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Bible Commentaries

Henry Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament
2 Corinthians 6

 

 

Verses 1-10

The ministry of the gospel

2 Corinthians 6:1-10

2 Corinthians 6:1. The ministry of the gospel of Christ is a work in which every believer is engaged, whether in preaching, teaching, praying, giving, or witnessing. It is a work which requires perseverance, faithfulness and diligence. We are not in competition, but work together in unity with one common goal – the glory of God (Philippians 1:14-18). However, the meaning here is that we are fellow laborers with Christ. He is the Chief Shepherd; we are under him. He is the Master; we are servants (1 Corinthians 3:5-9). Redemption is his work alone ('Salvation is of the Lord'); yet there is a ministerial part which lies in witnessing (Acts 1:8), preaching (Mark 16:15-16) and teaching (Ephesians 4:11-14). In this regard, we are ‘workers together with him.’ ‘We beseech you to receive the gospel we preach; believe it, embrace it and walk therein.’ For to hear the gospel, or to be exposed to it, or only to give lip service to it, or to profess to believe it and then turn back is to receive it ‘in vain’! (Hebrews 10:38-39; 2 Peter 2:20-22.)

2 Corinthians 6:2. This is a quotation from Isaiah 49:7-8, and these are words spoken by the Father to Christ! ‘I have heard thee.’ He heard him when he stood as our eternal Surety, the Lamb slain from the beginning; he heard him in his priestly prayer recorded in John 17; he heard him in the garden, on the cross and now at his right hand interceding for us. ‘In a time accepted,’ or in a time of peace and good will from the Father to men, for God was pleased in the fullness of his own time to send Christ to this world (Galatians 4:4-5; 1 Timothy 1:15). ‘In the day of salvation have I succoured thee.’ While Christ was on this earth working out the salvation of his people by his obedience, suffering and death, he was helped, strengthened and empowered by the Father through the Holy Spirit. Paul cries, ‘Behold,’ before each sentence in order to get their undivided attention. ‘Now is the accepted time.’ It is the time of God's mercy and grace to men in Christ. ‘Now is the day of salvation.’ The work is done, righteousness is brought in and God is reconciled in Christ. God has purposed, promised and pictured this day throughout the Old Testament. It is all fulfilled in Christ (Hebrews 3:6-12).

2 Corinthians 6:3. To ‘give no offence’ is to avoid actions, words, habits and conduct that might be a stumbling-block to others and hinder the success of the gospel preached. The words can be a general precept to all believers, as in 1 Corinthians 10:31-33, especially to ministers. There are persons who are awaiting all opportunities to reproach the gospel and discredit the ministry of the word. Let us not give them reason to do so. The next verse seems to bear out the fact that Paul is speaking to ministers of the gospel.

2 Corinthians 6:4-5. It is not only essential that a minister avoid words and actions that might be a stumbling-block and an offence to others, but that he should actively, by all means and ways, prove and show himself to be a true and faithful preacher of the gospel. This is done through ‘patience,’ under trials sent by God without murmuring, being gentle and kind in dealing with the infirmities of men and waiting on the Lord to accomplish his purpose. ‘In afflictions’ let him be an example to the flock. Let him depend on God to supply his ‘necessities,’ for they who preach the gospel are to live by the gospel (Philippians 4:19; Genesis 14:22-23). Even the minister must endure ‘distresses,’ both in body and mind, not knowing what to do nor which way to go (Psalms 37:5). Let him show courage and faith under persecution for the gospel, even in stripes (2 Corinthians 11:23-24), in prison or bonds for Christ's sake and in tumults or uproars and opposition from the people. It is essential that ministers show themselves to be his servants in constant labour. God will not own nor bless laziness. A true minister will be known for watchfulness, guarding the pulpit and assembly from error of doctrine or spirit, and he will be faithful in fastings, whether voluntary or involuntary!

2 Corinthians 6:6. The apostle in the preceding verses exhorts ministers to show themselves to be such by way of life and conduct; he now deals with the inward or unseen attitude and spiritual behavior. If any believers demonstrate ‘pureness’ of motive, doctrine and heart, it should be those who teach others. Their ‘knowledge’ of the Scriptures and the mysteries of grace and their wisdom in leading God's people come by prayer and study (2 Timothy 2:15; Acts 6:4). The minister must not easily be provoked to anger but by ‘longsuffering,’ patience and ‘kindness’ must demonstrate the Spirit of Christ. Who is sufficient for these things? Who is able to produce such ideals? None in themselves; but by the Holy Ghost and by genuine, unfeigned love for Christ and his sheep it is possible.

2 Corinthians 6:7. True servants of Christ are also revealed by preaching ‘the word of truth,’ the gospel of our Lord Jesus (1 John 4:1-3; Isaiah 8:20). They are known by ‘the power of God’ accompanying their preaching (1 Thessalonians 1:5-6). ‘The armour of righteousness’ probably refers to the whole armor of God, as in Ephesians 6:13-17, or especially to the shield of faith in the left hand and the sword of the Spirit in the right.

2 Corinthians 6:8-10. The ministers of the gospel must expect to meet with many different alterations of their circumstances and conditions in this world. They will not be treated, received, nor regarded in the same way by all. They will be loved by some and hated by others. It will be a great evidence of their integrity and faith to behave properly under whatever conditions (Philippians 4:11-13). The apostle met with honour and dishonor, good reports and evil reports. He was a ‘true’ minister, yet counted by some to be a ‘deceiver.’ He was ‘unknown’ and unrecognized by most men, but ‘well known’ to believers. He was a dying man, yet in Christ alive evermore; ‘chastened’ by God and men, but not yet given over to death. Like his Lord, the minister is a man of great sorrow (Romans 9:1-2) over his sin and the unbelief of others, ‘yet always rejoicing’ in the Lord (Philippians 4:4). It is generally the lot of God's preachers to be ‘poor’ in this world, but they are the instruments of grace to ‘make many rich’ spiritually. They have left all to follow Christ and, therefore, have little or ‘nothing’; but in Christ pertaining to true life!


Verses 11-18

Be not unequally yoked together

2 Corinthians 6:11-18

2 Corinthians 6:11. The apostle, having dealt at length with those who teach, preach and minister the word of God, exhorting them to fulfill their ministry, to walk in integrity of life (inwardly and outwardly), to preach the word of truth in the power of the Spirit (all of which he encourages by his own example), now addresses the whole congregation saying, ‘My mouth is open to you, to speak freely and openly to you all the counsel of God (Acts 20:20; Acts 20:27) and to deal with you faithfully and plainly. My heart is enlarged. I speak openly and plainly to you because I love you! This strong love for you is what opens my mouth toward you, for I desire your eternal good.’

2 Corinthians 6:12. ‘I have no difficulty finding room in my heart for all of you; the trouble is with you. Because of outside influence, doubts concerning my office and authority and the fact that I have had to rebuke and correct you for various errors, you cannot find room in your hearts to love and accept me and my words’ (Galatians 4:16).

2 Corinthians 6:13. ‘Now, by way of return, grant to me the same recompense; repay me with affection; let love be returned for love. I speak to you as children.’ As a father should love his children, so children should love their father. ‘Open wide your hearts to me as I have opened my hurt to you’ (1 John 4:7-11).

2 Corinthians 6:14. ‘Be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers.’ This metaphor is taken from horses or oxen which, being joined together by a common yoke, must walk and pull together in the same direction and with the same goal or have serious problems. Believers and unbelievers do not have the same principles, natures, nor goals. They cannot walk together in harmony because they are not agreed on the vital issues of life, sin, salvation, God's glory and the gospel (Amos 3:3). Therefore, the believer is unwise who marries an unbeliever (1 Corinthians 7:39), who forms a business partnership with an unbeliever, who seeks social fellowship and companionship with unbelievers, who attempts to worship or conduct religious projects with unbelievers. This is not to be understood as forbidding any contact with unbelievers in civil society, conversation, or vocation and grade. If that were true, the believer would have to leave the world. Also, God put us in the world as salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16) to witness to all men and to be an example of his grace, even to those who despise his name. But to seek an unnecessary alliance and partnership with one who does not know nor love our Master is foolish, for what fellowship, companionship and agreement can righteousness have with unrighteousness? What an absurdity to think of joining together for comfortable communion darkness and light, or fire and water! (1 Corinthians 10:20-21; Ephesians 5:5-11).

2 Corinthians 6:15. What harmony can there possibly be between Christ and the devil? The word ‘Belial’ is only used this one time in the New Testament but very often in the Old Testament and signifies a very wicked person. Most agree that the reference here is to Satan. Christ, who dwells in us and we in him, has no fellowship nor agreement with Satan; therefore, how can we enjoy unnecessary communion with those who manifest themselves to be children of the devil? Christ Jesus is our life, our part and portion; the infidel's part and portion are sin, self and eternal damnation. Therefore, what do we share in common that would give us any common ground for communion?

2 Corinthians 6:16. The argument for believers to quit the company of wicked persons, to separate from them and to avoid being joined unequally with them in unnecessary communion is further enforced by asking, ‘What agreement can there be between a temple of God and idols?’ We are certainly the temple of God; for God said, ‘I will dwell in them, and walk in them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people’ (1 Corinthians 3:16; Ephesians 2:21-22). ‘We are the temple of the living God.’ Idols have no life but are dead things and are representatives of dead men. What agreement or place can life have with or for death? We can no more walk with the living God and find joy and comfort in communion with unbelievers than we can bring dead idols into the temple of the living God! The apostle is not just setting forth the rules and laws concerning unnecessary communion with unbelievers. He is wondering why the believer would seek such alliances and what possible agreement or communion could come of these partnerships! They have nothing in common.

2 Corinthians 6:17-18. Paul does something here that is done in other places in the New Testament. He quotes the Old Testament, not word for word but keeping to the true teaching; in the same quotation he uses another passage (Isaiah 52:11; Jeremiah 31:1; Jeremiah 31:9). Israel was a special, chosen nation (Deuteronomy 7:6-8) and so were commanded to separate themselves from idols and idol worshippers, from heathen people and their evil ways. The believer is chosen of God, loved, redeemed and called to a life of righteousness; therefore, he ought to and will separate himself from superstition and will-worship in the matters of the soul. He will separate himself from the evil customs and manners of the world, conducting himself as a child of the King. He will separate himself from wicked and immoral persons, not wishing to keep company with them in their sins nor to be exposed to their evil by association. He is not our Father because we separate ourselves from worldly associates and associations, for he is our Father by grace and adoption by his own will in Christ, but he will care for us as a father cares for his children in their every need (Matthew 6:31-33).

 


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Bibliography Information
Mahan, Henry. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 6:4". Henry Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hms/2-corinthians-6.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, October 21st, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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