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In, the former Part of this Chapter, the Apostle is treating the Subject of the Ministry. In the latter, he cautions the Church against communications with infidels.
(1) We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain. (2) (For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succored thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)
This Chapter opens with an address to the Church, on the kind reception of the services of Paul, and his companions in the ministry. He calls them workers together; that is, fellow laborers, in the word, and doctrine. But the words with him, are not in the original. Some have thought, and properly thought, that they ought not to be there.
The ministers sent by the Holy Ghost to preach the word, can hardly be called workers together with Him. It is too high an honor. Neither is it correct. For although the Lord speaks in his word, and by his word, in the labors of those servants he sends; yet the word is wholly his, the work his, and the sole glory his. It is always best, in order to hide pride from the eyes, to lay low in the dust before God. And Paul had too humble an opinion of himself to make use of the phrase in any way of self-importance.
But, leaving the consideration of this part of the subject in this verse, to those of the ministry, whom it more immediately concerns; it will be more suited to the purpose of a Poor Man's Commentary, to enquire into the meaning of the Apostle's words, when he saith: we beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain. Paul could not be supposed, by this expression, to imply the possibility of receiving the graces of God the Holy Ghost, in his Almighty work on the soul, in vain. When God the Holy Ghost regenerates a child of God, and quickens the soul which was before dead in trespasses and sins; the spiritual life the Lord the Spirit then gives, can never die. This, his sovereign act, is equal to the gift of the Father, in choosing, and the grace of the Son, in redeeming; and which brings the child of God into a life-being of apprehension, to all the blessings of the Covenant. He is then made a partaker of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust, 2 Peter 1:3-4 . He is then born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever, 1 Peter 1:23 . A child of God, therefore, cannot receive this grace of God in vain; for it hath no one dependence whatever upon any act of his own. In the new-birth of grace, as much as the birth of nature, the receiver of the mercy hath no agency in the deed. They that are born again, are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God, John 1:13 . But the outward means of grace may be administered, and even God's children, from the remains of indwelling corruption, and the powers of Satan, and the cares of the world, too often receive them with the ear, while the heart, is for a time, uninterested in them. The Church of old, is described in this state, from a sleepy frame into which she had fallen; and out of which, Jesus roused her. See Song of Solomon 5:2 and the Poor Man's Commentary upon it. Reader! it is blessed, when a child of God is kept alive by inward grace, in the use of outward means; , that the administration of the word, and ordinances, may never be barren, and unprofitable.
The blessed words which follow, in the former part of them; for he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: these are not Paul's words, but God the Father's words to his dear Son, as Mediator. In Isaiah's prophesy, Isaiah 49:8 , we have them recorded. They form a part, of what God the Holy Ghost hath been pleased to inform the church, concerning the gracious transactions which took place between the Almighty Persons of the Godhead, in relation to the Church, before all worlds. The Reader will do well to read the whole Chapter, for it is most blessed. But the words Paul quotes in this place, are chosen by him to shew, that during the whole time-state of Christ upon earth, Jehovah heard him, and succoured him, and accepted him, for his Church and People. This, therefore, might well be called the accepted time. In another Scripture, it is called the acceptable year of the Lord, Isaiah 61:2 with Luke 4:19 . And elsewhere, Jesus by the spirit of prophecy stiles it, the year of my redeemed, Isaiah 63:4 . And truly it was an accepted time for the Church in Christ, when the Person, blood-shedding, sufferings, obedience, and death, of Christ, was accepted, for the everlasting salvation of his People. But the words Which follow, are the words of the Apostle. Behold! now is the accepted time! Behold, now is the day of salvation! The Apostle, under God the Holy Ghost, very blessedly makes this conclusion, for the joy, and encouragement of the Church. For as in the day of Christ upon earth, this was the day for his accomplishing salvation, and which he most effectually did, by the sacrifice of himself: so now, during the time-state of the Church upon the earth, and the time-state of every individual of the Church, this is the accepted time, and the day of salvation; in which God the Father's everlasting love, in the choice of each child of God in Christ, is proved: an interest, and union, and oneness with Christ, as Christ, is discovered; and the quickening, regenerating, renewing, and sealing grace of God the Holy Ghost, is felt, and enjoyed; when the Lord by his sovereignty, makes the souls of the redeemed willing, in the day of his power. And this now, the Apostle speaks of, and dwells upon, is not a limited now, as some, to their own souls distresses, and to the distresses of others, have supposed, as if a poor sinner's receiving grace depended upon his receiving it now, which may be refused to him tomorrow: which would be making God's grace depend upon man's will; and the Omnipotency of the Lord rest, for accomplishment, upon the sovereign pleasure of man. But the now the Apostle speaks of, is a now, which to the Church at large, continues, as long as the world shall continue; and to every individual of the Church, as long as that individual shall continue in his present time state. For it must remain, until all the redeemed, for whom Christ died, are brought in. All that the Father giveth me, said Jesus, shall come to me, John 6:37 . And the accepted time is not the time of man's appointing, but the Lord's. The now of God, is the day, when God makes willing, Psalms 110:3 . The laborers in the vineyard called at the eleventh hour, never had the now, until that eleventh hour. The thief on the cross knew nothing of the day of salvation, but in the moment of death. Reader! there is always to the child of God the accepted time, when God's time comes. And every child of God finds, that the blessed now, when the fulness of time is come, and He who first sent forth his Son to redeem, sends forth His Son to redeem, sends forth the Spirit of his Son into the hearts of his redeemed, to quicken, whereby they cry Abba, Father! Galatians 4:6 .
(3) Giving no offense in anything, that the ministry be not blamed: (4) But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, (5) In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in watchings, in fastings; (6) By pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, (7) By the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, (8) By honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report: as deceivers, and yet true; (9) As unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; (10) As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.
What a lovely Portrait the Apostle hath here drawn, of a Minister of Jesus! How totally dissimilar in every feature, from the rank, and opulence, of modern Prelacy? Who should have thought, when Paul wrote this Epistle to the Church at Corinth, that a time would come, when state and grandeur would be considered suitable appendages to the Sacred Order! Great part of what the Apostle hath here said, concerning the all things, in which he recommends the Lord's servants to approve themselves, as ministers of God, is done away. How is it possible for such as the present hour furnisheth, to manifest whose servants they are, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, labors, watchings, fastings, and the like. There was a time indeed, even in our own land, when the eminent servants of the Lord were eminent also for suffering. And never did the truths of the Gospel appear to greater advantage than in that period.
There are some of the characters of the ministry, which the Apostle hath sketched in this picture, still to be found. By honor; and dishonor; by evil report, and good report; as deceivers, and yet true; as unknown, and yet well known. There are some, in every age of the world, which will be found to treat the distinguishing truths of the Gospel with hatred and contempt; and to dishonor the preachers of those truths, with evil report, and reproach. While the highly taught few, whom God the Holy Ghost teacheth, will honor his messengers; and while such faithful men are unknown to the world, yea, not unfrequently unknown to each other; they are well known, by all the Persons of the Godhead. God the Father, hath known them, loved them, chosen them; given them in Covenant to his dear Son, and had his eye upon them, from all eternity, to redeem them by Christ, in this time-state of their being, from all the corruptions of the Adam-nature of the fall. God the Son hath known them; having loved their persons with an everlasting love, betrothed them to himself before all worlds, and redeemed them in the time-state from sin, and all the dreadful consequences of sin, by his blood; and takes up their persons and their causes now, since his return to glory; and never ceaseth his affection for them, but sheweth how unalterable his love is, until he hath brought them home to his kingdom of glory, that where he is, there they shall be also. God the Holy Ghost hath known them, and loved them with an everlasting love, having knit them to Christ, and anointed them with Him, as the members of his body, before all time; and in every individual instance, regenerates, and sanctifies the whole body of Christ, as one with him, in all the communicable graces, from the Head to the members. So that, however unknown to men, the whole Church of Christ is known of God; graciously blessed, preserved, and made everlastingly happy: and however poor in worldly accommodation, yet rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom; and though seemingly having nothing, yet in reality Christ being their Portion, they possess all things. Reader! learn from this portrait of the Apostle's and drawn under God the Spirit's direction, to form an estimate of the Lord's ministers: not by outward shew, but by the inward illumination of the heart; and the blessing of God on their labors, both in word and doctrine.
(11) O ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged. (12) Ye are not straitened in us, but ye are straitened in your own bowels. (13) Now for a recompense in the same, I (speak as unto my children,) be ye also enlarged. (14) Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? (15) And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? (16) And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (17) Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. (18) And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.
The Apostle here addresseth the Church. After speaking to the ministers, he now speaks to the people. An enlarged heart of affection to the whole body of Christ, could not but shew itself, in suitable terms, of the warmest desires for their welfare. And the whole Chapter, taken into one point of view, forms a very beautiful address, of the great Apostle to the Church at Corinth, including both the minister and congregation, of what would form a lovely representation, in their union with Christ, and with one another; when under grace, those directions were closely attended to, and followed.
I do not think it needful, to enter into a particular investigation, of the several interesting things, which Paul here so affectionately recommends. The words themselves are very plain, and the importance of the measure unanswerably conclusive, and binding. The whole of his arguments are truly Scriptural, and come home; enforced by every motive, which can endear them to the heart. But what I more immediately would beg the Reader to observe from them is what the Lord hath here confirmed, of his indwelling residence in his people. Through all the Old Testament dispensation, God the Holy Ghost taught the Church, to be in the constant expectation of this great, but mysterious event. The promise began very early in the Church, while forming in the wilderness. I will set my tabernacle among you, (said the Lord;) and my soul, shall not abhor you. As if the conscious sense of our uncleanness might tempt a child of God to call it in question. No! said the Lord. As the foreknowledge, and fore-view the Son of God had of his Church's fall, in the Adam-nature, did not prevent Him, as God-Man-Mediator, to tabernacle in our flesh; yea, to be made in the likeness of sinful flesh: Romans 8:3 . so neither shall the uncleanness of his people, hinder God the Spirit, from making their bodies his temple. I will walk among you, said the Lord; and will be your God, and ye shall be my people, Leviticus 26:11-12 . And the Prophet, in after ages, and coming nearer home to Gospel days, was commissioned to tell the Church the same truth. I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh; and I will put my Spirit within you, Eze 36:26-27 ; 1 Corinthians 3:16 ; Hebrews 3:6 .
I pray the Reader to pause over this very sweet Scripture. Nothing can be more plain, from Scripture authority, than that the Son of God hath tabernacled in our flesh, John 1:14 . And nothing can be more plain, than that, God by his Spirit promised, and hath fulfilled it, to dwell in his people. Paul speaks of this, as so well known, and so certain a truth, that he demands of the Church their conviction of this doctrine, as of a most well-assured, and most cordially believed thing: Know ye not, (saith he,) that ye are the temple of God; and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? 1 Corinthians 3:16 . And Jesus himself; in his farewell discourse with his disciples, within a few verses of each other, speaks of himself, and the Father, and the Holy Ghost, dwelling, and making their abode with his people. If a man love me, he will keep my words; and my Father will love him, and we will come and make our abode with him. And, speaking of the Holy Ghost, Jesus said: he shall abide with you forever. He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you, John 14:23; John 14:23 . So that, here are the whole Three Persons of the Godhead, positively said, to dwell in the Lord's people. And what I beg the Reader particularly to notice, in this mysterious work of love, and grace, and favor, which distinguisheth the Church of God from the Christless world, is this: that notwithstanding, in the great work of regeneration, it is the spiritual part only of every child of God that is renewed, and made a partaker of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust, 2 Peter 1:3-4 . yet the unrenewed part, the body, is said to be the temple of the Holy Ghost. Yea, the whole Persons of the Godhead, (as hath been shewn in this paragraph in the Scriptures quoted,) are said to make their abode with the Lord's people. So that the body, unrenewed as it is, and, unrenewed as it will remain, until this corruptible shall put on incorruption, is nevertheless, as much as the spirit, the tabernacle of the Lord, Leviticus 26:11 . And hence Paul calls upon the Church, to glorify God in their body, as well as in their spirit, which are His, 1 Corinthians 6:20 . Will it be said, this is mysterious! I would answer, in the words of the Apostle; without all controversy, great is the mystery of Godliness! And, what begins in Paul's relation of it, with God manifest in the flesh; may be well supposed to be followed, with justified in the Spirit, 1 Timothy 3:16 . Reader! we are in a world of mystery. But remember, these grand and momentous truths are proposed to the Church, as the objects of faith: not for our faculties to explain. lf, Nicodemus like, we demand explanation how can these things be? we presume to try them by our standard of apprehension; and instead of belief, substitute reason. See Ephesians 2:22 , and Commentary.
From a presumption like this let me call off your attention to what the Apostle so sweetly recommends, and with which he closeth the Chapter. He first gives us the words of God in his promise, and then the assurance of God in his blessing. I will dwell in them, and walk in them, saith God. Wherefore, come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing: and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty Reader! these are God's assurances. Our province is to believe. What though you and I both know, that it is our spiritual part only that is regenerate, the body is still the subject of sin; yet it is as much the Lord's, as is the spirit: and in it the Lord dwells, for it is his temple. And, notwithstanding all we feel, and all we groan under, from being daily burdened from the warfare of the lusts which are in our flesh; yet both in body, and in spirit, we are the Lord's. And God declares that he dwells in us, in a special, personal, and intimate manner. Reader! see to it, that those blessed testimonies of the divine inhabitation are in your portion; and then by faith, may the Lord give you, to take to yourself, all that personal interest, and holy joy, it clearly brings.
What everlasting praise hath the Church of God to offer, to the joint Authors of such unspeakable grace, and favor, as are given to the Church, in Jesus Christ! Blessed forever be God the Father, who both gave his dear Son, as a Covenant for the people; and heard him, and succored him, in the day of salvation! And blessed forever be God the Son, who hath given the accepted time, and the day of salvation to his Church, during the whole of her time-state, upon earth. And blessed be God the Holy Ghost, who not only maketh the Lord's people willing in the day of his power; but in the infinite condescension of his grace, maketh their bodies his temple! Oh! Lord the Spirit! do thou give me to know, and live under, thy gracious abidings, from day to day. Suffer me not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For as Christ hath no concord with Belial, so let not my soul have fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness. Oh! for grace to be separated, that I may daily, hourly, be enjoying the astonishing grace, in having the knowledge, and enjoyment of God as my Father, and live, among the One and daughters of the Lord Almighty!
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 6". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29