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2Corinthians 6 (web)

We Commend Ourselves

In Preaching not in Vain

6:1 Working together, we entreat also that you not receive the grace of God in vain,
6:2 for he says, "At an acceptable time I listened to you, In a day of salvation I helped you
." Behold, now is the acceptable time. Behold, now is the day of salvation.
6:3 We give no occasion of stumbling in anything, that our service may not be blamed,

In Enduring Trials with Godliness

6:4 but in everything commending ourselves, as servants of God,
in great endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses,
6:5 in beatings, in imprisonments, in riots, in labors, in watchings, in fastings;
6:6 in pureness, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in sincere love,
6:7 in the word of truth, in the power of God;
by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left,
6:8 by glory and dishonor, by evil report and good report; as deceivers, and yet true;
6:9 as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and not killed;
6:10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich;
as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.

In Ministering Freely from the Heart

6:11 Our mouth is open to you, Corinthians. Our heart is enlarged.
6:12 You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted by your own affections.
6:13 Now in return, I speak as to my children, you also be open wide.

Instruction: Separation from Unbelievers

6:14 Don't be unequally yoked with unbelievers, for what fellowship have righteousness and iniquity? Or what communion has light with darkness?
6:15 What agreement has Christ with Belial? Or what portion has a believer with an unbeliever?
6:16 What agreement has a temple of God with idols? For you are a temple of the living God. Even as God said, "I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they will be my people." (Lev 26:12)
6:17 Therefore, "'Come out from among them, And be separate,'
says the Lord, 'Touch no unclean thing. I will receive you. (Is 52:11)
6:18 I will be to you a Father. You will be to me sons and daughters,' says the Lord Almighty." (Hos 1:10)

Discussion Questions

vs 1-10 What does it mean to receive God's grace in vain?
What stumbling blocks might there be in a given ministry hindering some from coming to true faith in Christ?
How are we communicating our conviction when we present the gospel?
Is there a basis upon which people might question you as to what you get out of it?
What does your ministry cost you?
vs 11-13 How can you get others to be open with you?
vs 14-18 What do we not have in common with unbelievers?
In what way should we separate from unbelievers?
In what way does God live with us and walk among us?
Under what conditions will God receive us?


Receive Grace with Purpose

2Cor 6:1,2 As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says, "In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you." I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.

To receive it in vain is to receive it without intending to put it into practice, or otherwise to abandon it at some point. Paul wrote to them in his first letter saying, "By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain." 1Cor 15:2 And he points to his own example saying, "by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me." 1Cor 15:10

Today being the day of salvation is a quote from Isaiah 49:8. Similarly Isaiah also says, "Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon." Is 55:6,7 And he goes on to speak of the effective nature of the Word of God. " As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it." Is 55:10,11

In other words, what God says is not in vain. He means what he says and will bring about what he promised. Therefore be confident in what God has promised and carry out what God has commanded. "Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain." 1Cor 15:58

Be Reputable

2Cor 6:3 We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited.

For example Paul, though he was entitled to it, intentionally refused payment for his services but rather earned money by working at a secular job so that he may offer the gospel free of charge.

"Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas? Or is it only I and Barnabas who must work for a living?" ... "If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more? But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ." ... "Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible." 1Cor 9:5,6,12,19 And "Was it a sin for me to lower myself in order to elevate you by preaching the gospel of God to you free of charge?" 2Cor 11:7  And such a lifestyle he instructs others to follow. To the Ephesian elders he says, "I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions.  In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’" Acts 20:31-35 Sadly to say an example of which few Christian leaders have historically chosen to follow.  "For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ." Php 2:21, refusing to sacrifice personal rights and freedoms resulting in many a stumbling block throughout the history of Christianity. Yes we have freedoms in Christ, "Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak." 1Cor 8:9

The Commendation of Trials

2Cor 6:4,5  Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger;

There are a number of things which reveal a person's convictions.

If out of free choice one labors intensely without personal benefit, that communicates conviction. What do you do with your free time?  Previously Paul said, "To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it" 1Cor 4:11,12 Would you characterize your spiritual leaders as working hard and inspite troubles and hardship? Paul told the Thessalonians, "Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work." 1Tim 5:12,13 Notice also the phrase "we go hungry and thirsty", and compare that with your pastor's waistline. (or your own waisteline) (Or should I say wasteline?) Indeed the ministry requires one to exercise self-control over one's body. Thus Paul writes, "I beat my body and make it my slave". 1Cor 9:27, of course not to take this too literally mind you. But in fact many a Christian or Christian leader is largely a slave to the passions of their flesh. And this particularly the case in pleasure-seeking affluent cultures such as in the US presently.

Great endurance implies two things. One is time. "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." Gal 6:9 The other is the fact of opposition. Doing ministry properly should make you feel like you're swimming against the tide. And this is the case with regards to our flesh, which is by its nature opposed to the things of the Spirit. "For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want." Gal 5:17 And opposition comes from society and its culture. "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world" Rom 12:2a Yet you will find virtually every Christian community today contains inappropriate elements of culture, of which many a Christian is not aware. Consequently another source of opposition is the Christian community itself. For example in Galatians 2 and Acts 15 we learn that a cult had developed in the church at Jerusalem which was spreading a false gospel, of which Paul greatly opposed. So too today.

The credentials of a candidate for church leader should primarily not consist of educational degrees, but rather of one's experience, where conviction is measured not simply by theological papers, but by one's endurance in the truth in the face of trials.

The Commendation of Good Character

2Cor 6:6 in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love;

The ministry is not just about right doctrine, nor about being zealous as revealed by one's endurance in the face of opposition. It's about everything. One's attitude, understanding, the way we treat others and our motivation.

Paul advises Timothy, "Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity." 1Tim 4:12  So "Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart." 2Tim 2:22

Consider for example sincere love. Much as ministry can be viewed among the mature as a matter of duty, sincere love goes beyond duty. This is not to say that those who enjoy doing the ministry have sincere love, but rather those who take genuine interest in the welfare of others despite the hardship of doing so. Paul writes of Timothy, "I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ." Php 2:20,21 Sincere love is indeed a rare quality, even among ministers. Though they may appear sincere outwardly, most recognize how shallow and self-serving their interests often end up being. And this was apparently the case even among Paul's team.

The Commendation of the Truth

2Cor 6:7  in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left;

Truthful speech goes along with sincere love. "A lying tongue hates those it hurts, and a flattering mouth works ruin." Ps 26:28 Paul never flattered people. He writes, "You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed" 1Th 2:5 And Paul writes, "Speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ." Eph 4:15 Regardless of "good" intentions, speaking falsehood is never in love. How many ministers today who are financially dependent, are willing to follow Paul's example in saying things which are truth, but unpopular; things which are not flattering; things which would threaten their own pocketbook?

"I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people." Rom 16:16,17

As for weapons of righteousness, they deal in the realm of ideas. "The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." 2Cor 10:4,5 And what is in our arsenal, but "the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." Eph 6:17b, while in the left hand we have prayer, as the quote in Ephesians continues. "pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should." Eph 6:18-20

Diverse Impressions

2Cor 6:8-10 through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

Just as Christ was viewed completely differently by his enemies, so also with ministers of Christ. And likewise with the message, "For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life." 2Cor 2:15,16 Therefore do not rely upon public opinion when evaluating such people. Rather evaluate them in accordance with the truth.

To be an effective minister of the gospel one much react well to opposition. But of the many contrasts given here what I find most interesting is sorrowful yet always rejoicing. For that is not about circumstances, but about attitude. The Christian can be sorrowful and yet rejoicing at the same time, for Christian joy is less about surface emotions as it is one's inner hope. Thus it is written of Jesus "who for the joy set before him endured the cross" Heb 12:2b and yet we don't see that joy during that time period as the world views joy.

Frank Relationships

2Cor 6:11-13 We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. As a fair exchange— I speak as to my children— open wide your hearts also.

In other words they were behaving like teenagers. For it is most characteristic of that stage of maturity that one is least likely to reciprocate the love of one's parents. More literally verse 12 says, "You are not restrained by us, but you are restrained by your own affections." Interesting that "restrained" is in the passive voice in the Greek. Beware of your own affections. For they may restrict or restrain you from expressing the love you should express, as here they should have reciprocated Paul's affection for them.

As for those involved in ministry, a significant part of the ministry is words. Paul spoke freely, and not only meaning the extensiveness of his teaching them, and his frankness, but also the fact that he didn't demand they pay him for such service. But good ministry goes beyond words. Good ministry involves one's affections towards those to whom we minister. And reciprocally the minister hopes to invoke like affections in one's students.

Avoid Ungodly Allegiances

2Cor 6:14,15 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?

"Yoked" is an agricultural term in which two animals are connected together at the neck by a block of wood so that both may be used to pull a plow. In this case Paul may be applying it to a number of circumstances,  the most obvious of which is marriage.

Don't make unnecessary allegiances with unbelievers. "A righteous man is cautious in friendship, but the way of the wicked leads them astray." Prov 12:26 So for example, "He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm." Prov 13:20 and "Make no friendship with an angry man, And with a furious man do not go, lest you learn his ways And set a snare for your soul." Prov 22:24,25 And while these might not characterize the particular allegiance in question, friendships with unbelievers will be detrimental. And it's also a waste of time, energy and resources of which you could be exercising fruifully for the kingdom of God.

But obviously this does not mean one avoids any contact with unbelievers. The issue as to whom we chose to be yoked to. Paul writes, "I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—  not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world." 1Cor 5:9,10

However there may be confusion concerning friendship. For in some cultures, such as in the US, "friendships" are generally so shallow as to be merely acquaintances. The Bible is speaking of friendship as something more than a casual association. But it should be obvious that Christians should not date non-Christians, let alone marry them. Why would they even want to? One wonders whether such people are Christians indeed if they chose such allegiances. Follow Jesus example and that of his apostles. Spend the majority of your free time with believers.

Be a Holy Temple

2Cor 6:16-18  What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said:

"I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people." (Lev 26:12) 

"Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you." (Is 52:11)

"I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty." (Hos 1:10)

In his first letter he said, "Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?" 1Cor 3:16 And he applies this with regards to sexual immorality saying, "Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body." 1Cor 6:18-20 Consequently these instructions are particularly applicable to dating relationships. But there may be a number of other things one may find they must separate from as directed by the Word, the Spirit, and one's conscience. But separation does not mean isolation. For a Christian is never alone. The objective is simply to remove those things which hinder our personal relationship with God.

Recall when Jesus entered the temple in John 2:14-17 In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, "Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!" His disciples remembered that it is written: "Zeal for your house will consume me." And who are his house? "we are his house" Heb 3:6b

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources Sep 09,2010