presence consist merely in earthly blessings, but must be understood chiefly of spiritual grace. Hence it does not mean simply that God is near us, as though he were in the air, flying round about us, but it means rather that he has his abode in our hearts. If, then, any one objects, that the particle in simply means among, I grant it; but I affirm that, from the circumstance that God promises that he will dwell among us, we may infer that he also remains in us. (619) And such was the type of the ark, of which mention is made by Moses in that passage, from which Paul appears to have borrowed this quotation. (Leviticus 26:12.) If, however, any one thinks that Paul had rather in his eye Ezekiel 37:27, the argument will be the same. For the Prophet, when describing the restoration of the Church, mentions as the chief good, the presence of God, which he had himself in the beginning promised by Moses. Now what was prefigured by the ark, was manifested to us more fully in Christ, when he became to us Immanuel (620) (Matthew 1:23.) On this account, I am of opinion that it is Ezekiel, rather than Moses, that is here quoted, because Ezekiel alludes at the same time to the type of the ark, and declares that it will have its fulfillment under the reign of Christ. Now the Apostle takes it for granted, that God dwells nowhere but in a sacred place. If we say of a man, “he dwells here,” that will not make the place a temple; but as to God there is this peculiarity, that whatever place he honors with his presence, he at the same time sanctifies.


Verse 17

17.Wherefore come out from the midst of them. This exhortation is taken from Isaiah 52:11, where the Prophet, when foretelling the deliverance, at length addresses the priests in these terms. For he makes use of a circumlocution to describe the priests, when he says, Ye that bear the vessels of the Lord, inasmuch as they had the charge of the vessels, by means of which the sacrifices, and other parts of divine worship, were performed. There can be no doubt that his design is to admonish them, that, while eagerly desirous to come forth, (621) they should be on their guard against any contamination from the many pollutions with which the country (622) was overrun. Now this is no less applicable to us, than to the ancient Levites, for if so much purity is required on the part of the keepers of the vessels, how much more in the vessels themselves! (623) Now all our members are vessels, set apart for the spiritual worship of God; we are also a royal priesthood. (1 Peter 2:9.) Hence, as we are redeemed by the grace of God, it is befitting that we keep ourselves undefiled in respect of all uncleanness, that we may not pollute the sanctuary of God. As, however, while remaining in this world, we are nevertheless redeemed, and rescued, from the pollutions of the world, so we are not to quit life with the view of departing from all uncleanness, but must simply avoid all participation. The sum is this. “If with a true affection of the heart, we aim at the benefit of redemption, we must beware of defiling ourselves by any contamination from its pollutions.”


Verse 18

18.I will be a Father unto you. This promise does not occur in one passage merely, but is repeated in various instances. Paul has added it with this view, that a recognition of the great honor to which God has exalted us, might be a motive to stir us up to a more ardent desire for holiness. For when God has restored his Church which he has gathered from profane nations, their redemption is attended with this fruit, that believers are seen to be his sons and daughters It is no common honor that we are reckoned among the sons of God: it belongs to us in our turn to take care, that we do not show ourselves to be degenerate children to him. For what injury we do to God, if while we call him father, we defile ourselves with abominations of idols! Hence, the thought of the high distinction to which he has elevated us, ought to whet our desire for holiness and purity.

 


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Bibliography Information
Calvin, John. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 6:4". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/2-corinthians-6.html. 1840-57.

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Tuesday, October 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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