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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

2 Corinthians 6

Verses 1-99

Ch. 6:1 10. How God’s Ministers carry on this Work of Reconciliation

1. We then, as workers together with him ] Cf. 1 Corinthians 3:9 , which, together with the context here, shews that our translators, following the Geneva Version, rightly supply ‘with Him’ here. The earlier translations render more literally. Wiclif, helpinge . Tyndale, as helpers .

beseech you ] Better with the earlier versions exhort ( monesten , Wiclif). See note on ch. 1:3, 5:20.

that ye receive not the grace of God in vain ] i.e. that ye make not His kindness in being reconciled to you through Jesus Christ useless by neglecting to walk according to the new life He hath given you in Him (ch. 5:17). That even the new life itself may be so received as to make its reception useless is clear from the words ‘Every branch in Me that beareth not fruit He taketh away.’ John 15:2 . “For lest they should think that believing on Him that calleth is itself reconciliation, he adds these words, requiring the earnestness which respects the life.” Chrysostom.

2. For he saith ] In Isaiah 49:8 . The passage follows the LXX. translation.

I have heard thee in a time accepted ] The words in the original refer to Christ. Here, however, they are applied to His Covenant people, united to Him by faith and the communication of His Nature, and therefore naturally entitled to expect the fulfilment of the promises made to Him. “We know,” says Calvin, “what is the relation between the Head and the members.”

behold, now is the accepted time ] The word in the Greek is stronger than before; ‘the time of favourable acceptance.’ Our translation is due to Cranmer. Tyndale marks the distinction by translating accepted above, and well accepted in this place. The Vulgate renders by accepto and acceptabile . The life of the Christian is a continual acknowledgment in life and conduct of the ‘word of reconciliation’ he has received. The ‘time of favourable acceptance,’ therefore, the ‘day of salvation,’ is ever, not in the past, but in the present.

3. Giving no offence in any thing ] This verse is closely connected in sense with v , 1. St Paul now enters upon a long passage in which he shews how the ‘ministry of reconciliation’ is practically carried on. The demeanour of the Apostles towards those among whom they preached the Gospel is as forcible a mode of proclaiming the reconciliation as their words. Yet he has not lost sight of the vindication of himself, which runs through the whole Epistle. You may judge for yourself, he is saying in effect, whether this be the conduct to expect from one charged with such a mission.

offence ] The Greek word is derived from a verb signifying to dash to the ground , and signifies, therefore, anything which causes one to fall.

the ministry ] i.e. of reconciliation. See above.

4. approving ] The word is the same as is translated ‘commend’ in ch. 3:1, and there is an obvious reference here to v . 1 3 of that chapter.

as the ministers of God ] There is an ambiguity in the A. V. here. The Apostle means ‘we, as ministers of God, recommend ourselves to those to whom we minister’ in the way afterwards mentioned, not that the Apostles prove themselves to be ministers of God by their conduct. Tyndale renders let us behave ourselves as the ministers of God .

in much patience ] Dean Stanley divides the means by which the Apostle commended himself into four classes: (1) from patience (or rather endurance ) to ‘fastings,’ referring to the bodily sufferings of the Apostle; (2) from ‘pureness’ to ‘love unfeigned,’ referring to the virtues, that is, the manifestations of the Divine presence in St Paul; (3) from ‘by the word of truth’ to ‘by evil report and good report,’ referring to the means whereby he was enabled to prove himself to be a true minister of God; and (4) the remainder, relating to the acceptation in which the Apostles were held, and its contrast with the reality. Bengel also would subdivide the first class into three triplets of sufferings. But this is perhaps somewhat fanciful.

in afflictions ] The word thus rendered is translated indifferently by tribulations (Wiclif so renders it here) and afflictions in the A. V. See note on ch. 4:8.

in distresses ] See note on ch. 4:8.

5. in stripes ] Cf. ch. 11:23, 24; Acts 16:23 .

in imprisonments ] Cf. ch. 11:23. The Acts of the Apostles, up to this date, records only one such, namely that at Philippi, Acts 16:23-40 . But the Acts is far from recording all the events of St Paul’s life. See notes on ch. 11:and on ch. 1:8.

in tumults ] The word in the original signifies primarily unsettlement . Cf. margin of A. V., tossings to and fro . St Chrysostom would interpret it of the uncertain dwelling-place of the Apostle. But the word came to mean disorder or tumult. See Luke 21:9 ; 1 Corinthians 14:33 ; James 3:16 , as well as ch 12:20, where the word occurs. In these passages moral disorder, not local unsettlement, is clearly implied. For the tumults which the Apostle went through see Acts 13:50 , Acts 13:14 :5, Acts 13:19 , Acts 13:16 :22, Acts 13:17 :5, Acts 13:18 :12, 19:Acts 13:23-41 .

in labours ] i.e. (1) the toils by which he supported himself (cf. Acts 18:3 , Acts 18:20 :34; 1 Thessalonians 2:9 ; 2 Thessalonians 3:8 ); and (2) his labours for the cause of Christ (cf Romans 16:12 ; 1 Timothy 4:10 ).

in watchings ] Literally, sleeplessnesses , caused by “manual labour, teaching, travelling, meditating, praying, cares and the like.” Meyer.

in fastings ] Since St Paul himself distinguished these fastings from ordinary hunger and thirst (ch. 11:27) we must do so also. “Not fasting from want, but a voluntary exercise of abstinence.” Calvin. Fasting, we know, was practised under the new Covenant as well as the old. See Acts 13:2 , Acts 13:3 , Acts 13:14 :23.

6. by pureness ] The preposition in the Greek is not changed here, though the Apostle turns from outward to inward signs of his sincerity, a change marked in our version by the use of ‘by’ for ‘in.’ Wiclif and the Rhemish, following the Vulgate, give the more restricted sense chastity here. But see 1 Timothy 5:22 ; 1 Peter 1:22 ; 1 John 3:3 .

by the Holy Ghost ] i.e. by Whom we are inspired in our whole mind and conduct. Cf. Romans 8:4 , Romans 8:5 ; Galatians 5:16 , Galatians 5:25 .

unfeigned ] Love might easily enough be feigned for selfish purposes. St Paul could appeal to his own career to shew that his love was as real as its expression was ardent. Cf. v . 11 and note. Also Romans 12:9 , where the Greek is the same as here.

7. by the word of truth ] i.e. the Gospel of reconciliation, with which he was entrusted. Cf. Galatians 2:5 ; Ephesians 1:13 , Ephesians 1:4 :21; Colossians 1:5 ; 2 Timothy 2:15 ; James 1:18 .

by the power of God ] This is an expression very common in the N.T.; and, as Acts 8:10 shews, was not confined to the Christian Church. See Matthew 22:29 ; Luke 9:43 ; Romans 1:16 ; 1 Corinthians 1:18 , 1 Corinthians 1:24 , &c. Also 1 Corinthians 4:19 , 1 Corinthians 4:20 , 1 Corinthians 4:5 :4, and ch. 13:10.

by the armour of righteousness ] Rather weapons ( arma , Vulgate). The translation in the text which we owe to Tyndale is possibly suggested by passages such as Ephesians 6:11 , Ephesians 6:13 ; 1 Thessalonians 5:8 . Cf. ch. 10:4.

on the right hand and on the left ] i.e. offensive and defensive, shield as well as spear.

8. by honour and dishonour ] The preposition is here changed in the original, and not in our version. It means either by means of , or by endurance of , both of which senses are given by our English through . The sense is that not only did he persevere through evil report and good report, but that both were overruled to the furtherance of the Gospel.

as deceivers, and yet true ] The Apostle now reaches the last division of the modes in which he sets forth the genuineness of his mission. This consists in the contrast between the ideas of his person and work formed by the world without, and the fact of which he was conscious within. The world (Matthew 27:63 ) held Jesus Christ to be a deceiver, and ‘the disciple is not above his master.’

9. as unknown, and yet well known ] The passage would be better without the ‘yet’ interpolated by our translators (following Tyndale). St Paul was ‘unknown’ to some, and ‘well known’ to others. Cf. ch. 3:1, 2, 4:2, 5:11.

as dying, and behold, we live ] See ch. 4:10, 11. Also Romans 8:36 , Romans 8:37 ; 1 Corinthians 4:9 , 1 Corinthians 4:15 :31; Ephesians 2:6 ; Colossians 2:13 , Colossians 3:1-4 .

as chastened, and not killed ] Cf. Psalms 118:18 , which was no doubt in the Apostle’s mind. Also ch. 7:4.

10. as sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing ] Or afflicted , see ch. 2:2. What the afflictions of the Apostle were, is obvious enough. His fount of joy was independent of things external. See Romans 5:3 , Romans 5:11 ; Philippians 2:16 , Philippians 2:17 , Philippians 2:4 :4; 1 Thessalonians 5:16 , and ch. 12:10.

making many rich ] With the riches of the Gospel. See Ephesians 1:7 , Ephesians 1:18 , Ephesians 1:2 :7, Ephesians 1:3 :8, Ephesians 1:16 , &c.

possessing all things ] The whole passage bears a close similarity to 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 , where, however, the turn given to the thought assumes a converse form. It was in Christ that His ministers could be said to possess all things. Cf. Romans 8:32 ; 1 Corinthians 3:22 , 1 Corinthians 3:23 . Also Philippians 4:13 .

11 7:1. Such a Ministry demands a suitable response on the part of those on whose behalf it is exercised

11. our mouth is open unto you ] i.e. we have spoken with perfect frankness on all points, keeping nothing back, because we love you. Chrysostom. Cf. ch. 3:12.

our heart is enlarged ] Rather, hath been enlarged, i.e. in what has been said. Chrysostom quotes Romans 1:11 , Romans 1:13 ; Galatians 4:19 ; Ephesians 3:14 ; Philippians 1:7 , Philippians 1:4 :1; Colossians 2:1 , Colossians 2:2 ; 1 Thessalonians 2:7 , 1 Thessalonians 2:8 , 1 Thessalonians 2:19 as instances of St Paul’s love of the faithful. Cf. also Romans 15:32 ; 2 John 1:4 ; 3 John 1:3 , 3 John 1:4 . The expression refers to the expansive effect of love and sympathy in the affections, just as we speak of a man of wide sympathies as ‘large-hearted.’ The passages cited from the O. T. by Dean Stanley (1 Kings 4:29 ; Psalms 119:32 ; Isaiah 55:5 ) seem to have a somewhat different signification, that of the enlargement and exaltation consequent on the possession of intellectual, spiritual, or, in the last passage, it may be even material advantages. Robertson observes here, “Now what makes this remark wonderful in the Apostle’s mouth is that St Paul had received a multitude of provocations from the Corinthians. They had denied the truthfulness of his ministry, charged him with interested motives, sneered at his manner, and held up to scorn the meanness of his appearance. In the face of this his heart expands!”

12. Ye are not straitened in us, but ye are straitened in your own bowels ] i.e. “our heart is large enough to receive you and give you full possession of our affections, but yours is too narrow to receive any one but yourselves;” for such would seem to be the meaning hinted at, though not fully expressed, by the Apostle. The word bowels is a Hebraism for loving-kindness. As instances of its use in the O. T., take Song of Solomon 5:4 ; Isaiah 16:11 ; and in the New, Philippians 2:1 . For straitened ( angwischid , Wiclif) see note on ch. 4:8. The original meaning of the word is to coop up in a narrow space . The word strait in the sense of narrow (Latin, strictus ) was a common phrase when the A. V. was made. e.g. Matthew 7:13 . It survives in modern English in such words as straits, strait-waistcoat .

13. Now for a recompence in the same ] “St Paul details the circumstances of his ministry, and he asks in return, not the affection of the Corinthians, nor their admiration, but this: that they ‘receive not the grace of God in vain,’ and again ‘be ye also enlarged.’ ” Robertson. Tyndale, whom Cranmer follows, has a curious mistranslation here, I promyse you lyke rewarde with me as to my children .

be ye also enlarged ] i.e. return my affection by shewing a similar sympathy with mine for all who are Christ’s.

14. Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers ] Dean Stanley observes on the “remarkable dislocation of the argument here.” But the connection of thought is not difficult to trace. The only reward (see last verse) St Paul sought from the Corinthians was conduct in accordance with the Gospel of Christ. This was the best form their sympathy with him could take. Therefore he touches on some of the points on which they were in the habit of doing most violence to their Christian profession. They did not keep sufficiently aloof from unbelievers, but even went so far as to ‘sit at meat’ with them ‘in the idol-temple’ (see 1 Corinthians 8:10 , and notes) and thus become partakers with them in their idolatry, whereby they were the cause of infinite mischief to the souls of their brethren. The reference in the words ‘unequally yoked together’ is to the precept in Deuteronomy 22:10 , a precept, like many similar ones in the same chapter ( vv . 9, 11, 12) and elsewhere in the Mosaic laws, manifestly figurative in its character. The Apostle’s words must not be confined to intermarriages with the heathen, though of course it includes them in the prohibition. It refers to all kinds of close and intimate relations. “They are yoked together with unbelievers, who enter into close companionship with them.” Estius.

what fellowship ] The word thus rendered here is not the same as that rendered communion below, a word which (see notes on 1 Corinthians 1:9 , 1 Corinthians 10:16 ) is itself rendered indifferently by communion and fellowship in the N. T., but is derived from the word signifying to partake ( partynge , Wiclif), e.g. in 1 Corinthians 10:17 . See Ephesians 5:7 ; also 1 Maccabees 1:13 15 and 2 John 1:11 .

unrighteousness ] Literally, lawlessness , the normal condition of the heathen man, Romans 6:19 , while the Christian is endowed with ‘God’s righteousness,’ ch. 5:21.

light with darkness ] Cf. John 1:5 , John 3:19 , the one signifying the condition of man in Christ, the other his condition without Christ. See also Ephesians 5:8 ; 1 Thessalonians 5:5 ; and ch. 4:4.

15. Belial ] This word, derived from two Hebrew ones signifying ‘of no profit,’ was used in the O.T. (e.g. Deuteronomy 13:13 ; 1 Samuel 2:12 ) in the phrase ‘child,’ ‘son’ or ‘daughter of Belial,’ to signify a worthless person, and generally (as in Deuteronomy 15:9 , in the Hebrew) as a substantive signifying worthlessness. It seems to have been personified among the later Jews (some such personification seems clearly indicated by the language of the Apostle), and to have become a synonym for Satan. Similarly we find the idea of Belial presented in Judges 19:22 personified by Milton in Paradise Lost , Book I. 490. But we must guard against importing the imaginations of the poet into the interpretation of the Scriptures.

16. what agreement hath the temple of God with idols ?] Cf. 1 Corinthians 3:16 , 1 Corinthians 3:17 , 1 Corinthians 3:6 :19, 1 Corinthians 3:20 , 1 Corinthians 3:8 :10, 10:1 Corinthians 3:14-21 . St Paul does not lay stress on the abuse of liberty to which he devotes so large a portion of the first Epistle (see note on v . 14), but we may gather from this hint that there was still some need of improvement in this particular as well as in the general relations of Christians with heathens.

for ye are the temple of the living God ] Cf. 1 Corinthians 3:16 ; Ephesians 2:21 , Ephesians 2:22 ; 1 Timothy 3:15 ; Hebrews 3:6 ; 1 Peter 2:5 .

as God hath said ] The Apostle here combines, as was customary among Jewish teachers, Leviticus 26:11 , Leviticus 26:12 with Ezekiel 37:26 , Ezekiel 37:27 , 43:7 (cf. also Zechariah 2:10 , Zechariah 2:11 ). The citation is in many respects verbally accurate, but it is a citation, no doubt, from memory. The Apostle has, however, given a Christian turn to his translation. The Hebrew cannot be shewn to mean more than ‘I will dwell among them.’ The LXX., in the remarkable word ἐμπεριπατήσω , seems to have anticipated the Christian idea of the indwelling of God in His people. But the Apostle was evidently also thinking of some words of Christ, known to him by tradition, and afterwards recorded by the Evangelist St John in such passages as John 6:56 , John 6:17 :21, John 6:23 .

and I will be their God, and they shall be my people ] St Paul here boldly transfers the prophecies that relate to the earthly Israel to the spiritual Israel, the Christian Church. Cf. Romans 9:25 , Romans 9:26 ; 1 Corinthians 10:1-11 ; Galatians 4:26 ; Hebrews 12:22 ; 1 Peter 2:9 , 1 Peter 2:10 ; Revelation 3:12 , Revelation 3:21 :2, Revelation 3:10 .

17. Wherefore come out from among them ] A combination of Isaiah 52:11 with Ezekiel 20:34 . This passage must be read in conjunction with 1 Corinthians 5:10 , and must be understood not of absolute separation, but of abstinence from any kind of intimacy . “Wherever union in the highest cannot be, wherever idem velle atque idem nolle is impossible, there friendship and intimate partnership must not be tried.” Robertson.

and touch not the unclean thing ] The passage (see Isaiah 52:11 ) refers to the priests and Levites, and relates to the ceremonial defilement caused by contact with whatever was unclean. See for instance Leviticus 11:8 , Leviticus 11:24 , Leviticus 11:31-40 ; also Revelation 18:4 .

18. saith the Lord Almighty ] Another combination of various passages. See 2 Samuel 7:14 ; Isaiah 43:6 ; Ezekiel 11:20 , Ezekiel 14:11 , Ezekiel 37:27 .

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on 2 Corinthians 6". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.