2 Corinthians 6
1And working together with Him, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain--
2for He says,
"AT THE ACCEPTABLE TIME I LISTENED TO YOU,
AND ON THE DAY OF SALVATION I HELPED YOU."
Behold, now is "THE ACCEPTABLE TIME," behold, now is "THE DAY OF SALVATION"--
3giving no cause for offense in anything, so that the ministry will not be discredited,
Paul, drawing from Isaiah 49:8, urges the Corinthians both to be sure of their salvation in Christ by repenting of their sins and putting their trust in Him if they haven’t already. This is the time to turn to Him, and only while we are alive and until the return of Christ, will sinners have a chance to repent. God desires to listen and help the sinner if only he would call out to Him in faith. Paul and the apostles desire that the Corinthians be their fellow workers, which they only can be if they are saved and then living out their faith in obedience. An ambassador of the gospel must have received the gospel, must be able to share the gospel, and must live a life transformed by the gospel such that no one can discredit his testimony. Paul wants the Corinthians to become effective ambassadors of the gospel so that their salvation truly amounts to fruit for the kingdom, but in order to do this, they must walk in holiness. Otherwise, offenses will be given to those watching, and the ministry can be discredited. Even part of the body being unfaithful can make it more difficult for others to preach and be respected. Faithfulness in the body in one place leads to credibility even in another. Thus, Paul desires that the Corinthians walk in holiness so that their testimony and his can be made effective and believable.
4but in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses,
5in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger,
6in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in genuine love,
7in the word of truth, in the power of God; by the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left,
8by glory and dishonor, by evil report and good report; regarded as deceivers and yet true;
9as unknown yet well-known, as dying yet behold, we live; as punished yet not put to death,
10as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing all things.
Paul’s desire is that believers everywhere can be proven to be genuine because their lives are evidence of their saving faith in Christ. A servant of God is not to walk in disobedience, and if someone does this continually, there are Biblical grounds to question his salvation (1 John 3:9). But Paul’s message is that genuine believers live in holiness continually and regularly so that they stop sinning (1 Corinthians 15:34). Perseverance in resisting sin and in preaching the gospel are marks of true servants of God who desire to have a legitimate testimony before men. They will stand firm for truth and for the glory of the Lord despite any amount of distress, persecution, suffering, affliction, hardship, beatings, tumults, severe labors for the sake of the gospel, imprisonment, or any other related suffering for the cause of the gospel. To serve the kingdom takes a lot of toil and hard work, and often it is accompanied by opposition and persecution, which the apostles were no stranger to. Yet Paul was adamant that perseverance would mark the lives of the believers as well as purity, a growing knowledge of God, patience and forbearance with one another, kindness, love that is without hypocrisy or false motives, the power of the Spirit and God, and the word of truth which is the revelation of God in the Scripture. Believers need to arm themselves with the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-17), raising their shield of faith with one hand to deflect Satan’s temptations and with the sword of God, which is the Word of God, in the other hand, to speak truth into a world that needs it. These weapons are powerful, and the servant of God uses them regularly lest he fall. There will be some who praise believers for their sacrifice and service, but more often than not, there will be those who curse and mock. Some will say good things and others bad, but at all times, whether in season or out, the Word must be preached (2 Timothy 4:2). Some will even attack a faithful person’s reputation and falsely accuse him of things he didn’t do. In some circles, a faithful preacher might become well-known, but popularity is not something he holds dear. Popularity is both fleeting and relative, and he accepts being unknown or well-known, regardless of what each brings, without changing his purpose and focus. Regularly, the faithful will suffer, and daily they must die to self. Yet in death to self there is life in Christ, and these know it better than most. Until they die, they often get punished for their faithfulness by unfaithful men and by those in the “church” who are too stubborn to deal with the sin in their own hearts. God’s Word is not usually popularly received, though it is popularly known. Those who live it and preach it, expecting others to adhere to it, can expect to suffer while alive, and at some point they may even have to die for Christ’s sake. Much sorrow fills the life of a faithful Christian, yet because of his faithfulness, he can have great joy all the while. Joy transcends bad circumstances as one finds deeper fellowship and intimacy with Christ. There is not typically wealth and the comforts of the world which accompany service for Christ. Most servants of God have next to nothing, and they are very poor. This is sacrifice, and it is evidence of their willingness to be servants and to be disrespected by the world. Yet, though they might not have much in the way of material possessions, they are rich in that they are storing up many rewards for themselves by making others spiritually rich as they come to know Christ. Thus, behind the material poverty lies spiritual treasure, and the faithful know it and believe it even if they cannot see it. They might not own much if anything, but they have all that they need in Jesus because God owns all things. Thus, they can trust Him to meet their needs and to provide them an inheritance of abundance in the life to come. The faithful continue on in love, purity, and perseverance, continuing to do what God called them to do no matter what people think and regardless of the opposition they might face. They don’t live for the approval of men, and the disapproval of men doesn’t distract them. These are the characteristics of ambassadors for Christ that God desires.
11Our mouth has spoken freely to you, O Corinthians, our heart is opened wide.
12You are not restrained by us, but you are restrained in your own affections.
13Now in a like exchange--I speak as to children--open wide to us also.
Paul is saying that his heart is enlarged in love for them, opened wide in great care and concern for the Corinthians. He wants them to know Christ if they do not and to walk in Him faithfully if they do know Him. Paul has freely declared his love and compassion toward them, and he desires that they respond in love and care to him, listening to his advice and admonitions by becoming faithful ambassadors of Christ. It is their choice, for Paul has demonstrated his grace and patience for them to change. Like a spiritual father, he calls to his spiritual children to grow up in Christ, to follow his example, and to live out the character of Christ in the world.
14Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?
15Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?
As believers, we live in a hostile world full of false teaching and deception. It is imperative that we set ourselves apart from it. This does not mean that we go out of the world so that we cannot be salt and light, but it does mean that we don’t join hands and partner with that which is not of the Lord or of sound doctrine. To do so demonstrates an approval of false teaching or at least a tolerance of it, which is compromise. In marriage, believers must not marry unbelievers, for this is an example of utmost importance where standing for Christ matters. To not clearly maintain one’s position for Christ defames His name, compromises our witness, and corrupts our own hearts. Light does not have any fellowship with darkness nor righteousness with unrighteousness. Christ has nothing in common with the devil, and believers have nothing in common with unbelievers because Christ is the issue of supreme importance. Unity can only be had between those who have a common faith in Christ. Otherwise, those in the relationship, partnership, or joint enterprise can consider themselves “unequally yoked.” Such a union should not be.
16Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said,
"I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM;
AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE.
17"Therefore, COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE," says the Lord.
"AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN;
And I will welcome you.
18"And I will be a father to you,
And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,"
Says the Lord Almighty.
Believers are the temple of God Who lives within us. Thus, God does not want His temple intermingled and confused with the temple of idols. The Corinthians needed to be sure that they didn’t compromise the gospel by condoning any of the idolatrous practices in Corinth. They also needed to guard their own hearts so that spiritual idols were not set up in God’s temple. That which is Christ’s is to be separate from the world and holy such that the world can see the difference and be called to respond accordingly. Christians are not to participate in the evil ways of the world, but we are to be clean, holy, and righteous by the power of Christ as we fulfill His law of love by grace. If we compromise, we will have a poor testimony and dishonor God.