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This chapter 2 Corinthians 6:0, closely connected in sense with the preceding, is designed as an address to the Corinthian Christians, exhorting them to act worthily of their calling, and of their situation under such a ministry as they had enjoyed. In the previous chapters, Paul had discoursed at length of the design and of the labors of the ministry. The main drift of all this was to show them the nature of reconciliation, and the obligation to turn to God, and to live to him. This idea is pursued in this chapter; and in view of the labors and self-denials of the ministry, Paul urges on the Corinthian Christians the duty of coming out from the world, and of separating themselves entirely from all evil. The chapter may be conveniently contemplated in the following parts:
I. Paul states that he and his associates were fellow-laborers with God, and he exhorts the Corinthians not to receive the grace of God in vain. To induce them to make a wise improvement of the privileges which they enjoyed, he quotes a passage from Isaiah, and applies it as meaning that it was then an acceptable time, and that they might avail themselves of mercy, 2 Corinthians 6:1-2.
II. He enumerates the labors and self-denials of the ministry. He refers to their sincerity, zeal, and honesty of life. He shows how much they had been willing to endure in order to convey the gospel to others, and how much they had in fact endured, and how much they had benefitted others. He speaks of their afflictions in a most tender and beautiful manner, and of the happy results which had followed from their self-denying labors, 2 Corinthians 6:3-10. The design of this is, evidently, to remind them of what their religion had cost, and to appeal to them in view of all this to lead holy and pure lives.
III. Paul expresses his ardent attachment for them, and says that if they were straitened - if they did not live as they should do, it was not because he and his fellow-laborers had not loved them, and sought their welfare, but from a defect in themselves, 2 Corinthians 6:11-12.
IV. As a reward for all that he had done and suffered for them, he now asked only that they should live as became Christians, 2 Corinthians 6:13-18. He sought not silver, or gold, or apparel. He had not labored as he had done with any view to a temporal reward. And he now asked simply that they should come out from the world, and be dissociated from everything that was evil. He demanded that they should be separated from all idolatry, and idolatrous practices; assures them that there can be no union between light and darkness; righteousness and unrighteousness; Christ and Belial; that there can be no agreement between the temple of God and idols; reminds them of the fact that they are the temple of God; and encourages them to do this by the assurance that God would be their God, and that they should be his adopted sons and daughters. The chapter is one of great beauty; and the argument for a holy life among Christians is one that is exceedingly forcible and tender.
We then, as workers together with him - On the meaning of this expression, see the note, 1 Corinthians 3:9. The Greek here is (συνεργοῦντες sunergountes) “working together,” and may mean either that the apostles and ministers to whom Paul refers were joint-laborers in entreating them not to receive the grace of God in vain; or it may mean that they cooperated with God, or were engaged with him in endeavoring to secure the reconciliation of the world to himself. Tyndale renders it: “we as helpers.” Doddridge, “we then as the joint-laborers of God.” Most expositors have concurred in this interpretation. The word properly means, to work together; to cooperate in producing any result. Macknight supposes that the word here is in the vocative, and is an address to the fellow-laborers of Paul, entreating them not to receive the grace of God in vain. In this opinion he is probably alone, and has manifestly departed from the scope and design of the passage. Probably the most obvious meaning is that of our translators, who regard it as teaching that Paul was a joint-worker with God in securing the salvation of people.
That ye receive not the grace of God in vain - The “grace of God” here means evidently the gracious offer of reconciliation and pardon. And the sense is, “We entreat you not to neglect or slight this offer of pardon, so as to lose the benefit of it, and be lost. It is offered freely and fully. It may be partaken of by all, and all may be saved. But it may also be slighted, and all the benefits of it will then be lost.” The sense is, that it was possible that this offer might be made to them, they might hear of a Saviour, be told of the plan of reconciliation and have the offers of mercy pressed on their attention and acceptance, and yet all be in vain. They might notwithstanding all this be lost, for simply to hear of the plan of salvation or the offers of mercy, will no more save a sinner than to hear of medicine will save the sick. It must be embraced and applied, or it will be in vain. It is true that Paul probably addressed this to those who were professors of religion; and the sense is, that they should use all possible care and anxiety lest these offers should have been made in vain. They should examine their own hearts; they should inquire into their own condition; they should guard against self-deception. The same persons 2 Corinthians 5:20 Paul had exhorted also to be reconciled to God; and the idea is, that he would earnestly entreat even professors of religion to give all diligence to secure an interest in the saving mercy of the gospel, and to guard against the possibility of being self-deceived and ruined.
For he saith - see Isaiah 49:8. In that passage the declaration refers to the Messiah, and the design is there to show that God would be favorable to him; that he would hear him when he prayed, and would make him the medium of establishing a covenant with his own people, and of spreading the true religion around the earth; see my note on that place. Paul quotes the passage here not as affirming that he used it in exactly the sense, or with reference to the same design for which it was originally spoken, but as expressing the idea which he wished to convey, or in accordance with the general principle implied in its use in Isaiah. The general idea there, or the principle involved, was, that under the Messiah God would be willing to hear; that is, that he would be disposed to show mercy to the Jew and to the Gentile. This is the main idea of the passage as used by Paul. Under the Messiah, it is said by Isaiah, God would be willing to show mercy. That would be an acceptable time. That time says Paul, has arrived. The Messiah has come, and now God is willing to pardon and save. And the doctrine in this verse is, that under the Messiah, or in the time of Christ, God is willing to show mercy to people. In him alone is the throne of grace accessible, and now that he has come, God is willing to pardon, and people should avail themselves of the offers of mercy.
I have heard thee - The Messiah. I have listened to thy prayer for the salvation of the pagan world. The promise to the Messiah was, that the pagan world should be given to him; but it was a promise that it should be in answer to his prayers and intercessions. “Ask of me, and I shall give thee the pagan for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession;” Psalms 2:8. The salvation of the pagan world, and of all who are saved, is to be in answer to the prevalent intercession of the Lord Jesus.
In a time accepted - In Isaiah, “in an acceptable time.” The idea is, that he had prayed in a time when God was disposed to show mercy; the time when in his wise arrangements he had designed that his salvation should be extended to the world. It is a time which he had fixed as the appropriate period for extending the knowledge of his truth and his salvation; and it proves that there was to be a period which was the favorable period of salvation, that is, which God esteemed to be the proper period for making his salvation known to people. At such a period the Messiah would pray, and the prayer would be answered.
In the day of salvation - In the time when I am disposed to show salvation.
Have I succored thee - The Messiah. I have sustained thee, that is, in the effort to make salvation known. God here speaks of there being an accepted time, a limited period, in which petitions in favor of the world would be acceptable to him. That time Paul says had come; and the idea which he urges is, that people should avail themselves of that, and embrace now the offers of mercy.
Behold, now is the accepted time ... - The meaning of this passage is, the “Messiah is come. The time referred to by Isaiah has arrived. It is now a time when God is ready to show compassion, to hear prayer, and to have mercy on mankind. Only through the Messiah, the Lord Jesus, does he show mercy, and people should therefore now embrace the offers of pardon.” The doctrine taught here, therefore. is, that through the Lord Jesus, and where he is preached, God is willing to pardon and save people; and this is true wherever he is preached, and as long as people live under the sound of the gospel. The world is under a dispensation of mercy, and God is willing to show compassion, and while this exists, that is, while people live, the offers of salvation are to he freely made to them. The time will come when it will not be an acceptable time with God. The day of mercy will be closed; the period of trial will be ended; and people will be removed to a world where no mercy is shown, and where compassion is unknown. This verse, which should be read as a parenthesis, is designed to be connected with the argument which the apostle is urging, and which he presented in the previous chapter. The general doctrine is, that people should seek reconciliation with God. To enforce that, he here says, that it was now the acceptable time, the time when God was willing to be reconciled to human beings. The general sentiment of this passage may be thus expressed:
(1) Under the gospel it is an acceptable time, a day of mercy, a time when God is willing to show mercy to people.
(2) There may be special seasons which may be especially called the acceptable, or accepted time:
- When the gospel is pressed on the attention by the faithful preaching of his servants, or by the urgent entreaties of friends;
- When it is brought to our attention by any striking dispensation of Providence;
- When the Spirit of God strives with us, and brings us to deep reflection, or to conviction for sin;
- In a revival of religion, when many are pressing into the kingdom - it is at all such seasons an accepted time, a day of salvation. a day which we should improve. It is “now” such a season, because:
- The time of mercy will pass by, and God will not be willing to pardon the sinner who goes unprepared to eternity.
- Because we cannot calculate on the future. We have no assurance, no evidence that we shall live another day, or hour.
- It is taught here, that the time will come when it will not be an accepted time. Now is the accepted time; at some future period it will not be.
If people grieve away the Holy Spirit; if they continue to reject the gospel; if they go unprepared to eternity, no mercy can be found. God does not design to pardon beyond the grave. He has made no provision for forgiveness there; and they who are not pardoned in this life, must be unpardoned forever.
Giving no offence in anything - We the ministers of God, 2 Corinthians 6:1. The word rendered “offence” means, properly, stumbling; then offence, or cause of offence, a falling into sin. The meaning here is, “giving no occasion for contemning or rejecting the gospel;” and the idea of Paul is, that he and his fellow-apostles so labored as that no one who saw or knew them, should have occasion to reproach the ministry, or the religion which they preached; but so that in their pure and self-denying lives, the strongest argument should be seen for embracing it; compare Matthew 10:16; 1Co 8:13; 1 Corinthians 10:32-33. See the Philippians 2:15 note; 1 Thessalonians 2:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:22 notes. How they conducted so as to give no offence he states in the following verses.
That the ministry be not blamed - The phrase, “the ministry,” refers here not merely to the ministry of Paul, that is, it does not mean merely that he would be subject to blame and reproach, but that the ministry itself which the Lord Jesus had established would be blamed, or would be reproached by the improper conduct of anyone who was engaged in that work. The idea is, that the misconduct of one minister of the gospel would bring a reproach upon the profession itself, and would prevent the usefulness and success of others, just as the misconduct of a physician exposes the whole profession to reproach, or the bad conduct of a lawyer reflects itself in some degree on the entire profession. And it is so everywhere. The errors, follies, misconduct, or bad example of one minister of the gospel brings a reproach upon the sacred calling itself, and prevents the usefulness of many others. Ministers do not stand alone. And though no one can be responsible for the errors and failings of others, yet no one can avoid suffering in regard to his usefulness by the sins of others. Not only, therefore, from a regard to his personal usefulness should every minister be circumspect in his walk, but from respect to the usefulness of all others who sustain the office of the ministry, and from respect to the success of religion all over the world. Paul made it one of the principles of his conduct so to act that no man should have cause to speak reproachfully of the ministry on his account. In order to this, he felt; it to be necessary not only to claim and assert honor for the ministry, but to lead such a life as should deserve the respect of people. If a man wishes to secure respect for his calling, it must be by living in the manner which that calling demands, and then respect and honor will follow as a matter of course; see Calvin.
But in all things - In every respect. In all that we do. In every way, both by words and deeds. How this was done, Paul proceeds to state in the following verses.
Approving ourselves as the ministers of God - Margin, “Commending.” Tyndale renders it, “In all things let us behave ourselves as the ministers of God.” The idea is, that Paul and his fellowlaborers endeavored to live as became the ministers of God, and so as to commend the ministry to the confidence and affection of people. They endeavored to live as was appropriate to those who were the ministers of God, and so that the world would be disposed to do honor to the ministry.
In much patience - In the patient endurance of afflictions of all kinds. Some of his trials he proceeds to enumerate. The idea is, that a minister of God, in order to do good and to commend his ministry, should set an example of patience. He preaches this as a duty to others; and if, when he is poor, persecuted, oppressed, calumniated, or imprisoned, he should complain, or be insubmissive, the consequence would be that he would do little good by all his preaching. And no one can doubt, that God often places his ministers in circumstances of special trial, among other reasons, in order that they may illustrate their own precepts by their example, and show to their people with what temper and spirit they may and ought to suffer. Ministers often do a great deal more good by their example in suffering than they do in their preaching. It is easy to preach to others; it is not so easy to manifest just the right spirit in time of persecution and trial. People too can resist preaching, but they cannot resist the effect and power of a good example in times of suffering. In regard to the manner in which Paul says that the ministry may commend itself, it may be observed, that he groups several things together; or mentions several classes of influences or means. In this and the next verse he refers to various kinds of afflictions. In the following verses he groups several things together, pertaining to a holy life, and a pure conversation.
In afflictions - In all our afflictions; referring to all the afflictions and trials which they were called to bear. The following words, in the manner of a climax, specify more particularly the kinds of trials which they were called to endure.
In necessities - This is a stronger term than afflictions, and denotes the distress which arose from want. He everywhere endured adversity. It denotes unavoidable distress and calamity.
In distresses - The word used here (στενοχωρία stenochōria) denotes properly straitness of place, lack of room; then straits, distress, anguish. It is a stronger word than either of those which he had before used. See it explained in the notes on Romans 2:9. Paul means that in all these circumstances he had evinced patience, and had endeavored to act as became a minister of God.
In stripes - In this verse, Paul proceeds to specifications of what he had been called to endure. In the previous verse, he had spoken of his afflictions in general terms. In this expression, he refers to the fact that he and his fellow-laborers were scourged in the synagogues and cities as if they had been the worst of people. In 2 Corinthians 11:23-25, Paul says that he had been scourged five times by the Jews, and had been thrice beaten with rods. See the notes on that place.
In imprisonments - As at Philippi; Acts 16:24 ff. It was no uncommon thing for the early preachers of Christianity to be imprisoned.
In tumults - Margin, “Tossing to and fro.” The Greek word (ἀκαταστασία akatastasia) denotes properly “instability,” thence disorder, tumult, commotion. Here it means that in the various tumults and commotions which were produced by the preaching of the gospel, Paul endeavored to act as became a minister of God. Such tumults were excited at Corinth Acts 18:6; at Philippi Acts 16:19-20; at Lystra and Derbe Acts 14:19; at Ephesus Acts 19:0, and in various other places. The idea is, that if the ministers of religion are assailed by a lawless mob, they are to endeavor to show the spirit of Christ there, and to evince all patience, and to do good even in such a scene. Patience and the Christian spirit may often do more good in such scenes than much preaching would do elsewhere.
In labors - Referring probably to the labors of the ministry, and its incessant duties, and perhaps also to the labors which they performed for their own support, as it is well known that Paul and probably also the other apostles, labored often to support themselves.
In watchings - In wakefulness, or lack of sleep. He probably refers to the fact that in these arduous duties, and in his travels, and in anxious cares for the churches, and for the advancement of religion, he was often deprived of his ordinary rest. He refers to this again in 2 Corinthians 11:27.
In fastings - Referring probably not only to the somewhat frequent fasts to which he voluntarily submitted as acts of devotion, but also to the fact that in his travels, when abroad and among strangers, he was often destitute of food. To such trials, those who traveled as Paul did, among strangers, and without property, would be often compelled to submit; and such trials, almost without number, the religion which we now enjoy has cost. It at first cost the painful life, the toils, the anxieties, and the sufferings of the Redeemer; and it has been propagated and perpetuated amidst the deep sorrows, the sacrifices, and the tears and blood of those who have contributed to perpetuate it on earth. For such a religion, originated, extended, and preserved in such a manner, we can never express suitable gratitude to God. Such a religion we cannot overestimate in value; and for the extension and perpetuity of such a religion, we also should be willing to practice unwearied self denial.
By pureness - Paul, having in the previous verses, grouped together some of the sufferings which he endured and by which he had endeavored to commend and extend the true religion, proceeds here to group together certain other influences by which he had sought the same object. The substance of what he here says is, that it had not only been done by sufferings and trials, but by a holy life, and by entire consecration to the great cause to which he had devoted himself. He begins by stating that it was by pureness, that is, by integrity, sanctity, a holy and pure life. All preaching, and all labors would have been in vain without this; and Paul well knew that if he succeeded in the ministry, he must be a good man. The same is true in all other professions. One of the essential requisites of an orator, according to Quintilian, is, that he must be a good man; and no man may expect ultimately to succeed in any calling of life unless he is pure. But however this may be in other callings, no one will doubt it in regard to the ministry of the gospel.
By knowledge - Interpreters have differed much in the interpretation of this. Rosenmuller and Schleusner understand by it prudence. Grotius interprets it as meaning a knowledge of the Law. Doddridge supposes that it refers to a solicitude to improve in the knowledge of those truths which they were called to communicate to others. Probably the idea is a very simple one. Paul is showing how he endeavored to commend the gospel to others, 2 Corinthians 6:4. He says, therefore, that one way was by communicating knowledge, true knowledge. He proclaimed that which was true, and which was real knowledge, in opposition to the false science of the Greeks, and in opposition to those who would substitute declamation for argument, and the mere ornaments of rhetoric for truth. The idea is, that the ministry should not be ignorant, but that if they wished to commend their office, they should be well informed, and should be people of good sense. Paul had no belief that an ignorant ministry was preferable to one that was characterized by true knowledge; and he felt that if he was to be useful it was to be by his imparting to others truth that would be useful. “The priest’s lips should keep knowledge;” Malachi 2:7.
By long-suffering - By patience in our trials, and in the provocations which we meet with. We endeavor to obtain and keep a control over our passions, and to keep them in subjection. See this word explained in the notes on 1 Corinthians 13:4.
By kindness - see the note, 1 Corinthians 13:4. By gentleness of manner, of temper, and of spirit. By endeavoring to evince this spirit to all, whatever may be their treatment of us, and whatever may be our provocations. Paul felt that if a minister would do good he must be kind, and gentle to all.
By the Holy Ghost - By the sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit. By those graces and virtues which it is his office especially to produce in the heart; compare Galatians 5:22-23. Paul here evidently refers not to the miraculous agency of the Holy Spirit, but he is referring to the Spirit which he and his fellow-ministers manifested, and means here, doubtless, that they evinced such feelings as the Holy Spirit produced in the hearts of the children of God.
By love unfeigned - Sincere, true, ardent love to all. By undissembled, pure, and genuine affection for the souls of people. What good can a minister do if he does not love his people, and the souls of people? The prominent characteristic in the life of the Redeemer was love - love to all. So if we are like him, and if we do any good, we shall have love to people. No man is useful without it; and ministers, in general, are useful just in proportion as they have it. It will prompt to labor, self-denial, and toil; it will make them patient, ardent, kind; it will give them zeal, and will give them access to the heart; it will accomplish what no eloquence, labor, or learning will do without it. He who shows that he loves me has access at once to my heart; he who does not, cannot make a way there by any argument, eloquence, denunciation, or learning. No minister is useful without it; no one with it can be otherwise than useful.
By the word of truth - That is, by making known the truths of the gospel. It was his object to make known the simple truth. He did not corrupt it by false mixtures of philosophy and human wisdom, but communicated it as it had been revealed to him. The object of the appointment of the Christian ministry is to make known the truth, and when that is done it cannot but be that they will commend their office and work to the favorable regards of people.
By the power of God - By the divine power which attended the preaching of the gospel. Most of the ancient commentators explain this of the power of working miracles - Bloomfield. But it probably includes all the displays of divine power which attended the propagation of the gospel, whether in the working of miracles, or in the conversion of people. If it be asked how Paul used this power so as to give no offence in the work of the ministry, it may be replied, that the miraculous endowments bestowed upon the apostles, the power of speaking foreign languages, etc., seem to have been bestowed upon them to be employed in the same way as were their natural faculties; see the notes on 1 Corinthians 14:32. The idea here is, that they used the great powers entrusted to them by God, not as impostors would have done, for the purposes of gain and ambition, or for vain display, but solely for the furtherance of the true religion, and the salvation of people. They thus showed that they were sent from God, as well by the nature of the powers with which they were entrusted, as by the manner in which they used them.
By the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left - Interpreters bare varied much in the exposition of this passage; and many have run into utter wildness. Grotius says, that it refers to the manner in which the ancient soldiers were armed. They bore a spear in their right hand, and a shield in the left. With the former they attacked their foes, with the later they made defense. Some have supposed that it refers to the fact that they were taught to use the sword with the left hand as well as with the right. The simple idea is, that they were completely armed. To be armed on the right hand and on the left is to be well armed, or entirely equipped. They went forth to conflict. They met persecution, opposition, and slander. As the soldier went well armed to battle, so did they. But the armor with which they met their foes, and which constituted their entire panoply, was a holy life. With that they met all the assaults of their enemies; with that all slander and persecution. That was their defense, and by that they hoped and expected to achieve their conquests. They had no swords, and spears, and helmets, and shields; no carnal weapons of offence and defense; but they expected to meet all their assaults, and to gain all their victories, by an upright and holy life.
By honor and dishonor - The apostle is still illustrating the proposition that he and his fellow-laborers endeavored to give no offence 2 Corinthians 6:3, and to commend themselves as the ministers of God, 2 Corinthians 6:4. He here 2 Corinthians 6:8-10 introduces another group of particulars in which it was done. The main idea is, that they endeavored to act in a manner so as to commend the ministry and the gospel, whether they were in circumstances of honor or dishonor, whether lauded or despised by the world. The word rendered “by” (διὰ dia) does not here denote the means by which they commended the gospel, but the medium. In the midst of honor and dishonor; whatever might be the esteem in which they were held by the world, they gave no offence. The first is, “by honor.” They were not everywhere honored, or treated with respect. Yet they were sometimes honored by people. The churches which they founded would honor them, and as the ministers of religion they would be by them treated with respect.
Perhaps occasionally also they might be treated with great attention and regard by the people of the world on account of their miraculous powers; compare Acts 28:7. So now, ministers of the gospel are often treated with great respect and honor. They are beloved and venerated; caressed and flattered, by the people of their charge. As ministers of God, as exercising a holy function, their office is often treated with great respect by the world. If they are eloquent or learned, or if they are eminently successful they are often highly esteemed and loved. It is difficult in such circumstances to “commend themselves as the ministers of God.” Few are the people who are not injured by honor; few who are not corrupted by flattery. Few are the ministers who are proof against this influence, and who in such circumstances can honor the ministry. If done, it is by showing that they regard such things as of little moment; by showing that they are influenced by higher considerations than the love of praise; by not allowing this to interfere with their duties, or to make them less faithful and laborious; but rather by making this the occasion of increased fidelity and increased zeal in their master’s cause.
Most ministers do more to “give offence” in times when they are greatly honored by the world than when they are despised. Yet it is possible for a minister who is greatly honored to make it the occasion of commending himself more and more as a minister of God. And he should do it; as Paul said he did. The other situation was “in dishonor.” It is needless to say, that the apostles were often in situations where they had opportunity thus to commend themselves as the ministers of God. If sometimes honored, they were often dishonored. If the world sometimes flattered and caressed them, it often despised them, and cast out their names as evil; see the note, 1 Corinthians 4:13. And perhaps it is so substantially now with those who are faithful. In such circumstances, also, Paul sought to commend himself as a minister of God. It was by receiving all expressions of contempt with meekness; by not suffering them to interfere with the faithful discharge of his duties; by rising above them, and showing the power of religion to sustain him; and by returning good for evil, prayers for maledictions, blessings for curses, and by seeking to save, not injure and destroy those who thus sought to overwhelm him with disgrace. It may be difficult to do this, but it can be done; and when done, a man always does good.
By evil report - The word used here (δυσφημία dusphēmia), means, properly, ill-omened language, malediction, reproach, contumely. It refers to the fact that they were often slandered and calumniated. Their motives were called in question, and their names aspersed. They were represented as deceivers and impostors, etc. The statement here is, that in such circumstances, and when thus assailed and reproached, they endeavored to commend themselves as the ministers of God. Evidently they endeavored to do this by not slandering or reviling in return; by manifesting a Christian spirit; by living down the slanderous accusation, and by doing good if possible even to their calumniators. It is more difficult, says Chrysostom, to bear such reports than it is pain of body; and it is consequently more difficult to evince a Christian spirit then. To human nature it is trying to have the name slandered and cast out as evil when we are conscious only of a desire to do good. But it is sufficient for the disciple that he be as his master, and if they called the master of the house Beelzebub, we must expect they will also those of his household. It is a fine field for a Christian minister, or any other Christian, to do good when his name is unjustly slandered. It gives him an opportunity of showing the true excellency of the Christian spirit; and it gives him the inexpressible privilege of being like Christ - like him in his suffering and in the moral excellence of character. A man should be willing to be anything if it will make him like the Redeemer - whether it be in suffering or in glory; see Philippians 3:10; 1 Peter 4:13.
And good report - When people speak well of us; when we are commended, praised, or honored. To honor the gospel then, and to commend the ministry, is:
- To show that the heart is not set on this, and does not seek it;
- To keep the heart from being puffed up with pride and self-estimation;
- Not to suffer it to interfere with our fidelity to others and with our faithfully presenting to them the truth.
Satan often attempts to bribe people by praise, and to neutralize the influence of ministers by flattery. It seems hard to go and proclaim to people painful truths who are causing the incense of praise to ascend around us. And it is commonly much easier for a minister of the gospel to commend himself as a minister of God when he is slandered than when he is praised, when his name is cast out as evil than when the breezes of popular favor are wafted upon him. Few people can withstand the influence of flattery, but many people can meet persecution with a proper spirit; few people comparatively can always evince Christian fidelity to others when they live always amidst the influence of “good report,” but there are many who can be faithful when they are poor, and despised, and reviled. Hence, it has happened, that God has so ordered it that his faithful servants have had but little of the “good report” which this world can furnish, but that they have been generally subjected to persecution and slander.
As deceivers - That is, we are regarded and treated as if we were deceivers, and as if we were practicing an imposition on mankind, and as if we would advance our cause by any trick or fraud that would be possible. We are regarded and treated as deceivers. Perhaps this refers to some charges which had been brought against them by the opposing faction at Corinth (Locke), or perhaps to the opinion which the Jewish priests and pagan philosophers entertained of them. The idea is, that though they were extensively regarded and treated as impostors, yet they endeavored to live as became the ministers of God. They bore the imputation with patience, and they applied themselves diligently to the work of saving souls. Paul seldom turned aside to vindicate himself from such charges, but pursued his master’s work, and evidently felt that if he had a reputation that was worth anything, or deserved any reputation, God would take care of it; compare Psalms 37:1-4. A man, especially a minister, who is constantly endeavoring to vindicate his own reputation, usually has a reputation which is not worth vindicating. A man who deserves a reputation will ultimately obtain just as much as is good for him, and as will advance the cause in which he is embarked.
And yet true - We are not deceivers and impostors. Though we are regarded as such, yet we show ourselves to be true and faithful ministers of Christ.
As unknown - As those who are deemed to be of an obscure and ignoble rank in life, unknown to the great, unknown to fame. The idea, I think, is, that they went as strangers, as persons unknown, in preaching the gospel. Yet, though thus unknown they endeavor to commend themselves as the ministers of God. Though among strangers; though having no introduction from the great and the noble, yet they endeavored so to act as to convince the world that they were the ministers of God. This could he done only by a holy life, and by the evidence of the divine approbation which would attend them in their work. And by this, the ministers of religion, if they are faithful, may make themselves known even among those who were strangers, and may live so as to “give no offence.” Every minister and every Christian, even when they are “unknown” and when among strangers, should remember their high character as the servants of God, and should so live as to commend the religion which they profess to love, or which they are called on to preach. And yet how often is it that ministers when among strangers seem to feel themselves at liberty to lay aside their ministerial character, and to engage in conversation, and even partake of amusements which they themselves would regard as wholly improper if it were known that they were the ambassadors of God! And how often is it the case that professing Christians when traveling, when among strangers, when in foreign lands, forget their high calling, and conduct in a manner wholly different from what they did when surrounded by Christians; and when restrained by the sentiments and by the eyes of a Christian community!
And yet well known - Our sentiments and our principles are well known. We have no concealments to make. We practice no disguise. We attempt to impose on no one. Though obscure in our origin; though without rank, of wealth, or power, or patronage, to commend ourselves to favor, yet we have succeeded in making ourselves known to the world. Though obscure in our origin, we are not obscure now. Though suspected of dark designs, yet our principles are all well known to the world. No people of the same obscurity of birth ever succeeded in making themselves more extensively known than did the apostles. The world at large became acquainted with them; and by their self-denial, zeal, and success, they extended their reputation around the globe.
As dying - That is, regarded by others as dying. As condemned often to death; exposed to death; in the midst of trials that expose us to death, and that are ordinarily followed by death; see the note on 1 Corinthians 15:31, on the phrase, “I die daily.” They passed through so many trials that it might he said that they were constantly dying. “And, behold, we live.” Strange as it may seem, we still survive. Through all our trials we are preserved, and though often exposed to death, yet we still live. The idea here is, that in all these trials, and in these exposures to death, they endeavored to commend themselves as the ministers of God. They bore their trials with patience; submitted to these exposures without a complaint; and ascribed their preservation to the interposition of God.
As chastened - The word “chastened” (παιδευόμενοι paideuomenoi) means corrected, “chastised.” It is applied to the chastening which God causes by afflictions and calamities; 1 Corinthians 11:32; Revelation 3:19; Hebrews 12:6. It refers here, not to the scourgings to which they were subjected in the synagogues and elsewhere, but to the chastisements which God inflicted; the trials to which he subjected them. And the idea is, that in the midst of these trials, they endeavored to act as became the ministers of God. They bore them with patience. They submitted to them as coming from his hand. They felt that they were right; and they submitted without a complaint.
And not killed - Though severely chastened, yet we are not put to death. We survive them - preserved by the interposition of God.
As sorrowful - (λυπούμενοι lupoumenoi). Grieving, afflicted, troubled, sad. Under these sufferings we seem always to be cast down and sad. We endure afflictions that usually lead to the deepest expressions of grief. If the world looks only upon our trials, we must be regarded as always suffering, and always sad. The world will suppose that we have cause for continued lamentation (Doddridge), and they will regard us as among the most unhappy of mortals. Such, perhaps, is the estimate which the world usually affixes to the Christian life. They regard it as a life of sadness and of gloom; of trial and of melancholy. They see little in it that is cheerful, and they suppose that a heavy burden presses constantly on the heart of the Christian. Joy they think pertains to the gaieties and pleasures of this life; sadness to religion. And perhaps a more comprehensive statement of the feelings with which the frivolous people of the world regard Christians cannot be found than in this expression, “as sorrowful.” True, they are not free from sorrow. They are tried like others. They have special trials arising from persecution, opposition, contempt, and from the conscious and deep-felt depravity of their hearts. They are serious; and their seriousness is often interpreted as gloom. But there is another side to this picture, and there is much in the Christian character and feelings unseen or unappreciated by the world. For they are.
Alway rejoicing - So Paul was, notwithstanding the fact that he always appeared to have occasion for grief. Religion had a power not only to sustain the soul in trial, but to fill it with positive joy. The sources of his joy were doubtless the assurances of the divine favor and the hopes of eternal glory. And the same is true of religion always. There is an internal peace and joy which the world may not see or appreciate, but which is far more than a compensation for all the trials which the Christian endures.
As poor - The idea is, we are poor, yet in our poverty we endeavor “to give no offence, and to commend ourselves as the ministers of God.” This would be done by their patience and resignation; by their entire freedom from everything dishonest and dishonorable, and by their readiness, when necessary. to labor for their own support. There is no doubt that the apostles were poor; compare Acts 3:6. The little property which some of them had, had all been forsaken in order that they might follow the Saviour, and go and preach his gospel. And there is as little doubt that the mass of ministers are still poor, and that, God designs and desires that they should be. It is in such circumstances that he designs they should illustrate the beauty and the sustaining power of religion, and be examples to the world.
Yet making many rich - On the meaning of the word rich see the note, Romans 2:4. Here the apostle means that he and his fellow-laborers, though poor themselves, were the instruments of conferring durable and most valuable possessions on many persons. They had bestowed on them the true riches. They had been the means of investing them with treasures infinitely more valuable than any which kings and princes could bestow. They to whom they ministered were made partakers of the treasure where the moth doth not corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.
As having nothing - Being utterly destitute. Having no property. This was true, doubtless, in a literal sense, of most of the apostles. “And yet possessing all things.” That is:
(1) Possessing a portion of all things that may be necessary for our welfare, as far as our heavenly Father shall deem to be necessary for us.
(2) Possessing an interest in all things, so that we can enjoy them. We can derive pleasure from the works of God - the heavens, the earth, the hills, the streams, the cattle on the mountains or in the vales, as the works of God. We have a possession in them so that we can enjoy them as his works, and can say, “Our Father made them all.” They are given to man to enjoy. They are a part of the inheritance of man. And though we cannot call them our own in the legal sense, yet we can call them ours in the sense that we can derive pleasure from their contemplation, and see in them the proofs of the wisdom and the goodness of God. The child of God that looks upon the hills and vales; upon an extensive and beautiful farm or landscape, may derive more pleasure from the contemplation of them as the work of God and his gift to people, than the real owner does, if irreligious, from contemplating all this as his own. And so far as mere happiness is concerned, the friend of God who sees in all this the proofs of God’s beneficence and wisdom, may have a more valuable possession in those things than he who holds the title-deeds.
(3) Heirs of all things. We have a title to immortal life - a promised part in all that the universe can furnish that can make us happy.
(4) In the possession of pardon and peace; of the friendship of God and the knowledge of the Redeemer, we have the possession of all things. This comprises all. He that has this, what need has he of more? This meets all the desires; satisfies the soul; makes the man happy and blessed. He that has God for his portion, may be said to have all things, for he is “all in all.” He that has the Redeemer for his friend has all things that he needs, for “he that spared not his own Son, but gave him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” Romans 8:32.
O ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you - We speak freely, and fully. This is an affectionate address to them, and has reference to what he had just said. It means that, when the heart was full on the subject, words would flow freely, and that he had given vent to the fervid language which he had just used because his heart was full. He loved them; he felt deeply; and he spoke to them with the utmost freedom of what he had thought, and purposed, and done.
Our heart is enlarged - We have deep feelings, which naturally vent themselves in fervent and glowing language. The main idea here is, that he had a strong affection for them; a heart which embraced and loved them all, and which expressed itself in the language of deep emotion. He had loved them so that he was willing to be reproached, and to be persecuted, and to be poor, and to have his name cast out as evil. “I cannot be silent. I conceal or dissemble nothing. I am full of ardent attachment, and that naturally vents itself in the strong language which I have used.” True attachment will find means of expressing itself. A heart full of love will give vent to its feelings. There will be no dissembling and hypocrisy there. And if a minister loves the souls of his people he will pour out the affections of his heart in strong and glowing language.
Ye are not straitened in us - That is, you do not possess a narrow or contracted place in our affections. We love you fully, ardently, and are ready to do all that can be done for your welfare. There is no lack of room in our affections toward you. It is not narrow, confined, pent up. It is ample and free.
But ye are straitened in your own bowels - That is, in the affections of your hearts. The word used here (σπλάγχνα splangchna) commonly means in the Bible the tender affections. The Greek word properly denotes the upper viscera; the heart, the lungs, the liver. It is applied by Greek writers to denote those parts of victims which were eaten during or after the sacrifice - Robinson (Lexicon). Hence, it is applied to the heart, as the seat of the emotions and passions; and especially the gentler emotions, the tender affections, compassion, pity, love, etc. Our word “bowels” is applied usually to the lower viscera, and by no means expresses the idea of the word which is used in Greek. The idea here is, that they were straitened, or were confined in their affections for him. It is the language of reproof, meaning that he had not received from them the demonstrations of attachment which he had a right to expect, and which was a fair and proportionate return for the love bestowed on them. Probably he refers to the fact that they had formed parties; had admitted false teachers; and had not received his instructions as implicitly and as kindly as they ought to have done.
Now for a recompence in the same - “By way of recompence, open your hearts in the same manner toward me as I have done toward you. It is all the reward or compensation which I ask of you; all the return which I desire. I do not ask silver or gold, or any earthly possessions. I ask only a return of love, and a devotedness to the cause which I love, and which I endeavor to promote.”
I speak as unto my children - I speak as a parent addressing his children. I sustain toward you the relation of a spiritual father, and I have a right to require and expect a return of affection.
Be ye also enlarged - Be not straitened in your affections. Love me as I love you. Give to me the same proofs of attachment which I have given you. The idea in this verse is, that the only compensation or remuneration which he expected for all the love which he had shown them, and for all his toils and self-denials in their behalf 2 Corinthians 6:4-5, was, that they would love him, and yield obedience to the laws of the gospel requiring them to be separate from the world, 2 Corinthians 6:14-18. One ground of the claim which he had to their affection was, that he sustained toward them the relation of a father, and that he had a right to require and to expect such a return of love. The Syriac renders it well: “Enlarge your love toward me.” Tyndale renders it: “I speak unto you as unto children, which have like reward with us; stretch yourselves therefore out; bear not the yoke with unbelievers.”
Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers - This is closely connected in sense with the previous verse. The apostle is there stating the nature of the remuneration or recompence which he asks for all the love which he had shown to them. He here says, that one mode of remuneration would be to yield obedience to his commands, and to separate themselves from all improper alliance with unbelievers. “Make me this return for my love. Love me as a proof of your affection, be not improperly united with unbelievers. Listen to me as a father addressing his children, and secure your own happiness and piety by not being unequally yoked with those who are not Christians.” The word which is used here (ἑτεροζυγέω heterozugeō) means properly, to bear a different yoke, to be yoked heterogeneously - Robinson (Lexicon). It is applied to the custom of yoking animals of different kinds together (Passow); and as used here means not to mingle together, or be united with unbelievers.
It is implied in the use of the word that there is a dissimilarity between believers and unbelievers so great that it is as improper for them to mingle together as it is to yoke animals of different kinds and species. The ground of the injunction is, that there is a difference between Christians and those who are not, so great as to render such unions improper and injurious. The direction here refers doubtless to all kinds of improper connections with those who were unbelievers. It has been usually supposed by commentators to refer particularly to marriage. But there is no reason for confining it to marriage. It doubtless includes that, but it may as well refer to any other intimate connection, or to intimate friendships, or to participation in their amusements and employments, as to marriage. The radical idea is, that they were to abstain from all connections with unbelievers - with infidels, and pagans, and those who were not Christians, which would identify them with them; or they were to have no connection with them in anything as unbelievers, pagans, or infidels; they were to partake with them in nothing that was special to them as such.
They were to have no part with them in their paganism unbelief, and idolatry, and infidelity; they were not to be united with them in any way or sense where it would necessarily be understood that they were partakers with them in those things. This is evidently the principle here laid down, and this principle is as applicable now as it was then. In the remainder of this verse and the following verses 2 Corinthians 6:15-16, he states reasons why they should have no such contact. There is no principle of Christianity that is more important than that which is here stated by the apostle; and none in which Christians are more in danger of erring, or in which they have more difficulty in determining the exact rule which they are to follow. The questions which arise are very important. Are we to have no contact with the people of the world? Are we cut loose from all our friends who are not Christians? Are we to become monks, and live a recluse and unsocial life? Are we never to mingle with the people of the world in business, in innocent recreation, or in the duties of citizens, and as neighbors and friends? It is important, therefore, in the highest degree, to endeavor to ascertain what are the principles on which the New Testament requires us to act in this matter. And in order to a correct understanding of this, the following principles may be suggested:
I. There is a large field of action, pursuit, principle, and thought, over which infidelity, sin, paganism, and the world as such, have the entire control. It is wholly without the range of Christian law, and stands opposed to Christian law. It pertains to a different kingdom; is conducted by different principles, and tends to destroy and annihilate the kingdom of Christ. It cannot be reconciled with Christian principle, and cannot be conformed to but in entire violation of the influence of religion. Here the prohibition of the New Testament is absolute and entire. Christians are not to mingle with the people of the world in these things; and are not to partake of them. This prohibition, it is supposed, extends to the following, among other things:
(1) To idolatry. This was plain. On no account or pretence were the early Christians to partake of that, or to countenance it. In primitive times, during the Roman persecutions, all that was asked was that they should cast a little incense on the altar of a pagan god. They refused to do it, and because they refused to do it, thousands perished as martyrs. They judged rightly; and the world has approved their cause.
(2) Sin, vice, licentiousness. This is also plain. Christians are in no way to patronise them, or to lend their influence to them, or to promote them by their name, their presence, or their property. “Neither be partakers of other people’s sins;” 1Ti 5:22; 2 John 1:11.
(3) Arts and acts of dishonesty, deception, and fraud in traffic and trade. Here the prohibition also must be absolute. No Christian can have a right to enter into partnership with another where the business is to be conducted on dishonest and unchristian principles, or where it shall lead to the violation of any of the laws of God. If it involves deception and fraud in the principles on which it is conducted; if it spreads ruin and poverty - as the distilling and vending of ardent spirits does; if it leads to the necessary violation of the Christian Sabbath, then the case is plain. A Christian is to have no “fellowship with such unfruitful works of darkness, but is rather to reprove them;” Ephesians 5:11.
(4) The amusements and pleasures that are entirely worldly, and sinful in their nature; that are wholly under worldly influence, and which cannot be brought under Christian principles. Nearly all amusements are of this description. The true principle here seems to be, that if a Christian in such a place is expected to lay aside his Christian principles, and if it would be deemed indecorous and improper for him to introduce the subject of religion, or if religion would be regarded is entirely inconsistent with the nature of the amusement then he is not to be found there. The world reigns there, and if the principles of his Lord and Master would be excluded, he should not be there. This applies of course to the theater, the circus, the ballroom, and to large and splendid parties of pleasure. We are not to associate with idolaters in their idolatry; nor with the licentious in their licentiousness; nor with the infidel in his infidelity; nor with the proud in their pride; nor with the frivolous in their gaiety; nor with the friends of the theater, or the ballroom, or the circus in their attachment to these places and pursuits. And whatever other connection we are to have with them as neighbors, citizens, or members of our families, we are not to participate with them in these things. Thus far all seems to be clear; and the rule is a plain one whether it applies to marriage, or to business, or to religion, or to pleasure; compare note, 1 Corinthians 5:10.
II. There is a large field of action, thought, and plan which may be said to be common with the Christian and the world; that is, where the Christian is not expected to abandon his own principles, and where there will be, or need be, no compromise of the sternest views of truth, or the most upright, serious, and holy conduct. He may carry his principles with him; may always manifest them if necessary; and may even commend them to others. A few of these may be referred to.
(1) Commercial transactions and professional engagements that are conducted on honest and upright principles, even when those with whom we act are not Christians.
(2) Literary and scientific pursuits, which never, when pursued with a right spirit, interfere with the principles of Christianity, and never are contrary to it.
(3) The love and affection which are due to relatives and friends. Nothing in the Bible assuredly will prohibit a pious son from uniting with one who is not pious in supporting an aged and infirm parent, or a much loved and affectionate sister. The same remark is true also respecting the duty which a wife owes to a husband, a husband to a wife, or a parent to a child, though one of them should not be a Christian. And the same observation is true also of neighbors, who are not to be prohibited from uniting as neighbors in social contact, and in acts of common kindness and charity, though all not Christians.
(4) As citizens. We owe duties to our country, and a Christian need not refuse to act with others in the elective franchise, or in making or administering the laws. Here, however, it is clear that he is not at liberty to violate the laws and the principles of the Bible. He cannot be at liberty to unite with them in political schemes that are contrary to the Law of God, or in elevating to office people whom he cannot vote for with a good conscience as qualified for the station.
(5) In plans of public improvement, in schemes that go to the advancement of the public welfare, when the schemes do not violate the laws of God. But if they involve the necessity of violating the Sabbath, or any of the laws of God, assuredly he cannot consistently participate in them.
(6) In doing good to others. So the Saviour was with sinners; so he ate, and drank, and conversed with them. So we may mingle with them, without partaking of their wicked feelings and plans, so far as we can do them good, and exert over them a holy and saving influence. In all the situations here referred to, and in all the duties growing out of them, the Christian may maintain his principles, and may preserve a good conscience. Indeed the Saviour evidently contemplated that his people would have such contact with the world, and that in it they would do good. But in none of these is there to be any compromise of principle; in none to be any yielding to the opinions and practices that are contrary to the laws of God.
III. There is a large field of action, conduct, and plan, where Christians only will act together. These relate to the special duties of religion - to prayer, Christian fellowship, the ordinances of the gospel, and most of the plans of Christian beneficence. Here the world will not intrude; and here assuredly there will be no necessity of any compromise of Christian principle.
For what fellowship - Paul proceeds here to state reasons why there should be no such improper connection with the world. The main reason, though under various forms, is that there can be no fellowship, no communion, nothing in common between them; and that therefore they should be separate. The word “fellowship” (μέτοχὴ metochē) means partnership, participation. What is there in common; or how can the one partake with the other? The interrogative form here is designed to be emphatic, and to declare in the strongest terms that there can be no such partnership.
Righteousness - Such as you Christians are required to practice; implying that all were to be governed by the stern and uncompromising principles of honesty and justice.
With unrighteousness - Dishonesty, injustice, sin; implying that the world is governed by such principles.
And what communion - (κοινωνία koinōnia). Participation; communion; that which is in common. What is there in common between light and darkness? What common principle is there of which they both partake? There is none. There is a total and eternal separation.
Light - The emblem of truth, virtue, holiness; see the Matthew 4:16; Matthew 5:16 notes; John 1:4 note; Romans 2:19 note; 2 Corinthians 4:4, 2 Corinthians 4:6 notes. It is implied here that Christians are enlightened, and walk in the light. Their principles are pure and holy - principles of which light is the proper emblem.
Darkness - The emblem of sin, corruption, ignorance; implying that the world to which Paul refers was governed and influenced by these. The idea is, that as there is an entire separation between light and darkness in their nature; as they have nothing in common, so it is and should be, between Christians and sinners. There should be a separation. There can be nothing in common between holiness and sin; and Christians should have nothing to do “with the unfruitful works of darkness:” Ephesians 5:11.
And what concord - (συμφώνησις sumphōnēsis). Sympathy, unison. This word refers properly to the unison or harmony produced by musical instruments, where there is a chord. What accordance, what unison is there; what strings are there which being struck will produce a chord or harmony? The idea is, then, there is as much that is discordant between Christ and Belial as there is between instruments of music that produce only discordant and jarring sounds.
Hath Christ - What is there in common between Christ and Belial, implying that Christians are governed by the principles, and that they follow the example of Christ.
Belial - Βελίαλ Belial or Βελίαρ Beliar, as as it is found in some of the late editions. The form Beliar is Syriac. The Hebrew word בּליּצל beliya‛al means literally without profit; worthlessness; wickedness. It is here evidently applied to Satan. The Syriac translates it “Satan.” The idea is, that the persons to whom Paul referred, the pagan, wicked, unbelieving world, were governed by the principles of Satan, and were “taken captive by him at his will” (2 Timothy 2:26 compare John 8:44), and that Christians should be separate from the wicked world, as Christ was separate from all the feelings, purposes, and plans of Satan. He had no participation in them; he formed no union with them; and so it should be with the followers of the one in relation to the followers of the other.
Or what part - (μερὶς meris). Portion, share, participation, fellowship. This word refers usually to a division of an estate; Luke 10:42; Acts 8:21 note; Colossians 1:12 note. There is no participation; nothing in common.
He that believeth - A Christian; a man the characteristic of whom it is that he believes on the Lord Jesus.
With an infidel - A man who does not believe - whether a pagan idolater, a profane man, a scoffer, a philosopher, a man of science, a moral man, or a son or daughter of gaiety. The idea is, that on the subject of religion there is no union; nothing in common; no participation. They are governed by different principles; have different feelings; are looking to different rewards; and are tending to a different destiny. The believer, therefore, should not select his partner in life and his chosen companions and friends from this class, but from those with whom he has sympathy, and with whom he has common feelings and hopes.
And what agreement - (συγκατάθεσις sugkatathesis). Assent, accord, agreement. what putting or laying down together is there? What is there in one that resembles the other?
The temple of God - What has a temple of God to do with idol worship? It is erected for a different purpose, and the worship of idols in it would not be tolerated. It is implied here that Christians are themselves the temple of God, a fact which Paul proceeds immediately to illustrate; and that it is as absurd for them to mingle with the infidel world as it would be to erect the image of a pagan god in the temple of Yahweh. This is strong language, and we cannot but admire the energy and copiousness of the expressions used by Paul, “which cannot,” says Bloomfield, “be easily paralleled in the best Classical writers.”
With idols - Those objects which God hates, and on which he cannot look but with abhorrence. The sense is, that for Christians to mingle with the sinful world; to partake of their pleasures, pursuits, and follies, is as detestable and hateful in the sight of God as if his temple were profaned by erecting a deformed, and shapeless, and senseless block in it as an object of worship. And, assuredly, if Christians had such a sense of the abomination of mingling with the world, they would feel the obligation to be separate and pure.
For ye are the temple of the living God - see this explained in the notes on 1 Corinthians 3:16-17. The idea is, that as God dwells with his people, they ought to be separated from a sinful and polluted world.
As God hath said - The words here quoted are taken substantially from Exodus 29:45; Leviticus 26:12; Ezekiel 37:27. They are not literally quoted, but Paul has thrown together the substance of what occurs in several places. The sense, however, is the same as occurs in the places referred to.
I will dwell in them - (ἐνοικήτω enoikētō). I will take up my indwelling in them. There is an allusion doubtless to the fact that he would be present among his people by the Sechinah, or the visible symbol of his presence; see the note on 1 Corinthians 3:16-17. It implies, when used with reference to Christians, that the Holy Spirit would abide with them, and that the blessing of God would attend them; see Romans 8:0; Colossians 3:16; 2 Timothy 1:14.
And walk in them - That is, I will walk among them. I will be one of their number. He was present among the Jews by the public manifestation of his presence by a symbol; he is present with Christians by the presence and guidance of his Holy Spirit.
And I will be their God - Not only the God whom they worship, but the God who will protect and bless them. I will take them under my special protection, and they shall enjoy my favor. This is certainly as true of Christians as it was of the Jews, and Paul has not departed from the spirit of the promise in applying it to the Christian character. His object in quoting these passages is, to impress on Christians the solemnity and importance of the truth that God dwelt among them and with them; that they were under his care and protection; that they belonged to him, and that they therefore should be separate from the world.
Wherefore - Since you are a special people. Since God, the holy and blessed God, dwells with you and among you.
Come out from among them - That is, from among idolaters and unbelievers; from a frivolous and vicious world. These words are taken, by a slight change, from Isaiah 3:11. They are there applied to the Jews in Babylon, and are a solemn call which God makes on them to leave the place of their exile, to come out from among the idolaters of that city and return to their own land; see my note on that place. Babylon, in the Scriptures, is the emblem of whatever is proud, arrogant, wicked, and opposed to God; and Paul, therefore, applies the words here with great beauty and force to illustrate the duty of Christians in separating themselves from a vain, idolatrous, and wicked world.
And be ye separate - Separate from the world, and all its corrupting influences.
Saith the Lord - see Isaiah 3:11. Paul does not use this language as if it had original reference to Christians, but he applies it as containing an important principle that was applicable to the case which he was considering, or as language that would appropriately express the idea which he wished to convey. The language of the Old Testament is often used in this manner by the writers of the New.
And touch not the unclean thing - In Isaiah, “touch no unclean thing;” that is, they were to be pure, and to have no connection with idolatry in any of its forms. So Christians were to avoid all unholy contact with a vain and polluted world. The sense is, “Have no close connection with an idolater, or an unholy person. Be pure; and feel that you belong to a community that is under its own laws, and that is to be distinguished in moral purity from all the rest of the world.”
And I will receive you - That is, I will receive and recognize you as my friends and my adopted children. This could not be done until they were separated from an idolatrous and wicked world. The fact of their being received by God, and recognized as his children, depended on their coming out from the world. These words with the verses following, though used evidently somewhat in the form of a quotation, yet are not to be found in any single place in the Old Testament In 2 Samuel 7:14, God says of Solomon, “I will be his Father, and he shall be my son.” In Jeremiah 31:9, God says, “For I am a Father to Israel, and Ephraim is my first-born.” It is probable that Paul had such passages in his eye, yet he doubtless designed rather to express the general sense of the promises of the Old Testament than to quote any single passage. Or why may it not be that we should regard Paul here himself as speaking as an inspired man directly, and making a promise then first communicated immediately from the Lord? Paul was inspired as well as the prophets; and it may be that he meant to communicate a promise directly from God. Grotius supposes that it was not taken from any particular place in the Old Testament, but was a part of a hymn that was in use among the Hebrews.
And will be a Father unto you - A father is the protector, counselor, and guide of his children. He instructs them, provides for them, and counsels them in time of perplexity. No relation is more tender than this. In accordance with this, God says, that he will be to his people their protector, counsellor, guide, and friend. He will cherish toward them the feeling of a father; he will provide for them, he will acknowledge them as his children. No higher honor can be conferred on mortals than to be adopted into the family of God, and to be permitted to call the Most High our Father. No rank is so elevated as that of being the sons and the daughters of the Lord Almighty. Yet this is the common appellation by which God addresses his people; and the most humble in rank, the most poor and ignorant of his friends on earth, the most despised among people, may reflect that they are the children of the ever-living God, and have the Maker of the heavens and the earth as their Father and their eternal Friend. How poor are all the honors of the world compared with this!
The Lord Almighty - The word used here (παντοκράτωρ pantokratōr) occurs nowhere except in this place and in the book of Revelation; Revelation 1:8; Revelation 4:8; Revelation 11:17; Revelation 15:3; Revelation 16:7, Revelation 16:14; Revelation 19:6, Revelation 19:16; Revelation 21:22. It means one who has all power; and is applied to God in contradistinction from idols that are weak and powerless. God is able to protect his people, and they who put their trust in him shall never be confounded. What has he to fear who has a friend of almighty power?
1. It is right and proper to exhort Christians not to receive the grace of God in vain, 2 Corinthians 6:1. Even they sometimes abuse their privileges; become neglectful of the mercy of God; undervalue the truths of religion, and do not make as much as they should do of the glorious truths that are suited to sanctify and to save. Every Christian should endeavor to make just as much as possible of his privileges, and to become just as eminent as he can possibly be in his Christian profession.
2. The benefits of salvation to this world come through the intercession of Jesus Christ, 2 Corinthians 6:2. It is because God is pleased to hear him; because he calls on God in an accepted time that we have any hope of pardon. The sinner enjoys no offer of mercy, and no possibility of pardon except what he owes to Jesus Christ. Should he cease to plead for people, the offers of salvation would be withdrawn, and the race would perish forever.
3. The world is under a dispensation of mercy, 2 Corinthians 6:2. People may be saved: God is willing to show compassion, and to rescue them from ruin.
4. How important is the present moment! 2 Corinthians 6:2. How important is each moment! It may be the last period of mercy. No sinner can calculate with any certainty on another instant of time. God holds his breath, and with, infinite ease he can remove him to eternity. Eternal results hang on the present - the fleeting moment, and yet how unconcerned are the mass of people about their present condition; how unanxious about what may possibly or probably occur the next moment! Now, the sinner may be pardoned. The next moment he may be beyond the reach of forgiveness. This instant, the bliss of heaven is offered him; the next, he may be solemnly excluded from hope and heaven!
5. The ministers of the gospel should give no occasion of offence to any one, 2 Corinthians 6:3. On each one of them depends a portion of the honor of the ministry in this world, and of the honor of Jesus Christ among people. How solemn is this responsibility! How pure, and holy, and unblameable should they be!
6. Ministers and all Christians should be willing to suffer in the cause of the Redeemer, 2 Corinthians 6:4-5. If the early ministers and other Christians were called to endure the pains of imprisonment and persecution for the honor of the gospel, assuredly we should be willing also to suffer. Why should there be anymore reason for their suffering than for ours?
7. We see what our religion has cost, 2 Corinthians 6:4-5. It has come down to us through suffering. All the privileges that we enjoy have been the fruit of toil, and blood, and tears, and sighs. The best blood in human veins has flowed to procure these blessings; the holiest people on earth have wept, and been scourged, and tortured, that we might possess these privileges. What thanks should we give to God for all this! How highly should we prize the religion that has cost so much!
8. In trial we should evince such a spirit as not to dishonor, but to honor our religion, 2 Corinthians 6:3-5. This is as incumbent on all Christians as it is on ministers of the gospel. It is in such scenes that the reality of religion is tested. It is then that its power is seen. It is then that its value may be known. Christians and Christian ministers often do good in circumstances of poverty, persecution, and sickness, which they never do in health, and in popular favor, and in prosperity. And God often places his people in trial that they may do good then, expecting that they will accomplish more then than they could in prosperous circumstances They whose aim it is to do good have often occasion to bless God that they were subjected to trial. Bunyan wrote the “Pilgrim’s Progress” in a dungeon; and almost all the works of Baxter were written when he was suffering under persecution, and forbidden to preach the gospel. The devil is often foiled in this way. He persecutes and opposes Christians; and on the rack and at the stake they do most to destroy his kingdom; he throws them into dungeons, and they make books which go down even to the millennium, making successful war on the empire of darkness. Christians, therefore, should esteem it a privilege to be permitted to suffer on account of Christ; Philippians 1:29.
9. If ministers and other Christians do any good they must be pure, 2 Corinthians 6:6-7. The gospel is to be commended by pureness, and knowledge, and the word of truth, and the armor of righteousness. It is in this way that they are to meet opposition; in this way that they are to propagate their sentiments. No man need expect to do good in the ministry or as a private Christian, who is not a holy man. No man who is a holy man can help doing good. It will be a matter of course that he will shed a healthful moral influence around him. And he will no more live without effect than the sun sheds its steady beams on the earth without effect. His influence may be very noiseless and still, like the sunbeams or the dew, but it will be felt in the world. Wicked people can resist anything else better than they can a holy example. They can make a mock of preaching; they can deride exhortation; they can throw away a tract; they can burn the Bible; but what can they do against a holy example? No more than they can against the vivifying and enlightening beams of the sun; and a man who leads a holy life cannot help doing good, and cannot be prevented from doing good.
10. They who are Christians must expect to meet with much dishonor, and to be subjected often to the influence of evil report, 2 Corinthians 6:8. The world is unfriendly to religion, and its friends must never be surprised if their motives are impeached, and their names calumniated.
11. Especially is this the case with ministers, 2 Corinthians 6:8. They should make up their minds to it, and they should not suppose that any strange thing had happened to them if they are called thus to suffer.
12. They who are about to make a profession of religion, and they who are about entering on the work of the ministry, or who are agitating the question whether they should be ministers, should ask themselves whether they are prepared for this. They should count the cost; nor should they either make a profession of religion or think of the ministry as a profession, unless they are willing to meet with dishonor, and to go through evil report; to be poor 2 Corinthians 6:10, and to be despised and persecuted, or to die in the cause which they embrace.
13. Religion has power to sustain the soul in trials, 2 Corinthians 6:10. Why should he be sad who has occasion to rejoice always? Why should he deem himself poor, though he has slender earthly possessions, who is able to make many rich? Why should he be melancholy as if he had nothing, who has Christ as his portion, and who is an heir of all things? Let not the poor, who are rich in faith, despond as though they had nothing. They have a treasure which gold cannot purchase, and which will be of infinite value when all other treasure fails. He that has an everlasting inheritance in heaven cannot be called a poor man. And he that can look to such an inheritance should not be unwilling to part with his earthly possessions. Those who seem to be most wealthy are often the poorest of mortals; and those who seem to be poor, or who are in humble circumstances, often have an enjoyment of even this world which is unknown in the palaces and at the tables of the great. They look on all things as the work of their Father; and in their humble dwellings, and with their humble fare, they have an enjoyment of the bounties of their heavenly Benefactor, which is not experienced often in the dwellings of the great and the rich.
14. A people should render to a minister and a pastor a return of love and confidence that shall be proportionate to the love which is shown to them, 2 Corinthians 6:12. This is but a reasonable and fair requital, and this is necessary not only to the comfort, but to the success of a minister. What good can he do unless he has the affections and confidence of his people?
15. The compensation or recompence which a minister has a right to expect and require for arduous toil is, that his people should be “enlarged” in love toward him, and that they should yield themselves to the laws of the Redeemer, and be separate from the world, 2 Corinthians 6:13. And this is an ample reward. It is what he seeks, what he prays for, what he most ardently desires. If he is worthy of his office, he will seek not theirs but them 2 Corinthians 12:14, and he will be satisfied for all his toils if he sees them walking in the truth 3 John 1:4, and showing in their lives the pure and elevated principles of the gospel which they profess to love.
16. The welfare of religion depends on the fact that Christians should be separate from a vain, and frivolous, and wicked world, 2 Corinthians 6:14-16. Why should they partake of those things in which they can, if Christians, have nothing in common? Why attempt to mingle light with darkness? to form a compact between Christ and Belial? or to set up a polluted idol in the temple of the living God? The truth is, there are great and eternal principles in the gospel which should not be surrendered, and which cannot be broken down. Christ intended to set up a kingdom that should be unlike the kingdoms of this world. And he designed that his people should be governed by different principles from the people of this world.
17. They who are about to make a profession of religion should resolve to separate themselves from the world, 2 Corinthians 6:14-15. Religion cannot exist where there is no such separation, and they who are unwilling to forsake infidel companions and the frivolous amusements and vanities of life, and to find their chosen friends and pleasures among the people of God, can have no evidence that they are Christians. The world with all its wickedness and its frivolous pleasures must be forsaken, and there must be an effectual line drawn between the friends of God and the friends of sin.
Let us, then, who profess to be the friends of the Redeemer remember how pure and holy we should be. It should not be indeed with the spirit of the Pharisee; it should not be with a spirit that will lead us to say, “stand by, for I am holier than thou;” but it should be, while we discharge all our duties to our impenitent friends, and while in all our contacts with the world we should be honest and true, and while we do not refuse to mingle with them as neighbors and citizens as far as we can without compromising Christian principles, still our chosen friends and our dearest friendships should be with the people of God. For, his friends should be our friends; our happiness should be with them, and the world should see that we prefer the friends of the Redeemer to the friends of gaiety, ambition, and sin.
18. Christians are the holy temple of God, 2 Corinthians 6:16. How pure should they be! How free should they be from sin! How careful to maintain consciences void of offence!
19. What an inestimable privilege it is to be a Christian! 2 Corinthians 6:18; to be a child of God! to feel that he is a Father and a Friend! to feel that though we may be forsaken by all others; though poor and despised, yet there is one who never forsakes; one who never forgets that he has sons and daughters dependent on him, and who need his constant care. Compared with this, how small the honor of being permitted to call the rich our friends, or to be regarded as the sons or daughters of nobles and of princes! Let the Christian then most highly prize his privileges, and feel that he is raised above all the elevations of rank and honor which this world can bestow. All these shall fade away, and the highest and the lowest shall meet on the same level in the grave, and alike return to dust. But the elevation of the child of God shall only begin to be visible and appreciated when all other honors fade away.
20. Let all seek to become the sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty. Let us aspire to this rather than to earthly honors; let us seek this rather than to be numbered with the rich and the great. All cannot be honored in this world, and few are they who can be regarded as belonging to elevated ranks here. But all may be the children of the living God, and be permitted to call the Lord Almighty their Father and their Friend. O! if people could as easily be permitted to call themselves the sons of monarchs and princes; if they could as easily be admitted to the palaces of the great and sit down at their tables as they can enter heaven, how greedily would they embrace it! And yet how poor and paltry would be such honor and pleasure compared with that of feeling that we are the adopted children of the great and the eternal God!
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 6". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25