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Bible Commentaries

Matthew Poole's English Annotations
on the Holy Bible
2 Corinthians 6

 

 

Verse 1

2 CORINTHIANS CHAPTER 6

2 Corinthians 6:1,2 Paul entreateth the Corinthians not to frustrate God’s grace,

2 Corinthians 6:3-10 setting forth his own inoffensive, painful, and

patient demeanour in the discharge of his ministry,

2 Corinthians 6:11,12 of which he telleth them he spake more freely out of

the great love he bare them,

2 Corinthians 6:13 challenging the like affection from them in return.

2 Corinthians 6:14,15 He dissuadeth from any intimate connections with unbelievers,

2 Corinthians 6:16-18 Christians are the temples of the living God.

We then, as workers together with him: ministers of the gospel are fellow workers together with Christ; though but as instruments, serving him as the principal Agent, and efficient Cause: he trod the wine press of his Father’s wrath alone, and had no partner in the purchase of man’s salvation; but in the application of the purchased salvation, he admits of fellow workers. Though the internal work be his alone, and the effects of his Spirit upon the souls of those whose hearts are changed; yet there is a ministerial part, which lieth in exhortation and argument, by the ear conveyed to the soul; thus ministers work together with Christ. And without him they can do nothing: they are workers, but they must have Christ work with them, or they will find that they labour in vain.

Beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain: grace signifieth any free gift; and it is in the New Testament variously applied; but here it signifies, the doctrine of the gospel, held forth in the preaching of it, which these Corinthians had received with the ears of their bodies. And this was Paul’s, and should be every godly minister’s, work, not with roughness, but with all mildness and gentleness, to beseech those to whom they preach the gospel, that they would believe and embrace it, and live up to the holy rules of it; without which, (as to their souls’ benefit), all the kindness of God, in affording them the gospel and means of grace, is in vain, and lost: though God yet hath his end, and his ministers shall he a sweet savour to God, as well with, reference to them that perish, as those who shall be saved. For the effectual grace of God in the heart, that cannot be received in vain; nor is that here spoken of.


Verse 2

For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: the words here quoted, are taken out of the prophet Isaiah, Isaiah 49:8, according to the Septuagint’s translation. Though some think, that the apostle here doth but accommodate to the spiritual salvation brought in by Christ, a temporal salvation mentioned, and primarily intended; yet the most and best interpreters rather judge that whole chapter in Isaiah to refer to Christ, and that the salvation there mentioned, is to be understood of the spiritual salvation of the gospel; of which also the apostle speaketh here, and maketh these words (as in the prophet) the words of God the Father to Christ his Son; testifying both his assistance of him in the accomplishment of the work of man’s redemption, and his acceptance of him; according to which sense, the accepted time is the same with what the apostle calls, the fulness of time, Galatians 4:4; (though it may also be so called in the same sense that the apostle calleth the gospel a faithful saying, worthy of all acceptation, 1 Timothy 1:15) in which sense the gospel time was prophesied of as an acceptable time, Genesis 49:10 Haggai 1:8.

Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation; now is that accepted or acceptable time, now is that day of salvation, spoken of by the prophet; therefore you are concerned to receive this grace of the gospel, and to live up to the rule of it.


Verse 3

Giving no offence in any thing: to give no offence signifies, to avoid all actions which may be occasion of spiritual stumbling unto others, i.e. to make them to sin against God, or estrange their hearts from Christ, and the owning and profession of his gospel. These words may be understood as a general precept given to all Christians; so it agreeth with 1 Corinthians 10:30,32; or (which the following verses seem most to favour) as referring to himself and Timothy, and other ministers of the gospel; like true pastors of the church of Christ, going out before the flock, and showing in their example what they ought to be.

That the ministry be not blamed; the ministry here may either signify the office of the ministry, or the subject of it, the gospel, which, 2 Corinthians 5:18, is called the ministry of reconciliation: not only the office of the ministry, but the gospel itself, suffereth by the scandalous conversation of ministers and private Christians; ignorant persons being not able, or not willing, to distinguish between the faults of persons and the faults of a doctrine or office.


Verse 4

But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God: ministers of the gospel are in the first place to be considered as the ministers of God; secondarily, as ministers and servants of the church; which they ought to serve so far, as in serving it they do obey Christ. None can approve or commend themselves for ministers of God that live a scandalous life; God hath not sent them to lay stumblingblocks in, but to remove them out of, the way of men.

In much patience; patience signifies an enduring of evils quietly and cheerfully, at the command of God; or when we see it is the will of God, we should patiently submit to put our necks into the heaviest yokes. The apostle goes on reckoning up several species of those evils:

afflictions is a general term, signifying any evils that wear out our bodies.

Necessities signify any bodily wants of food, or raiment, or whatever is for the use of man’s life.

Distresses signify, properly, a man’s being straitened, or thrust up in a place, so as that he knoweth not how to steer himself; and, metaphorically, a want of counsel, not knowing what to do, or which way to turn ourselves.


Verse 5

In stripes: the apostle, 2 Corinthians 11:23, tells us he was in stripes above measure; and 2 Corinthians 11:24, that of the Jews he five times received forty stripes save one: we read of his many stripes, Acts 16:23.

In imprisonments; of the imprisonment of him and Silas, Acts 16:23, which was not the only time before the writing of this Epistle, as appeareth by this verse.

In tumults, or seditions raised by the Jews and the heathens; we have a record of one at Ephesus, Acts 19:21-41, caused by Demetrius: others, by tumults, here, understand unfixed and uncertain habitations, tossing to and fro, so as they could be quiet in no place; but the former seemeth rather the sense of the word, as Luke 21:9 1 Corinthians 14:33.

In labours; he either means labours with his hands, (which Paul was sometimes put to, as Acts 18:3 20:34), or travels and journeys. The word is a general word, significative of any pains that men take.

In watchings; religious watching, 2 Corinthians 11:27.

In fastings, as acts of discipline, by which he kept under his body, and brought it into subjection, as he told us, 1 Corinthians 9:27.


Verse 6

By pureness: as the apostle in the former words had declared the patience of his conversation, in the enduring of the afflictions of the gospel; so in this verse he declares the more internal holiness of it, under the general notion of pureness; showed in his knowledge, faith, gentleness, kindness, or goodness towards all men. The word translated pureness, signifieth rather the universal rectitude of his heart and ways, than (as some think) the habit or exercise of any particular virtue. In or by knowledge; a right understanding and notion of spiritual things; if it doth not here signify faith, which is a superstructure on this foundation, and that habit which hath a special influence upon purifying the heart, Acts 15:9. Without knowledge there can be no purity, Proverbs 19:2.

By long-suffering; the apostle means, not being easily provoked by such as had offended him, or done him wrong.

By kindness; the word translated kindness, signifies generally any goodness by which a man may show himself either sweet and pleasant, or useful and profitable, unto his neighbour.

By the Holy Ghost: thus the apostle showeth how he behaved himself; but not through his own strength, but through the influence and assistance of the Holy Ghost.

By love unfeigned; the love unfeigned here mentioned, is a general term, signifying that habit of grace wrought in his soul by the Holy Spirit of God, which was the principle of the long-suffering and kindness before mentioned.


Verse 7

By the word of truth; living up to and keeping our eye upon the word of God, which is the word of truth: this seems to be the sense, rather than speaking truth to every one, as some have thought.

By the power of God; by the efficacious working of the Spirit of God upon our hearts, enabling us to live up to the doctrine we preach. Some understand here, by the power of God, that extraordinary power of working miracles, which God gave the apostles; others, the gospel, which the apostle calls the power of God unto salvation, Romans 1:16. It may be understood of the first and the last joined together; for the gospel is no otherwise the power of God to salvation, than as it is attended to the souls of those to whom it is so made powerful, with the inward, powerful, efficacious working of the Holy Spirit.

By the armour of righteousness; he means a good conscience, (which cannot be without a universal rectitude, or uprightness of life), which is a defence against all temptations, either from prosperity or from adversity. In which sense that of Solomon is true: He that walketh uprightly, walketh surely, Proverbs 10:9: and David prayeth, Psalms 25:21: Let integrity and uprightness preserve me.


Verse 8

By honour and dishonour; we depart not from our integrity, whether we be honoured or dishonoured.

By evil report and good report; well or evilly reported of. This hath from the beginning been the lot of all the faithful ministers of Christ; some have given them honour, others have cast reproach upon them; some have given a good report of them, some an evil report.

As deceivers, and yet true; some have represented them as impostors, and such as deceived the people; others have spoken of them as true men: their business is to go through good report and bad report, honour and dishonour, still holding fast their integrity.


Verse 9

As unknown, and yet well known; dealt with by Jews and heathens as persons wholly unknown to them, though we be sufficiently known; or being such whom the world knoweth not, as to our state towards God, and interest in him, though it knows us well enough as to our other circumstances.

As dying, and, behold, we live; so hunted and persecuted, as that we appear every day dying; yet such hath been the power of God’s providence, that we yet live:

As chastened, and not killed; and though our heavenly Father chasteneth us, yet we are not utterly consumed: the apostle alludeth to that, Psalms 118:18: The Lord hath chastened me sore; but he hath not given me over to death.


Verse 10

As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; appearing to others as persons drowned in griefs and sorrows, yet we are always rejoicing in God, {Habakkuk 3:17,18} and in the testimony of a good conscience, 2 Corinthians 1:12.

As poor, yet making many rich; in outward appearance poor, having no abundance of the good things of this life; yet making many rich in knowledge and grace, God by us dispensing to them the riches of his grace.

As having nothing, and yet possessing all things as having nothing, no houses, no lands, no silver or gold, Acts 3:6; yet being as well satisfied and contented, as if all things were ours; as well satisfied with that little which we have, as the men of the world are with their abundance; possessing all things in Christ, though having little in the creature.


Verse 11

Our mouth is open to speak freely to you, and to communicate to you the whole will and counsel of God;

our heart is enlarged both by the love that I have towards you, and by the rejoicing that I have in you. This enlargement of my heart is that which openeth my lips, and makes me speak freely to you, both in admonishing you of your errors, and in exhorting you to your duty.


Verse 12

Ye are not straitened in us; if you cannot mutually rejoice in me, and what I write, or if you do not repay me the like affection, the fault is not in me; I have done my duty, and that too from a true principle of love to you.

But ye are straitened in your own bowels; but it is through mistakes and misapprehensions in yourselves, your not aright conceiving of me in the discharge of my apostolical office. Or the cause of your trouble and sorrow is from yourselves, upon your suffering the incestuous person, and other scandalous persons, to abide in your communion; which was an error I could not but take notice of, according to that apostolical authority which God hath committed to me.


Verse 13

Be ye also enlarged, both in love to me, and also in obedience; it is but a just recompence for that great affection which I have borne, and upon all occasions showed to you; and also for that faithfulness which I have showed in discharging the duty of my relation to you. For I speak as a father unto children, it being but reasonable, that children should recompense to their fathers their love to them, and be as exact and faithful in their duty to their parents, as their parents are in their duty towards them.


Verse 14

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: they too much restrain the sense of this general precept, who either limit it to religious communion with idolaters, or to civil communion in marriages. The precept is delivered in a term of more general significancy, than to be limited by either of these, though both of them, questionless, be comprehended in it: mh ginesye eterozugountev, do not become such as in the same yoke draw another way. It is a metaphor drawn from horses or oxen; which should draw together, being in the same yoke, neither standing still, nor yet holding back. It is a general precept, prohibitive of all unnecessary communion and intimate fellowship with such, as either in matters of faith or worship, or in their lives and conversations, declare themselves to be unbelievers; for why we should expound apistoiv of infidels merely, I cannot tell, especially considering that the apostle, 1 Corinthians 5:9-11, seems to allow a further communion with a heathen, than with a notoriously scandalous Christian. So as this precept may reasonably be interpreted by those in the former Epistle, of marrying with such, eating with them at idol feasts, or at the Lord’s table, {as 2 Corinthians 5:1-21} maintaining intimate communion with them, &c.

For what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? The reason he giveth, is, because they could have no comfortable communion with such; they were righteousness, those persons were unrighteousness; they were light, such persons were darkness, that is, full of the darkness of sin and ignorance. In the mean time, this precept ought not to be extended to a total avoiding of commerce with, or being in the company of, either heathens, or scandalous persons; for as to that, the same apostle had before determined it lawful, 1 Corinthians 5:11. Whatever communion with such persons is either necessary from the law of God or nature, or for the support and upholding of human life and society, is lawful even with such persons; but all other is unlawful.


Verse 15

And what concord hath Christ with Belial? By Belial, in this text, very good interpreters understand the devil; judging that the apostle here opposeth Christ, who is the Head of Believers and of the church, to him who is the head of all unbelievers, and the god of the world. The term is used only in this place in the New Testament, but very often in the Old Testament, to express men notoriously wicked and scandalous, Deuteronomy 13:13 Jude 19:22 1 Samuel 1:16 2:12 25:17 2 Samuel 16:7 2 Chronicles 13:7. The Hebrews themselves are not agreed in the etymology of it; Psalms 101:3, a wicked thing is called a thing of Belial (as may be seen in the margin of our bibles); so as the argument is drawn from our duty of conformity to our Head; Christ hath no fellowship with the devil, therefore we ought to have no unnecessary communion with such who manifest themselves to be of their father the devil, by their doing his works; nor hath Christ any communion with the sons of Belial.

Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? What part or portion, that is, what society or communion, hath a believer with one that beheveth not? What hath he to do with him? It was a usual phrase amongst the Jews, Joshua 22:25,27. Some by this part understand, what portion in the life to come? In which sense it teacheth us, that we should maintain intimate and elective communion in this life only with such as we would gladly have our portion with in another life. But the most judicious interpreters think this is not intended in this place.


Verse 16

And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? This particular instance giveth some expositors occasion to interpret 2 Corinthians 6:14, of communion with idolaters in such acts of religion as are proper to them; but nothing hinders but that that precept may be interpreted more generally, though the apostle gives this as one particular instance, wherein he would have them avoid communion with unbelievers.

For ye are the temple of the living God; the argument is drawn from what the apostle had before asserted, 1 Corinthians 3:16 6:19, their being the temples of the Holy Ghost; which he proveth from Leviticus 26:12 Ezekiel 37:26,27.

As God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people: not that what the apostle meaneth here, is the literal meaning of Leviticus 26:11,12; for it is manifest, that God by Moses there is speaking not of God’s dwelling in the persons of believers, or in his church, but of that gracious presence and manifestation of himself to his people in the tabernacle erected by his order. Some therefore think, that the place here alluded to, though not quoted verbatim, is that, Ezekiel 37:26,27, which is a promise respecting the kingdom of Christ; where God promiseth to make a covenant of peace with his people, and saith, I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore. My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people. The words, as they are here quoted, are entirely to be found in no one text of holy writ; it is sufficient that they are to be found there in parts. Nor doth this text so properly speak of God’s dwelling in particular believers, as of his dwelling in the churches of his people; therefore, though he speaks of many, ye are, yet temple is in the singular number. These many are but one body; the church in which God dwelleth, and with which he hath communion, which is expressed by walk in them; as in Revelation 2:1, he is said to walk in the midst of the golden candlesticks. Nor is the term living vainly added to God; for besides that he is usually so called, as being ever-living, and the Fountain of all life; it also showeth the opposition between him and idols, which are dead things: and therefore God could have no more communion with idols, than the living can have with the dead; nor could they have communion with the living God and dead idols. Nor could they be the people of the living God, and the people or worshippers of dead idols; so as those that were idolaters must lose the advantage of that covenant wherein God had said:

I will be their God, and they shall be my people.


Verse 17

The apostle here quoteth words out of the Old Testament, no where to be found there syllabically, without variation, but keeping to the sense of them, which is a thing very usual with the penmen of the New Testament. The first quotation seemeth to be taken from Isaiah 52:11: 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. Interpreters are not agreed as to the term from whence the prophet there admonisheth the Jews to depart: some make it to be their former sinful courses; others make it to be the kingdom of the devil and antichrist; others make it to be literal Babylon; the prophet foreseeing, that when the Jews should have a liberty given them to leave Babylon, (which happened in the time of Cyrus the Persian monarch), some of them (now as it were incorporated with the Chaldeans) would linger, and find a difficulty to pluck up their stakes in Babylon, though it were in order to their return to Jerusalem, heretofore the joy and praise of the whole earth. Whatever was the prophet’s meaning, certain it is, the apostolical precept cannot be interpreted of a leaving literal Babylon, for neither the Christian jews, nor Gentiles, were at this time there; he must therefore be understood of a mystical Babylon. And the sense must be this: Come out and be ye separate from those with whom your souls will be in as much danger as the Jews were in the literal Babylon. But whether by these are to be understood idolaters only, or all notorious scandalous livers, is the question: The true determination of which, I conceive, dependeth upon the sense of those words: Come out, be ye separated; which words, I think, are not fully interpreted by those that follow,

touch not the unclean thing; for, doubtless, the former words are a precept concerning the means to be used in order to that as an end, it being a hard thing to touch pitch, and not to be defiled therewith. On the other side, they interpret it too rigidly, who make it to be a prohibition of all commerce or company with such persons; for this is contrary to the apostolical doctrine in his former Epistle to this church, where he had allowed, 1 Corinthians 5:1-13, a civil commerce and traffic with the worst of men; and, 1 Corinthians 7:1-40, had forbidden the separation of Christians and heathens, once joined in marriage, unless the unbeliever first departed. The text therefore must be understood only of elective and unnecessary, intimate communion; and is much the same with that, 2 Corinthians 6:14: Be ye not unequally yoked with unbelievers. So as that it doth by no means justify the withdrawing of all civil or religious communion from those whose judgments or practice in all things we cannot approve; it only justifieth our withdrawing our communion from idolaters, and from notorious scandalous sinners in such duties and actions, or in such degrees, as we are under no obligation to have fellowship and communion with them in; and our forbearing to touch their unclean things in that fellowship and communion which we are allowed with them, having no fellowship with them in their unfruitful works of darkness, but reproving them, even while in civil things, and some religious actions, we have some fellowship with them.


Verse 18

The latter words, which are a promise of God’s reception of them who for his sake withdraw from a sinful communion with idolaters and scandalous persons, are taken out of Jeremiah 31:1,9, and teach us this: That none can reasonably expect that God should fulfil his covenant with them, who make no conscience of fulfilling their part in it with him; nor claim the benefits of a Father, who perform not the duties of his children: but on the contrary, those who are conscientious in the discharge of their duties of filial obedience, may expect from him both the kindness and the protection of a Father; which is the more valuable because he is the

Lord God Almighty, who wants no power to protect them, or so to influence them, as to make them in all things happy, as the children of so great a Father.

 


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Bibliography Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 6:4". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/2-corinthians-6.html. 1685.

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