2 Corinthians 6

1 And working together {with Him,} we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain –

2 for 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” –

Paul was writing to the believers (people who were already born again) in Corinth. We know this because in 2 Cor 1:1 he addresses this letter to the church of God which is in Corinth.

He urges these believers to not receive the grace of God (i.e. help from God) in vain i.e. to not receive the grace of God uselessly. What does it mean to receive the grace of God uselessly?

We know that we are saved by grace (Eph 2:8, 9). So we can say that grace is required to save us. Without saving grace there is no salvation. That is why Paul quotes, “On the day of salvation I helped you.” Can a believer receive the grace of God uselessly and end up not being saved?

Paul, and God with whom Paul was working, certainly thought so!

You can be sitting in a church and not be saved. That is why, at the end of this letter, in 2 Cor 13:5, Paul tells the Corinthian believers to examine whether they are in the faith.

3 giving no cause for offense in anything, so that the ministry will not be discredited,

4 but in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses,

5 in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger,

6 in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in genuine love,

7 in the word of truth, in the power of God; by the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left,

8 by glory and dishonor, by evil report and good report; {regarded} as deceivers and yet true;

9 as unknown yet well-known, as dying yet behold, we live; as punished yet not put to death,

10 as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing all things.

God reconciled Paul to Himself, and then gave Paul the ministry of reconciling others to God. In the above passage Paul explains the troubles that he had to go through to fulfill that ministry. His point to the Corinthians is ‘see how much trouble we endured to bring you back to God’.

Now we know that God is Almighty. He could have removed all the obstacles Paul faced in performing his God ordained ministry. So why didn’t God remove the obstacles?

It was because God was more interested in building Paul’s character than merely getting Paul to spread the gospel. God could raise messengers out of the stones of the ground if He so desired. But building character in a man is not an easy thing.

Let’s take a look at the things Paul mentions above in a little more detail…

“giving no cause for offense in anything…” Paul had to be careful not to say or do things that would unnecessary turn people away from him. For example, if he were here today, and he took a strong Republican position, then he would give the Democrats a cause for offense and alienate them from his message. In spiritual things, he would have to take a firm position for the truth, but in other things (for another example, which is better, chocolate or vanilla ice-cream?), he had to walk the line.

“but in everything, commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses, in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger…” Paul had to watch how he behaved towards others at all time, even when he was under a lot of pressure. If he snapped at his teammates or the people around him when he was under pressure then they would be less receptive to his message.

“in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in genuine love, in the word of truth, in the power of God…” Paul had to keep himself pure while dispensing knowledge and truth; he had to dispense it with patience and kindness and love, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

“by the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left…” Paul had to know how to use all the spiritual weapons at his disposal, so that he could come out victorious. The weapons of righteousness are things that tell you what is the right thing to do in different situations with different people at different times. For example, when the Pharisees asked Jesus about whether the adulteress should be stoned, He had to figure out what was the right thing to do i.e. what weapon of righteousness he should use at that time.

“by glory and dishonor, by evil report and good report; {regarded} as deceivers and yet true…” Paul had to do his job whether people acknowledged it or not, whether they respected him or not, whether they said good or bad things about him, whether they thought that he was a true or false prophet.

“as unknown yet well-known, as dying yet behold, we live; as punished yet not put to death…” Paul had to figure out how to deal with people who considered him to be an unimportant nobody and also with people who put him on a pedestal. He had to figure out how to deal with people who wanted to kill him, and with people who saved his life. He had to figure out how to deal with discipline from God when he went astray.

“as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing all things…” Paul had to figure out how to live with the sorrows of people rejecting the gospel and the sorrows of people going astray and the sorrows of people falling into sin, and the sorrows of his own shortcomings and failures, and while sorrowful, he was still able to rejoice when he considered the great future he could forward to. He had to figure out how to live with being financially poor while he made others spiritually rich – not a simple thing to do. He had to live as someone who had nothing (no home, no family, no steady job) in this world, and yet have all the intangible riches in Christ in the world to come.

As you can see, there was a huge learning curve that he had to undergo, while he was on the job, where the stakes were very high. He wanted the Corinthians to understand the complexities of his situation so that they would respect him a little more.

11 Our mouth has spoken freely to you, O Corinthians, our heart is opened wide.

12 You are not restrained by us, but you are restrained in your own affections.

13 Now in a like exchange – I speak as to children – open wide {to us} also.

Paul now comes to his point: we have sacrificed so much to bring the ministry of reconciliation to you; don’t let it all be in vain.

14 Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?

15 Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?

16 Or 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.

Corinth was a very liberal and wealthy place in Paul’s time. Unbelievers engaged in all kinds of sin. Yet Paul was able to start a church there. But the problem was that it was difficult to keep worldly influences from entering the church, and it was a challenge for the believers in the church from separating themselves from the unbelievers there. There were believers who wanted to marry unbelievers, and there were believers who wanted to start businesses with unbelievers, and there were believers who wanted to participate in questionable social activities with unbelievers. In this chapter, Paul warns such believers that doing these things would compromise their salvation to the extent that they could lose their salvation.

Becoming a child of God has a cost associated with it. You have to understand that going to God’s side involves leaving the other side.

You can’t marry an unbeliever. You can start a business with an unbeliever. Why? It is because they will pull you away from God. God warned Solomon not to marry Gentile women but he didn’t listen and ended up falling away. Many young believers have learnt nothing from Solomon’s mistake and make the same mistake today. If a man as wise as Solomon fell into this trap, what are the chances that you will survive?

Today, many churches in America offer alternatives to Halloween. They call it Harvest, but they make it very similar to Halloween. But why soften the blow? Why not allow the people of God deny themselves of some entertainment? Why even give the appearance of partnership with evil? We are to come out of their midst and be separate, not mimic their evil ways?

So be prepared to make sacrifices to be a part of the kingdom of God.

Paul is writing to these people because they became believers, and then backslide and went astray, and Paul is telling them that they need to make whatever sacrifice is necessary to separate from the unbelievers holding them back, and to return to God.


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