Pulpit Commentary - 2 Corinthians 6:1 - 6:18

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Pulpit Commentary - 2 Corinthians 6:1 - 6:18

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The methods and conditions of an apostolic ministry (2Co_6:1-10). Appeal to the Corinthians to reciprocate his affection and separate themselves from evil (2Co_6:11-18).


We then, as fellow workers.
Continuing the entreaty of 2Co_5:20
, he adds, "But as [his] fellow workers we also exhort you." The "also" shows that he does not rest content with merely entreating them ( δεόμεθα ), but adds to the entreaty an exhortation emphasized by a self-sacrificing ministry. "Fellow workers with God" (1Co_3:9). Beseech. The word is the same as that rendered "beseech" by the Authorized Version in 2Co_5:20, and it should be rendered "exhort:" "God exhorts you by our means; we therefore entreat you to be reconciled to God; yes, and as Christ's fellow workers we exhort you." That ye receive not. The word means both passively to receive and actively to accept as a personal boon. The grace of God. To announce this is the chief aim of the gospel (Act_13:43; Act_20:24). In vain; that is, "without effect." You must not only accept the teaching of God's Word, but must see that it produces adequate moral results. It must not, so to speak, fall "into a vacuum ( εἰς κενόν )." "He," says Pelagius, "receives the grace of God in vain who, in the new covenant, is not himself new." If you really are in Christ you must show that you have thereby become "a new creation" (2Co_5:17). The branches of the true Vine must bear fruit. (For the phrase, "in vain," see Gal_2:2; Php_2:16.) What the grace of God is meant to effect is sketched in Tit_2:11, Tit_2:12.


For he saith;
that is, "God saith." The nominative is involved in the "fellow workers,"so that this is hardly to be classed with those rabbinic methods of citation found also in Philo, which deliberately omit the word "God" as the speaker, and use "He" by preference. I have heard thee, etc. The quotation is from the LXX. of Isa_49:8
, and is meant to express the necessity for receiving the grace of God, not only efficaciously, but at once. The "thee" in Isaiah is the Servant of Jehovah, the type primarily of Christ, and then of all who are "in Christ." In a time accepted; literally, in the Hebrew, in a time of favour. It is the season of grace, before grace has been wilfully rejected, and the time for judgment begins (Pro_1:24-28). The accepted time; literally, the well-accepted opportunity. St. Paul in his earnestness strengthens the force of the adjective. The same word occurs in 2Co_8:12; Rom_15:16, Rom_15:31.

"There is a deep nick in Time's restless wheel

For each man's good."


Now. No doubt St. Paul meant that, as long as life lasts, the door of repentance is never absolutely closed; but it is probable that he had specially in view the nearness of the advent of Christ. Compare the stress laid upon the word "today" in Heb_3:7, Heb_3:8, and "at least in this thy day" (Luk_19:42).


Giving no offence in anything.
An undercurrent of necessary self defence runs through St. Paul's exhortation. The participle is, like "fellow workers," a nominative to "we exhort you" in 2Co_6:1
. Offence. The word here is not skandalon, which is so often rendered "offence," but proskope, which occurs here alone in the New Testament, and is not found in the LXX. It means "a cause of stumbling." Proskomma, a stumbling block, is used in 1Co_8:9. Be not blamed. When any just blame can be attached to the minister, the force of the ministry of reconciliation is fatally weakened. (For the word, see 2Co_8:20.)


Approving ourselves;
rather, commending ourselves, He is again referring to the insinuation, which had evidently caused him deep pain, that he was not authorized to preach, as his Judaic opponents were, by "letters of commendation" (2Co_3:1-3
) from James or from the ciders at Jerusalem. His credentials came from God, who had enabled him to be so faithful. As the ministers of God (1Co_4:1). The article should be omitted. In much patience. Christ had forewarned his apostles that they would have much to endure, and had strengthened them by the promise that "he that endureth to the end shall be saved" (Mat_10:22). In afflictions. This word, as we have seen, is one of the haunting words in 2Co_1:4-11. In necessities. St, Paul was poor, and was often in want (Act_20:34). In distresses. The same word which occurs in 2Co_4:8. It means "extreme pressure" (literally, narrowness of space), and is a climax of the other words.


In stripes
. The stripes were of two kinds—from Jewish whips and Roman rods. But of the five scourgings with Jewish whips not one is mentioned in the Acts, and only one of the three scourgings with Roman rods (Act_16:23
). Nothing, therefore, is more clear than that the Acts only furnishes us with a fragmentary and incomplete record, in which, as we gather from the Epistles, either the agonies of St. Paul's lifelong martyrdom are for some reason intentionally minimized, or else (which is, perhaps, mere probable) St. Paul was, as his rule and habit, so reticent about his own sufferings in the cause of Christ that St. Luke was only vaguely, if at all, aware of many scenes of trial through which he had passed. In imprisonments. St. Paul was frequently in prison, but St. Luke only tells us of one of these occasions (Act_16:24)—at Philippi; the Roman imprisonment and that at Caesarea were subsequent to this Epistle. In tumults. These were a normal incident of St. Paul's life, both up to this time and for years afterwards (Act_13:50; Act_14:19; Act_16:22; Act_17:4, Act_17:5; Act_18:12; Act_19:28, Act_19:29; Act_21:27-39; Act_22:22, Act_22:23; Act_23:9, Act_23:10; Act_27:42, etc.) The word akatastasiai might also mean "insecurities," i.e. homelessness, wanderings, uncertainties; but New Testament usage seems decisive in favour of the frowner meaning (2Co_12:20; 1Co_14:33; Jas_3:15). In labours (2Co_11:28; 1Co_4:12; 1Co_15:10; Act_20:34; 1Th_2:9; 2Th_3:8). In watchings. "Spells of sleeplessness" were a necessary incident of such a life; and an eminently nervous nature like that of St. Paul is rarely capable of the habitual relief of sound steep. Hence he again refers to this in 2Co_11:27. His "sleeplessness" was sometimes the necessary result of labours "night and day" (Act_20:31; 1Th_2:9, etc.). In fastings. St. Paul never inculcates the practice of voluntary fasting as a duty (for the reading in 1Co_7:5 is more than dubious); but it is probable that he found it personally useful at times (Act_13:2, Act_13:3; Act_14:23; Act_9:9). The nine forms of suffering hitherto mentioned—three general, three specific, and three voluntary—are all physical sufferings borne with "much endurance."


By pureness;
rather, in pureness, as the preposition is the same. He now gives six instances of special gifts and virtues. The "pureness" is not only "chastity," but absolute sincerity (1Jn_3:3
; 2Co_4:2; 1Th_2:10). By knowledge. The knowledge is the true knowledge of the gospel in its fulness (Eph_3:4). In his depth of insight into the truth St. Paul was specially gifted. The word gnosis had not yet acquired the fatal connotations which afterwards discredited it. By long suffering (2Ti_3:10; 2Ti_4:2). The patient endurance of insults, of which St. Paul shows a practical specimen in this Epistle, and still more in Php_1:15-18. By kindness. "Love suffereth long, and is kind" (1Co_13:4); "Long suffering, kindness" (Gal_5:22). By the Holy Ghost. To the special gift of the Spirit St. Paul attributed all his success (1Th_1:5; Rom_15:18, Rom_15:19). By love unfeigned; which is the surest fruit of the Spirit, and the best of all spiritual gifts (2Co_12:15; 1Co_8:1; 1Co_13:1-13.; Rom_12:9, etc.).


By the word of truth.
St. Paul now passes to the more specific endowments of the true teacher. By the power of God; literally, in power of God (2Co_4:7
; 1Co_2:4; 1Co_4:20). "For the kingdom of God is not [only] in word, but in power." By the armour of righteousness. Here first the preposition "in" ( ἐν ) is changed for "through," "by means of" ( διὰ ). Armour; rather, arms. On the right hand and on the left. That is, both by offensive weapons and a defensive panoply (2Co_10:4; Eph_6:11-17; 1Th_5:8).


By honour and dishonour;
rather, by glory and dishonour. There is no need to change here the meaning of διὰ , "by means of," to "through," i.e. "amid." The honour and dishonor are alike means which contribute to the commendation of the ministry. Of our Lord some said, "He is a deceiver," while others said, "He is a good man" (Joh_7:12
); and the dispraise of some is the highest praise (Mat_5:11). Compare with the whole passage 1Co_4:9-13, where we see that "abuse," "insult," and "slander," constituted no small part of the apostle's daily trial. By evil report and good report. The beatitude of malediction (Luk_6:22; 1Pe_4:14). St. Paul had deliberately abandoned the desire to win the suffrages of men at the cost of undesirable concessions (Gal_1:10). As deceivers. The Jews called Christ "a deceiver" (mesith, i.e. a deliberate and misleading impostor), Mat_27:63; Joh_7:12. This is an illustration of the "evil report," and in the Clementine homilies, a century later, St. Paul, under the disgraceful pseudonym of "Simon Magus," is still defamed as a deceiver. And yet true. There is no "yet" in the original, and its omission gives more force to these eloquent and impassioned contrasts.


As unknown;
literally, as being ignored; as those whom no one cares to recognize. And yet well known. "And becoming fully recognized." "Recognized" by God (1Co_13:12), and ultimately by all good men (2Co_11:6), though they might be contemptuously ignored by men. As dying (2Co_1:9; 2Co_4:10, 2Co_4:11). Behold. The word calls attention to what seemed like a daily miracle. The paradox of the Greek tragedian—

"Who knows if life be death, and death be life?"

which seemed so supremely amusing to Aristophanes and the wits of Athens, became a familiar fact to the early Christians (Rom_8:36; 1Co_15:31; Eph_2:5, Eph_2:6; Col_2:13, etc.). As chastened. The daily Divine education of suffering (Psa_118:18).


As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing
. The early Christians always insist on "joy" as one of the fruits of the Spirit (comp. Mat_5:10-12
), and especially joy in the midst of grief and anguish (Rom_5:3; Rom_14:17; 1Th_5:16, "Rejoice always"). The best proof that this was no mere phraseology, but an amazing and new charism granted to the world, may be seen in the Epistle to the Philippians. It was written when St. Paul was old, poor, deserted, imprisoned, in danger of immediate death. and apparently in the lowest deeps of forsakes sorrow; vet the spontaneous keynote of the whole Epistle is, "I rejoice; rejoice ye" (Php_4:6, Php_4:12). As poor. The word means even "paupers," and describes a very literal fact. St. Paul, for Christ's sake, had suffered "the loss of all things" (Php_3:8). Yet making many rich. Not by getting collections for them (which would be a most unworthy antithesis, though it is strangely accepted by Chrysostom and others); but "by imparting to them the true riches, in the form of spiritual gifts, and the teaching of the gospel" (comp. Jas_2:5). Possessing all things; rather, as having nothing, and fully having all things. The verb means "possessing all things to the full." For "all things are ours" (1Co_3:21, 1Co_3:22).


An appeal to the Corinthians to reciprocate his love for them, and separate themselves from evil.


! A rare and very personal form of loving appeal, which occurs nowhere else in these Epistles (comp. Php_4:15
). Our mouth is open to you. St. Paul has evidently been writing in a mood of inspired eloquence. The fervour of his feelings has found vent in an unusual flow of beautiful and forcible language. He appeals to the unreserved freedom with which he has written as a reason why they should treat him with the same frank love. Our heart is enlarged. After writing the foregoing majestic appeal, he felt that he had disburdened his heart, and as it were made room in it to receive the Corinthians unreservedly, in spite of all the wrongs which some of them had done him. On the antithesis of the mouth and the heart, see Mat_12:34; Rom_10:10.


Ye are not straitened in us.
Any narrowing of the sympathy or straining of the relations between us does not rise in any way from me. (For the verb, see 2Co_4:8
.) Ye are straitened in your own bowels; rather, in your own hearts. Any tightening or pressure of the feelings which should exist between us rises solely from your own hearts. Enlarge and open them, as I have done, and we shall once more love each other aright. The verb has already occurred in 2Co_4:8 ("distressed"). Your own bowels. It is to be regretted that the Authorized Version adopted the meaningless and often rather incongruous word "bowels" for the Greek word σπλάγχνα used in its Hebraic sense of "feelings," "affections" (So 2Co_5:4; Isa_16:11). This literalism is always out of place, and especially in Phil 7, 12, 20.


Now, for a recompense in the same.
He begs them to give him "a reward in kind;" in other words, he wishes them to be as frank with him as he has been to them. As unto my children. And therefore, as a spiritual father, I may surely ask for sympathy. St. Paul uses the same metaphor in 1Co_4:14
; 1Th_2:11. Be ye also enlarged. Treat me as I have treated you (comp. "Be as I am," Gal_4:12).


Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers.
Ewald, followed by Dean Stanley, Holsten, and others, thinks that here there is a sudden dislocation of the argument, and some have even supposed that the section, 2Co 6:14-7:1, is either an after thought written by the apostle on the margin of the Epistle after it was finished; or even an interpolation. The latter view has arisen from the unusual expressions of the section, and the use of the word "Belial," and the command of Greek shown by the varied expressions. There is no adequate ground for these conjectures. Every writer is conscious of moods in which words come to him more fluently than at other times, and all writers of deep feeling, like St. Paul, abound in sudden transitions which correspond to the lightning-like rapidity of their thoughts. It is doubtful whether the readers would not have seen at once the sequence of thought, which depends on circumstances which we can only conjecture. Probably the alienation from St. Paul had its root in some tampering with unbelievers. Such might at any rate have been the case among the Gentile members of the Church, some of whom were even willing to go to sacrificial feasts in heathen temples (1Co 8-10.). "Unequally yoked" is a metaphor derived from Le 19:19 and Deu_22:10
, and is the opposite of "true yoke fellow" (Php_4:3). What fellowship; literally, participation (Eph_5:6-11). Unrighteousness; literally, lawlessness (1Jn_3:4). It was a special mark of heathen life (Rom_7:19). Light with darkness. This antithesis is specially prominent in Eph_5:9-11 and Col_1:12, Col_1:13, and in the writings of St. John (Joh_1:5; Joh_3:19; 1 John, passim).


; literally, harmony or accord. The word does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament or in the LXX. The adjective sumphonos occurs in 1Co_7:5
. Christ with Belial (see 1Co_10:21), Belial. Here used in the form Beliar, as a proper name, because no Greek word ends in the letter τ . In the Old Testament it does not stand for a person, but means "wickedness" or "worthlessness." Thus in Pro_6:12 "a naughty person" is adam belial. "A son of Belial" means "a child of wickedness" by a common Hebraism (Deu_13:13; Jdg_19:22). And hence, since Belial only became a proper name in later days—

"To him no temples rose,

No altars smoked."

Perhaps, as has been conjectured, this clause, which contains two such unusual words, may be a quotation. It is, however, no ground of objection that Belial does not occur elsewhere in St. Paul, for until the pastoral Epistles he only uses diabolos twice (Eph_4:27; Eph_6:11). What part, etc.? This is not, like the other clauses, an illustration, but the statement of the fact itself which "has come in amidst the lively, sweeping flow of the discourse." With an infidel; i.e. with an unconverted Gentile.


What agreement.
The word means "unity of composition." This is the fifth synonym which St. Paul has used in this clause— μετοχὴ κοινωνία συμφώνησις , μερὶς συγκατάθεσις . The verb συγκατάθημι occurs in Luk_23:51
. St. Paul in this chapter shows an almost unwonted command over the Greek language. With idols (Mat_6:24; 1Jn_5:21). Ye. "We" is the reading of à , B, D, L. Ewald, without sufficient ground, makes it one of his arguments for regarding this section as interpolated. Are the temple of the living God. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit in every Christian heart, which is the distinguishing result of the new covenant, was very prominent in the thoughts of St. Paul. As God hath said. The quotation is altered slightly from the LXX. of Le 26:12. But in this and the next verses we have "a mosaic of citations" from this passage and Exo_29:45; Isa_53:11; Eze_20:34; 2Sa_7:14; comp. Jer_31:9; Isa_43:6. This mode of compressing the essence of various quotations into one passage was common among the rabbis. In them. In the original Hebrew this means "among them" (Exo_29:45; Le Exo_26:12). since the indwelling of God by his Holy Spirit belongs only to the new covenant.


From among them;
i.e. from among the unbelievers. Touch not the unclean thing (Le 2Co_11:8
, etc.; Isa_52:11). I will receive you (comp. Eze_20:34). These promises to Israel are naturally transferred to the ideal Israel, the Christian Church.


And will be a Father unto you.
These reminiscences are sufficiently near to 2Sa_7:8-14
; Isa_43:6; Jer_31:9, to render needless the supposition that they come from any apocryphal book (Ewald) or Jewish hymn (Grotius). Saith the Lord Almighty. The phrase, not elsewhere used by St. Paul, is taken from 2Sa_7:8 (LXX.). The epithet indicates the certain fulfilment of the promises. Pantokrator, for "Almighty," is used in the LXX. for "Lord of sabaoth," and in the New Testament only occurs elsewhere in the Apocalypse.


2Co_6:1, 2Co_6:2 - The grace of God received in vain.

"We then, as workers together," etc. There are three topics here for meditation.

I. A SUBLIME MISSION. "Workers together with him." What is the grand work in which God is engaged and in which we can cooperate? He is engaged in numerous works—works of creation, government, conservation, in which we can have no hand. The work here is evidently the work spoken of in the preceding chapter—the work of reconciling man to himself, the work which he does in Christ. Now, all genuine ministers cooperate with him in this; their grand endeavour is to bring alienated souls into friendship with him. Blessed partnership this.

II. A SOLEMN POSSIBILITY. "Receive not the grace of God in vain." The grace of God here evidently refers to the offer of this reconciliation. This may be looked upon objectively or subjectively. Objectively it is the gospel, which is called the "gospel of the grace of God;" subjectively it is personal Christianity. It may be received "in vain" in two forms. Many have the offer of reconciliation and reject it, and to them the offer has been received "in vain." It is possible for those who have personally experienced it to lose it. The free agency of man, the exhortations of the Scriptures, and the facts of apostasy—as in the case of David, Peter, etc.—show the possibility of losing this. No greater calamity can happen to a man than to receive this "grace in vain;" hence the earnestness of the apostle.

III. A SUPREME OPPORTUNITY. "For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation." To use the words of a modern writer, "There is, so to speak, a 'now' running through the ages. For each Church and nation, for each individual soul, there is a golden present that may never again recur, and in which lie boundless possibilities for the future. The words of the apostle are, as it were, the transfigured expression of the generalization of a wide experience, which tells us that there is a tide in the affairs of men.'"

2Co_6:3-8 - The highest office injured by its officer.

"Giving no offence in any thing," etc. Paul was engaged in the highest office—the office of reconciling men to God; in this he was a coworker with the Infinite, and here he refers to—

I. AN EVIL TO WHICH MINISTERS OF THE GOSPEL ARE LIABLE. The evil referred to is bringing blame upon the ministry. "Giving no offence in anything, that the ministry be not blamed." So perverse is man that he often degrades some of the highest offices he is called to sustain. There are merchants that degrade commerce, doctors that degrade medicine, judges that degrade justice, statesmen that degrade legislation, kings that degrade the throne; but, what is worse far, there have been ministers who have degraded the ministry, and there are such still, ignorant men, intolerant men, worldly men, unspiritual men, blatant dogmatists. Ah me! how the pulpit is often degraded!

II. AN EVIL WHICH MUST BE AVOIDED AT ANY COST. See what Paul did and suffered to avoid this stupendous evil. "But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses," etc. Mark:

1. How he suffered in order to maintain the honour of the ministry. "Afflictions," "necessities," "distresses," "stripes," "imprisonments," "tumults," "labours," "watchings," "fastings," etc.

2. How he wrought in order to maintain the honour of the ministry. By "pureness," "knowledge," "long suffering," "kindness," etc. He learned to labour and to wait. "Neither count I my life dear unto myself, that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God." The ministry in these days is too often degraded into a trade, a profession, a medium for the gratification of the vanity, ambition, and the greed of men. The millions have come to call churches and chapels "preaching shops." One of the greatest trades carried on in this commercial age is, perhaps, the trade in the gospel

2Co_6:9, 2Co_6:10 - "Things are not what they seem."

"As unknown, and yet well known," etc. Against misrepresentations and slanders, Paul, in the context, vindicates his apostolic authority, and proclaims at the same time the unworldly principle which animated both him and his fellow workers. These words present to us the two opposite sides of a good man's life—the secular and the spiritual The side revealed, as seen by man, and the side in the sight of God.

I. TO THE SECULAR EYE HE WAS UNKNOWN; TO THE SPIRITUAL WELL KNOWN. "As unknown, and yet well known." The world has never yet rightly interpreted and understood the real life of a genuine disciple of Christ. To the world, Paul appeared an ignominious fanatic. John says, "The world knoweth us not." The world does not understand self-sacrificing love, the animating, shaping, directing principle of a godly man's life. It understands ambition, greed, revenge, but not this. Hence men in every age, so far as they have come under the rule of this "new commandment," have been regarded as monsters unworthy of life. This explains martyrdom, ay, and the crucifixion of Christ. But, though thus unknown to men, they are well known to others.

1. Well known to Christ. "I know my sheep." Christ knows all his disciples.

2. Well known to heavenly spirits. They are famous in heaven. At their conversion heaven rejoiced, and over every step of their subsequent history heaven watches with a loving care.

II. TO THE SECULAR EYE HE WAS DYING; TO THE SPIRITUAL HE WAS LIVING, "As dying, and, behold, we live." To worldly men Paul appeared as mortal as other men; with a frame scourged by persecution, shattered by perils, wasted by labour and want, he was nothing but a dying man. His contemporaries knew that he would soon run himself out, and mingle with the dust of all departed men. But spiritually he was living. "Behold, we live." The soul within that dying body of his was living a wonderful life—a life of Christly inspiration and aims, a life of communion with heaven; a life destined to become more sunny, vigorous, and beautiful with every aspiration and act. Living is not body breathing, but spirit acting, acting according to the Divine laws of our constitution.

III. TO THE SECULAR EYE HE WAS MUCH TRIED; TO THE SPIRITUAL HE WAS NOT DESTROYED. "Chastened, and not killed." The word "chastened" here refers, I think, to his various scourgings, suffered in the synagogues and elsewhere. To worldly spectators he, with all his wounds, would appear a dead man; but he was spiritually alive. The hardships and the strifes did not touch his soul; his spiritual purposes, enjoyments, and hopes were not killed. Spiritual life is unkillable; like certain plants in the vegetable kingdom, which have their germs or roots so deep down in the soil, and so thoroughly mixed up with it, that, though you cut down the trunk, or pull up the roots from the earth, their life will break out again.

IV. TO THE SECULAR EYE HE WAS VERY SORROWFUL; TO THE SPIRITUAL HE WAS ALWAYS REJOICING. "As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing." As if Paul had said, "Under our sufferings, we seem to be very cast down and sad; dreary, degraded, and wretched does our life seem to the worldly men around us." So it often is with the life of a Christian man. But, on the spiritual side, a truly godly man is "always rejoicing," rejoicing in a good conscience, rejoicing in a stream of pure and noble thoughts, rejoicing in a consciousness of Divine favour.

V. TO THE SECULAR EYE HE WAS VERY POOR; TO THE SPIRITUAL HE WAS WEALTH GIVING. "As poor, yet making many rich." Paul and his colleagues were poor; they had suffered the loss of all things. Yet spiritually they were not only rich, but made others rich.

1. The highest work of man is to impart spiritual riches to his brother man.

2. Worldly poverty does not disqualify a man for the discharge of this sublime mission.

VI. TO THE SECULAR EYE HE WAS DESTITUTE; TO THE SPIRITUAL HE WAS ENORMOUSLY RICH. "Having nothing, and yet possessing all things." Nothing of this world's good, yet "possessing all things," not legally, but morally. Christliness gives us an interest in all things. "All things are yours."

Do not estimate life by appearances—things are not what they seem. Christliness with poverty, persecution, and suffering, is infinitely to be preferred to wickedness with the whole world at its command.

2Co_6:11-13 - Genuine Christian love.

"O ye Corinthians," etc. Notice—

I. ITS POWER. What does it do? It enlarges the heart. "Our heart is enlarged" The heart means the whole spiritual nature, and this spiritual nature is capable of indefinite expansion and Christian love, and nothing else can effect this. A man's intellect may be expanded by ideas, but his heart, out of which are "the issues of life," only by love. What a difference between the heart of a miser or a bigot to the heart of a Paul, a Howard, or a Fenelon! Selfishness contracts the soul into a grub, love expands it into a seraph. Therefore "covet earnestly the best gift," that is, love.

II. ITS IRREPRESSIBILITY. "Our mouth is open unto you." A large heart is so full of loving sympathies and aims that speech becomes a necessity. "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." The language of love is the language of nature, the language of eloquence, the language of inspiration.

III. ITS HUNGER. What does it hunger for? "Ye are not straitened in us, but ye are straitened in your own bowels ['affections,' or 'hearts']," etc. Paul states that their hearts towards him were "straitened," or narrow, compared with his to them. He entreats them to be "enlarged," and thus "recompense" or return his affections. Love, by a necessity of its nature, hungers for a return of its affections from the object on which it is bestowed. Paul did not ask them for their money, or their patronage or praise, but simply for a return of the love which he had for them.

2Co_6:14-18 - Unequally yoked.

"Be ye not unequally yoked," etc. Observe here three things.

I. THERE IS AN ESSENTIAL SPIRITUAL DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THOSE WHO ARE TRULY CONVERTED TO CHRISTIANITY AND THOSE WHO ARE NOT. The line of demarcation is broad and conspicuous. The difference is the difference:

1. Between "righteousness and unrighteousness."

2. Between "light and darkness."

3. Between Christ and Satan. "What concord hath Christ with Belial?"

4. Between faith and infidelity. "What part hath he that believeth with an infidel?"

5. Between the "temple of God" and the "temple of idols."

II. NOTWITHSTANDING THE SPIRITUAL DIFFERENCE, THE CONVERTED ARE IN DANGER OF BEING ASSOCIATED WITH THE UNCONVERTED. Hence the command, "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers." Also the command, "Come out from among them." Alas! we find such association in almost every department of life—in the matrimonial, the commercial, the political, etc.

III. FROM SUCH AN ASSOCIATION IT IS THE DUTY OF THE CONVERTED TO EXTRICATE THEMSELVES. "Wherefore come out from among them," etc. Observe two things.

1. The nature of the separation. "Come out from among them." It must be:

(1) Voluntary. Not to be driven out, but you must break away from all the ties that bind you. Agonize to enter the "strait gate."

(2) Entire. "Touch not the unclean thing." Sin is an unclean thing—unclean in its essence, its phases, and its influences.

2. The encouragement to the separation. "I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters." As a Father, what does God do for his children?

(1) He loves them. His love is the fountain of all the love in the universe. All the love that human parents have for their children is but one drop from the boundless ocean.

(2) He educates them. Who teaches like God? He teaches the best lesson, in the best way, for the best end. He educates the whole soul, not for temporal purposes, but for ends spiritual and everlasting.

(3) He guards them, Human parents can only guard the bodies of their children. This Father guards the soul—the conscience from guilt, the heart from impurity, the intellect from error, etc.

(4) He provides for them. The best of human parents can only provide for their children a few supplies for their bodies, and that for a time only. This great Father provides for the soul, and provides forever. "He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think."


2Co_6:1-10 - Appeal growing out of the foregoing argument.

The grace of God had been manifested in the reconciliation of which he had been treating; and this reconciliation had its period, or season, special as to its character and advantages. Everything has relation to time. Life has infancy, childhood, youth—successive eras. Nature has her seasons. It was now God's receiving time, a dispensation of mercy, an acceptable time, a day of salvation. So sensible was St. Paul of this fact that he, as a coworker with God, pressed the exhortation on the Corinthians not to neglect the grace of God freely vouchsafed in this auspicious time. Good influences were conspiring in their favour; "receive not the grace of God in vain." It was a coworking period. Out of the turmoil, the strife of tongues, the collisions within the Church and without, doctrines were emerging into clearer view, and, as doctrines were better understood, duties would be more faithfully discharged. Had not these Corinthians been revived and strengthened of late? Had they not heeded his affectionate warning and purified the Church? It was a season for continued and enlarging coworking, the Holy Spirit and the Church combining in an effort, peculiarly desirable then, to extend Christ's kingdom. And what was he doing to this end? For his part he was studious to put no stumbling block in the way of others, lest the ministry be reproached. That was the prudence which wards off evil. It has grave duties. It is vigilant, able to see the approach of danger and measure the extent of the peril. It is prompt to set in a precautionary manner. Yet this was only one part of a coworker's duty. On the other hand, then, he was intent on commending himself to their confidence and affection, and by what means? The portraiture of St. Paul as a coworker is now presented. Previously to this he had sketched himself (see 2Co_2:1-17., 3., 4.) in certain specific relations, such for instance as an "able minister," and as one who carried his treasure in an "earthen vessel;" but it was now his purpose to delineate himself and his experience with reference to a particular end. To be a cooperator, patience is the first virtue required. He speaks, therefore, at the outset, of "much patience," and assuredly he did not mistake the basic position of this great quality. He mentions nine forms of suffering which have been regarded by some commentators as constituting three classes, viz.: afflictions or general calamities, necessities, distresses, the leading idea being pressure, or "narrow straits;" then stripes, imprisonments, tumults, referrable to the popular excitement against him as a preacher; and lastly, labours, watchings, fastings, as indicative of ministerial experience: In all these things patience was exercised, keeping him steadfast, enabling him to endure, and preserving his mind in the peace of Christ. It is a description of one whose body was open on all sides the invasions of pain as the infliction of opposition and malice; and again, of one whose mind had anxieties and sorrows originating in its own sense of responsibility. Body wrought upon mind, mind upon body. Under these conditions the coworker had to proceed with his task—patience "much patience." being the cardinal excellence of his character. But, further, the coworker speaks of purity, knowledge, long- suffering, kindness, endowments of the Spirit, sincere love; and again, he speaks or the word of truth, how he worked with God's power, and fought also with an armour of righteousness, right hand and left hand engaged in the conflict. Just here the mind of St. Paul reacts from its subjective state, the enumeration of his moral virtues is suspended, and the idea of conflict brings back the "afflictions" alluded to (2Co_6:4). Nearly all his transitions occur in one of two ways, either as the immediate product of a physical sensation or as the result of some exciting thought, having its source in his train of reflection. At the instant when the image of battle comes before him, the coworker has the doctrine and morality of the gospel to defend against fierce, vindictive, might assailants. The honor of his position and the glory of Christ as the Captain of his salvation are at stake. Sword and shield are in hand, and for what is he fighting and how? "Armor of righteousness is very expressive. The great truth was in his mind foremost as a restraint as well as an impulse, the truth so ably argued in the previous chapter that we are "made the righteousness of God in him." Give the ethical philosopher all the credit he deserves; honour the moralist who strives to protect society from immorality; and yet it is very obvious that a man who feels himself set for the defence of the "righteousness of God" as manifested in Christ stands on ground infinitely higher than the mere philosopher and moralist. This cannot be denied; such a man has a spirit, a motive, an end, far remote from the others, and peculiar to the sphere he fills. What the apostle fights for is righteousness. And how is he fighting? It is important that we should see his temper, his tactics, his whole method of conducting the campaign. Men who ostensibly fight for righteousness are not always righteous fighters. "I will not trust in my bow, neither shall my sword save me," said one of the psalmists. "Make haste to help me, O Lord my salvation," was David's prayer. "Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of," were the words of Jesus when the "sons of thunder" wished to call down fire from heaven on the Samaritan village. Michael the archangel, in contention with the devil, "durst not bring against him a railing accusation." A bad spirit is not allowable even towards Satan, nor can an archangel go beyond "The Lord rebuke thee." Now, the apostle speaks of himself as fully armed for offensive and defensive warfare. And the fight goes on amid honour and dishonour, praise and cheer from friends, hostility and contempt from enemies; by evil report and good report; vilified as a deceiver, but yet a true man; as unknown ("obscure nobodies") to men, but known to God; as dying, and behold, out of perils, life springs renewed and enlarged; chastened as a discipline needed for a spiritual warrior who was meantime in everything a coworker with Christ; a sorrowful man in the estimation of many, but in reality always rejoicing; poor, working with our own hands for a living, but making many rich in spiritual blessings; and, finally, having nothing, and yet—glorious paradox—possessing in Christ all things.L.

2Co_6:11-18 - His warmth of affection; anxiety of the apostle lest the grace of God be received in vain.

The ruling thought of the chapter is twofold. St. Paul, the ambassador, is a fellow worker with God in Christ, and as such he is deeply concerned that the Church at Corinth should not fail to use its means and opportunity for salvation then within reach. A critical period had come in its history, and he saw it very clearly. What so sagacious as love? what love so abounding as his? "O ye Corinthians," out of the depths of my heart, the heart just described—out of its purity, knowledge, long-suffering; "O ye Corinthians," by my kindness, by the Spirit of God in me, by love unfeigned; "O ye Corinthians," amid my chastenings from God and my afflictions from men;—whom I have besought not to receive the grace of God in vain, once more I pray you hearken. "Our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged." Only a very large and roomy nature could have entertained the thoughts and feelings, could have suffered, could have passed through the experiences which had just been described; but various and multiplied as were that heart's burdens and tribulations, it had ample space for his brethren at Corinth. "Ye are not straitened in us [no narrow place you occupy in our affection], but ye are straitened in your own bowels [narrowness in your love for us]," the word "bowels" being used to express the seat of the feelings. "For a recompense [return of love]… be ye also enlarged," and he asks this as a father seeking affection from his children. A sudden break occurs in the movement of thought. Did the use of the word "children" quicken a feeling akin to parental solicitude? Or did the sorrows he was undergoing in behalf of this Church at Corinth, a moment before so vividly pictured, give him a new insight into the dangers surrounding its members? Or was he recalling the supreme truth in his theology, the atoning death of Christ, and the righteousness that came to us and became a part of us? One in whose mind associations gathered so very rapidly and suggestions arose with such spontaneous vigour would probably feel the sudden return of the ideas and images on which he had been dwelling. A peculiarity with him is this partial development of a thought on its first appearance in his intellect. A similar law is traceable in his emotional nature. There is a second production, and this "aftermath" is very valuable. The subject under consideration (2Co_6:14-18
) had engaged attention in the First Epistle, and he now reverts to it under the apprehension that these Corinthians, who were particularly exposed to the "evil communications" that "corrupt good manners," might receive the grace of God in vain. If there had been a strong reaction against the Judaizing party in the Corinthian Church, that may have introduced unusual hazards as to Gentilism. Reactions, no matter how wise and truthful in themselves, always involve more or less danger. Facts are distorted, truths are mixed with prejudices, and the victory is our victory. Generally, indeed, only when time has befriended our infirmities and given us an opportunity to recover from reactions are we put in an attitude to see and judge with entire fairness. But, whatever the impulse at the moment on St. Paul's mind, his words are surcharged with energy. Question hastens after question. "Unequally yoked together with unbelievers" is the trumpet note of alarm. What the union was he does not specify. It may have been promiscuous intercourse with heathens, or participation in idol festivals, or mixed marriages. Whichever it was, it was unequal yoking, a very ill-devised union; and under how many aspects did it deserve condemnation? The heart of the evil is exposed; could righteousness have fellowship with unrighteousness, light commune with darkness, Christ have concord with Satan, believers have part with infidels, the temple of God agree with idols? Metaphors multiply, as they commonly do with him when excited. By their profession of Christ they were pledged to depart from all iniquity, especially all associations that might revive their former Gentile tastes and habits, most especially those social usages which identified them with idolatry. Quoting twice from the Old Testament (Leviticus and Isaiah), he shows what the true religion demanded of its subjects in its earlier stage under Moses and its later under the prophets, in both cases separation from a world given over to heathenism. Only by means of this line of demarcation between them and the corruptions of society would God acknowledge them as his people, walk in their midst, and be a Father unto them. "Touch not the unclean thing." It was the language of Judaism from her tabernacle in the wilderness, from her temple in Jerusalem, and now reaffirmed and emphasized anew and with most solemn intensity by Christianity. St. Paul saw that history repeats itself. Not otherwise were it history. The peril of the gospel was precisely that which had wrecked Judaism. From this point of view it is profitable to re-read this earnest chapter. Chrysostom and others have spoken of its lofty eloquence. Stanley, Robertson, Webster, and Wilkinson have taught us to appreciate the breadth of its ideas and the classical force of its diction. It is a chapter of warning from the memorials of the past, as that past demonstrates most signally the jealousy of God's rule over men. On the one hand, we have the terrible fascinations of that spirit of idolatry which in some form or other is the besetting sin of the human race, the innate disposition to supplant Jehovah, the fatal surrender to "the god of this world," never so blinding as when he makes men as gods unto themselves. On the other hand, we have the visible symbols of God's presence among his people in the temple and its institutions, and further, the proof of the Spirit's power in their hearts, his actual indwelling and sanctifying agency. Yet this grace may be received in vain. The higher the gift, the more freedom in its use. No sooner has the apostle set forth the fact that God was in Christ recovering the world unto himself, than the magnitude of the risk presses on his attention. The risk was altogether in man. It was a risk, moreover, in the Christian man who had received grace and might lose its influence. Law had been violated, but Christ, as the eternal Son of God, had expiated the guilt, and by faith we accepted him as the Divine Reconciler. Man's responsibility had utterly failed under Law; would it fail under grace? If it did, there was an end of hope, since there remaineth no other sacrifice for sin. St. Paul was aware of the local circumstances that enhanced the dangers of the Corinthians. The style of the appeal recognizes this fact. Let it not be forgotten, however, that, while men as men have these local surroundings, Christianity deals with man as man, and, accordingly, the warning is addressed to us not to receive the grace of God in vain. Our probation goes on in the midst of contingencies; temptation and trial are things most completely shut out from ordinary modes of calculation, and no prophetic eye reads our future. Yet this very sense of uncertainty is the most merciful of all providential arrangements. It is a source of great power. Except for its keen sensitiveness, our liability to evil would be far greater. Apprehension acts in two ways—it constantly reduces the amount of evil existing; and again, it fortifies us to resist the evil that remains. Now, Christianity operates in both these modes. With the latter only have we now to do. The problem forevery individual Christian is the efficiency of grace in his resistance to Satanic influence. So far as the Scriptures teach us on this subject, Jesus Christ had no temptations save those which Satan offered; and, while we have no warrant to say this of believers, we may safely affirm that it is the reconciled man in Christ, "made the righteousness of God in him," who is the object of Satan's sharpest assaults. To destroy the power of grace in the child of God is his unceasing effort. Now, this grace is received through two great channels—the conscience and the affections. St. Paul is referring continually to these organs of spiritual activity, and hence, we infer, that he would have his converts most earnest at these points. Conscience must be enlightened by the gospel and directed by the Spirit. It must be a conscience of that righteousness we have in Christ and through Christ, external to us as the ground of justification, internal to us as the regenerating and sanctifying work of the Holy Ghost. "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death." But this sense of righteousness in the conscience must act likewise in the affections, or it cannot be "the law of the Spirit of life." If, then, St. Paul commended the gospel "to every man's conscience in the sight of God," was he content to rest here? "O ye Corinthians,… our heart is enlarged." Open your hearts, open them freely, open them as mine is opened unto you. If they would thus realize the righteousness of Christ, they could not receive the grace of God in vain. It is here, while speaking of the enlarged heart, that he appeals to them as his children. "Be ye also enlarged." Here we see how grace is lost; the heart, instead of expanding, is narrowed and cramped. Ministers must preach the gospel of love; and, to do this, they must be lovely in spirit and conduct. Christians must accept the grace of the gospel in hearts that enlarge, so that growth in loveliness may develop strength of character in its most enduring form. Just at this point backsliding sets in. No man's conscience begins to be blinded till his heart begins to be narrowed. Sympathy is checked; openness of feeling arrested; giving to charitable objects abated; cordiality of intercourse with ministers and members of the Church supplanted by fault finding, prejudice, and censoriousness; and then conscience becomes careless, then inert, then callous, and grace dies in the soul. The enlarging heart is the secret of growth. Nor is there any growth so beautiful as this in itself and so inspiriting as an example to others. Its fellowship is with souls that are its kindred in Christ; its communion with that wisdom and purity symbolized by light; its concord with him who took upon himself our nature that we might bear his image; its part or share is in the possession of holiness; and its capacity is a temple, or habitation, of which "God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them."—L.


2Co_6:1 - "Workers together."

One who is sent upon a mission, who fills the office of an ambassador, is evidently one who, however he works, does not work alone. He is the representative of the court from which he is sent, by which he is accredited. When the apostle thought of his life mission, especially when he thought of its difficulties, it was natural that he should recall to his own mind the fact that God, who had commissioned him, was working with him and giving efficacy to his labours. And, in writing to others, it was appropriate that he should remind them that they had to deal, not merely with a fellow man, but with a fellow man who was supported and authorized by Divine wisdom and grace.

I. GOD WORKS. He not only wrought the earth and the heavens, which are "the work of his fingers:" he follows his work of creation by the unceasing work of providential care, government, and oversight. The laws of nature are the ways in which God works. And the spiritual realm is his highest and noblest sphere of operation, in which he is carrying out his holy purposes.

II. MEN, WHEN THEY WORK SUCCESSFULLY, WORK WITH GOD. Take two illustrations. The husbandman toils through all the changing seasons of the year, and in his ploughing, sowing, and reaping depends upon the processes of nature, i.e. works along with God. The physician studies the human frame, and, when it is diseased, seeks its recovery to health through cooperation with the laws of the various organs and tissues of' the body, and succeeds only by working with God. So is it in the spiritual sphere. The preacher of Christianity makes use of God's truth and relies upon God's Spirit; any other method must involve failure and discouragement.

III. HUMAN LABOURERS WORK IN SUBJECTION TO THE DIVINE LORD. There is no equality in this fellowship. God can dispense with any man's services, however great, wise, and good he may be. No man can dispense with the counsel and the aid of Heaven.

1. In the recognition of this lies the labourer's strength.

2. And the dignity attaching to his position and office, which is not personal, but ministerial.

3. And the responsibility of all for whose welfare the Christian labourer toils. Such are bound to consider, not the human minister merely, but the Divine Lord, whose servant and messenger he is.—T.

2Co_6:2 - The acceptable time.

As an ambassador for Christ, Paul used both authority end persuasion in urging his readers and hearers to take advantage of the opportunity afforded them of reconciliation with God through Jesus Christ. And he very naturally and justly pressed upon them an immediate attention to the summons, the invitation of Divine grace. There are reasons why delay should be avoided, why acceptance should be unhesitating.

I. THE BLESSING. This is set before us in two lights.

1. On the Divine side, we observe that God is ready both to hear end to succour. To hear the cry of those in danger, the petition of those in want. To succour those who are in present distress and who are unable to deliver themselves from their afflictions.

2. On the human side, we observe that men may be accepted and reconciled, that they may be delivered and saved. The salvation here proffered is spiritual and eternal.

II. THE OPPORTUNITY. It is not for us to speculate as to God's reasons, so to speak, for limiting the day of grace and of visitation. We have to deal with the fact that there is a period during which the blessings of salvation may be sought and secured. The first advent of our Saviour may be fixed as the terminus a quo of this period, the second advent as the terminus ad quem. During the Christian era, the dispensation of the Holy Spirit, the gospel is preached to all men, and the invitation is freely offered to those who need to apply, with the assurance that their request shall not be refused.

III. THE APPEAL. The blessing is great and adapted to the.case of the sinner; the opportunity is precious and not to be despised without guilt and folly. What, then, follows? Surely the appeal is powerful and timely; it deserves the immediate attention of all to whom the gospel comes.

1. The conditions are such that they may be at once fulfilled. The call is to obey God, to believe in Christ, to repent of sin, to live anew.

2. Nothing can be advanced to justify delay. Delay is unreasonable, dangerous, and foolish. To neglect the appeal would be to defy and displease God.

3. Those of every age and condition are alike placed in this position of privilege and of responsibility.—T.

2Co_6:4 - "Ministers of God."

Man is not meant to be a law or an end unto himself. He finds the true secret of his being, who lives, not unto himself, but unto his Lord. To take employment under a wise and holy Master, to engage in a spiritual service, to look up daily for direction and for blessing, to aim at the glory of the Eternal,—this is the true vocation and the true happiness of man. Paul found his strength for labour and his consolation in suffering, not in anything personal, but in losing and merging himself in his Lord and King.

I. THE MASTER. Our Lord has bidden us call no man master, by which he directs our attention to the fact that we receive our instructions for duty and our revelations of truth, not from human, but from Divine authority. God is, to those who accept service under him, a wise, just, forbearing, considerate, and liberal Master. In him we find one free from all imperfections of knowledge, and all flaws of character, such as must be expected in all human governors.

II. THE SERVICE. In its outward aspects this varies in different cases, so that the life work of no two men is quite the same.

"How many serve! how many more

May to the service come!—

To tend the vines, the grapes to store,

Thou dost appoint for some:

Thou hast thy young men at the war,

Thy little ones at home."


1. Obedience. This is indispensable. The vow which Christians take is that they will be the Lord's servants to obey him.

2. Fidelity. The allegiance due to the Divine Lord must, upon no consideration, be transferred to another; his cause must not be betrayed.

3. Readiness to suffer in the path of devotion. The context shows us that this was an element in Paul's conception of true ministry.


1. This is entirely of grace; the purest and the best have no claim to it.

2. Success in ministry is the true servant's best reward.

3. With this is conjoined approval on the Master's part.

4. And the recompense is imperishable and immortal.—T.

2Co_6:7 - "The armour of righteousness."

There was something soldierly both in the nature and in the life course of the Apostle Paul. His resolution, courage, fortitude, capacity for endurance, fidelity to his spiritual Commander, were all high military qualities. We do not wonder that he made in his writings use so frequent and so effective of the warrior's life. The Christian's career, and much more emphatically the apostolic career, appeared to him one large campaign. Hence his reliance upon "the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left."


1. His foes are many, active, vigilant, formidable, untiring.

2. The warfare to which he is called is accordingly perilous and serious.

3. His own natural resources are utterly inadequate for his defence.


1. It is not physical, or carnal, but moral.

2. It is described in one word as "the armour of righteousness," as opposed to fraud and cunning and iniquity of every kind.

3. It is adapted to the several necessities of the welfare. Vide Eph_6:1-24., where the several weapons are enumerated and described.


1. The right hand of the warrior wields the sword; and this is the emblem of the weapon of attack which the Christian gra