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SECTION 8. — THE LOVE OF CHRIST AND PAUL’S COMMISSION FROM GOD MOVE HIM TO ACT AS BECOMES AN AMBASSADOR OF GOD. CH. 5:11-6:10.
Knowing then the fear of the Lord we persuade men, but to God we have been made manifest. And I hope also in your consciences to be made manifest. Not again are we recommending ourselves to you, but I write this giving occasion to you for matter of exultation on our behalf, that you may have it in view of those who exult in appearance and not in heart. For both if we have gone out of our mind, it is for God; and if we have sound sense, it is for you. For the love of Christ holds us fast, we having judged this, that One died on behalf of all, therefore all died, and on behalf of all He died in order that they who live may no longer live for themselves but for Him who on their behalf died and rose. So then we henceforth know no one according to flesh. If even we have known Christ according to flesh, nevertheless now no longer do we know men thus. So that if any one be in Christ he is a new creature: the old things have gone by; behold they have become new. And all things are from God who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave to us the ministry of the reconciliation. Because that God was, in Christ, reconciling to Himself the world; seeing that He is not reckoning to them their trespasses and has put in us the word of the reconciliation. On behalf of Christ then we are ambassadors, as though God were exhorting through us: we beg, on behalf of Christ, Be reconciled to God. Him who knew no sin, on our behalf He made to be sin, that we may become righteousness of God in Him. And working together with Him we also exhort that not in vain you accept the grace of God. For He says, “At an acceptable season I have listened to thee: and in a day of salvation I have helped thee.” (Isaiah 49:8.) Behold now is the well-accepted season, behold now is the day of salvation.
And this we do, in nothing causing stumbling, that the ministry be not blamed: but in everything recommending ourselves as God’s ministers, in much endurance, in afflictions, in necessities, in positions of helplessness, in beatings, in prisons, in tumults, in toils, in watchings, in fastings; in purity, in knowledge, in longsuffering, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in love without hypocrisy, in the word of truth, in the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, with glory and dishonour, with bad report and good report; as deceivers and true, as unknown and becoming well-known, as dying and behold we live, as being chastised and not being put to death, as being made sorrowful but ever rejoicing, as poor but enriching many, as having nothing and possessing all things.
In Section 7 Paul explained why a ministry so glorious was surrounded by constant and deadly peril, viz. because this peril gave opportunity for a constant manifestation of divine power; and stated the motive which led him forward even in face of such peril, viz. his belief of God’s word that He will raise the dead, that death leads at once to the presence of Christ, and that in the Day of Judgment due recompense will be given. Having thus told us the power which saves him from fear of death he now tells us the motive of his efforts to save men, viz. the love of Christ who died for them and his own divine commission to be an ambassador for Christ; and concludes his exposition, begun in Section 4, of the apostolic ministry, its credentials, its grandeur, its perils, its hopes, and its recompense, by a graphic picture of the circumstances and the spirit in which he discharges it.
2 Corinthians 5:11. Then: in view of the judgment-seat of Christ.
Fear of the Lord: cp. Romans 3:18. Reverent fear of Christ is a state of mind familiar to Paul. Cp. “know sin,” 2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 7:7; “know grief,” Isaiah 53:3.
Persuade men: to “be reconciled to God,” 2 Corinthians 5:20. This was his chief work. The persuasion denied in the question of Galatians 1:10 had a different motive, as is implied in the following words. This persuading of men was prompted by remembrance of the great assize and by desire to please the Judge. But, although men are the direct objects of his persuasion, yet in persuading them he stands before the eye of God.
Manifest: as in 2 Corinthians 5:10.
Made-manifest; more vivid than “manifest,” picturing the act of God setting us permanently under His own eye.
And I hope etc.; reminds us that Section 4-8 were written in self-defence. [There is nothing to demand the rendering (A.V. and R.V.) “that we are made manifest.” For the aorist after
Your consciences: the faculty which contemplates a man’s inner life. See under Romans 2:15. Paul hopes that through his labors spiritual results have been attained in his readers, results which will appear to them as they contemplate their own inner life. Cp. 2 Corinthians 4:2. Such results will thus be a proof, clearly visible to the eye of conscience, of Paul’s divine commission. These words recall the argument of 2 Corinthians 3:2 f.
Paul’s mention of the judgment-seat reminds him that to the eye of God the real worth of his apostolic service lies open. And he hopes that it will lie permanently open also in the heart of hearts of those among whom he has labored. He thus suitably introduces a further exposition of the motives of his work.
2 Corinthians 5:12. Like 2 Corinthians 2:17; 2 Corinthians 5:11 b might seem to be self-recommendation. With delicate tact Paul says that he is only giving his readers an argument with which they may defend him; thus implying that they are not his opponents, but are ready to defend him.
Again recommending ourselves: as in 2 Corinthians 3:1. The repetition suggests that these were words of his opponents.
Occasion: or “starting point,” as in Romans 7:8.
Giving you etc.: while speaking about being made manifest in their consciences, Paul was really putting them on a track towards a matter of exultation in his favor which they might remember and use against his opponents. These last he designates as exulting in appearance (or in face) and not in heart. What our face is, we seem to be: what our heart is, we are. For the heart is the inmost center of our real life.
2 Corinthians 5:13. Paul’s real motives, which are a matter of exultation for his readers.
Gone-out-of-our-mind: become mad. These strange words can be accounted for only as being actually spoken by his enemies. The relatives of Christ said (Mark 3:21) the same of Him. We can well conceive that Paul’s ecstatic visions, (2 Corinthians 12:2 ff,) his transcendental teaching, which to many would seem absurd, his reckless daring in face of peril, and his complete rejection of all the motives which rule common men, would lead some to say and even to believe that he was not in full possession of his senses. The same has been said in all ages about similar men.
For God: to work out His purposes.
Of sound mind: exact opposite of madness. Same contrast in Mark 5:15; Acts 26:25.
For you: to do you good. “If, as our enemies say, we are mad, we have become so in order to serve God and do His work. And, therefore, our very madness claims respect. If we are men of sound sense we use our sense, not, as most others do, to enrich ourselves, but to do you good.” Paul thus appeals to his readers’ observation of his conduct. They knew that where human prudence might condemn his recklessness his purpose was to serve God; and that whatever mental power he possessed was used for the good of others.
2 Corinthians 5:14-15. The motive of this unsparing devotion to God and to the interests of his readers. “The love of Christ towards men, revealed in His death for them, holds us so fast that we cannot forbear to devote ourselves to the service of God, even to an extent which some call madness, and to use all our powers for your good.”
Having judged this: practically the same as “reckon” in Romans 6:11. Since this judgment rests solely on the word of God, it is an expression of faith. And only so far as it is firm and broad do we feel the binding influence of the love of Christ.
One on behalf of all: conspicuous contrast. A name written on every heart, it was needless to mention. To this statement of the purpose of the death of Christ Paul gives emphasis by the change from us to all, thus directing attention to a general truth. But, since he does not say “all men,” we cannot appeal to this verse in proof that He died for all men. This, Paul asserts elsewhere in plainest terms. See notes under Romans 5:18-19. Therefore, although the compass of this verse is indefinite, each one may place himself within it, and pronounce this judgment about himself.
Therefore all died: Paul’s inference from one died on behalf of all. Virtually they for whom He died themselves died in His death. For the full result of His death belongs to them. This inference rests upon the broad truth that Christ died that we may be so united to Him as to share all that He has and is. Cp. Romans 6:3. Now Christ by His death escaped completely from the burden and curse of sin. Paul reckons therefore that the former life of sin of those for whom Christ died has come to an end on His cross, and that, like Him, they too are dead to sin. See Romans 6:10 f. Objectively and virtually they died to sin when Christ died: they died subjectively and actually only when and so far as in faith they pronounced touching themselves the judgment of this verse, i.e. when they reckoned themselves to be dead to sin. Paul says that all died, because the subjective and actual death to sin of those who dare pronounce this judgment is a direct outworking and communication of the objective and historic death of Christ and of our divinely ordained union with His death.
The rest of 2 Corinthians 5:15 is a further inference, expounding one on behalf of all.
Who live: not needful to complete the sentence, but thrust in conspicuously to tell us that though their old life of sin has ceased they are not lifeless but are living a new resurrection life.
No longer for themselves; implies that apart from the death of Christ self is the aim of life to all men; and that therefore all men need a radical change.
Who on their behalf etc.: emphatic repetition of the chief idea of 2 Corinthians 5:15. Christ died in order that we may live a life in which every thought and purpose and effort point to Him, and all our powers and opportunities are used to please and exalt Him and to do His work. Thus Christ will be, what self once was, the one aim of life.
And rose: i.e. on our behalf. It is expounded in Romans 4:25.
He died for all, i.e. to reconcile their salvation with (Romans 3:26) the justice of God: He rose for all, i.e. to give them ground for the faith which saves. At the beginning of the sentence His death only is mentioned, to confine our attention to the costliness of the means used to secure our devotion to Himself. 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 are a close parallel to Romans 6:10-11. In each passage the historic fact of Christ’s death and His abiding devotion to the Father produce their counterparts in us. In each the counterpart is produced by the mental reckoning or judgment of faith.
This judgment Paul and his colleagues had pronounced. They knew that they were among the all for whom Christ died. They therefore ventured to believe that in His death their own former life of sin and self had died, and was therefore a thing of the past. They knew that He died in order that they might live a life of absolute devotion to Him. And, as they contemplated the infinite cost of the means used to secure their devotion, and the love thus manifested, they felt the power of that love; and felt themselves compelled to serve, with a self-abnegation which some called madness, the God who gave His Son to die for them, and to toil for those He died to save.
That to secure our devotion to Himself Christ must needs die, proves how completely selfishness is inwoven into human nature; and proves the earnestness of His purpose to destroy it. The need of so costly a means can be explained only on the principle that surrender to selfishness is a punishment of sin, and that the punishment cannot be remitted without a corresponding and adequate manifestation of divine justice. If so, 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 imply, and thus support the great foundation doctrine of Romans 3:24-26. Moreover, that our life of devotion to Christ is stated here to be an aim of his death, implies that only in proportion as we thus live do we and shall we obtain the blessings which result from His death.
2 Corinthians 5:16. Result of Paul’s judgment that Christ died that men may live a life altogether new.
We: emphatic. Paul returns now, after the foregoing general statement, to himself and his colleagues who have pronounced the judgment of 2 Corinthians 5:14 and have felt the constraining power of the love of Christ.
Henceforth: from the time of this judgment, which was an era in their lives, an era ever present to their thought.
According to flesh; may refer either to the persons known, i.e. to the appearance and circumstances of their bodily life, as in 2 Corinthians 11:18; Philippians 3:4; or to those who know them with a knowledge determined and limited by their bodily life, as in 2 Corinthians 1:17; 1 Corinthians 1:26. These senses coalesce here. For they who look at others from the point of view of their own bodily life, with its needs, desires, and pleasures, see them only as men of flesh and blood like themselves. But to Paul the former life has so completely ceased that to him men around are no longer judged of thus. He sees them not as rich or poor, Jews or Gentiles, enemies or friends, but as men for whom Christ died.
If even we have known etc.: a conspicuous contrast to the foregoing, from Paul’s own past life.
Known Christ etc.: an extreme case of knowing men according to flesh. At one time Paul was so accustomed to look upon men according to bodily appearance and surroundings that even upon Christ he looked thus: he thought of Him as a mere Jew from Nazareth, a feeble man of flesh and blood. This does not imply that he had actually seen Christ. For, while persecuting Christians, Christ was present to his thought, but only as a mere man whose teaching he could crush out. And all the disciples knew Christ first as a man; till through the veil of flesh they saw His real dignity.
Nevertheless: in spite of having gone so far in knowing men according to flesh as to know even Christ thus.
Now no longer: emphatic note of change.
We know: without saying whom they know. Paul cannot refer to his no longer knowing Christ (so A.V. and R.V.) according to flesh. Surely this would not need emphatic and contrasted assertion. He simply repeats the general assertion which is the chief matter of this verse. In consequence of Paul’s judgment about the death of Christ he no longer looks upon men according to their appearance in flesh and blood. Yet he admits that he did so once, even in the case of Christ. But so completely is he changed that, in spite of this aggravated case in his past life, he no longer knows men according to flesh.
2 Corinthians 5:17. A logical result, or inference, from 2 Corinthians 5:16. Nothing less than a new creation, and a passing away of old surroundings, is implied in the new light in which we now see our fellow-men.
In Christ: see under Romans 6:11. Christ is Himself the life-giving element in which His people are and live and think and act.
New creature, or creation: Galatians 6:15; Ephesians 2:10; Ephesians 4:24. To those who are in Christ, the power of the Creator has wrought a change analogous to the creation of Adam out of dust of the earth.
The old things: everything around and within us. Through our union with Christ, and so far as we live in spiritual contact with Him, the world in which we live, and we ourselves are altogether changed. For to us the world has lost its power to allure and terrify and control. The old multifarious influence which our surroundings once exercised over us, an influence which ruled our entire life, has altogether passed away. Consequently, the old things, in the widest sense possible, have gone by.
Behold: as if a sudden discovery. The old things have gone by; but not in every sense. For they are still here, but completely changed. The world with its men and things is still around us: but in its influence upon us it is become entirely new. Our fellowmen are objects now for Christian effort: wealth is but an instrument with which to serve God: and the world is a school for our spiritual education, a place in which we may do God’s work, and a wisely chosen path to heaven. Thus inward contact with Christ changes completely our entire surroundings in their aspect, and in their influence upon us. This change is therefore a measure of our spiritual life. And it is a logical result of our deeper knowledge of our fellow-men, a knowledge no longer determined by their outward appearance. We see them as they really are; powerless to injure us, in peril of eternal death, but within reach of the salvation which God has bidden us proclaim. All this is a result of the power of Christ’s love over those who have comprehended the purpose of His death. And it explains (2 Corinthians 5:17) Paul’s unreserved devotion to God’s work and to the welfare of men.
2 Corinthians 5:18-19. After explaining the motives stated in 2 Corinthians 5:13, by tracing them to their source in the death and love of Christ, Paul now traces them further, as his wont is, to their source in God.
All things: the complete change wrought through the death of Christ. That this change has its origin in God, and how He wrought it, the rest of 2 Corinthians 5:18 proves and explains.
Reconciled to Himself: see under Romans 5:1. By means of the cross and word of Christ, God has removed the hostility between Himself and us, so that there is now “peace with God through Christ.”
Us: true of all believers; but Paul thinks specially of himself and colleagues, as the following words show.
The ministry of the reconciliation: same as “the ministry of righteousness, of the Spirit,” in 2 Corinthians 3:8 f. The whole difference between Saul of Tarsus and the character described in 2 Corinthians 5:14 ff results from two facts, viz. that God has reconciled an enemy and has given him the office of conveying to others the reconciliation he has received. Consequently the whole change just described is from God.
Through Christ: as in Romans 5:1. While rising from the Son to the Father Paul keeps the Son still before us.
2 Corinthians 5:19. Lends importance to the foregoing facts in the life of Paul, by tracing them to their source and cause in a world-embracing purpose of God. [The word
Reconciling the world: not “reconciled,” which would not be true. Paul tells us the work in which God was engaged when He gave Christ to die. Similarly, in Romans 2:4, God “is leading” all men “to repentance.”
For although, as this verse implies, reconciliation is entirely God’s work, its accomplishment depends entirely upon each man’s acceptance of it. [The absence of the article before world leaves us to contemplate the abstract significance of this word. It was a world that God was reconciling to Himself.]
In Christ: as in Romans 3:24. It keeps before us “through Christ” in 2 Corinthians 5:18.
Was; refers to the past event of Christ’s death. The emphatic words of this clause are God and world; the former keeping before us “from God” in 2 Corinthians 5:18, and the latter revealing the wide bearing of God’s action.
Seeing that etc.: double proof of the foregoing. [A similar construction in 2 Corinthians 3:3; 2 Corinthians 3:14.]
Not reckoning trespasses: forgiving them, as in Romans 4:8.
To them: a general expression. That it refers only to believers, to whom alone God forgives sin, Paul leaves his readers to observe. That through the death of Christ God forgives men’s sins, a fact of constant occurrence, is proof that in giving Christ to die God was at work making peace between Himself and mankind.
And has put etc.: another proof of the same, viz. that God has bid Paul proclaim peace for all who believe. Notice that he assumes that the forgiveness which already from time to time takes place and which he is commissioned to proclaim is designed for all men. Else it would not be proof that in Christ God was reconciling the world. See note, Romans 5:19.
The word of the reconciliation: like “word of the cross” in 1 Corinthians 1:18: the word announcing reconciliation by faith. To proclaim this word is “the ministry of the reconciliation,” 2 Corinthians 5:18. Notice the importance with which Paul invests these two facts by appealing to them twice in argument, once to prove that the change in himself was wrought by God, and then to prove the world-embracing purpose of this divine activity. As usual, the second statement is fuller than the first. “Us” is widened into world: and “ministry of reconciliation” is explained by its great instrument, the word of the reconciliation.
2 Corinthians 5:20. Inference from 2 Corinthians 5:19, showing its bearing on Paul’s work. Since he has received “the word of reconciliation,” he is an ambassador: since the reconciliation is “in Christ,” his embassy is on behalf of Christ.
We are ambassadors: Ephesians 6:20 : messengers sent formally by a king, especially to make peace. Very appropriate to apostles sent formally and personally by Christ: John 17:18; John 20:21; Acts 26:17, Galatians 1:1.
On behalf of Christ: to do the work in which He is so deeply interested.
As though God etc.: another view of the same embassy.
God exhorting through us. The earnest entreaty of an ambassador is ever received as the earnest entreaty of the king he represents. [
On behalf of Christ: emphatic repetition.
We beg; develops the word exhort with pathetic emphasis. For to beg is usually a mark of the earnestness of an inferior. Cp. Acts 21:39; Acts 26:3.
Be reconciled to God: accept by faith the offered reconciliation. We cannot reconcile ourselves: this is God’s work. But this exhortation implies that it rests with us whether we are reconciled. Notice the double parallel in this verse, keeping before us the relation of Paul’s ministry to Christ and to God. He is an ambassador, sent to do Christ’s business: his earnest voice is therefore the voice of God, who gave Christ to die and sent Paul to proclaim reconciliation through Christ. The ambassador almost prostrates himself before those to whom he is sent and begs them to accept peace. And in this self-humiliation he is doing Christ’s work, and seeking to lead men to peace with God. To reject such an embassy, is to set at nought the mission of Christ, the earnest entreaty of God, and the tremendous power of Him with whom the unsaved are at war.
2 Corinthians 5:21. Paul’s comment on his own entreaty, “Be reconciled to God”; giving a strong reason for yielding to it. As in 2 Corinthians 5:19, he goes back to the great historic fact on which our reconciliation rests, and to its meaning and purpose.
Him who knew etc.: with emphatic prominence.
Knew no sin: as in Romans 7:7. He had not the acquaintance with sin which comes from committing sin.
On our behalf: in emphatic prominence: see under Romans 5:6.
Made to be sin: in some sense, an impersonation and manifestation of sin. Cp. Galatians 3:13. Practically the same as, but stronger than, “made to be a sinner.” By laying upon Christ the punishment of our sin, God made Him to be a visible embodiment of the deadly and far-reaching power of sin. Through God’s mysterious action, we now learn what sin is by looking at the Sinless One. Cp. Romans 5:19 : “through one man’s sin, the many were constituted sinners” inasmuch as they suffer the threatened punishment of his sin. But the cases differ in that the many received in themselves the moral and spiritual effects of the one man’s sin; whereas, even while revealing in His own sufferings the awful nature of sin, Christ remained unstained by sin. Augustine* (*In Sermons 134, 155. ) and others expound sin to be “sin-offering. This use of the word is found in the Hebrew text of Leviticus 6:25 : “this is the law of the sin… the sin shall be slaughtered before Jehovah”; Leviticus 6:30, “every sin whose blood shall be brought etc.” But it is not found in the LXX. or in the New Testament; is in no way suggested here; and is forbidden by the contrast of sin and righteousness. Rather, the sacrificial use of the word is explained by, and is an anticipation of, this verse. The sacrificed animals were embodiments of sin.
That we may become etc.: expounds on our behalf. This purpose is accomplished as each one receives “the righteousness which is from God by faith,” Philippians 3:9.
Righteousness of God: see under Romans 1:17. By accepting us as righteous, God makes us an embodiment of divinely-given righteousness. By looking at us men learn what it is to enjoy the approval of the great Judge.
In Him: as in 2 Corinthians 5:19. In virtue of Christ’s death, and by spiritual contact with Him, we have the righteousness which God gives.
This verse asserts in plainest language that God gave Christ to die in our stead. For the Sinless One was put so completely in the sinner’s place and thereby delivered us so completely from our position as sinners that He is said to have been made sin in order that we who have no righteousness of our own may become an impersonation of righteousness. So Galatians 3:13: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become on our behalf a curse.” Cp. Hebrews 9:28; 1 Peter 2:24; John 1:29. All this is explained in Romans 3:26. For if Christ died in order to make our justification consistent with the justice of God, and thus possible, his death was the price of our forgiveness. And, since death is the threatened punishment of sin, it may be correctly said that God laid on Christ our punishment that we may escape from it. In this sense He died, by God’s ordinance, in our stead.
2 Corinthians 6:1. After saying what God has done for man’s salvation, Paul adds what he and his colleagues are doing for the same object.
Working together with Him: not with Christ, but with Him who gave Christ to be sin for us. So 1 Corinthians 3:9. For in 2 Corinthians 5:18 ff we read of the activity of the Father rather than of the Son. Paul works with God by urging men to accept, and make good use of, the favor of God.
Accept the grace of God: claim by faith the various spiritual benefits which God in undeserved favor offers us.
Not in vain, or not for an empty thing: Galatians 2:2; Philippians 2:16: put prominently forward as the special matter of Paul’s exhortation. If we fail to put to practical use in the details of life the spiritual benefits received by the favor of God, even His favor becomes to us a useless and empty thing. An unread Bible, a wasted Sunday, and such knowledge of the truth as does not mold our life, are the grace of God received in vain. Paul bids his readers so to lay hold of the grace of God that it shall not be in vain. He thus sums up the whole matter of his teaching to believers.
2 Corinthians 6:2. A quotation of Isaiah 49:8, word for word from the LXX., supporting the exhortation of 2 Corinthians 6:1. The prophet says, “Thus says Jehovah, in a time of favour I have heard thee: and in a day of salvation I have helped thee”; and thus proclaims a definite time coming when God will listen with favor to His people and save them. His words are evidently fulfilled in the Gospel. The change from “time of favour” to acceptable season, is unimportant. And the Gospel was announced to the world at a time which God thought fit to accept for this purpose. Cp. Isaiah 59:2, quoted in Luke 4:19.
Behold now etc.: Paul’s comment on the words of Isaiah.
Well-accepted: stronger than acceptable. Paul supports his exhortation in 2 Corinthians 6:1 by reminding his readers that they lived in a time looked forward to by the ancient prophets with bright expectation. The quotation was prompted by a consciousness of the great privilege of living in gospel days, in that time which from the beginning of the world God chose for His great salvation.
2 Corinthians 6:3-10. Graphic description of the manner and circumstances in which Paul and his companions give the exhortation of 2 Corinthians 6:1. It concludes his long exposition and defence, occupying Sections 4-8, of his ministry.
2 Corinthians 6:3-4 a. No cause of stumbling: Romans 9:32; 1 Corinthians 8:9: anything which might overthrow a man’s faith.
In nothing: in no part of his work and life so acting as to cause others to fall. For an example, see 1 Corinthians 9:12.
The ministry: the important office held by Paul and his companions. See under Romans 12:7. He felt that the influence of Christianity upon the world depended very much upon the collective impression made by its prominent advocates; and that this impression would be determined in no small measure by his own personal conduct. He was therefore careful so to act in everything as to cause no spiritual injury to any one, lest such injury might lessen the collective influence of the leaders of the church.
But in everything: positive counterpart of in nothing giving etc. In everything they so act as to claim respect; remembering that they are God’s ministers.
2 Corinthians 6:4-5. In much endurance: see under Romans 2:7 : amid much hardship they pursue their course, and thus claim respect.
In afflictions etc.: nine points, describing the variety of these hardships.
Helplessness: as in 2 Corinthians 4:8.
Necessities: as in 1 Corinthians 7:26.
Beatings, prisons, tumults: three specific cases all coming under each of the three foregoing general descriptions, and caused by enemies. Examples are found in Acts 16:19-23; Acts 21:28-32, etc. Cp. 2 Corinthians 11:23 ff.
Toils, watchings, fastings: three more specific hardships, not necessarily caused by enemies.
Toils: 2 Corinthians 11:23 : in preaching the word; and in Paul’s labor to support himself and his companions, 1 Corinthians 4:12; 1 Thessalonians 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:8; Acts 20:34.
Watchings: absence of sleep, through bread-winning or evangelical labor continued into the night.
Fastings: 2 Corinthians 11:27 : want of food, as in Matthew 15:32. For it is unlikely that Paul would enumerate voluntary abstinence for his own spiritual good among the apostolic hardships mentioned here: whereas want of food is naturally suggested by want of sleep. Cp. 1 Corinthians 4:11. By the accidents of travel or through sheer want Paul may have been occasionally without food: and, if so, this was the climax of his hardships.
2 Corinthians 6:6-8. Further specification of matters in which Paul claims respect, viz. four personal characteristics, followed by their divine source and their one foundation excellence.
Purity: absence of sin and selfishness. Knowledge: acquaintance with the things of God. Longsuffering, kindness: as in 1 Corinthians 13:4.
The Holy Spirit: whose presence was revealed in his conduct.
Love-without-hypocrisy: Romans 12:9 : the human, as the Holy Spirit was the divine, source of his actions. After these delineations of personal character, the word of truth and power of God direct us to his work as an evangelist. By speaking words which men felt to be true, (2 Corinthians 4:2,) and which were accompanied by the power of God sometimes working miracles to confirm them and always working results in men’s hearts, Paul and his colleagues claimed respect and acted as ministers of God.
With the weapons etc.: further description of the apostle’s work, looked upon as a warfare. So 2 Corinthians 10:3.
The righteousness: in Paul’s usual sense of righteousness by faith, as in 2 Corinthians 5:21. Cp. Ephesians 6:14, “breastplate of righteousness.” This great doctrine gave to Paul, as to Luther, powerful weapons with which to fight for God.
On the right hand and left: complete equipment on both sides. With a sword in his right hand the soldier struck his foe: with a shield in his left he defended himself. Justification by faith is to the preacher both sword and shield.
With (or amid) glory etc.: see under Romans 1:21; Romans 3:23. Both by the approbation which his conduct evokes in good men, and by the dishonor it provokes from the bad, Paul recommends himself. For the approval of the good and the hostility of the bad alike proved that he was doing God’s work. This last point, Paul develops into the climax of 2 Corinthians 6:9-10; for which he prepares a way by the exact antithesis good report and bad report.
2 Corinthians 6:9-10. Exposition of this antithesis. After developing in 2 Corinthians 6:4-7 a “in everything” of 2 Corinthians 6:4 a, Paul now develops “as God’s ministers.” Between these, 2 Corinthians 6:7-8 are a connecting link. In the evil report of their enemies they are deceivers: and good men know that they are true. It is objected that they are obscure and unknown. And really they are daily becoming well-known, and the principles of their conduct are day by day better understood. So great is their peril that they seem to be actually falling into the grave. Cp. 2 Corinthians 4:11; 1 Corinthians 15:31; Romans 8:36. Yet, in the moment of apparent destruction, suddenly comes deliverance.
And behold we live: graphic picture, retaining even the exclamation of wonder at unexpected rescue.
As chastised: to some men they seem to be put by God under special discipline. So seemed a more illustrious Sufferer: Isaiah 53:4. But the chastisement does not come to the extreme form of death.
As sorrowful: examples in 2 Corinthians 2:4; Romans 9:1. This sorrow might be made a reproach, as though their lot were wretched. But under their sorrow shone a changeless rejoicing, kindled by the brightness of the coming glory and the brightness of their Father’s smile.
Poor: toiling for a living and sometimes (2 Corinthians 11:8) in want.
Enriching many: by making them heirs of the wealth of heaven. Thus Paul followed the example of Christ: 2 Corinthians 8:9.
Having nothing: stronger than poor.
All things: as in Romans 8:32; 1 Corinthians 3:22. The whole wealth of God is theirs, and will be their eternal enjoyment. Wonderful climax, and counterpart to the picture in 2 Corinthians 6:4-5.
Each side of these contrasts commends the apostles as ministers of God. That men whom some decry as deceivers are found to be true, that men set aside as unknown become day by day more fully known, that men who seem to be in the jaws of death are rescued and men apparently smitten by God live still, that underneath visible sorrow there is constant joy, and that utter poverty is but a mask hiding infinite wealth, is abundant proof that they in whom these contradictions meet are indeed servants of God. Thus amid many and various hardships, in a spotless and kindly life animated by the Holy Spirit and by sincere love to men, and armed with a word which commends itself as the truth and is confirmed by the manifested power of God, in everything Paul and his companions claim respect and act as becomes ministers of God.
FROM THIS POINT we will review 4-8, which contain Paul’s exposition and defence of his apostolic ministry, and are thus the kernel of DIV. I. and of the whole Epistle. This exposition was suggested by thoughts about his deadly peril in Asia and about the anxiety which drove him from Troas and gave him no rest even on his arrival in Macedonia. But it was written under the influence of a wonderful rescue from peril, and of his joyful meeting with Titus who brought good news about the Corinthian church. Consequently, the exposition begins and ends with an outburst of triumph. Paul praises God that his weary toil, among both good and bad men, makes Christ known and is a pleasant perfume to God. His readers’ spiritual life proves to them that he is a servant of God. And, as imparting a life-giving Spirit instead of a death-bringing Law, his ministry is more glorious than that of Moses. Yet, in spite of Paul’s unreserved proclamation of it, the Gospel remains hidden to many, both Jews and Gentiles. But this only proves that their hearts are veiled or blinded. The grandeur of the Apostle’s work is not lessened by the deadly perils amid which it is performed, and which are every moment ready to destroy him. For these perils do but reveal the power of Him who ever provides a way of escape. And they cannot silence the preachers: for moved by the Spirit, they believe God; and therefore know that death will be followed by resurrection, and indeed by immediate entrance into the presence of Christ, and that beyond death due reward awaits them. Their efforts to save men are prompted by the love manifested in the death of Christ, and by their commission as ambassadors of God. With this commission their whole life accords.
More than once (2 Corinthians 3:1; 2 Corinthians 5:12) Paul tells his readers that it is not they whom he seeks to convince-for this is needless: they are themselves as proof of what he says-but that he is giving them a weapon which he takes for granted they will use to defend him against others. Also, throughout the whole, the words we and us imply that his dignity, peril, and faithfulness, as ambassador for Christ, are shared by others. He certainly includes Timothy, his fellow-laborer in founding the church at Corinth and a faithful companion in peril and toil, and joint-author of the Epistle; and probably Titus (2 Corinthians 12:18) and other similar helpers.
SECTION 9. — PAUL BEGS THAT HIS LOVE TO THE CORINTHIANS BE RETURNED: AND EXHORTS THEM TO SEPARATE THEMSELVES FROM ALL DEFILEMENT. CH. 6:11-7:1.
Our mouth is opened to you, Corinthians; our heart is enlarged. You are not narrowed in us: but you are narrowed in your hearts. The same recompense-as to children I say it, be you also enlarged.
Do not become differently yoked to unbelievers. For what partnership is there for righteousness and lawlessness? Or, what fellowship for light with darkness? And what concord of Christ with Beliar? Or, what portion for a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement for God’s temple with idols? For we are the temple of the living God, according as God said, “I will dwell among them and walk among them, and I will be their God and they shall be my people.” (Leviticus 26:11.) For which cause “Come forth out of the midst of them and be separated,” says the Lord, “and touch not an unclean thing” (Isaiah 52:11). And I will receive you and will be to you for a father and you shall be to me for sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty. These promises then having, Beloved ones, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and of spirit, accomplishing holiness in the fear of God.
After completing his long exposition of his apostolic work, its credentials, grandeur, encouragements, and motives, by a graphic picture of the circumstances in which he performs it, Paul turns suddenly to his readers and addresses to them a tender (2 Corinthians 6:11-13) and solemn (2 Corinthians 6:14 to 2 Corinthians 7:1) appeal.
2 Corinthians 6:11-13. Our mouth: of Paul and Timothy, writers of the Epistle.
Is opened: Ezekiel 33:22; Matthew 13:35; Acts 18:14; Ephesians 6:19, etc.: more graphic than “we have begun to speak to you.” It is Paul’s contemplation of his own bold words. Cp. Genesis 18:27.
Corinthians: a loving appeal, like Philippians 4:15. The heart is enlarged when its thoughts, emotions, purposes, increase in depth and breadth and height. Cp. Psalms 119:32; Isaiah 60:5. Paul refers evidently to his great love for his readers. While speaking to them he has become conscious of its intensity.
Narrowed: cognate to the word I have rendered “helplessness” in 2 Corinthians 4:8; 2 Corinthians 6:4; 2 Corinthians 12:10; Romans 2:9; Romans 8:35; and used here in its simple sense of being shut up in narrow space. From this is easily derived its frequent sense of being in extreme difficulty and almost without way of escape. It is the exact opposite of enlargement. No narrow place in the hearts (2 Corinthians 7:3; Philippians 1:7) of Paul and Timothy do the Corinthians occupy.
But you are narrowed etc.: sad and earnest rebuke. The word rendered in the A.V. “bowels,” in the R.V. “affections,” denotes, not specially the lower viscera, but (cp. Acts 1:18) the inward parts generally, heart lungs, etc. It is used for the seat of the emotions, and in the Bible especially for love and compassion. Cp. 2 Corinthians 7:15; Luke 1:78; Philippians 1:8. We have no better English rendering than heart. The Corinthians were thrust into a narrow place, not in Paul’s affection for them which was deep and broad, but in their own affection for him. They were narrow-hearted. For littleness of love towards those who deserve our love is a mark of a defective nature. Paul asks for the same affection, as a recompense for his affection towards them.
As to children: 2 Corinthians 12:14; 1 Corinthians 4:14; 1 Thessalonians 2:7.
Be you also enlarged: make a large place for me in your hearts, and thus yourselves become nobler.
As Paul speaks to his readers, he feels how great is his love to them. Not in this do they fall short; but in their own affection to him. He asks therefore as a recompense, speaking to his own children in Christ, that they will cherish for him a love like his for them, and thus themselves be ennobled.
2 Corinthians 6:14 to 2 Corinthians 7:1. Do not become: milder than “be not,” as suggesting that they are not yet joined to unbelievers. Cp. 1 Corinthians 7:23.
Differently-yoked to unbelievers: like an ass joined to an ox by being put under its yoke. It recalls the prohibition of Deuteronomy 22:10. The suddenness of this warning, and the earnest questions and quotations supporting it, prove that Paul had in view real defect or danger at Corinth. And the question of 2 Corinthians 6:16, following a question equivalent to this warning, proves that Paul refers here specially to participation in idol rites; as in 1 Corinthians 10:14 ff, where we have similar words. And this agrees with the worldly spirit betrayed in 1 Corinthians 3:3; 1 Corinthians 6:1; 1 Corinthians 8:10. But his words simply forbid such alliances with unbelievers as imply common aims and sympathies. There is no hint that Paul refers here specially to marriage. But this most intimate of all human alliances is certainly included in his prohibition. Those already married to heathens, Paul deals with in 1 Corinthians 7:12, as a special case: and he does not forbid (1 Corinthians 5:10) all intercourse with bad men. The practical application of his words must be left to each man’s own spiritual discernment.
2 Corinthians 6:14-15. Two pairs of questions, suggesting an argument in support of the foregoing warning.
Righteousness, lawlessness: practical conformity to the Law and practical disregard of it. Same contrast in Romans 6:19. The former is a designed consequence of the righteousness reckoned to all who believe, and a condition of retaining it.
Light, darkness: Acts 26:18; Colossians 1:12 f; Ephesians 5:8 ff; 1 Peter 2:9.
Light: a necessary condition of physical sight, and of spiritual insight.
Darkness: causes ignorance of our surroundings, physical or spiritual. Cp. 1 John 2:8 ff. This second contrast makes us feel the force of the first. All who keep the Law are in the light; all who disregard it, in the dark. And these cannot go together.
Beliar: evidently a name of Satan, the great opponent of Christ. Same word probably as “Belial,” 1 Samuel 1:16; 1 Samuel 2:12, etc., a Hebrew word denoting apparently “No-good.” From the abstract contrast of light and darkness Paul rises to the personal contrast of the Sun of righteousness and the Prince of darkness. Same argument in Matthew 6:24. The 4th question brings questions 1, 2, and 3, of which no. 3 is a climax, to bear directly on the matter in hand. If conformity to the Law and disregard of it are as incompatible as light and darkness, and as utterly opposed as Christ and Satan, what in common can there be to one who by faith accepts Christ and one who tramples His word under foot? This conclusion comes to us with sudden force, because it is put in the same form as the argument from which it is drawn. The inference is treated as itself the climax of the argument.
Unbeliever; denotes here one who rejects the Gospel: for his supposed alliance with a believer implies that he has heard of it.
2 Corinthians 6:16. Reveals the special reference of the general warning of 2 Corinthians 6:14; which, after being supported by questions 1, 2, and 3, has just been repeated in question 4. From the general matter of “unbelievers” Paul comes now to the specific matter of idolatry. Against this he warned the Corinthian Christians in 1 Corinthians 10:14 ff, by referring to the Lord’s Supper: he warns them now by the great truth that believers are the temple of God. Similar argument with other purposes in 1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 6:19. See notes. The word we puts Paul among those he warns. They share with him this great dignity; and he with them the duty it involves.
Living God: in contrast to lifeless idols, as in 1 Thessalonians 1:9. See under 2 Corinthians 3:3. The words temple of God bring before us the inviolable sanctity of the Old Testament sanctuary, which was strictly separated from whatever was not sanctified. This absolute separation every Jew was eager to defend, even at the cost of life. Paul now says that his readers are themselves the sanctuary of Him who dwelt of old in the Tabernacle. And, that they may feel the force of this reference, he supports it by a free quotation giving the exact sense and scope, and in part the words, of God’s solemn summing up, in Leviticus 26:11 of the blessings of the Mosaic Covenant. Notice especially Leviticus 26:1. With God’s words to Israel, the words of Paul to the Corinthians accord.
I will dwell among them; implies that the essential idea of a temple is, the Dwelling-Place of God. That God might dwell in the midst of Israel, i.e. in order that day by day He might reveal Himself among them, He bade them erect the Tabernacle. Cp. Exodus 29:44-46. He was thus fulfilling His ancient promise (Genesis 17:7 f) to stand in special relation to Abraham’s children as their God. Notice carefully that Paul assumes that the ancient promise, fulfilled in outward and symbolic form in the ritual of the Tabernacle, is valid now; and assures believers of the inward and spiritual presence of God in themselves. For the entire ritual was an outward symbol of the spiritual realities of the better covenant.
2 Corinthians 6:17-18. For which cause: Paul’s own words, introducing a quotation from Isaiah 52:11, as an appropriate practical application of the truth asserted in the foregoing quotation. He gives the sense, and in part the words, of Isaiah.
From the midst of them: of the heathens. Isaiah says “from the midst of her,” i.e. of Babylon, the place of bondage to idolaters.
Be separated; i.e. from idolaters: LXX. rendering for “be cleansed.” In prophetic vision Isaiah beholds the sacred vessels given back (by Cyrus, Ezra 1:7) to Israel; and bids the Levites lay aside the ceremonial defilement of Babylon and fit themselves to bear the vessels back to Jerusalem.
Touch not an unclean thing: Isaiah’s warning to the returning exiles not to take with them anything belonging to the idols of Babylon; repeated by Paul to those who had escaped from the idolatry of Corinth. An appropriate quotation: for all idolatry is bondage.
And I will receive you: not found in Isaiah. But the sense, viz. that those whom God leads out of the land of bondage He will Himself receive to be His own, is frequent in the Old Testament. Cp. Ezekiel 11:17-21 : “And I will receive them from the nations… and I will give them to the Land of Israel.”
And I will be to you: not found word for word in the Old Testament, but reproducing the sense of many passages. It may have been suggested by 2 Samuel 7:8; 2 Samuel 7:14, “These things says the Lord Almighty, (LXX.,)… I will be to him for a Father, and he shall be to me for a son”; Jeremiah 31:9. “I have become a Father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn”;
Isaiah 43:6, “Bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth.” The last two passages refer specially to return from captivity. The words sons and daughters in Isaiah 43:6 point specially to the equality of the sexes in the family of God: cp. Galatians 3:28.
Almighty: and therefore able to perform His promises. Cp. Genesis 17:1.
2 Corinthians 7:1. Practical application of these quotations, in harmony with 2 Corinthians 7:14 a and 2 Corinthians 7:16 a. Notice carefully that God’s words to Israel in the wilderness and through Isaiah are promises now possessed by Christian believers. For God acts always on the same principles: and therefore His words to one man are valid for all in similar circumstances. Moreover, the Mosaic ritual and the Old Testament history are symbolic of the Christian life. God’s visible presence in the midst of Israel was an outward pattern of His spiritual presence in the hearts of Christians: and the obligations which His presence laid upon Israel were a pattern of those resting upon His people now. And when, through the pen of Isaiah, God called the exiles returning from the dominion of idolaters His sons and daughters, He taught plainly that in days to come He would receive as such those whom He rescued from sin. Indeed, the universality, to believers, of the favor of God in gospel days makes His promise to David a promise of adoption for all believers.
Let us cleanse ourselves; (cp. 1 Peter 1:22; 1 John 3:3;) refers probably to abstinence from the outward corruptions of idolatry. It is justified by the truth that deliverance from sin, although it is God’s work in us, is yet obtained by our own moral effort and our own faith. It therefore depends upon ourselves whether we are made clean. [The aorist subjunctive exhorts us, not to a gradual and progressive, but to a completed, cleansing from all defilement. So Ephesians 4:22; Ephesians 4:25; Colossians 3:5; Colossians 3:8; 1 John 1:9.] Our flesh is defiled when our hands and feet and bodies do the bidding of sin; our spirit, when we contemplate sin with pleasure. Flesh rather than “body,” because the defilement comes from desires belonging not so much to each individual organized body as to the common material and nature of all living bodies. Even the spirit, that part of us which is nearest to God, is capable of defilement. Cp. 1 Corinthians 8:7; Titus 1:15. Perhaps Paul had in view the sensuality always and specially at Corinth, connected with idolatry. He warns his readers, not only against all actual contact with sensuality, but also against that consent of the spirit which often defiles the inner life even when there is no outward sin.
Accomplish: to perform a purpose, or complete something begun. Same word, 2 Corinthians 8:6; 2 Corinthians 8:11; Romans 15:28; Galatians 3:3; Philippians 1:6; Hebrews 8:5; Hebrews 9:6; 1 Peter 5:9.
Holiness; brings to bear on the foregoing exhortation the teaching in 2 Corinthians 6:16 that we are the temple of God. Cp. 1 Corinthians 3:17.
Accomplishing holiness: not identical with cleanse yourselves; or it would be needless. It denotes everything involved in being “the temple of God”; viz. absolute reservation for God alone. See note under Romans 1:7. For God claimed that none set foot in the temple except to do His work. Now this devotion to God implies cleansing from all sin. For all sin is opposed to God. Therefore, that God has given us the honor of being his temple and has promised to receive us as His children, is a strong motive for cleansing and consecrating ourselves. For only thus can we be His temple.
In the fear of God: cp. Ephesians 5:21. It brings before us the dread presence and power of Him who slew Nadab and Abihu, and the company of Korah: Leviticus 10:2; Numbers 16. Cp. “Living God” in 2 Corinthians 6:16. All contact with impurity is in us a defilement of the temple of God and an insult to the majesty of Him who dwells therein. Therefore fear as well as hope should prompt us to abstain from all sin.
The argument of this verse is akin to that of Leviticus 11:43 ff; Leviticus 20:1 ff, Leviticus 20:25 ff. God has promised to dwell in our midst. And, since He can tolerate no rival, His presence in us requires absolute devotion to Him: and this involves separation from whatever, in symbol or reality, is opposed to Him. Therefore, that God has promised to dwell in us as His temple and receive us as His children, ought to move us to turn from all sin and to claim by faith that complete purity (cp. Romans 6:11) which He is ready to work in us. This reference to the Old Testament also teaches that the service of Christ is quite incompatible with that of Satan; and that therefore there is no true harmony between believers and unbelievers.
Paul’s appeal in 2 Corinthians 7:11-13 was prompted naturally by his foregoing defence of his apostolic work, which was really throughout an appeal to his readers. But the reason of the sudden transition in 2 Corinthians 7:14 is not so evident. It may be that he knew that the disaffection towards himself of some at Corinth arose from their tolerance in some measure of the corruptions of idolatry. Or, the warning may have been prompted simply by the greatness of the peril. Certainly, of the exhortation in 2 Corinthians 6:1 this is a practical application.
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Beet, Joseph. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 6". Joseph Beet's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25