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Bible Commentaries

William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament
2 Corinthians 6

 

 

Verses 1-13

GOD’S TIME NOW

1. And indeed co-operating with you, we entreat you that you receive not the grace of God in vain.

2. For He says, At a set time I heard thee, and in the day of salvation I succored thee. Behold, now is the accepted time, and now is the day of salvation.]” Satan is wonderful on procrastination, never letting the sinner get ready to repent, always clamoring, “Wait till tomorrow”; while the devil’s tomorrow never has come, and never will. “God is nigh in the valley of decision.” The will can only act in the present tense. Faith is actually circumscribed to the present tense, having neither past nor future, and, as we get everything from God by faith, we must receive it in the present tense. It is actually now or never.

3. Giving no hindrance in anything, in order that the ministry may not be blamed.

4. But in everything commending ourselves as the ministers of God, in all patience, in tribulations, in pressures, in difficulties,

5. In stripes.” When did Paul go to a place without receiving a broken head or a bleeding back, the wounds not convalescing till superseded by others, and the scars prominent till he laid down his head on the executioner’s block. “In prisons,” e. g., the Philippian jail and innumerable other imprisonment’s unmentioned. “In tumults.” He always raised a row everywhere he went, mobs and uproars rising on all sides. This wicked world is no more congenial to the truth of God now than then. Though civil administration has made progress for which we glorify God, yet it is an undeniable fact that the truth faithfully preached never fails to stir the devil and raise a fuss. I am an old revivalist, and a witness to this fact the last thirty years. Our work always stirred the devil and raised a hubbub. Satan has more sense than any man. He does not waste his ammunition on dead beats. When he does not stir and roar, rest assured you are doing no good; you had better lie prostrate before God, and cry till He gives you power to stir the devil. “In labors.” Paul was a most indefatigable worker, having Asia and Europe in his field of labor, other apostles going to Africa; e. g., Matthew preached and suffered martyrdom in Ethiopia, Mark in Egypt, and Matthias in Abyssinia. Paul traveled over many countries in Asia and Macedonia and Achaia in Europe, nearly always going on foot. He must have been a wonderful pedestrian. Having preached all night at Troas, he enjoyed a morning walk of thirty miles to Assos, where lie embarked on the ship with his comrades, having traveled thither by sea. “In vigils,” i. e., watchings, i. e., often spending sleepless nights of toil and privation, because they had no lodgings or by reason of the perils, conflicts and toils in which they were encompassed. “In fastings.” Frequently, doubtless, these fasts were perpetuated to a paradoxical prolixity from sheer financial inability to procure food, or while traveling across deserts and through uninhabited regions. “In purity.” The word means bodily chastity and blameless unselfishness, in which they excelled, having the complete victory over all their animal propensities and living in a state of pre-eminent communion with God. “In knowledge.” This is the word denoting the spiritual gift of knowledge, which is insight into Divine truth, which they enjoyed in a most pre-eminent degree. Paul had spent his early life in constant study, and, having a good memory, wonderfully retained the Holy Scriptures at his command in every emergency; meanwhile he and his comrades were superlatively illuminated and enriched by the Holy Spirit with the apprehension and perspicacity required site to give them clear and lucid understanding and interpretation of God’s precious Word. “In long- suffering.” This is one of the nine graces of the Holy Spirit which you find in the catalogue in Galatians 5:22. It is most beautiful, amiable and charming in its intrinsical character, keeping you constantly low down at the feet of Jesus, and indefatigable in every ramification of patient suffering for Christ’s sake. “In kindness,” i. e., a kind and considerate demeanor reaching out a helping hand to every suffering creature, whether human or animal; always abounding in profound sympathy with bereavement, distress, ignorance, degradation and misery, and doing their utmost to rescue the perishing, condole the broken-hearted, and raise up the fallen. “In the Holy Ghost,” as the Power and the Agent by whom all of these graces and enduements in this long catalogue are administered and subordinated to happy participation. He was the grand secret of their wonderful and paradoxical endurance and perseverance amid a world of adversity, hostility and constant antagonism. “In Divine love free from hypocrisy.” We receive this Divine love, poured out into our hearts by the Holy Ghost, in regeneration. But so long as Adam the first is on hand, we are never free from the fundamental elements of insincerity, dissimulation and a diversity of strategy which constitute the very essence of hypocrisy. hence the man of sin must be slain; holy Samuel must arise with the sword of the Spirit, and hew down the old Gag who walks out with the stealthy tread of hypocrisy. Oh, that we may all, like Paul. and his comrades, enjoy the experience of Divine love free from hypocrisy!

7. In the Word of truth.” They were wonderfully enriched and impregnably fortified by the precious Word of truth. We have logos here, which means “God’s word,” in contradistinction to reema, “man’s word.” This logos has a peculiar force, because it is one of the words occurring in the Scriptures to designate the incarnate person of our Lord (John 1). This is pertinent from the fact that “word” means “revelation,” and the incarnation of Christ, rendering Him apprehensible by our material senses, is really the grand summary of all Divine revelation. This glorified, incarnate Christ had appeared to Paul in person on his way to Damascus, and three years afterward in the temple in Jerusalem. These manifestations of the incarnate, glorified Savior to Paul are significantly adumbratory of His glorious appearing in His second advent, as His visit to Abraham at Mamre was anticipatory of His first advent. The wonderful proximity and fellowship which Paul enjoyed with the glorified Savior are problems too deep for our solution. “In the power of God,” the Greek is “dynamite.” They were thoroughly endued and equipped with this Divine dynamite, which was more than a match for all their enemies, visible and invisible. When we consider the wonderful potency of dynamite as a mechanical power, and then recognize the Omnipotence in this case identified with it, we need not wonder at the mighty paroxysms of the earthquake which liberated them from the Philippian jail. “Through the arms of righteousness on the right and on the left.” Ephesians 6 describes this invincible panoply, i. e., the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the gospel shoes and the sword of the Spirit. In the Tower of London I saw many of the mediaeval warriors clothed in shining steel from the crowns of their heads to the soles of their feet, so as to render them actually invulnerable to all their foes on the battlefield. While looking at them I thought of the Christian warrior, thus impregnably panoplied against every possible assault of the diabolical foe.

8. Through glory and dishonor.” The Christian life is a perpetual enigma and an irreconcilable contradiction, of glory within and opprobrium without. Carnal eyes can see nothing but dishonor, indecorum, disappointment and failure in the deep humility, self-abnegation and worldly depreciation incident to the true Christian life; meanwhile from the standpoint of angels and glorified saints, it is all honor, victory and triumph. “Through evil report and good.” We must be like the apostles, utterly dead to the ipse dixit of the world, whether good or bad, absolutely indifferent to praise or blame, there simply being no difference between them; e. g., at Lystra, one hour they actually worshipped them as gods and the next hour were stoning them to death. Hence we must get to where we are literally dead to praise or blame, and equally unmoved by both, as they are liable to alternate any moment. “As deceivers and true.” Hosts of people actually believed the apostles to be hypocrites and scoundrels, going about to deceive the people for selfish and mercenary motives. Hence when people look upon you in that capacity you must not be astonished, think hard of them, or suffer yourself to be jostled or affected in any way by their utter misunderstanding of all your motives, enterprises and character. They misunderstood Jesus and actually killed Him, believing Him to be a bad man. If the Jews had really believed that He was their own Christ of prophecy they would have fallen in adoring congratulation all around Him. If the Romans had known who He was they would have died in their tracks before they would have laid a violent hand on Him The martyrs were all killed by religious people whose sincerity we have no right to call in question. But they misunderstood them, believing them to be corrupt, deceitful and heretical. So you may expect the people to look upon you as a deceiver, while at the same time it is enough for you to have the blessed assurance that you are true and right.

9. A unknown and well known.” Paul was an indefatigable traveler, going to the ends of the earth, and always among strangers, who knew him not. Hence pertinently it is said that they were “unknown.” So it will be with you. God will lead you as He did Abraham, away from home and kindred to sojourn among strangers. There is also another sense in which they were “unknown,” even by the people who daily recognized their physical person and identified them, yet strangers to them spiritually. How pertinently are they said to be “well known”! No people get so intimately acquainted either with other as the saints of God. I am now well known personally, having many intimate and much-esteemed friends and acquaintances, spanning the continent all the way from the Atlantic to the Pacific; besides, I feel that I am well known by a great host who dwell above the stars. “As dying, and behold, we live!” This wicked world with its fallen churches has slain their Leader and sworn vengeance against all of His followers. Hence they live constantly exposed to martyrdom, and thus in the attitude of perpetual dying. What a beautiful emphasis in the exclamation: “Behold, we live!” Not only do we now live, but the life we enjoy will sweep through the flight of ages! “As being chastised and not put to death.” With the whole world against them, and daily persecutions on all sides, they are the constant subjects of Divine chastisement, conducive to their good, alienating them from earth and sweetening them for Heaven.

Meanwhile profitable spiritual castigation, in the blessed providence of God, is the very ultimatum of the hostility from their enemies, as God’s saints are immortal till their work is done, as Death is no chastisement but a blessing, felicitously releasing us from our prisons of clay and opening to our happy ingress the gates of glory.

10. As sorrowing, and always rejoicing.” The Christian life is a perpetual antithesis of sympathetic and external sorrow in contemplation of millions perishing on all sides; and an artesian well of internal joy incessantly flowing in the heart, gladdening the whole spirit, making life a triumph and actually participating a Heavenly prelibation. “As poor, and making many rich.” The beautiful antithesis between the temporal and the spiritual is here perpetuated. Though actually penniless in temporal things, they were constantly enriching the people with Heavenly treasures. Earthly possessions are unprofitable encumbrances to the Heaven-bound traveler. It is really important that he be unencumbered, and light as a bird of paradise. “As having nothing, and possessing all things.” True saintship can not afford to deflect an iota from the apostolic precedent of actually possessing nothing in the way of temporal estate. Under the false intuition of fallen churchism, the idea now prevails that the Lord’s people need temporal resources in order to their efficiency as soul-savers. The Scriptures reveal the diametrically opposite of this hypothesis. When Barnabas, a Cyprian farmer, went as a delegate to Jerusalem to attend the Pentecostal festival, receive the fiery baptism and the call to preach, among his preparations for a life-work in the vineyard of the Lord he sold out his Cyprian farm and laid every cent at the apostle’s feet, going penniless into the work that, unencumbered, he might enjoy his utmost availability as a preacher of the gospel. When thus utterly destitute, if true to God, we really “possess all things,” having a cheque on Heaven’s bank for everything we need in time and eternity.

11. Our mouth is open unto you, O Corinthians, our heart has become enlarged.” This was the greatest church of the Pauline ministry, numerically, and we hear of no others so wonderfully enriched with the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit. Now, after an absence of three years and six months, traveling throughout Asia and Macedonia, he is on his way to visit them again, and survey the old battlefield on which he stood eighteen months courageously fighting the powers of darkness, beginning with nothing and witnessing the conversions of hundreds and, I know, thousands of Jews and Gentiles in that European metropolis. His long absence was a necessity, that he might visit hundreds of other churches, and establish them in holiness. With no facilities for public conveyance, and traveling generally on foot overland, he has found this long absence inevitable. The time is at hand for him to go down and see them. again look into their beautiful faces, take them by the hand, and congratulate them, forty months nearer Heaven than ever before. He feels full of gospel truth ready to pour out of his mouth, meanwhile his heart has broadened out in their behalf, and he feels impatient to take them all in his arms and again enjoy their Christian fellowship and the exquisite privilege of again preaching to them the living Word. No wonder he feels an enlargement of the heart contrastively with the time when first he found them groveling in the superstitions of polytheistic idolatry, and wasting away in the low debaucheries of sin and misery. His preaching now will be on a vastly different line. They have already been converted out of heathenism and dead Judaism, many of them wonderfully sanctified and not a few actually flooded with the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost, qualifying them for pre-eminent usefulness as soul-savers.

12. Ye are not straitened in us.” Among the innumerable preachers who had been with them during his long absence, some had impeached his apostolical authority, and in other ways spoken among them to his depreciation. He now assures them that he perfectly understands the situation, has victory complete in his own heart and life, and everything auspicious from his own standpoint. Consequently they may rest easy so far as he is concerned. “But ye are straitened in your own hearts.” As in the former letter, he is still moving judiciously and boldly on his castigatory line, chastising them for the irregularities and the inconsistencies of which he has heard through others during his absence, and especially from Timothy and Titus, whom he had sent to preach to them, after his arrival on the coast, before leaving Asia. This letter, in co-operation with the former, has for its object the correction of all those errors and the radical reformation which he had been working up through his epistolary preaching and the corroboration of the same by Timothy and Titus, favorite preachers of his and much like himself, whom he had sent at different times to prevail upon them to receive appreciatively all he had written to them.

13. Grant unto me this reward, as I speak to children, be ye also enlarged.” The reward here mentioned is their own enlargement of heart toward him in filial reciprocation of his enlargement of parental affection toward them, that the expansion of their love either for other, as parent to children and children to their spiritual father, may be mutual and reciprocal when lie arrives among them.


Verses 14-16

ALLIANCES WITH THE WICKED FORBIDDEN

14. Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers.” This not only covers the ground of matrimonial alliances with the wicked, so prominently forbidden in the Word of God, and so recreantly and recklessly violated by the professors of religion at the present day, even the preachers winking at it, but it also interdicts all sorts of business complications and partnerships with the ungodly. “For what participation to righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship to light unto darkness?” The answer to these questions is a positive and uncompromising negative.

15. And what sympathy of Christ unto Belial? Or what part to a faithful man with an infidel?” Precisely as there is no conceivable reconcilement and co-operation of Christ and Belial, it is equally true that there is no possible harmony between a believer and an infidel. Hence it is foolish and wicked on the part of God’s people to enter into alliance of any sort with infidels. We should have nothing to do with them, except to make an honest effort for their salvation.

16. What agreement unto the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God, as God said, That I will dwell among them and will walk among them, and I will be their God and they shall be my people.” This verse is a scathing and uncompromising abnegation to all idolatry in every form and phase. This is very pertinent with them, because the most of them had been converted out of Gentile idolatry, and the Jews among them needed this admonition, as they had so largely retrogressed into — not the paganistic, but yet practice — idolatry. Oh! how exceedingly these strictures are needed in the churches of the present day, already largely filled with idols and daily multiplying them with an alarming rapidity! The Apostolic churches owned no houses, but worshipped wherever it suited their convenience. We find them in Troas using a room in a third story. What a pity the church didn’t remain in this itinerant, belligerent attitude, free and unencumbered to go to the ends of the earth, waging everywhere an exterminating war against the devil! While needless ornamentation was justifiable in Solomon’s temple, the wilderness tabernacle and the high-priest’s regalia, as they lived in the symbolic dispensation, and all of those valuables taught important lessons appertaining to the gracious economy, we must remember that the types and shadows have all been verified in the great Antitype, and have no longer any pertinency in the Church of God; but now, as they are utterly useless, and even forbidden, they become idols and rivals of the glorious Antitype, who should to us be all things and in all. Here we are assured that God dwells among us in the sanctuaries we erect in His name and that He walks among us. Consequently there should be no idols in the form of needless expenditure of the Lord’s money, nor gratifications of human pride and vanity, as even church pride is an abomination unto God. We should have nothing in our houses of worship calculated to divert the attention of the awful presence of the Almighty, who can not look upon sin with the least degree of allowance. How sad it is to see a modern church running after a vast diversity of idols, worshipping water-gods, day-gods, creed-gods, festival-gods, money-gods and gods of wood and stone in the form of fine church edifices!


Verse 17

REGENERATION AND SANCTIFICATION

17. Therefore come out from the midst of them and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing: and I will receive you.

18. And I will be unto you for a Father, and you shall be unto me for sons and daughters, saith the Lord mighty.” This is clear, grand and glorious on regeneration, a splendid text from which to preach this precious grace to lost sinners. Here the Almighty condescends to call them from the deep abysses of slumdom and filthy cess-pools of iniquity, kindly and lovingly entreating them to leave the devil and his filth, outright and forever, bidding adieu to their old companions in vice and immorality, with a distinct understanding that they are never to return. How lovingly and importunately He here pleads with them, “Touch not the unclean thing”;

i. e., when they leave the devil, their wicked companions and sins, they are never again to touch them. Millions are now in Hell he undertook gradually to break off from sinful habits. In that case the gradualism generally runs the wrong way. No drunkard ever reforms gradually; he can not do it. With him it is sudden and eternal abandonment and dissolution of all partnership with the whisky devil, or damnation world without end. There is no successful reform without adhesion to the Divine mandate, “Touch not the unclean thing.” When the sinner does his part, leaves the devil and all sin never to go back, then he has nothing to do but come to God by simple faith in His promise here given, “I will receive you, I will be unto you a Father, and you shall be unto me sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” God’s word never can fail. If it did, His throne would crumble and His kingdom fall. Hence the vilest sinner has nothing to do but take God at His word, leave all and leave forever, coming to God with the full assurance of faith — “Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out.” How strange the guilty, debauched millions of earth do not heed this call of loving mercy and fly at once to the embrace of a sympathizing Heavenly Father, thus passing triumphantly out of darkness into light, out of bondage in freedom, out of pollution into purity, out of death into life, out of Hell into Heaven.

1. Having, therefore, these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all the pollution of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God .” This is one of the many instances in which the uninspired chapter- makers committed an egregious blunder, by cutting the paragraph in two in the middle, illustrating the fact that they did not know much about the meaning of the Scripture. So this verse belongs to the preceding subject of regeneration, confirmatory not only of the two separate and distinct works of grace in the plan of salvation, but their intimate proximity either to other. It only took Israel eleven days to travel from Mt. Sinai, on the bank of the Red Sea, to Kadesh-Barnea, which means “holy delight” and lies right on the order of Canaan. God’s an was for them to enter the land of corn and wine at that early date instead of retreating away and wandering forty years in the waste, howling wilderness. This verse, so clear and explicit on entire sanctification as a second work of grace, follows immediately after the preceding verses expository of regeneration, showing that young converts should not delay till they grieve away the Spirit, but hasten with all expedition into entire sanctification. The promises here mentioned are given in the preceding verses, where God most unequivocally promises the sinner regeneration and adoption when he comes to Him by simple faith, having abandoned the devil and all of his sins, leaving his kingdom forever. We find two distinct departments appertaining to this glorious second work of grace, i. e., the flesh and the spirit. What is the “filthiness of the flesh”? Tobacco in all of its forms and phases is terribly filthy, really intolerably nasty, so much so that a decent sinner such as your humble servant once was, though brought up in the worst tobacco State in the world, never could use it. While all my friends not only used it, but tried to get me to do the same, my sense of decency revolted against it, even in my childhood. It is a rank narcotic poison, productive of paralysis, dyspepsia, heart disease, Bright’s disease, and a vast catalogue of terrible physical maladies. A sinner ought to quit it for the sake of common decency; a Christian, for Jesus’ sake; but if you get truly sanctified, it will do its own quitting, as you will get so near God you will be afraid He will smell your filthy tobacco breath when you pray. Opium is also a terrible filthiness of your flesh which none but Jesus with His sanctifying blood can eradicate out of the craving system. Intoxicating drinks must all go forever in this dark catalogue. There is to be no compromise whatever along this line. Gluttony must go, too.

The physical can no longer predominate over the spiritual if you are going to be holy to the Lord. The hog must go down and the angel come up. Jewelry and all needless ornamentation and gaudy display pollute your body, and disqualify it to become the honored and beautiful temple of the Holy Ghost. If you get sanctified, you no longer need artistic beauty in any of its forms and phases, as you have the beauty of holiness, which so eclipses all others as to bury them away in eternal oblivion. In the motley group designated “filthiness of the Spirit,” we find evil tempers, passions, incentives and predilections generally, such as anger, wrath, malice, revenge, envy, jealousy, pride, vanity, lust, egotism, sectarianism, and the malevolent affections indiscriminately. All these are the works of the devil, which Jesus came to destroy (1 John 3:8). You have nothing to do but turn them over to Him and leave them with Him. He will exterminate them world without end. To this glorious reality the Holiness Movement furnishes witnesses by wholesale who were once the slaves of the whisky devil, besotted drunkards; and the lust devil, debauched libertines, down at the bottom of slumdom. They are now standing in front of the battle waving the blood-stained banner, shouting the war-cry, and ranked among the most efficient preachers of the age. You need not think that anything is hard for Omnipotent Grace. You have nothing to do but give Him a chance. “Perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” This clause is expository of the preceding commandment to “cleanse ourselves from all the filthiness of the flesh and the spirit.” Whenever we get rid of all our unholiness, then our holiness is perfect, i. e., complete, has the field without a rival. This follows as a logical sequence from the simple fact that all of our unholiness either appertains to body or soul. Hence, when we get rid of these two classes of pollution, which is the antithesis of holiness, then we have what the Scripture calls perfect or complete holiness. Remember this is a statement of quality rather than quantity. A small garden may be as clean as a large field, yet there is a great difference in magnitude. When you get saved from all the “filthiness of the flesh and spirit,” your holiness is complete, though you may be but a spiritual infant contemplating growth into manhood. Yet we must not follow natural analogies too far, lest these metaphors break down and become incorrect, as we have a rule in rhetoric that we are not to press a metaphor too far, as it is only legitimate for exegesis within its sphere. In the spiritual realm, while sanctification gives us purity and subsequent growth in grace maturity, yet we must bear in mind that in spiritualities there is no getting old in the sense of incurring infirmity, as in the case of the body. But while we grow into maturity, we continue to grow more rapidly than ever, never reaching the terminus and never getting old, but blooming in immortal youth forever, growing on till we leave this world, and then growing in Heaven more rapidly than ever we did on earth, because Heaven is much more congenial to growth and prosperity than this world, this spiritual growth and development continuing through all eternity.

 


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Bibliography Information
Godbey, William. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 6:4". "William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ges/2-corinthians-6.html.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 15th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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