The message of reconciliation having been received by the Corinthians, now the Lord's servants, as fellow-workmen in unity, had further entreaty to make of them. Their profession of faith would be tested, as to whether they had received the grace of God in its living reality, or "in vain." From verses 3 to 10 we shall see that the apostles were severely tested as to the reality of their message: let those who accept the message consider this. Does grace mean as much to the Corinthians as it evidently did to these servants?
Verse 2 is a parenthesis, showing the grace of God fully available at this very time: now therefore is the time to take full advantage of it. This is the very character of this dispensation of God: it is "a time accepted," and "the day of salvation." It is only right then to fully receive its blessing, and fully respond to it.
If in chapter 4 the ministry gives boldness, in our verse 3 it also exercises the servant to give no offence in anything. Boldness is not to be harsh or rude: for men will blame the ministry if they see anything offensive in the servant.
In the apostles' conduct they showed themselves to be the ministers of God. This word for ministers is that used for household servants, and its basic meaning is "of the dust" - a good reminder for every servant!
"In much patience" or "endurance" is the basis for all that follows. A colon would no doubt be better than a comma after this word; for following this are nine tests of endurance, to 'the end of verse 5; then nine moral characteristics of endurance (vv. 6,7); then nine contrasting experiences, the sphere of endurance (vv. 8-10). How precious that patient endurance of faith that goes on steadily for the Lord, whatever the way may be! The nine tests were certainly applied to Paul in rigorous severity, yet only served to more beautifully prove him a true minister of God.
As to moral character, pureness implies no mixture of principles; knowledge is that full awareness of what one stands for, and does; long-suffering is the fruit of a faith that knows God will eventually triumph; kindness is genuine courteous treatment of others. And behind this is the living presence of the Spirit of God operative in the servant; and a resulting "love unfeigned," a genuine real concern for the good of others. "The Word of truth" is a vital matter here too, the one court of appeal as to all that is morally appropriate. And in subjection to this, the power of God is evident in the vessel. Finally, "the armour of righteousness" is found on the right hand and on the left: this is proper concern to maintain righteous moral conduct in both directions, not taken off guard by watching only on one side.
As to experiences however, honor and dishonour are seen side by side in Acts 14:13-19. At Lystra, the people first were ready to worship Paul and Barnabas as gods; and soon after stoned Paul and left him for dead. Similarly, some would give him an evil report, others good; some considered that the apostles were deceivers, others recognized them as true. As unknown, not taken account of in the world, yet well-known by many whose hearts had been opened to God. As dying, continually at death's door through persecution, yet in reality very much alive in devotion to God. Chastened, so as to be often at the point of death, yet not killed. Sorrowful, for the hardness of men's hearts toward God, and for the travail and failures of the saints of God; yet always rejoicing, for their Object was Christ. In earthly circumstances poor, yet communicating heavenly riches to many. Having nothing in the way of secure possessions in the world, but enriched with all things that are of true value, according to God's riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
The rigor of the testing, certainly felt in the soul, only moved the servants more ardently in desire for the blessing of the Corinthians: their mouth is open to minister Christ; their heart is expanded in earnest, tender concern. If the Corinthians had been restricted in their affections toward Paul, this certainly did not spring from his attitude toward them: it was their own feelings responsible for this.
Verse 13 is better rendered, "Now for an answering recompense," etc. When through suffering for their sake, the servants had shown an open mouth and expanded heart, then how right an answering response it would be for the Corinthians also to be expanded. Can we, even today, think of the devoted faith and love of the apostles through every circumstance of trial, and not have our hearts expanded in appreciation of the truth for which they willingly suffered?
The connection of all this with verse 14 must be observed. Suffering is because of being in a foreign, adverse world, a world opposed to Christ. Believers may be tempted to link with the world, to avoid such suffering, but this is unfaithfulness to Him. Contact with the world is of course unavoidable; and bearing witness of Christ is a precious privilege, but being united in a strange yoke with the ungodly is far different than this. Such a yoke should be fully avoided by the believer.
A yoke is that which identifies one with another in a binding agreement, so that it should make both in some measure responsible for the other. This is true of marriage, of business partnerships, of religious affiliations, social organizations, etc.
It is not only a yoke with unbelievers here that is prohibited, but also the mixture of the principles of righteousness and unrighteousness, light and darkness. If even a believer would yoke himself with principles of unrighteousness, then I must not identify myself with that believer. It is important that believers should not be yoked with unbelievers, and just as important that we should not allow a mixture of darkness with light, or of Satan's activity with the work of Christ. These things are so ignored by many that Christendom is greatly infested with demon activity and manifest unrighteousness. God says, "If thou take forth the precious from the vile, thou shalt be as my mouth" (Jeremiah 15:19). God's mouth gives only pure, uncontaminated words, and it should be our joy to rightly represent His words.
The temple of God is now mentioned as having no agreement with idols. The assembly, the body of Christ, is the temple of God, that in which the glory of God is manifest, where God dwells and walks. If individually Christians are to form no yoke with unbelievers or unrighteousness, then certainly in a collective way this is just as vital: the assembly is to allow no such yoke. Idolatry is simply that which displaces God from His rightful, absolute pre-eminence, as in Israel's making the golden calf. A standard is thereby raised contrary to God's one Standard, the Lord Jesus Christ, and collective
testimony is corrupted so as to be soon in ruins. God may bear long with weakness and failure; but He will not bear with such a standard that actually is a challenge to His supreme authority. It is not without serious reason that we are told, "sanctify the Lord God in your hearts" (1 Peter 3:15). His is a place absolutely holy, and separate from evil. It is on the ground of spotless holiness that He says, "I will be their God, and they shall be My people."
It is God's firm command: "Come out from among them, and be ye separate." If one has formed a yoke wrongly, then if at all possible to break it without injustice to the other party, he should do so. As to marriage, he is not at liberty to break this bond (1 Corinthians 7:10); and in certain other cases the same may apply, in order that the believer may, through experience, learn the governmental results of disobedience. Compare Joshua 9:15-19. But the general rule is that of separation; and if one has put himself in a position where he cannot separate righteously, then through painful experience he may still learn what separation means in moral reality.
We are not simply told to keep from personal uncleanness, but to "touch not the unclean thing," that is, of course, not be identified with it. On this basis God receives one. We may ask, Does He not receive every soul who accepts Christ as Saviour? In one respect, yes: so far as his eternal salvation is concerned, God receives him on the basis of the sacrifice of Christ for him. But as regards the question of free and full communion, God cannot link His name with one who is himself linked with manifest evil: He cannot in this case receive even a believer in practical fellowship day by day.
To be a Father to us in practical, full enjoyment, He must have our heart's allegiance. And for us to be His sons and daughters in practical character, we must be separate from what dishonours Him. Of course, every believer is a child of God through new birth, and a son by adoption; and this is eternal: but if not true to this in practice, he cannot enjoy the blessings of such a relationship until he gives up his evil associations. Note here too the sweet comfort of relationship involved in the name "Father," and the eternal power and majesty of the name, "the Lord Almighty." What incentive for our wholehearted, unquestioning obedience!
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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 6". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany