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The methods and conditions of an apostolic ministry (2 Corinthians 6:1-10). Appeal to the Corinthians to reciprocate his affection and separate themselves from evil (2 Corinthians 6:11-18).
2 Corinthians 6:1
We then, as fellow workers. Continuing the entreaty of 2 Corinthians 5:20, he adds, "But as [his] fellow workers we also exhort you." The "also" shows that he does not rest content with merely entreating them (δεόμεθα), but adds to the entreaty an exhortation emphasized by a self-sacrificing ministry. "Fellow workers with God" (1 Corinthians 3:9). Beseech. The word is the same as that rendered "beseech" by the Authorized Version in 2 Corinthians 5:20, and it should be rendered "exhort:" "God exhorts you by our means; we therefore entreat you to be reconciled to God; yes, and as Christ's fellow workers we exhort you." That ye receive not. The word means both passively to receive and actively to accept as a personal boon. The grace of God. To announce this is the chief aim of the gospel (Acts 13:43; Acts 20:24). In vain; that is, "without effect." You must not only accept the teaching of God's Word, but must see that it produces adequate moral results. It must not, so to speak, fall "into a vacuum (εἰς κενόν)." "He," says Pelagius, "receives the grace of God in vain who, in the new covenant, is not himself new." If you really are in Christ you must show that you have thereby become "a new creation" (2 Corinthians 5:17). The branches of the true Vine must bear fruit. (For the phrase, "in vain," see Galatians 2:2; Philippians 2:16.) What the grace of God is meant to effect is sketched in Titus 2:11, Titus 2:12.
2 Corinthians 6:2
For he saith; that is, "God saith." The nominative is involved in the "fellow workers,"so that this is hardly to be classed with those rabbinic methods of citation found also in Philo, which deliberately omit the word "God" as the speaker, and use "He" by preference. I have heard thee, etc. The quotation is from the LXX. of Isaiah 49:8, and is meant to express the necessity for receiving the grace of God, not only efficaciously, but at once. The "thee" in Isaiah is the Servant of Jehovah, the type primarily of Christ, and then of all who are "in Christ." In a time accepted; literally, in the Hebrew, in a time of favour. It is the season of grace, before grace has been wilfully rejected, and the time for judgment begins (Proverbs 1:24-28). The accepted time; literally, the well-accepted opportunity. St. Paul in his earnestness strengthens the force of the adjective. The same word occurs in 2 Corinthians 8:12; Romans 15:16, Romans 15:31.
"There is a deep nick in Time's restless wheel
For each man's good."
Now. No doubt St. Paul meant that, as long as life lasts, the door of repentance is never absolutely closed; but it is probable that he had specially in view the nearness of the advent of Christ. Compare the stress laid upon the word "today" in Hebrews 3:7, Hebrews 3:8, and "at least in this thy day" (Luke 19:42).
2 Corinthians 6:3
Giving no offence in anything. An undercurrent of necessary self defence runs through St. Paul's exhortation. The participle is, like "fellow workers," a nominative to "we exhort you" in 2 Corinthians 6:1. Offence. The word here is not skandalon, which is so often rendered "offence," but proskope, which occurs here alone in the New Testament, and is not found in the LXX. It means "a cause of stumbling." Proskomma, a stumbling block, is used in 1 Corinthians 8:9. Be not blamed. When any just blame can be attached to the minister, the force of the ministry of reconciliation is fatally weakened. (For the word, see 2 Corinthians 8:20.)
2 Corinthians 6:4
Approving ourselves; rather, commending ourselves, He is again referring to the insinuation, which had evidently caused him deep pain, that he was not authorized to preach, as his Judaic opponents were, by "letters of commendation" (2 Corinthians 3:1-3) from James or from the ciders at Jerusalem. His credentials came from God, who had enabled him to be so faithful. As the ministers of God (1 Corinthians 4:1). The article should be omitted. In much patience. Christ had forewarned his apostles that they would have much to endure, and had strengthened them by the promise that "he that endureth to the end shall be saved" (Matthew 10:22). In afflictions. This word, as we have seen, is one of the haunting words in 2 Corinthians 1:4-11. In necessities. St, Paul was poor, and was often in want (Acts 20:34). In distresses. The same word which occurs in 2 Corinthians 4:8. It means "extreme pressure" (literally, narrowness of space), and is a climax of the other words.
2 Corinthians 6:5
In stripes. The stripes were of two kinds—from Jewish whips and Roman rods. But of the five scourgings with Jewish whips not one is mentioned in the Acts, and only one of the three scourgings with Roman rods (Acts 16:23). Nothing, therefore, is more clear than that the Acts only furnishes us with a fragmentary and incomplete record, in which, as we gather from the Epistles, either the agonies of St. Paul's lifelong martyrdom are for some reason intentionally minimized, or else (which is, perhaps, mere probable) St. Paul was, as his rule and habit, so reticent about his own sufferings in the cause of Christ that St. Luke was only vaguely, if at all, aware of many scenes of trial through which he had passed. In imprisonments. St. Paul was frequently in prison, but St. Luke only tells us of one of these occasions (Acts 16:24)—at Philippi; the Roman imprisonment and that at Caesarea were subsequent to this Epistle. In tumults. These were a normal incident of St. Paul's life, both up to this time and for years afterwards (Acts 13:50; Acts 14:19; Acts 16:22; Acts 17:4, Acts 17:5; Acts 18:12; Acts 19:28, Acts 19:29; Acts 21:27-39; Acts 22:22, Acts 22:23; Acts 23:9, Acts 23:10; Acts 27:42, etc.) The word akatastasiai might also mean "insecurities," i.e. homelessness, wanderings, uncertainties; but New Testament usage seems decisive in favour of the frowner meaning (2 Corinthians 12:20; 1 Corinthians 14:33; James 3:15). In labours (2 Corinthians 11:28; 1Co 4:12; 1 Corinthians 15:10; Acts 20:34; 1 Thessalonians 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:8). In watchings. "Spells of sleeplessness" were a necessary incident of such a life; and an eminently nervous nature like that of St. Paul is rarely capable of the habitual relief of sound steep. Hence he again refers to this in 2 Corinthians 11:27. His "sleeplessness" was sometimes the necessary result of labours "night and day" (Act 20:31; 1 Thessalonians 2:9, etc.). In fastings. St. Paul never inculcates the practice of voluntary fasting as a duty (for the reading in 1 Corinthians 7:5 is more than dubious); but it is probable that he found it personally useful at times (Acts 13:2, Acts 13:3; Acts 14:23; Acts 9:9). The nine forms of suffering hitherto mentioned—three general, three specific, and three voluntary—are all physical sufferings borne with "much endurance."
2 Corinthians 6:6
By pureness; rather, in pureness, as the preposition is the same. He now gives six instances of special gifts and virtues. The "pureness" is not only "chastity," but absolute sincerity (1Jn 3:3; 2 Corinthians 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 2:10). By knowledge. The knowledge is the true knowledge of the gospel in its fulness (Ephesians 3:4). In his depth of insight into the truth St. Paul was specially gifted. The word gnosis had not yet acquired the fatal connotations which afterwards discredited it. By long suffering (2 Timothy 3:10; 2 Timothy 4:2). The patient endurance of insults, of which St. Paul shows a practical specimen in this Epistle, and still more in Philippians 1:15-18. By kindness. "Love suffereth long, and is kind" (1 Corinthians 13:4); "Long suffering, kindness" (Galatians 5:22). By the Holy Ghost. To the special gift of the Spirit St. Paul attributed all his success (1 Thessalonians 1:5; Romans 15:18, Romans 15:19). By love unfeigned; which is the surest fruit of the Spirit, and the best of all spiritual gifts (2 Corinthians 12:15; 1Co 8:1; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13.; Romans 12:9, etc.).
2 Corinthians 6:7
By the word of truth. St. Paul now passes to the more specific endowments of the true teacher. By the power of God; literally, in power of God (2 Corinthians 4:7; 1 Corinthians 2:4; 1 Corinthians 4:20). "For the kingdom of God is not [only] in word, but in power." By the armour of righteousness. Here first the preposition "in" (ἐν) is changed for "through," "by means of" (διὰ). Armour; rather, arms. On the right hand and on the left. That is, both by offensive weapons and a defensive panoply (2 Corinthians 10:4; Ephesians 6:11-17; 1 Thessalonians 5:8).
2 Corinthians 6:8
By honour and dishonour; rather, by glory and dishonour. There is no need to change here the meaning of διὰ, "by means of," to "through," i.e. "amid." The honour and dishonor are alike means which contribute to the commendation of the ministry. Of our Lord some said, "He is a deceiver," while others said, "He is a good man" (John 7:12); and the dispraise of some is the highest praise (Matthew 5:11). Compare with the whole passage 1 Corinthians 4:9-13, where we see that "abuse," "insult," and "slander," constituted no small part of the apostle's daily trial. By evil report and good report. The beatitude of malediction (Luke 6:22; 1 Peter 4:14). St. Paul had deliberately abandoned the desire to win the suffrages of men at the cost of undesirable concessions (Galatians 1:10). As deceivers. The Jews called Christ "a deceiver" (mesith, i.e. a deliberate and misleading impostor), Matthew 27:63; John 7:12. This is an illustration of the "evil report," and in the Clementine homilies, a century later, St. Paul, under the disgraceful pseudonym of "Simon Magus," is still defamed as a deceiver. And yet true. There is no "yet" in the original, and its omission gives more force to these eloquent and impassioned contrasts.
2 Corinthians 6:9
As unknown; literally, as being ignored; as those whom no one cares to recognize. And yet well known. "And becoming fully recognized." "Recognized" by God (1 Corinthians 13:12), and ultimately by all good men (2 Corinthians 11:6), though they might be contemptuously ignored by men. As dying (2 Corinthians 1:9; 2 Corinthians 4:10, 2 Corinthians 4:11). Behold. The word calls attention to what seemed like a daily miracle. The paradox of the Greek tragedian—
"Who knows if life be death, and death be life?"
which seemed so supremely amusing to Aristophanes and the wits of Athens, became a familiar fact to the early Christians (Romans 8:36; 1 Corinthians 15:31; Ephesians 2:5, Ephesians 2:6; Colossians 2:13, etc.). As chastened. The daily Divine education of suffering (Psalms 118:18).
2 Corinthians 6:10
As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing. The early Christians always insist on "joy" as one of the fruits of the Spirit (comp. Matthew 5:10-12), and especially joy in the midst of grief and anguish (Romans 5:3; Rom 14:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:16, "Rejoice always"). The best proof that this was no mere phraseology, but an amazing and new charism granted to the world, may be seen in the Epistle to the Philippians. It was written when St. Paul was old, poor, deserted, imprisoned, in danger of immediate death. and apparently in the lowest deeps of forsakes sorrow; vet the spontaneous keynote of the whole Epistle is, "I rejoice; rejoice ye" (Philippians 4:6, Philippians 4:12). As poor. The word means even "paupers," and describes a very literal fact. St. Paul, for Christ's sake, had suffered "the loss of all things" (Philippians 3:8). Yet making many rich. Not by getting collections for them (which would be a most unworthy antithesis, though it is strangely accepted by Chrysostom and others); but "by imparting to them the true riches, in the form of spiritual gifts, and the teaching of the gospel" (comp. James 2:5). Possessing all things; rather, as having nothing, and fully having all things. The verb means "possessing all things to the full." For "all things are ours" (1 Corinthians 3:21, 1 Corinthians 3:22).
2 Corinthians 6:11-18
An appeal to the Corinthians to reciprocate his love for them, and separate themselves from evil.
2 Corinthians 6:11
Corinthians! A rare and very personal form of loving appeal, which occurs nowhere else in these Epistles (comp. Philippians 4:15). Our mouth is open to you. St. Paul has evidently been writing in a mood of inspired eloquence. The fervour of his feelings has found vent in an unusual flow of beautiful and forcible language. He appeals to the unreserved freedom with which he has written as a reason why they should treat him with the same frank love. Our heart is enlarged. After writing the foregoing majestic appeal, he felt that he had disburdened his heart, and as it were made room in it to receive the Corinthians unreservedly, in spite of all the wrongs which some of them had done him. On the antithesis of the mouth and the heart, see Matthew 12:34; Romans 10:10.
2 Corinthians 6:12
Ye are not straitened in us. Any narrowing of the sympathy or straining of the relations between us does not rise in any way from me. (For the verb, see 2 Corinthians 4:8.) Ye are straitened in your own bowels; rather, in your own hearts. Any tightening or pressure of the feelings which should exist between us rises solely from your own hearts. Enlarge and open them, as I have done, and we shall once more love each other aright. The verb has already occurred in 2 Corinthians 4:8 ("distressed"). Your own bowels. It is to be regretted that the Authorized Version adopted the meaningless and often rather incongruous word "bowels" for the Greek word σπλάγχνα used in its Hebraic sense of "feelings," "affections" (So 2 Corinthians 5:4; Isaiah 16:11). This literalism is always out of place, and especially in Phil 7, 12, 20.
2 Corinthians 6:13
Now, for a recompense in the same. He begs them to give him "a reward in kind;" in other words, he wishes them to be as frank with him as he has been to them. As unto my children. And therefore, as a spiritual father, I may surely ask for sympathy. St. Paul uses the same metaphor in 1 Corinthians 4:14; 1 Thessalonians 2:11. Be ye also enlarged. Treat me as I have treated you (comp. "Be as I am," Galatians 4:12).
2 Corinthians 6:14
Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers. Ewald, followed by Dean Stanley, Holsten, and others, thinks that here there is a sudden dislocation of the argument, and some have even supposed that the section, 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1, is either an after thought written by the apostle on the margin of the Epistle after it was finished; or even an interpolation. The latter view has arisen from the unusual expressions of the section, and the use of the word "Belial," and the command of Greek shown by the varied expressions. There is no adequate ground for these conjectures. Every writer is conscious of moods in which words come to him more fluently than at other times, and all writers of deep feeling, like St. Paul, abound in sudden transitions which correspond to the lightning-like rapidity of their thoughts. It is doubtful whether the readers would not have seen at once the sequence of thought, which depends on circumstances which we can only conjecture. Probably the alienation from St. Paul had its root in some tampering with unbelievers. Such might at any rate have been the case among the Gentile members of the Church, some of whom were even willing to go to sacrificial feasts in heathen temples (1Co 8-10.). "Unequally yoked" is a metaphor derived from Leviticus 19:19 and Deuteronomy 22:10, and is the opposite of "true yoke fellow" (Philippians 4:3). What fellowship; literally, participation (Ephesians 5:6-11). Unrighteousness; literally, lawlessness (1 John 3:4). It was a special mark of heathen life (Romans 7:19). Light with darkness. This antithesis is specially prominent in Ephesians 5:9-11 and Colossians 1:12, Colossians 1:13, and in the writings of St. John (John 1:5; John 3:19; John 1:0 John, passim).
2 Corinthians 6:15
Concord; literally, harmony or accord. The word does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament or in the LXX. The adjective sumphonos occurs in 1 Corinthians 7:5. Christ with Belial (see 1 Corinthians 10:21), Belial. Here used in the form Beliar, as a proper name, because no Greek word ends in the letter τ. In the Old Testament it does not stand for a person, but means "wickedness" or "worthlessness." Thus in Proverbs 6:12 "a naughty person" is adam belial. "A son of Belial" means "a child of wickedness" by a common Hebraism (Deuteronomy 13:13; Judges 19:22). And hence, since Belial only became a proper name in later days—
"To him no temples rose,
No altars smoked."
Perhaps, as has been conjectured, this clause, which contains two such unusual words, may be a quotation. It is, however, no ground of objection that Belial does not occur elsewhere in St. Paul, for until the pastoral Epistles he only uses diabolos twice (Ephesians 4:27; Ephesians 6:11). What part, etc.? This is not, like the other clauses, an illustration, but the statement of the fact itself which "has come in amidst the lively, sweeping flow of the discourse." With an infidel; i.e. with an unconverted Gentile.
2 Corinthians 6:16
What agreement. The word means "unity of composition." This is the fifth synonym which St. Paul has used in this clause—μετοχὴ κοινωνία συμφώνησις, μερὶς συγκατάθεσις. The verb συγκατάθημι occurs in Luke 23:51. St. Paul in this chapter shows an almost unwonted command over the Greek language. With idols (Matthew 6:24; 1 John 5:21). Ye. "We" is the reading of א, B, D, L. Ewald, without sufficient ground, makes it one of his arguments for regarding this section as interpolated. Are the temple of the living God. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit in every Christian heart, which is the distinguishing result of the new covenant, was very prominent in the thoughts of St. Paul. As God hath said. The quotation is altered slightly from the LXX. of Leviticus 26:12. But in this and the next verses we have "a mosaic of citations" from this passage and Exodus 29:45; Isaiah 53:11; Eze 20:34; 2 Samuel 7:14; comp. Jeremiah 31:9; Isaiah 43:6. This mode of compressing the essence of various quotations into one passage was common among the rabbis. In them. In the original Hebrew this means "among them" (Exodus 29:45; Le Exodus 26:12). since the indwelling of God by his Holy Spirit belongs only to the new covenant.
2 Corinthians 6:17
From among them; i.e. from among the unbelievers. Touch not the unclean thing (Le 2 Corinthians 11:8, etc.; Isaiah 52:11). I will receive you (comp. Ezekiel 20:34). These promises to Israel are naturally transferred to the ideal Israel, the Christian Church.
2 Corinthians 6:18
And will be a Father unto you. These reminiscences are sufficiently near to 2 Samuel 7:8-14; Isaiah 43:6; Jeremiah 31:9, to render needless the supposition that they come from any apocryphal book (Ewald) or Jewish hymn (Grotius). Saith the Lord Almighty. The phrase, not elsewhere used by St. Paul, is taken from 2 Samuel 7:8 (LXX.). The epithet indicates the certain fulfilment of the promises. Pantokrator, for "Almighty," is used in the LXX. for "Lord of sabaoth," and in the New Testament only occurs elsewhere in the Apocalypse.
2 Corinthians 6:1, 2 Corinthians 6:2 - The grace of God received in vain.
"We then, as workers together," etc. There are three topics here for meditation.
I. A SUBLIME MISSION. "Workers together with him." What is the grand work in which God is engaged and in which we can cooperate? He is engaged in numerous works—works of creation, government, conservation, in which we can have no hand. The work here is evidently the work spoken of in the preceding chapter—the work of reconciling man to himself, the work which he does in Christ. Now, all genuine ministers cooperate with him in this; their grand endeavour is to bring alienated souls into friendship with him. Blessed partnership this.
II. A SOLEMN POSSIBILITY. "Receive not the grace of God in vain." The grace of God here evidently refers to the offer of this reconciliation. This may be looked upon objectively or subjectively. Objectively it is the gospel, which is called the "gospel of the grace of God;" subjectively it is personal Christianity. It may be received "in vain" in two forms. Many have the offer of reconciliation and reject it, and to them the offer has been received "in vain." It is possible for those who have personally experienced it to lose it. The free agency of man, the exhortations of the Scriptures, and the facts of apostasy—as in the case of David, Peter, etc.—show the possibility of losing this. No greater calamity can happen to a man than to receive this "grace in vain;" hence the earnestness of the apostle.
III. A SUPREME OPPORTUNITY. "For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation." To use the words of a modern writer, "There is, so to speak, a 'now' running through the ages. For each Church and nation, for each individual soul, there is a golden present that may never again recur, and in which lie boundless possibilities for the future. The words of the apostle are, as it were, the transfigured expression of the generalization of a wide experience, which tells us that there is a tide in the affairs of men.'"
2 Corinthians 6:3-8 - The highest office injured by its officer.
"Giving no offence in any thing," etc. Paul was engaged in the highest office—the office of reconciling men to God; in this he was a coworker with the Infinite, and here he refers to—
I. AN EVIL TO WHICH MINISTERS OF THE GOSPEL ARE LIABLE. The evil referred to is bringing blame upon the ministry. "Giving no offence in anything, that the ministry be not blamed." So perverse is man that he often degrades some of the highest offices he is called to sustain. There are merchants that degrade commerce, doctors that degrade medicine, judges that degrade justice, statesmen that degrade legislation, kings that degrade the throne; but, what is worse far, there have been ministers who have degraded the ministry, and there are such still, ignorant men, intolerant men, worldly men, unspiritual men, blatant dogmatists. Ah me! how the pulpit is often degraded!
II. AN EVIL WHICH MUST BE AVOIDED AT ANY COST. See what Paul did and suffered to avoid this stupendous evil. "But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses," etc. Mark:
1. How he suffered in order to maintain the honour of the ministry. "Afflictions," "necessities," "distresses," "stripes," "imprisonments," "tumults," "labours," "watchings," "fastings," etc.
2. How he wrought in order to maintain the honour of the ministry. By "pureness," "knowledge," "long suffering," "kindness," etc. He learned to labour and to wait. "Neither count I my life dear unto myself, that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God." The ministry in these days is too often degraded into a trade, a profession, a medium for the gratification of the vanity, ambition, and the greed of men. The millions have come to call churches and chapels "preaching shops." One of the greatest trades carried on in this commercial age is, perhaps, the trade in the gospel
2 Corinthians 6:9, 2 Corinthians 6:10 - "Things are not what they seem."
"As unknown, and yet well known," etc. Against misrepresentations and slanders, Paul, in the context, vindicates his apostolic authority, and proclaims at the same time the unworldly principle which animated both him and his fellow workers. These words present to us the two opposite sides of a good man's life—the secular and the spiritual The side revealed, as seen by man, and the side in the sight of God.
I. TO THE SECULAR EYE HE WAS UNKNOWN; TO THE SPIRITUAL WELL KNOWN. "As unknown, and yet well known." The world has never yet rightly interpreted and understood the real life of a genuine disciple of Christ. To the world, Paul appeared an ignominious fanatic. John says, "The world knoweth us not." The world does not understand self-sacrificing love, the animating, shaping, directing principle of a godly man's life. It understands ambition, greed, revenge, but not this. Hence men in every age, so far as they have come under the rule of this "new commandment," have been regarded as monsters unworthy of life. This explains martyrdom, ay, and the crucifixion of Christ. But, though thus unknown to men, they are well known to others.
1. Well known to Christ. "I know my sheep." Christ knows all his disciples.
2. Well known to heavenly spirits. They are famous in heaven. At their conversion heaven rejoiced, and over every step of their subsequent history heaven watches with a loving care.
II. TO THE SECULAR EYE HE WAS DYING; TO THE SPIRITUAL HE WAS LIVING, "As dying, and, behold, we live." To worldly men Paul appeared as mortal as other men; with a frame scourged by persecution, shattered by perils, wasted by labour and want, he was nothing but a dying man. His contemporaries knew that he would soon run himself out, and mingle with the dust of all departed men. But spiritually he was living. "Behold, we live." The soul within that dying body of his was living a wonderful life—a life of Christly inspiration and aims, a life of communion with heaven; a life destined to become more sunny, vigorous, and beautiful with every aspiration and act. Living is not body breathing, but spirit acting, acting according to the Divine laws of our constitution.
III. TO THE SECULAR EYE HE WAS MUCH TRIED; TO THE SPIRITUAL HE WAS NOT DESTROYED. "Chastened, and not killed." The word "chastened" here refers, I think, to his various scourgings, suffered in the synagogues and elsewhere. To worldly spectators he, with all his wounds, would appear a dead man; but he was spiritually alive. The hardships and the strifes did not touch his soul; his spiritual purposes, enjoyments, and hopes were not killed. Spiritual life is unkillable; like certain plants in the vegetable kingdom, which have their germs or roots so deep down in the soil, and so thoroughly mixed up with it, that, though you cut down the trunk, or pull up the roots from the earth, their life will break out again.
IV. TO THE SECULAR EYE HE WAS VERY SORROWFUL; TO THE SPIRITUAL HE WAS ALWAYS REJOICING. "As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing." As if Paul had said, "Under our sufferings, we seem to be very cast down and sad; dreary, degraded, and wretched does our life seem to the worldly men around us." So it often is with the life of a Christian man. But, on the spiritual side, a truly godly man is "always rejoicing," rejoicing in a good conscience, rejoicing in a stream of pure and noble thoughts, rejoicing in a consciousness of Divine favour.
V. TO THE SECULAR EYE HE WAS VERY POOR; TO THE SPIRITUAL HE WAS WEALTH GIVING. "As poor, yet making many rich." Paul and his colleagues were poor; they had suffered the loss of all things. Yet spiritually they were not only rich, but made others rich.
1. The highest work of man is to impart spiritual riches to his brother man.
2. Worldly poverty does not disqualify a man for the discharge of this sublime mission.
VI. TO THE SECULAR EYE HE WAS DESTITUTE; TO THE SPIRITUAL HE WAS ENORMOUSLY RICH. "Having nothing, and yet possessing all things." Nothing of this world's good, yet "possessing all things," not legally, but morally. Christliness gives us an interest in all things. "All things are yours."
Do not estimate life by appearances—things are not what they seem. Christliness with poverty, persecution, and suffering, is infinitely to be preferred to wickedness with the whole world at its command.
2 Corinthians 6:11-13 - Genuine Christian love.
"O ye Corinthians," etc. Notice—
I. ITS POWER. What does it do? It enlarges the heart. "Our heart is enlarged" The heart means the whole spiritual nature, and this spiritual nature is capable of indefinite expansion and Christian love, and nothing else can effect this. A man's intellect may be expanded by ideas, but his heart, out of which are "the issues of life," only by love. What a difference between the heart of a miser or a bigot to the heart of a Paul, a Howard, or a Fenelon! Selfishness contracts the soul into a grub, love expands it into a seraph. Therefore "covet earnestly the best gift," that is, love.
II. ITS IRREPRESSIBILITY. "Our mouth is open unto you." A large heart is so full of loving sympathies and aims that speech becomes a necessity. "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." The language of love is the language of nature, the language of eloquence, the language of inspiration.
III. ITS HUNGER. What does it hunger for? "Ye are not straitened in us, but ye are straitened in your own bowels ['affections,' or 'hearts']," etc. Paul states that their hearts towards him were "straitened," or narrow, compared with his to them. He entreats them to be "enlarged," and thus "recompense" or return his affections. Love, by a necessity of its nature, hungers for a return of its affections from the object on which it is bestowed. Paul did not ask them for their money, or their patronage or praise, but simply for a return of the love which he had for them.
2 Corinthians 6:14-18 - Unequally yoked.
"Be ye not unequally yoked," etc. Observe here three things.
I. THERE IS AN ESSENTIAL SPIRITUAL DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THOSE WHO ARE TRULY CONVERTED TO CHRISTIANITY AND THOSE WHO ARE NOT. The line of demarcation is broad and conspicuous. The difference is the difference:
1. Between "righteousness and unrighteousness."
2. Between "light and darkness."
3. Between Christ and Satan. "What concord hath Christ with Belial?"
4. Between faith and infidelity. "What part hath he that believeth with an infidel?"
5. Between the "temple of God" and the "temple of idols."
II. NOTWITHSTANDING THE SPIRITUAL DIFFERENCE, THE CONVERTED ARE IN DANGER OF BEING ASSOCIATED WITH THE UNCONVERTED. Hence the command, "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers." Also the command, "Come out from among them." Alas! we find such association in almost every department of life—in the matrimonial, the commercial, the political, etc.
III. FROM SUCH AN ASSOCIATION IT IS THE DUTY OF THE CONVERTED TO EXTRICATE THEMSELVES. "Wherefore come out from among them," etc. Observe two things.
1. The nature of the separation. "Come out from among them." It must be:
(1) Voluntary. Not to be driven out, but you must break away from all the ties that bind you. Agonize to enter the "strait gate."
(2) Entire. "Touch not the unclean thing." Sin is an unclean thing—unclean in its essence, its phases, and its influences.
2. The encouragement to the separation. "I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters." As a Father, what does God do for his children?
(1) He loves them. His love is the fountain of all the love in the universe. All the love that human parents have for their children is but one drop from the boundless ocean.
(2) He educates them. Who teaches like God? He teaches the best lesson, in the best way, for the best end. He educates the whole soul, not for temporal purposes, but for ends spiritual and everlasting.
(3) He guards them, Human parents can only guard the bodies of their children. This Father guards the soul—the conscience from guilt, the heart from impurity, the intellect from error, etc.
(4) He provides for them. The best of human parents can only provide for their children a few supplies for their bodies, and that for a time only. This great Father provides for the soul, and provides forever. "He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think."
HOMILIES BY C. LIPSCOMB
2 Corinthians 6:1-10 - Appeal growing out of the foregoing argument.
The grace of God had been manifested in the reconciliation of which he had been treating; and this reconciliation had its period, or season, special as to its character and advantages. Everything has relation to time. Life has infancy, childhood, youth—successive eras. Nature has her seasons. It was now God's receiving time, a dispensation of mercy, an acceptable time, a day of salvation. So sensible was St. Paul of this fact that he, as a coworker with God, pressed the exhortation on the Corinthians not to neglect the grace of God freely vouchsafed in this auspicious time. Good influences were conspiring in their favour; "receive not the grace of God in vain." It was a coworking period. Out of the turmoil, the strife of tongues, the collisions within the Church and without, doctrines were emerging into clearer view, and, as doctrines were better understood, duties would be more faithfully discharged. Had not these Corinthians been revived and strengthened of late? Had they not heeded his affectionate warning and purified the Church? It was a season for continued and enlarging coworking, the Holy Spirit and the Church combining in an effort, peculiarly desirable then, to extend Christ's kingdom. And what was he doing to this end? For his part he was studious to put no stumbling block in the way of others, lest the ministry be reproached. That was the prudence which wards off evil. It has grave duties. It is vigilant, able to see the approach of danger and measure the extent of the peril. It is prompt to set in a precautionary manner. Yet this was only one part of a coworker's duty. On the other hand, then, he was intent on commending himself to their confidence and affection, and by what means? The portraiture of St. Paul as a coworker is now presented. Previously to this he had sketched himself (see 2 Corinthians 2:1-17., 2 Corinthians 2:3., 2 Corinthians 2:4.) in certain specific relations, such for instance as an "able minister," and as one who carried his treasure in an "earthen vessel;" but it was now his purpose to delineate himself and his experience with reference to a particular end. To be a cooperator, patience is the first virtue required. He speaks, therefore, at the outset, of "much patience," and assuredly he did not mistake the basic position of this great quality. He mentions nine forms of suffering which have been regarded by some commentators as constituting three classes, viz.: afflictions or general calamities, necessities, distresses, the leading idea being pressure, or "narrow straits;" then stripes, imprisonments, tumults, referrable to the popular excitement against him as a preacher; and lastly, labours, watchings, fastings, as indicative of ministerial experience: In all these things patience was exercised, keeping him steadfast, enabling him to endure, and preserving his mind in the peace of Christ. It is a description of one whose body was open on all sides the invasions of pain as the infliction of opposition and malice; and again, of one whose mind had anxieties and sorrows originating in its own sense of responsibility. Body wrought upon mind, mind upon body. Under these conditions the coworker had to proceed with his task—patience "much patience." being the cardinal excellence of his character. But, further, the coworker speaks of purity, knowledge, long- suffering, kindness, endowments of the Spirit, sincere love; and again, he speaks or the word of truth, how he worked with God's power, and fought also with an armour of righteousness, right hand and left hand engaged in the conflict. Just here the mind of St. Paul reacts from its subjective state, the enumeration of his moral virtues is suspended, and the idea of conflict brings back the "afflictions" alluded to (2 Corinthians 6:4). Nearly all his transitions occur in one of two ways, either as the immediate product of a physical sensation or as the result of some exciting thought, having its source in his train of reflection. At the instant when the image of battle comes before him, the coworker has the doctrine and morality of the gospel to defend against fierce, vindictive, might assailants. The honor of his position and the glory of Christ as the Captain of his salvation are at stake. Sword and shield are in hand, and for what is he fighting and how? "Armor of righteousness is very expressive. The great truth was in his mind foremost as a restraint as well as an impulse, the truth so ably argued in the previous chapter that we are "made the righteousness of God in him." Give the ethical philosopher all the credit he deserves; honour the moralist who strives to protect society from immorality; and yet it is very obvious that a man who feels himself set for the defence of the "righteousness of God" as manifested in Christ stands on ground infinitely higher than the mere philosopher and moralist. This cannot be denied; such a man has a spirit, a motive, an end, far remote from the others, and peculiar to the sphere he fills. What the apostle fights for is righteousness. And how is he fighting? It is important that we should see his temper, his tactics, his whole method of conducting the campaign. Men who ostensibly fight for righteousness are not always righteous fighters. "I will not trust in my bow, neither shall my sword save me," said one of the psalmists. "Make haste to help me, O Lord my salvation," was David's prayer. "Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of," were the words of Jesus when the "sons of thunder" wished to call down fire from heaven on the Samaritan village. Michael the archangel, in contention with the devil, "durst not bring against him a railing accusation." A bad spirit is not allowable even towards Satan, nor can an archangel go beyond "The Lord rebuke thee." Now, the apostle speaks of himself as fully armed for offensive and defensive warfare. And the fight goes on amid honour and dishonour, praise and cheer from friends, hostility and contempt from enemies; by evil report and good report; vilified as a deceiver, but yet a true man; as unknown ("obscure nobodies") to men, but known to God; as dying, and behold, out of perils, life springs renewed and enlarged; chastened as a discipline needed for a spiritual warrior who was meantime in everything a coworker with Christ; a sorrowful man in the estimation of many, but in reality always rejoicing; poor, working with our own hands for a living, but making many rich in spiritual blessings; and, finally, having nothing, and yet—glorious paradox—possessing in Christ all things.—L.
2 Corinthians 6:11-18 - His warmth of affection; anxiety of the apostle lest the grace of God be received in vain.
The ruling thought of the chapter is twofold. St. Paul, the ambassador, is a fellow worker with God in Christ, and as such he is deeply concerned that the Church at Corinth should not fail to use its means and opportunity for salvation then within reach. A critical period had come in its history, and he saw it very clearly. What so sagacious as love? what love so abounding as his? "O ye Corinthians," out of the depths of my heart, the heart just described—out of its purity, knowledge, long-suffering; "O ye Corinthians," by my kindness, by the Spirit of God in me, by love unfeigned; "O ye Corinthians," amid my chastenings from God and my afflictions from men;—whom I have besought not to receive the grace of God in vain, once more I pray you hearken. "Our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged." Only a very large and roomy nature could have entertained the thoughts and feelings, could have suffered, could have passed through the experiences which had just been described; but various and multiplied as were that heart's burdens and tribulations, it had ample space for his brethren at Corinth. "Ye are not straitened in us [no narrow place you occupy in our affection], but ye are straitened in your own bowels [narrowness in your love for us]," the word "bowels" being used to express the seat of the feelings. "For a recompense [return of love]… be ye also enlarged," and he asks this as a father seeking affection from his children. A sudden break occurs in the movement of thought. Did the use of the word "children" quicken a feeling akin to parental solicitude? Or did the sorrows he was undergoing in behalf of this Church at Corinth, a moment before so vividly pictured, give him a new insight into the dangers surrounding its members? Or was he recalling the supreme truth in his theology, the atoning death of Christ, and the righteousness that came to us and became a part of us? One in whose mind associations gathered so very rapidly and suggestions arose with such spontaneous vigour would probably feel the sudden return of the ideas and images on which he had been dwelling. A peculiarity with him is this partial development of a thought on its first appearance in his intellect. A similar law is traceable in his emotional nature. There is a second production, and this "aftermath" is very valuable. The subject under consideration (2 Corinthians 6:14-18) had engaged attention in the First Epistle, and he now reverts to it under the apprehension that these Corinthians, who were particularly exposed to the "evil communications" that "corrupt good manners," might receive the grace of God in vain. If there had been a strong reaction against the Judaizing party in the Corinthian Church, that may have introduced unusual hazards as to Gentilism. Reactions, no matter how wise and truthful in themselves, always involve more or less danger. Facts are distorted, truths are mixed with prejudices, and the victory is our victory. Generally, indeed, only when time has befriended our infirmities and given us an opportunity to recover from reactions are we put in an attitude to see and judge with entire fairness. But, whatever the impulse at the moment on St. Paul's mind, his words are surcharged with energy. Question hastens after question. "Unequally yoked together with unbelievers" is the trumpet note of alarm. What the union was he does not specify. It may have been promiscuous intercourse with heathens, or participation in idol festivals, or mixed marriages. Whichever it was, it was unequal yoking, a very ill-devised union; and under how many aspects did it deserve condemnation? The heart of the evil is exposed; could righteousness have fellowship with unrighteousness, light commune with darkness, Christ have concord with Satan, believers have part with infidels, the temple of God agree with idols? Metaphors multiply, as they commonly do with him when excited. By their profession of Christ they were pledged to depart from all iniquity, especially all associations that might revive their former Gentile tastes and habits, most especially those social usages which identified them with idolatry. Quoting twice from the Old Testament (Leviticus and Isaiah), he shows what the true religion demanded of its subjects in its earlier stage under Moses and its later under the prophets, in both cases separation from a world given over to heathenism. Only by means of this line of demarcation between them and the corruptions of society would God acknowledge them as his people, walk in their midst, and be a Father unto them. "Touch not the unclean thing." It was the language of Judaism from her tabernacle in the wilderness, from her temple in Jerusalem, and now reaffirmed and emphasized anew and with most solemn intensity by Christianity. St. Paul saw that history repeats itself. Not otherwise were it history. The peril of the gospel was precisely that which had wrecked Judaism. From this point of view it is profitable to re-read this earnest chapter. Chrysostom and others have spoken of its lofty eloquence. Stanley, Robertson, Webster, and Wilkinson have taught us to appreciate the breadth of its ideas and the classical force of its diction. It is a chapter of warning from the memorials of the past, as that past demonstrates most signally the jealousy of God's rule over men. On the one hand, we have the terrible fascinations of that spirit of idolatry which in some form or other is the besetting sin of the human race, the innate disposition to supplant Jehovah, the fatal surrender to "the god of this world," never so blinding as when he makes men as gods unto themselves. On the other hand, we have the visible symbols of God's presence among his people in the temple and its institutions, and further, the proof of the Spirit's power in their hearts, his actual indwelling and sanctifying agency. Yet this grace may be received in vain. The higher the gift, the more freedom in its use. No sooner has the apostle set forth the fact that God was in Christ recovering the world unto himself, than the magnitude of the risk presses on his attention. The risk was altogether in man. It was a risk, moreover, in the Christian man who had received grace and might lose its influence. Law had been violated, but Christ, as the eternal Son of God, had expiated the guilt, and by faith we accepted him as the Divine Reconciler. Man's responsibility had utterly failed under Law; would it fail under grace? If it did, there was an end of hope, since there remaineth no other sacrifice for sin. St. Paul was aware of the local circumstances that enhanced the dangers of the Corinthians. The style of the appeal recognizes this fact. Let it not be forgotten, however, that, while men as men have these local surroundings, Christianity deals with man as man, and, accordingly, the warning is addressed to us not to receive the grace of God in vain. Our probation goes on in the midst of contingencies; temptation and trial are things most completely shut out from ordinary modes of calculation, and no prophetic eye reads our future. Yet this very sense of uncertainty is the most merciful of all providential arrangements. It is a source of great power. Except for its keen sensitiveness, our liability to evil would be far greater. Apprehension acts in two ways—it constantly reduces the amount of evil existing; and again, it fortifies us to resist the evil that remains. Now, Christianity operates in both these modes. With the latter only have we now to do. The problem forevery individual Christian is the efficiency of grace in his resistance to Satanic influence. So far as the Scriptures teach us on this subject, Jesus Christ had no temptations save those which Satan offered; and, while we have no warrant to say this of believers, we may safely affirm that it is the reconciled man in Christ, "made the righteousness of God in him," who is the object of Satan's sharpest assaults. To destroy the power of grace in the child of God is his unceasing effort. Now, this grace is received through two great channels—the conscience and the affections. St. Paul is referring continually to these organs of spiritual activity, and hence, we infer, that he would have his converts most earnest at these points. Conscience must be enlightened by the gospel and directed by the Spirit. It must be a conscience of that righteousness we have in Christ and through Christ, external to us as the ground of justification, internal to us as the regenerating and sanctifying work of the Holy Ghost. "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death." But this sense of righteousness in the conscience must act likewise in the affections, or it cannot be "the law of the Spirit of life." If, then, St. Paul commended the gospel "to every man's conscience in the sight of God," was he content to rest here? "O ye Corinthians,… our heart is enlarged." Open your hearts, open them freely, open them as mine is opened unto you. If they would thus realize the righteousness of Christ, they could not receive the grace of God in vain. It is here, while speaking of the enlarged heart, that he appeals to them as his children. "Be ye also enlarged." Here we see how grace is lost; the heart, instead of expanding, is narrowed and cramped. Ministers must preach the gospel of love; and, to do this, they must be lovely in spirit and conduct. Christians must accept the grace of the gospel in hearts that enlarge, so that growth in loveliness may develop strength of character in its most enduring form. Just at this point backsliding sets in. No man's conscience begins to be blinded till his heart begins to be narrowed. Sympathy is checked; openness of feeling arrested; giving to charitable objects abated; cordiality of intercourse with ministers and members of the Church supplanted by fault finding, prejudice, and censoriousness; and then conscience becomes careless, then inert, then callous, and grace dies in the soul. The enlarging heart is the secret of growth. Nor is there any growth so beautiful as this in itself and so inspiriting as an example to others. Its fellowship is with souls that are its kindred in Christ; its communion with that wisdom and purity symbolized by light; its concord with him who took upon himself our nature that we might bear his image; its part or share is in the possession of holiness; and its capacity is a temple, or habitation, of which "God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them."—L.
HOMILIES BY J.R. THOMSON
2 Corinthians 6:1 - "Workers together."
One who is sent upon a mission, who fills the office of an ambassador, is evidently one who, however he works, does not work alone. He is the representative of the court from which he is sent, by which he is accredited. When the apostle thought of his life mission, especially when he thought of its difficulties, it was natural that he should recall to his own mind the fact that God, who had commissioned him, was working with him and giving efficacy to his labours. And, in writing to others, it was appropriate that he should remind them that they had to deal, not merely with a fellow man, but with a fellow man who was supported and authorized by Divine wisdom and grace.
I. GOD WORKS. He not only wrought the earth and the heavens, which are "the work of his fingers:" he follows his work of creation by the unceasing work of providential care, government, and oversight. The laws of nature are the ways in which God works. And the spiritual realm is his highest and noblest sphere of operation, in which he is carrying out his holy purposes.
II. MEN, WHEN THEY WORK SUCCESSFULLY, WORK WITH GOD. Take two illustrations. The husbandman toils through all the changing seasons of the year, and in his ploughing, sowing, and reaping depends upon the processes of nature, i.e. works along with God. The physician studies the human frame, and, when it is diseased, seeks its recovery to health through cooperation with the laws of the various organs and tissues of' the body, and succeeds only by working with God. So is it in the spiritual sphere. The preacher of Christianity makes use of God's truth and relies upon God's Spirit; any other method must involve failure and discouragement.
III. HUMAN LABOURERS WORK IN SUBJECTION TO THE DIVINE LORD. There is no equality in this fellowship. God can dispense with any man's services, however great, wise, and good he may be. No man can dispense with the counsel and the aid of Heaven.
1. In the recognition of this lies the labourer's strength.
2. And the dignity attaching to his position and office, which is not personal, but ministerial.
3. And the responsibility of all for whose welfare the Christian labourer toils. Such are bound to consider, not the human minister merely, but the Divine Lord, whose servant and messenger he is.—T.
2 Corinthians 6:2 - The acceptable time.
As an ambassador for Christ, Paul used both authority end persuasion in urging his readers and hearers to take advantage of the opportunity afforded them of reconciliation with God through Jesus Christ. And he very naturally and justly pressed upon them an immediate attention to the summons, the invitation of Divine grace. There are reasons why delay should be avoided, why acceptance should be unhesitating.
I. THE BLESSING. This is set before us in two lights.
1. On the Divine side, we observe that God is ready both to hear end to succour. To hear the cry of those in danger, the petition of those in want. To succour those who are in present distress and who are unable to deliver themselves from their afflictions.
2. On the human side, we observe that men may be accepted and reconciled, that they may be delivered and saved. The salvation here proffered is spiritual and eternal.
II. THE OPPORTUNITY. It is not for us to speculate as to God's reasons, so to speak, for limiting the day of grace and of visitation. We have to deal with the fact that there is a period during which the blessings of salvation may be sought and secured. The first advent of our Saviour may be fixed as the terminus a quo of this period, the second advent as the terminus ad quem. During the Christian era, the dispensation of the Holy Spirit, the gospel is preached to all men, and the invitation is freely offered to those who need to apply, with the assurance that their request shall not be refused.
III. THE APPEAL. The blessing is great and adapted to the.case of the sinner; the opportunity is precious and not to be despised without guilt and folly. What, then, follows? Surely the appeal is powerful and timely; it deserves the immediate attention of all to whom the gospel comes.
1. The conditions are such that they may be at once fulfilled. The call is to obey God, to believe in Christ, to repent of sin, to live anew.
2. Nothing can be advanced to justify delay. Delay is unreasonable, dangerous, and foolish. To neglect the appeal would be to defy and displease God.
3. Those of every age and condition are alike placed in this position of privilege and of responsibility.—T.
2 Corinthians 6:4 - "Ministers of God."
Man is not meant to be a law or an end unto himself. He finds the true secret of his being, who lives, not unto himself, but unto his Lord. To take employment under a wise and holy Master, to engage in a spiritual service, to look up daily for direction and for blessing, to aim at the glory of the Eternal,—this is the true vocation and the true happiness of man. Paul found his strength for labour and his consolation in suffering, not in anything personal, but in losing and merging himself in his Lord and King.
I. THE MASTER. Our Lord has bidden us call no man master, by which he directs our attention to the fact that we receive our instructions for duty and our revelations of truth, not from human, but from Divine authority. God is, to those who accept service under him, a wise, just, forbearing, considerate, and liberal Master. In him we find one free from all imperfections of knowledge, and all flaws of character, such as must be expected in all human governors.
II. THE SERVICE. In its outward aspects this varies in different cases, so that the life work of no two men is quite the same.
"How many serve! how many more
May to the service come!—
To tend the vines, the grapes to store,
Thou dost appoint for some:
Thou hast thy young men at the war,
Thy little ones at home."
III. THE OBLIGATIONS OF SPIRITUAL SERVANTS.
1. Obedience. This is indispensable. The vow which Christians take is that they will be the Lord's servants to obey him.
2. Fidelity. The allegiance due to the Divine Lord must, upon no consideration, be transferred to another; his cause must not be betrayed.
3. Readiness to suffer in the path of devotion. The context shows us that this was an element in Paul's conception of true ministry.
IV. THE RECOMPENSE.
1. This is entirely of grace; the purest and the best have no claim to it.
2. Success in ministry is the true servant's best reward.
3. With this is conjoined approval on the Master's part.
4. And the recompense is imperishable and immortal.—T.
2 Corinthians 6:7 - "The armour of righteousness."
There was something soldierly both in the nature and in the life course of the Apostle Paul. His resolution, courage, fortitude, capacity for endurance, fidelity to his spiritual Commander, were all high military qualities. We do not wonder that he made in his writings use so frequent and so effective of the warrior's life. The Christian's career, and much more emphatically the apostolic career, appeared to him one large campaign. Hence his reliance upon "the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left."
I. THE CHRISTIAN'S NEED OF SPIRITUAL ARMOUR.
1. His foes are many, active, vigilant, formidable, untiring.
2. The warfare to which he is called is accordingly perilous and serious.
3. His own natural resources are utterly inadequate for his defence.
II. THE NATURE OF THE CHRISTIAN'S SPIRITUAL ARMOUR.
1. It is not physical, or carnal, but moral.
2. It is described in one word as "the armour of righteousness," as opposed to fraud and cunning and iniquity of every kind.
3. It is adapted to the several necessities of the welfare. Vide Ephesians 6:1-24., where the several weapons are enumerated and described.
III. THE PURPOSES WHICH THE CHRISTIAN'S ARMOUR EFFECTS.
1. The right hand of the warrior wields the sword; and this is the emblem of the weapon of attack which the Christian grasps—even "the sword of the Spirit," which is the Word of God.
2. The left hand of the warrior holds the shield, which is the symbol of that mighty principle of faith, which is the defensive weapon used by every soldier in the spiritual warfare, with which he quenches the fiery darts of the evil one.
IV. THE RESULTS OF THE WARFARE WAGED BY THE CHRISTIAN THROUGH THE USE OF HIS SPIRITUAL ARMOUR.
1. To himself, security and honour. He is delivered from his foes, and he fights the good fight of faith.
2. To his cause, victory. Righteousness is destined to conquer; there is no uncertainty as to the issues of the holy war.
3. To his Commander, great and growing renown, as his foes are vanquished and his kingdom is consolidated and extended.—T.
2 Corinthians 6:16 - A temple of God.
The temple at Jerusalem, built for the glory of Jehovah, and honoured by him as his dwelling place and shrine, was as edifice quite unique. No material structure can with justice be said to have replaced it; for, when the old dispensation passed away, all local and material sanctity vanished, and a spiritual dispensation surpassed as well as abolished the glory that had been. The body of Christ was the temple of God, and when that had been taken down, the only temple which remained was the spiritual edifice, built of living stones and inhabited by the Holy Spirit of God.
I. THE RESPECTS IN WHICH THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH IS THE TEMPLE OF THE LIVING GOD.
1. Christians are separated from the world around. As the temple as Jerusalem was different from all other edifices, so the spiritual society designated the Church is distinct from the common and secular associations which men form for their own convenience, advantage, or pleasure.
2. In this spiritual temple the living God makes his chosen dwelling place. The Lord loved the gates of Zion: he revealed his glory in the Shechinah-cloud; he was sought and found in his sanctuary. In like manner the Eternal chooses the hearts of his people for his congenial abode, where he makes himself known, and especially reveals his holiness and his grace.
3. The Church is the scene of worship; there praise, prayer, and sacrifices of obedience are offered to God and accepted by him.
II. THE PECULIAR CHARACTERISTICS OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH AS THE TEMPLE OF GOD.
1. It is holy.
2. It is universal, extending throughout the world; and including within it men of every race and of every condition.
3. It is enduring. For, whilst the individual members disappear from sight, those who quit the Church militant do so only to join the Church triumphant. And whilst human societies, organizations, and states pass away, this Divine society loses nothing of its glory, but lives from age to age.
4. It is growing, Every several stone built into it adds to its majestic proportions, and prepares for its final completeness; it "groweth an holy temple unto the Lord."
III. THE PRACTICAL OBLIGATIONS LAID UPON ALL THE MEMBERS OF THE CHURCH IN RESPECT OF THEIR INCORPORATION IN THE SPIRITUAL TEMPLE.
1. They are called upon to Uphold the dignity of their calling and position.
2. And to maintain that purity which is their distinctive quality—to be "separate, and to touch no unclean thing."
3. And to seek the consolidation and unity of the spiritual edifice.
4. And at the same time to strive after its enlargement and ultimate completeness.—T.
2 Corinthians 6:18 - Father and children.
No human relation is close enough and no human language is strong enough to set forth the union which subsists between God and his people. They are the temple, he is the Deity inhabiting, inspiring, and glorifying the sacred and spiritual edifice. Nay, he is the Father, and they the sons and daughters whom he has adopted and whom he loves.
I. THE NATURAL BASIS OF THIS RELATION BETWEEN GOD AND HIS PEOPLE. This has ever been recognized by the thoughtful and pious. Even heathen philosophers and poets could say of themselves and their fellow men, "We also are his offspring." Created by his power, sustained by his bounty, cared for by his wisdom and goodness, the children of men are also the children of God.
II. THE REDEMPTIVE ELEVATION OF THIS RELATIONSHIP. The old covenant contained intimations of the Divine fatherhood, as is apparent from the language of the text. But it was in the gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ that this truth was fully realized. "Ye are all the children of God through faith in Jesus Christ." The Spirit of adoption makes and seals the true believers in Christ as members of the Divine family, it is to his fellow Christians that the Apostle John exclaims, "Beloved, now are we the children of God." It is in the case of those who are born anew of water and of the Spirit that the relation in question is made unmistakably evident; the spiritual features of the Father are, so to speak, reproduced, and the subjection and obedience of the children evinces their sacred kindred.
III. THE INNUMERABLE PROOFS OF GOD'S FATHERHOOD. God is not satisfied simply to be called our Father; he feels and acts like a Father. He provides for his children all that is necessary for their spiritual well being and happiness, supplies their wants, directs their steps, defends them from danger, comforts them in sorrow. And, above all, he assures them an abode in his own—in the Father's—house, where they shall forever enjoy the blessedness, the fellowship, the glory of a sacred, secure, and everlasting home. Thus both in this world and in the world to come the gracious Parent justifies his Name and fulfils his promises.
IV. THE EXPECTED RESPONSE OF FILIAL LOVE AND OBEDIENCE. Alas! how often is this withheld, or very partially and inadequately rendered! Yet in the hearts of God's true children there resides a principle which impels to childlike love and service. God has a right to his children's reverence and service, gratitude and love, devotion and consecration. "If I be a Father," he asks, "where is my honour?" Nothing that we can do can ever sufficiently express the sense we ought to cherish of the infinite love and pity, forbearance and generosity, of our heavenly Father. It is for his children to witness to his faithfulness, to hallow his Name, to cherish his revelation, and to do his will.—T.
HOMILIES BY E. HURNDALL
2 Corinthians 6:2 - "Now...now."
I. GOD HAS PROVIDED A SALVATION FOR MEN. This salvation
(1) is in Christ;
(2) is to be obtained by repentance and faith;
(3) embraces justification and sanctification;
(4) results in present joy, holy and useful life; and
(5) in these in far higher degree, and eternally, in heaven.
II. THE OPPORTUNITY FOR SECURING THIS SALVATION IS LIMITED TO THE PRESENT.
1. The present age.
2. In an individual to his brief life on earth.
No unsaved one can afford to waste any time; no saved one will want to. Salvation is so great a matter that it should be sought instantly. To miss it is to miss everything. If we get nought but this, we should see to it that we get this. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness" (Matthew 6:33).
III. TENDENCIES TO PROCRASTINATE ARE OFTEN STRONG. Such pleas as the following have power with not a few:
(1) there is time enough;
(2) after temporal matters are arranged we can attend to spiritual;
(3) pleasure must be tasted, after that seriousness;
(4) it will be easier to repent and believe "tomorrow."
This reflects the human view, and the Satanic (for Satan is a great advocate of delay). The Divine is otherwise: "Now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation."
IV. THE PERILS OF DELAY.
1. Life may be cut short speedily and suddenly.
2. Painful sickness prior to death may render attention to spiritual concerns practically impossible.
3. Desire for salvation may pass away.
4. The heart may be fatally hardened.
5. The Spirit may cease to strive. "God is not mocked."
V. THE SINFULNESS OF DELAY.
1. What an insult to God!
2. What a return for the love and sacrifice of Christ!
3. What a pernicious example!
4. What an injustice to ourselves!
VI. THE DIVINE URGENCY. When Paul is intensely earnest in this matter it is because God makes him so. It is the Divine mind declared by a servant. And so of all faithful ministers; their voices are echoes of the voice of God. Christ on earth cried, "Repent." "Wherefore even as the Holy Ghost saith, Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts" (Hebrews 3:7, Hebrews 3:8). The Divine message of salvation is pressed upon the instant attention of those to whom it is delivered. We cannot wonder at the urgency of God, for:
1. God knows the tendencies of our nature.
2. God knows what loss of salvation involves.—H.
2 Corinthians 6:3-10 - Not hindering the gospel.
I. PAUL'S GREAT ANXIETY NOT TO HINDER THE GOSPEL. He preached the gospel faithfully and with utmost earnestness, but:
1. He guarded anxiously against lessening the effect of his preaching by his conduct.
2. He realized that life speaks as well as verbal utterance.
3. That what is built up by the lip is often pulled down by the life.
II. PAUL'S EFFORTS TO AVOID IN LIFE AND CONDUCT THAT WHICH MIGHT HINDER THE GOSPEL. He sought not to give offence in anything (2 Corinthians 6:3). He dreaded proving a stumbling block to his hearers. So in every way he endeavoured to commend himself as a true minister of God, and thus to advance the cause which he had at heart. Illustrated:
1. In his endurance of trial and suffering. Here he exhibited amazing patience and fortitude.
(1) In those of a general kind. Afflictions, necessities, distresses. Of these he had a large share. Ministers, especially very active and devoted ones, must be prepared for a like experience.
(2) In those inflicted by enemies. Stripes, imprisonments, tumults. These were largely occasioned by his faithfulness to the gospel. He was so faithful to the gospel that he would bear these in such a spirit as to further advance that gospel among men. That which his enemies intended as a check he would transform into a help.
(3) In those of voluntary origin. Labours; working with own hands for support, and toiling in the ministry. Watchings; sleepless nights in travel, peril, and sickness occasioned by exposure or excessive effort. Fastings; "foodlessness"—he was often hungry when, if less devoted, he might have had abundance.
2. In the conduct of his ministry and life.
(1) Pureness. Chaste living. Disinterestedness. Singleness of motive.
(2) Knowledge. Knowledge of gospel truth, and this sincerely conveyed to hearers. A minister is often a hinderer through ignorance, especially through spiritual ignorance. But Paul sought to be thoroughly furnished, so that he might not retard but help forward the truth. To teach others he felt that he himself must be taught, and he was as diligent a learner as a teacher. Paul was well acquainted in every way with the gospel which he preached.
(3) Long suffering. Patient submission to wrongs. Not quick to retaliate. The pulpit may be irritable as well as the pew.
(4) Kindness. Gentleness. Courtesy. Benevolence. A kindness which ever meant usefulness.
(5) In the Holy Ghost. Showing in all utterance and conduct that he was under the influence of the Divine Spirit.
(6) Love unfeigned. A ministry of true love is a ministry of real power. To call our hearers, as some are very fond of doing, "beloved," is one thing; to have them truly in our hearts is another.
(7) The Word of truth. Ever preaching the truth as it is in Jesus. Not proclaiming human theories, but Divine revelations. Holding to the "one thing," and not carried about by every wind of doctrine. The weathercock preacher may be amusing, but he will do little to advance the gospel.
(8) The power of God. Upon this Paul relied. To this he submitted himself. He humbled himself into nothingness, that God might work through him and be all in all. He gave the praise of everything accomplished to the great Worker. And God specially honoured him by manifesting his power in and through him. Some ministers are too strong and great to accomplish anything. They can do without the power of God; they do without it, and then they do nothing except hinder the gospel.
(9) The armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left. He was clad in the whole armour of God (Ephesians 6:13). Offensive and defensive. Himself justified and accepted and living in holiness; and weapons in his hand by which he smote evil wherever he saw it.
3. In the maintenance of consistency and integrity under specially trying circumstances. Whether he was held in honour or dishonour, whether subject to good report or evil, he strove to be ever the same, to preach the same gospel, to manifest the same spirit, to live the same life. His life and ministry were not dependent upon surroundings.
4. By not succumbing to adverse circumstances.
(1) Though branded as a deceiver, he convinced the candid that he was true and sincere.
(2) Though unknown in true character by many, his faithful persistent ministry and life made him well known to multitudes, and won their high regard.
(3) Though chastised by enemies and dying daily, his heroic spirit continued its hold upon God, and he was not overborne.
(4) Though sorrowful as to outward lot, his inward condition enabled him ever to rejoice, and his joy found constant expression and was a powerful tribute to the gospel.
(5) Though poor and outcast, he laboured so zealously in the gospel that many were made rich.
(6) Though seeming to have lost all possessions, he could and,did lay claim to everything. In the spirit of his own words to the Corinthians, "All things are yours" (1 Corinthians 3:21). Such conduct, spirit, life, bore the most powerful testimony to the gospel. Paul himself was a great sermon which, under God, shook the world. What Paul was is today one of the mightiest witnesses for Christianity.—H.
2 Corinthians 6:14-18 - Unequal yoking.
Intimate associations ought not to be formed by the people of God with the ungodly. The reference is, no doubt, to Deuteronomy 22:10.
I. HOW THIS MAY BE DONE.
1. In religious fellowship. The apostle had occasion to warn the Corinthians against fellowship with idolaters. We may he attracted by a religious community in which the truth is not found or in which it is greatly obscured or distorted.
2. In marriage. With believers the religious question should be a prime question. Alas! it is often no question at all. Religious inequality is most frequently esteemed as the dust of the balance, and less than that. Consent is asked of the earthly father, but the heavenly Father is too commonly forgotten altogether. Marriages too often are not made in heaven, and that is why they have so little heaven about them, The ill-assorted union does not lead so much to Paradise as to misery and the divorce court.
3. In friendships. There is often much unequal yoking here. A wise man chooses his friends with care, but a fool takes them haphazard or on mere "liking." The power of a friendship is great, for good or for evil. Believers should choose friends who will help, not hinder, and friends who wilt be friends forever, and not severed at the grave.
4. In business. Partnership in commerce is a yoke which brings men very close together. They must have very much in common; their lives must run in very much the same channel; their actions must largely agree. Or, if not, their union will be disunion, and the issue, quarrels first, and perhaps bankruptcy or worse next. How often a child of God has lived to rue the day when he entered into partnership with a child of the devil!
II. WHY THIS SHOULD NOT BE DONE.
1. Unreasonable in itself. Consider what believers and unbelievers are.
(1) The one, "righteousnes" (Deuteronomy 22:14)—lovers of holiness striving for its fuller possesion. The other, "iniquity"—the heart alienated From God, loving sin and walking in it, though possibly exterior gloss may obscure inward defilement.
(2) The one, "light" (Deuteronomy 22:14)—illumined by the Holy Ghost, shone upon by the "Light of the world"—possessing a knowledge of the truth, children of the day. The other, "darkness"—the true light rejected or ignored, subjects of error, preparing themselves for "the outer darkness."
(3) The one, in Christ (Deuteronomy 22:15)—members of his body, his disciples, his ransomed people. The other, followers of Belial, the children of the wicked one, serving him daily.
(4) The one, the temple of God (Deuteronomy 22:16), consecrated to God, God dwelling in them. The other, the temple of idols—of the idols of sin, made into gods. God in the one, the devil in the other. How can such opposites as these be united? Why should righteousness seek alliance with iniquity? Can light and darkness walk together? Can Christ and Belial be on terms of concord? How can temples of God and temples of vilest idols be brought to agreement?
2. Extremely perilous. How many have found this! In marriage, for example. What misery, loss of peace, loss of holiness, loss of everything most prized once, have followed upon an unequal alliance! The life has been utterly ruined and lost. Some marry in order to convert; but we should always convert people before we marry them. The peril applies to all cases of unequal yoking. The evil generally triumphs because the good has robbed itself of power by taking a false step.
3. Expressly forbidden by God. The Divine Word is emphatic: "Come ye out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch no unclean thing" (Deuteronomy 22:17). This is a Divine command which we dare not set aside. This is Divine wisdom; our wisdom may not accord with it, but if so, our wisdom is assuredly folly. This is Divine love, purposing to save us from misery and loss.
4. A most gracious promise for the obedient. The resolve not to be unequally yoked may sometimes seem to entail large sacrifice. If we lose something, this is what we gain. God says:
(1) "I will receive you" (Deuteronomy 22:17). We shall be with God. We shall have God. Though we may lose the creature, we shall gain the Creator. God will be gracious to us if others are ungracious. If the stream fail, we may resort to the Fountain. Here is the warrant for doing so.
(2) "And will be to you a Father" (Deuteronomy 22:18). We may lose the earthly father, who may have singular views respecting our "prospects;" we shall have a Father above. If we are obedient, God wilt reveal himself in the tenderest and most loving guise. If God be our Father it must be well with us whatever betide.
(3) "And ye shall be to me sons and daughters" (Deuteronomy 22:18). Note, "daughters" are specially mentioned. These have frequently to endure much when "unequal yoking" is resisted. We shall be "children of God." Then we shall be "heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ." Sweet, indeed, are the fruits of obedience. We may lose much; let us never imperil this.—H.
HOMILIES BY D. FRASER
2 Corinthians 6:2 - "Now."
Before Christ came, religious privileges were with Israel. The Gentiles walked in darkness through "times of ignorance." But with Christ came tidings of great joy to all people. And when the Holy Spirit fell on Gentiles as well as on Jews who heard the gospel, it was evident that a new age had come. This is the "acceptable year of the Lord," and is the dispensation of grace intended to continue till the second coming of Christ. It is the world's great opportunity. So it is on the large scale; but when we take groups of men and individuals, the scale of time is proportionally reduced. Nations miss opportunities which may never return. Congregations have a bright season, a time of visitation, which may come to a lamentable end. The Lord may withdraw his favour; may even fight against an unfaithful Church with the sword of his mouth. Shorter still is the day of salvation for the individual.
1. THE VALUE OF OPPORTUNITY. In affairs of this life it is fully recognized. It is the dictate of worldly wisdom to wait for and to seize the fit occasion. Does a speculator watch for a rising market? or a capitalist look out for a good investment, or a politician aspire to office? Such men keenly watch their opportunities and must not let them slip.
"There is a tide in the affairs of men
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries;
And we must take the current when it serves
Or lose our ventures."
All this is quite as true of spiritual advantage. There is an opportunity to be seized, a tide to be taken at the flood. There is a day which must become the birthday of the soul, the peace day of the conscience, or loss will be suffered—eternal loss. There is an emergency on which all the future secretly depends, and which, if one let slip, he may wring his hands and curse his folly, but will never find a remedy.
II. INDICATIONS OF OPPORTUNITY. The favourable day for spiritual life is not so easily recognized as that of worldly advantage. In external aspect it is as other days. A preacher may speak to you whom you have often heard and not heeded. The view of truth which is to carry you captive may be one which has often been pressed on you to little purpose. But somehow you are moved; you catch the urgency of now; and you listen and believe as you never listened or believed before. So that common day becomes a beginning of days and a spiritual epoch to you. There are, however, indications or hints of a critical time which watchful spirits may perceive. Often it is preceded by sickness, sorrow, or disappointment, making one more thoughtful and more wistful about the things unseen. Or there springs up, one hardly knows how, a sense of inward weariness and want. Conscience is uneasy, and the heart cannot rest. Then some word in season falls on the ear, or looks out of a book or a friend's letter. These things indicate opportunity. Miss it not. Embrace the gospel at once. Receive not the grace of God in vain.
III. PENALTY OF MISSING OPPORTUNITY. The wasted day can never be recalled. Lost property may be recovered; lost friendships regained; but the lost year never comes back. It was a sign of wisdom in the young Roman emperor that he grieved when a day had been wasted. Perdidi diem! But such tasks as he had in hand might still be accomplished by redoubled diligence on the morrow. Not so with him who wastes the day of salvation, Perdidi vitam! The day of grace neglected is followed by the night of doom.
IV. THE APPEAL FOR IMMEDIATE COMPLIANCE WITH THE GOSPEL.
1. Let gratitude move you. The God of grace calls you to him; not exacting his rights and dues from you as his creature and his subject, but with open hands extending pardon and countless benefits for time and eternity, freely. "Now then," exclaimed an old English preacher, "what is more suitable to ingenuous gratitude than to embrace the season of God's bestowing so free a favour? Surely the least we can do is to accept of that God that accepteth of us; of him who is fall of beauty and rewards, while we have nothing to bring to him but deformity and beggary."
2. Let a proper self-regard move you. Why should you lose your own soul? Why will ye die? It is more pleasant for the preacher to speak as from the gate of heaven; but it is necessary to cry aloud sometimes as from the mouth of hell. Turn ye! Get you back! Seek the Lord, and do it now!—F.
2 Corinthians 6:10 - Sorrow and joy.
The apostle's experience is in some degree known to many Christians. The apparent paradox of simultaneous grief and joy is to them a fact of sober consciousness.
I. SORROWFUL. Not querulous, but bruised and sad. The course of the world rushes past us, and we sit down with our pain or grief. We are chastened. And not without reason.
1. We must take our share of the troubles common to mankind. Spiritual life carries with it no exemption from the usual cares and losses of the present state. To bring about such exemption would require a multiplication of miracles without any sufficient reason. If famine come upon a land, or war, or pestilence; if a railway train or a passenger steamship be wrecked,—there can be no discrimination between the good and the bad in the common catastrophe. Indeed, it is questionable whether a special immunity from pain and grief accorded to spiritual men might not do serious harm to religion, by giving strong temporal inducements to worldly men to cover themselves over with a thin coating of godliness. And there are sorrows which no personal qualities can ward off. Some troubles are inherited; others come from the mishap or misconduct of a relative or of a partner in business. And the sickness and death of those who are dear to us must bring us grief. Man is born to trouble.
2. We find in the discipline of sorrow some of the best lessons and impulses of the Christian life
"Night brings out stars;
So sorrow shows us truths."
And conformity to Christ is gained in suffering with him, working out a deeper patience and keener moral sensibility.
II. YET ALWAYS REJOICING. The Man of sorrows had joy in his Father's love; though it is his affliction that is made prominent in the account of his state of humiliation. There was also a joy set before him, and in this he now sits at the right hand of God. As his followers, we too have joy now amidst sorrow, and fulness of joy set before us. Always. Not sorrowing always, but always rejoicing. It cannot mean any ecstatic emotion, for that cannot be habitual; the excessive strain would break the springs of feeling. But we may be always glad and satisfied and triumphant in our Lord. Not only is this possible to the sorrowful; it seems to be fullest and strongest in them. Remember Paul and Silas singing in the dark dungeon with their stripes unwashed. Samuel Rutherford in prison at Aberdeen, and Madame Guyon in prison at Vincennes, tasted the same gladness. The latter said, "My heart was full of that joy which thou givest to them that love thee in the midst of the greatest crosses." This can be understood only by those who have some real acquaintance of heart with the Lord Jesus, and know what treasures his people have in him—unsearchable riches, unerring wisdom, precious atonement, prevailing intercession, helpful sympathy, victorious strength, and everlasting love. Genius often shows the combination of a pensive vein, a tenderness, a pathos, with a healthy elastic hopefulness, nay, with a joyfulness robust as in a man, yet simple and playful as in a child. But we speak of what is better than even genius—the grace of God. This can make even very ordinary people both gentle and brave, tender and strong, patient in sorrow, and constant in joy. "The meek shall increase their joy in the Lord, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel."—F.
2 Corinthians 6:13 - "Be ye enlarged."
The apostle had specially in view the increase of joy. But we may use the exhortation to commend the enlargement of Christian people as respects head and heart and hand.
I. BE ENLARGED IN YOUR THOUGHTS. No doubt there is a dangerous breadth or laxity; but there is also mischief in the opposite direction, in narrowness. Good people are apt to become the slaves of their own phraseology, and to insist on their own traditions of expression and definition as exclusively safe and orthodox. Christian truth appears to be with them quite a narrow ledge of stone shaped to their liking, whereas it is a broad firm rock that does not submit itself to men's measuring lines. Never follow a narrow-minded religious teacher. He is sure to be opinionative and monotonous. And even when he lodges a truth in the mind, he gives it the effect of a prejudice. Be enlarged in the comprehensive and manifold wisdom of the Bible. Dare to give yourself room in the far-reaching thoughts and words of God. Especially seek to be enlarged in your estimate of Jesus Christ. Only by degrees was any sufficient knowledge of him attained by those who "companied with him" on earth. They loved him from the first and often wondered. They tried by questions to peer into his mind, but could not make him out. They were surprisingly slow in their apprehensions, till he opened the Scriptures to them after his resurrection, and the Holy Spirit fell on them after his ascension. And now, though the Holy Spirit is with us, his teaching is not received all at once by disciples, and they need more and more enlargement. It is the mark of a growing Christian that in his view Christ increases; the mark of a great Christian that to him Christ is very great. Augustine, Bernard, Leighton, Rutherford, Owen, Martyn,—were these great Christians? And what had they in common? Large and admiring thoughts of Christ.
II. BE ENLARGED IN YOUR SYMPATHIES. Narrow hearts are even more mischievous and unchristian than narrow heads. It is confessedly difficult for one who may have received little mental culture, or has been early imbued with strong prejudices, to gain breadth of view; but there is no excuse for any one who, while naming the name of Jesus, and professing to know the love of God, retains a peevish and contracted heart. We have said "professes to know the love of God," because, when this love is really "shed abroad by the Holy Spirit," it must tend to expand the affections and sympathies. Argument will not do it. Admonition cannot produce the effect. Love only kindles love, and so imparts a larger kindness and more delicate sensibility. Love cries shame on harshness and envy, spreads brotherly kindness, disposes to forgiveness of wrong and a kindly construction of motives, covers a multitude of sins. Have sympathy with all good objects, though you cannot actually help all. Take the part of right-hearted men. A great Christian is one to whom the Lord has given "largeness" of heart. Paul, Chrysostom, Bengel, Baxter, Whitefield, Chalmers,—were these great Christians? And what had they in common? Great hearts, large generosity of soul, the capacity of loving much, and of enlisting the love and sympathy of others for worthy objects.
"The truly generous is the truly wise,
And he who loves not others lives unblest."
III. BE ENLARGED IN LABOURS AND GIFTS. A grudging hand and indolent temper in the Church go with a narrow spirit; but where mind and heart are enlarged in Christ, the hands will be found ready to every good enterprise and open in giving up to the measure of ability.—F.
2 Corinthians 6:14.-18 - Separation.
St. Paul wished to see the Corinthian brethren enlarged, enlivened, and encouraged. But this was not to be by the easy and uuprincipled method of ignoring all distinctions and binding together incongruous materials and moral opposites. The exhortation, "Be ye enlarged," must be taken with this, "Be ye separate;" and charity must go hand in hand with purity. The contrasts expressed in this passage were very apparent in ancient Corinth, where the Christians, as saints, were openly separated from the heathen worship and heathen vices around them. A similar state of things may be seen now at mission stations in populous heathen cities. The Christians turn away from the temples, disown the priests and soothsayers, disregard the festivals, and have nothing any more to do with idols, They may still maintain family and social intercourse with the heathen, because conversion, as St. Paul explains, does not break family ties, or change the station in which one is when "called," or drive Christ's followers "out of the world." But they may not be unequally yoked with non-Christians or profane persons in Church fellowship. The distinction cannot be made so palpable where all society has accepted the Christian name as when and where the Church is in sharp contrast with a powerful heathenism. Yet in principle the distinction insisted on by St. Paul must be maintained, else the strength of the Church as a spiritual institution is sapped, and a compromising spirit enters which destroys the glory of Christ. To carry out the principle in actual Church discipline is confessedly difficult; but the Church has a right to expect that her overseers will prevent the admission of scandalous persons; and individual professors of the Christian faith should not claim Church fellowship without examining themselves as to the side on which they stand with reference to the five points of contrast indicated in this text.
1. Between righteousness and iniquity. This takes us at once into the region of conscience and moral conduct. The Christian should be a righteous man. He may not lie, or cheat, or overreach, or take unfair advantage of another, because to do so would not be right or righteous. The rogue and the worker of iniquity are as heathen men, and not fit for Christian fellowship.
2. Between light and darkness. This points to the mental and moral environment as affecting thought, feeling, and action. It is a mode of expression common with St. Paul, as may be seen in other Epistles. The Christian is a child of the light and of the day. Darkness, on the contrary, is the covering of the heathen world; and its works are unfruitful and shameful.
3. Between Christ and Belial. Abstractions are left, and the leaders of two conflicting hosts are set in opposition. A Christian is "of Christ," as the Lord whom he obeys and the pattern which he follows. On the other side is a man of Belial, or the follower of a worthless and profligate spirit. So this contrast has reference to disposition, and excludes every false and wicked person from Christian fellowship.
4. Between the believer and the unbeliever. This takes us to the question of religious persuasion and conviction. A Christian is a believer on the Son of God. In this lies the secret of his life, strength, holiness, and patience. A man without faith is no more fit for fellowship in the Church than a heathen. To him the trials and triumphs of the life of faith are alike unknown.
5. Between the temple of God and idols. The Church is the living temple of the living God, the holy temple of the holy God. The individual Christians are stones in that temple, and must be in harmony with its sacred character and use. What agreement has it with idols? If the Jew would have thought it a horrible profanation to set up a graven image in the temple at Jerusalem, much more should Christian minds abhor the setting up of idols of selfishness, covetousness, or sensuality in that better temple which is now the habitation of God in the Spirit. So much of incompatibilities and contrasts. Then the apostle, who did not address himself to the heathen, bidding them stand off, but wrote to the Christians, urging them to avoid entanglement with the heathen, gave them a charge from the Lord, and enforced it by a gracious promise.
(1) The charge. "Wherefore come out from among them." The Christians were not to leave Corinth, but to hold their positions and preserve their callings in that city, while scrupulously avoiding the contamination of idolatry and vice. So should we continue in the world, yet not be conformed to it or love it; should do our part in our generation, yet separate ourselves from all that is unjust or unholy. "Touch not the unclean," under which category comes, not mere licentiousness, but all that is unhallowed, and so out of harmony with the purity of God.
(2) The promise. "I will receive you," etc. (2 Corinthians 6:17, 2 Corinthians 6:18). Such was the promise made to King David in regard to his posterity (2 Samuel 7:14); and it is extended to all the household of faith. From the sure belief of this promise we may derive strength and resolution to keep the rule of separation. Are we to be openly acknowledged as the sons and daughters of the Lord God Almighty? What, then, have we to do with iniquity, with darkness, with Belial, with unbelief, with idols? The best-known Christians are not always the best. They may have some striking quality or rare endowment, or may have reached by favour some conspicuous post. But the best are those men and women who most fully and consistently obey the holy calling. How sweet is fellowship with such Christians, and how stimulating! It is good to be yoked together with them under Christ's yoke which is easy, and his burden which is light. It is good to be builded together with them in the temple of the living God. It is good to be joined as brothers and sisters in the same family, and call the Lord Almighty our Father. The friendship of the world, the alliance of the sons of Belial, the communion of the unclean,—what are these to the dignity of the people of God and the family affection of his children?—F.
HOMILIES BY R. TUCK
2 Corinthians 6:2 - "The accepted time."
This text immediately follows upon the full declaration of the truth in Jesus, the free offers of Divine mercy, and the earnest pleadings of 2 Corinthians 5:1-21. St. Paul understood well that there was this sad and strange tendency in men—they are ever disposed to shift into the future the most serious duties of life. In the time of disease they will not send for the doctor until they absolutely must. They put off making their wills until the very power to make them is gone. How is the tendency to be explained? It is one of the forms in which man's hopefulness expresses itself, The future always seems to be richer and better than the present; though, when that future is reached, it very seldom realizes our hope. It is, however, a mischievous form of hopefulness if it lifts us off from the performance of present duty. Then it becomes procrastination, "the thief of time."
I. THE INCOMPARABLE ADVANTAGES OF TIME PRESENT. The "now" By this term is properly meant that moment in which any duty stands right before us. Observe:
1. Its security. We have it; it is here; it is ours. The only thing in all the world that is or ever can be ours. The only sphere for the activity of our will. We "act in the living present." Nothing really belongs to us except that which we have at this moment. The past is gone. The future may never come. When we put off duty to the future, we deal with something that is not our own. We have no future until God gives it to us and makes it present. We have only the now, and on it may hang eternity.
2. Its peculiar suitability for action. Because the whole nature is aroused, awakened, interested, prepared, and action can be taken so easily and so heartily, now. You can never again be sure of the same interest, and, if neglected duties do ever get done, they must push into the place of some other duty, and push it aside. Now we have the assistance of all aiding impulses. We are helped by an awakened conscience, by deep emotions, and by the urgings of the Divine Spirit. Now is the time of our opportunity. Illustrate by the boats waiting for a wave to help them ashore. How the men watch, and at last say, "Now, now!" as they bend to the ear! The times when the claims of Christ come home to us are just such times; then why not now be flooded over all hindrances and difficulties unto the harbour of salvation?
II. THE SERIOUS PERIL INVOLVED IN THE NEGLECT OF TIME PRESENT. Notice:
1. The insecurity of the return of such another opportunity. Others we may have, but this precise one will never come again. There is only one round of seasons in each life. Spring time never comes but once, with its encouraging assurance, "They that seek me early shall find me. Summer time and autumn time come but once, and by and by we may have to wail and to say, "The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved."
2. The burdening of life with the sense of unfulfilled duty. That may indeed be made an impulse to higher activity, but usually it presses as a hopeless hindrance.
3. The injury done to our moral nature by resisted spiritual influences. There is a disease whose special feature is the ossification of the heart, the turning of its flexible walls into hardness and bone. It is the disease which they suffer from—in its spiritual form—who neglect the golden opportunities offered them in the time present. Illustrate by the man on the Royal Charter, who was on the stern half when the vessel broke in two, and had but a moment in which to leap for dear life. Yet how men resist the claims of God to their immediate attention! Some wilfully put off the matter, deliberately finding excuses for delay. Surely no other proof of human depravity is needed than this. Men will hang their immortality on the thread of life, and even dally with the offered mercy of their God. But some honest hearts may be in real difficulty as to the claims of Christ upon them now. They think they are too young, or that they have not been anxious long enough; or they are waiting for a deeper sense of sin, or, it may be, for more faith. But all these are subtle ways in which we show our desire to manage our own salvation. If we were really willing that Christ should save us, we would be quite willing that he should save us now.—R.T.
2 Corinthians 6:3-10 - The holy power of character.
The subject occupying the attention of the apostle is the "ministry of reconciliation;" the preaching of the gospel of the grace of God unto the forgiveness of sins and restoration of man to the Divine favor. This ministry has been entrusted to him. He had, indeed, no "letters of commendation" to rely on, as had some other teachers, but he could appeal to the character of his ministry, to the sufferings he had endured in fulfilling it, and to the Divine benedictions which had rested upon it. He does, in a sense, commend himself; but how? He looks back on his life of labours and sufferings, and challenges comparison. Can others, with their letters of commendation, point to anything like this? Dean Stanley divides the means by which the apostle commended himself into four classes:
(1) from "patience" (or endurance) to "lastings," 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. St. Paul's personal appeal presents for our consideration the importance of securing for the gospel a favourable hearing through the consistency and gracious beauty of the character of those who proclaim it. Its spiritual efficiency directly depends on the character of its ambassadors. The three following subjects need careful treatment:—
I. THE PREACHER OF THE GOSPEL MUST SHOW ITS POWER ON HIS OWN CHARACTER AND LIFE. Illustrate by a man offering an infallible remedy for a skin disease, from which everybody could see he was still suffering. The gospel is life for dead souls, and he who preaches it must be himself "alive unto God." The gospel is healing for sin-sick souls, and he who proclaims it must be able to tell his own experiences of the Balm of Gilead. The gospel provides a regeneration of character, and what it can do for men we expect to see in the men who commend it to us. As a fact, the men who show the power of the gospel in themselves are the men who alone can wield the power of the gospel on others. The preacher must be an ensample of them that believe.
II. AS EXAMPLES OF THE CHRISTIAN SPIRIT, MINISTERS MAY EXPECT UNUSUAL TESTINGS. These come in several ways:
(1) in the bodily strain which a Christian ministry involves;
(2) in the more anxious and careful self-culture which the ministry demands;
(3) in the fatigues and perils which come in carrying out the ministry; and
(4) in the difficulties found in dealing pleasantly with all kinds of men. To these should be added those direct dealings of God with his servants, by means of which he prepares them for service, sharpens and furbishes their swords for his war. Even "fiery trial" is not strange for those who have to stand in the chief places of influence. They must have a large experience, if, in measure like their Lord, they are to be fully "touched with the feeling of men's infirmities."
III. THEIR EXPERIENCES WILL GIVE THE TRUE POWER TO THEIR PUBLIC PLEADINGS. Illustrate in the case of the Apostle Paul, who could not have written such letters if he had not passed through such trials. Experience is the secret of power. It gives the tone of tenderness and sympathy to a minister's work. It gives confidence in speaking of the comforting and sustaining power of Divine grace. It is the true power on our fellow men to be enabled to speak to them of "that which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life." But if all this be, in high degrees, true of the recognized ministry, it is true of all who seek to influence others for God and goodness. The world which we long and strive to save very properly asks of us this most searching question, "What has this gospel done for you?"—R.T.
2 Corinthians 6:12 - Where are men straitened?
The apostle, in an intense outburst of feeling, bad just said, "O ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged." He was referring to that opening of his ministry, and disclosure of his love for them, which filled the previous part of the chapter. And so he is led to ask from them a worthy response. He would have his love quicken love. He wanted it to break down the barriers and enmities and prejudices which were so sadly limiting the confidence of the Corinthians in St. Paul. So he pleads with them, "Ye are not straitened in us;" there is no limit of our love to you; "but ye are straitened in your own bowels," your own affections, which are sadly kept in bondage by your passions and prejudices and antipathies; by misrepresentations of me and my doings, and the influence of unworthy teachers. Then he urges them to break the bonds, to be enlarged, and to let their hearts express the love they feel. What they needed in their spiritual life was breadth and expansiveness of affection. There is suggested by the apostle's words a series of contrasts between—
I. THE LIMITED IDEAS AND AFFECTIONS OF MEN. Who are straitened by ignorance, imperfect character, prejudice, false sentiments, readiness to misjudge and to impute bad motive, etc.
II. THE BROAD IDEAS AND AFFECTIONS OF APOSTLES. Who see in men souls to be redeemed unto God, and, labouring for men's spiritual and eternal well being, can rise above the smaller occasions of difference and separation.
III. THE SUBLIME IDEAS AND AFFECTIONS OF GOD IN CHRIST. Who would have all men saved; who loved the world; whose love found expression in self-sacrifice; and whose invitations now are sent to whosoever will. No man is straitened in God. "When my father and mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up." In his heart and home there "yet is room." Men are straitened, limited, in themselves, not in God, not in the gospel, not in Christian teachers. They forge, and fix on, their own bondages.—R.T.
2 Corinthians 6:14 - Christian friendships.
The Bible would not be a complete book, adequately representing all phases of human life and experience and associations, if it contained no instance of close, personal, sacrificing friendship. But we have the very beautiful illustrative case of David and Jonathan. Christianity would not meet us at every point of our need if it had not something to say about the choices the changes, and the claims of friendship.
I. ON THE CHOICES OF FRIENDSHIP. Our friendships are not always gained by choice; they are sometimes determined by outward circumstances; sometimes by felt affinities; and sometimes they are started by some impressive or generous deed. But friendship ought always to be put to the decision of our will, seeing that it bears so directly on our character and on our life. It sounds chilling to the freshness and warmth of our love to say that we must decide who is to be our friend, and put into careful consideration the qualities and habits and probable influence upon us of the person towards whom we are drawn. Yet, surely, as we would not trust our property to a man whom we did not know, or our child to an education that we had not carefully selected for him, so we would not give our hearts to one whom we were not sure that we might fully trust. Moreover, as Christians, we guard against the approach of evil in every form, and nothing will more directly affect our Christian spirit than the influence of an unworthy friend. He may be a scoffer. He may be one whose sneer at all we love and seek may hurt and wound us far more than the scoffer's open speech. He may be an indulgent pleasure-seeker, whose disposition will be sure to nourish the worldliness and self-loving of our spirit. And, on the other hand, few things will help us more than a well-chosen Christian friendship. Many a doubt is scattered by the contact of a friend's faith, and many a sliding step is steadied by the influence of a friend's firmness. Two things lie at the basis of a worthy and lasting friendship, viz. a certain felt sympathy and a certain recognized equality.
II. ON THE CHANGES OF FRIENDSHIP. Sometimes friendships are broken through changeableness of disposition. Others are broken by the wrong doing or unfaithfulness of one of the friends. And at other times friendships are broken by the rude, rough hand of death.
III. ON THE CLAIMS OF FRIENDSHIP. All associations of men together bring claims and responsibilities. If we have the privilege of a loving friendship, it claims from us two things.
1. Unfailing confidence in our friend. And this involves openness one with the other. Close natures, that can keep secrets, seldom know the full joy of friendship.
2. Mutual self-sacrifice, readiness to spend our best for our friend, and to put forth our best efforts in his behalf. Foote well says, "Be thankful if God has given you a sympathizing friend, one who can share with you your deepest griefs, who is one with you in all your interests for time and for eternity, whose heart answers to your heart. This is one of God's best gifts; be thankful for it and use it right, for he may deprive you of it, and leave you grieving,—Would I had prized it more! It is a most sweet and blessed fellowship; use it—use it for the high ends of mutual, spiritual good, and the Divine glory."—R.T.
2 Corinthians 6:17 - Christian relations with the world.
This verse is a partial quotation from Isaiah 52:11, which reads, "Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch no unclean thing; go ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord." The first reference of these words is to the captives in Babylon, who were thus counselled to prepare for their return to Canaan, and to see to it that they carried back with them none of the evils of the idolatrous land in which they had so long sojourned. "The local and historical meaning has for the apostle passed away, and the 'unclean thing' is identified with the whole system of heathenism." Since we are counselled to be separate from the world, it will be well for us to understand what is properly meant by "the world." Some have thought that they were called to separate from the world of creation, and compel themselves to find no interest in field, or flower, or song, or the thousandfold charms of nature. Others have thought that "the world" must mean the mass of humanity, and so a true religious life could only be lived in convent or hermit cell. Others, again, think that "the world" must mean the common scenes and pleasures of life, and that we can only live for God by resisting every pleasure and severing ourselves from every form of personal enjoyment. But "the world," in the New Testament sense, is not a thing or a set of things, but a spirit and disposition—it is worldliness. It is none of these things, but it may be in them all. It is all these if we persist in having them without God. This green earth, with its vales and hills, apart from God, is just "the world." But with God, seen as God's, it is no longer "the world;" it is the footstool of the eternal throne, the dwelling place of the Divine majesty, the garment of the all-glorious King. The mass of humanity, without God, is just "the world;" but in the light of God's relation, it is the Father's family, the Father's school. The common cares and pleasures of life are filled with an infinite meaning and importance when they become the testing scenes out of which God purposes to bring his children, "faultless in the presence of his glory." Whether a thing is worldly or not depends simply on this—Can you see God in it? To the Christian man God is in everything, and if he finds anything into which he cannot bring the thought of God, then he calls that worldly and shrinks from it. The "world" is that act, that scene, with which we feel the cherished thought of God does not harmonize. It is heaven where God is; it is earth where he is not: it is hell where he will not come.
I. THE CHRISTIAN MUST BE IN THE WORLD. He cannot, he may not, get free from outward and physical relations. His present sphere of life and duty is earthly; and his Master did not pray that his disciples should be taken "out of the world."
II. THE CHRISTIAN NEED NOT BE OF THE WORLD. In the sense of adopting its principles or its maxims, yielding to its fashions or seeking its ends.
III. THE CHRISTIAN MAY BE ABOVE THE WORLD. In the sense of having a Divine life, which masters worldly principles, resists worldly influences, and even makes him a quickening and healing power on the world, as Christ himself was. This is expressed in plain terms by the apostle, in Romans 12:2, "Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind." The separation from the world is not to be effected by any mere watching of our acts and habits. Let us realize the higher transformation in the renewal of our minds, and we shall find it easy to reach a true nonconformity to the world. He who glorifies God in the spirit will be sure to glorify him in the body too. He who is daily more renewed in mind will most readily discover, in practical details, what is the "good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God."—R.T.
2 Corinthians 6:18 - Proving sonship by obedience.
Then—if ye fulfil my commands in separating yourselves from the unclean thing, then I "will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty." The thought to which we now direct attention is that a merely abstract relationship is of very little value apart from the fulfilment of those duties which are involved in the relationship. It is a very little thing for a man to stand in the abstract relation of a citizen to this great country. It is a very great thing for a man to fulfil, nobly and cheerfully, the duties of citizenship. It is a very little thing to stand in the mere relation of a husband, a father, and a master. It is a great thing indeed that we are earnestly striving to meet the responsibilities and fulfil the duties that belong to those relationships. So the name of a "son of God" will save and bless no man apart from the spirit of a son manifested and proved in an obedient, humble, devoted, and faithful life. Only the obedient sons can have the comforting sense of the Divine fatherhood.
I. THIS WAS TRUE OF CHRIST, THE FIRSTBORN SON. God said of him and to him, "This is my beloved Son, in whom," evidently meaning, in whose obedience, "I am well pleased." Each of the relations in which men stand to each other has some one thing which is its essential characteristic. The essential of kingship is the spirit of judgment. Of fatherhood, is loving authority. Of motherhood, is self-denying affection and service. Of sonship, is obedience. Whatever other expressions childhood may find, all are worthless if there be no obedience. I have no right to the name of a son, save as I obey. I show, I prove, my sonship in this—that I obey. We take, then, the life of the Lord Jesus Christ, and seek it for the signs of what we know to be the very essence of sonship, and we receive surprising impressions of the completeness of his obedience. Jesus when a boy gained and settled the principle of life: "Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" Painting and poetry gain truest insight of his spirit when they represent him dutifully working at the carpenter's bench. When weary at the well of Sychar, he was beyond the interest of earthly food; "his meat and his drink were to do the will of his Father." And when the sorrows of an awful conflict and agony were gathering thickly over him, he could utter the perfect devotion of a Son, saying, "I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do." Watching that life of cheerful, hearty, loving Obedience, who of us is not prepared to say—We know now what it is to be a son or a daughter of the Lord Almighty? Let us not, however, fail to observe that the obedience of his sonship was not a mere series of acts; it was that series of acts instinct with the cherished spirit of obedience, done in the freeness of the will, under the impulse of holy affections and resolves. A life full of obedient acts will no more make a real sonship than a wealth of apples, tied on, will make a fruitful tree. They must be the genuine utterances of the soul's life of obedience.
II. THIS IS TRUE OF US, THE YOUNGER SONS. "Now are we the sons of God." "Ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty." What is the value of a right without fitness; of a title without preparation to fulfil its claims; of the name of a son without the spirit and obedience of the son? "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ"—that is, the sonlike spirit of Christ—"he is none of his." "If ye be sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts." How, then, are we proving our sonship? Are we breaking free from the old worldly bondages? Are we separating ourselves from all unclean things? Are we perfecting holiness in the fear of God? Can God meet our daily practical obediences of his will by saying, "I will be a Father unto you"?—R.T.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 6". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25