Notes on 2 Corinthians 6:1-3

2 Corinthians 6:1‑3  •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 12
The apostle now follows up the striking specimen he had given of the ministry of reconciliation toward the close of chapter v. by an appeal to the Corinthians themselves. There we saw how erroneous it is to treat verse 20 as a call to the saints; for he is illustrating the word they had to preach to the world. Hereto the opposite error is common through fear of compromising the security of the believer; and the more so, as men like Olshausen say, It is undeniable that the apostle assumes that grace when once received may be lost: the scriptures know nothing of the dangerous error of the advocates of predestination, that grace cannot be lost; and experience stamps it as a lie. This the more orthodox Calvinist, like Hodge, attempts to meet by saying that the apostle is only exhorting men not to let God's grace be to no purpose in making His Son sin, as it regarded them; that is, that a satisfaction for sin sufficient for all and appropriate to all had been made and offered to all in the gospel. But this is incorrect. It is a direct exhortation to the Corinthians, and not a declaration of the method in which the apostle preached, like the concluding verses of the preceding chapter. He is not exhorting all men, but the Corinthians who bore the Lord's name not to receive the grace of God in vain. Were there no ὑμᾶ “you,” expressed, it might be so argued; but there it stands, not in chapter 5:20, but here, a distinct and effectual disproof of those who would assimilate the two; and its reserve to the last place gives such an emphasis to the pronoun that the only wonder is how grave and godly men should have ignored its force. The aorist inf. δέξεσθαι does not necessarily imply, as Meyer alleges in at least an early edition, a past reception of His grace, but may mean the act complete and decisive irrespective of time, which is thoroughly if not more consistent with the application to the Corinthians. What the apostle has in view is the danger of easy-going self-satisfaction in those who already called on the name of the Lord. So He Himself in the parabolic marriage of the king's son had warned, first, of despising or maltreating the messengers of the gospel; secondly, of indifference to what alone suits those who come, of wearing one's own garments instead of having put on the Lord Jesus Christ. Baptism would aggravate, not hinder, the most condign judgment.
“And working together we also beseech that ye receive not in vain the grace of God (for he saith, In an acceptable season I listened to thee, and in a day of salvation I helped thee: behold, now a right acceptable season, behold now a day of salvation), giving none offense in anything that the ministry be not blamed.” (Vers. 1-3.)
There is no authority for inserting “with him” as in the italics of the Authorized Version, though supported by many commentators.1 It is an unscriptural familiarity, if not irreverent. 1 Cor. 3:99For we are laborers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building. (1 Corinthians 3:9) gives it no real countenance; for the messengers are said to be, not fellow-workers with God, but His fellow-workmen, or journeymen together doing His work. So here, but by and on behalf of Him they work together, and exhort not men only to believe the gospel, but those who already professed faith not to receive His grace in vain. And “beseeching,” while just applied to those without in token of the incomparable goodness of God to His enemies, is still more suitable in urging on His professing saints to beware of all inconsistent with His grace. The security of His children is unquestionable, not so much through their perseverance as men say, but by His power through faith: but the Corinthians needed and received faithful entreaty, for their ways were not such as became the gospel. They were compromising His glory who had called them to the fellowship of His Son, and the apostle instead of comforting them with the blessed assurances at the close of Rom. 8, would here exercise conscience as well as affection in presence of God's grace.
Nor is this enfeebled but strengthened by the following verse in which Isa. 49:88Thus saith the Lord, In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee: and I will preserve thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages; (Isaiah 49:8) is applied. It is a quotation from that section of the prophecy in which Jehovah arraigns the Jews, not for idolatry but for rejecting the Messiah; and it is deduced to be a light thing in consequence to raise up the tribes of Jacob and restore the preserved of Israel. Jehovah would also give Him, thus cast off by His own people, for a light to the Gentiles, that He might be His salvation unto the end of the earth. If man despised and the nation [Israel] abhorred, His glory as on earth should be secured among kings and princes, whereon follows the word here cited. It is the principle, not the mere fact, which is taken up.
There is no need of supposing in this case that a promise to the Messiah included at the same time His people, though we see how strikingly this appears in the use made of Isa. 1 by the apostle in Rom. 8 Here the blessing to the Gentiles is expressly mentioned, so that it seems more akin to James's use of Amos 9:11, 1211In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old: 12That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen, which are called by my name, saith the Lord that doeth this. (Amos 9:11‑12), in Acts 15. And this is confirmed, it would appear, by the fact that the apostle breaks forth into a strong expression of the grace God is now showing, surpassing as it does the actual fulfillment in the days of the kingdom, when the earth shall be raised and the desolate heritage is enjoyed, when the prisoners shall go forth and those in darkness show themselves, when hunger and thirst shall be no more, and heat and sun shall not smite, but the merciful Jehovah shall guide even by the springs of waters, when the mountains shall be made a way, and the scattered return from every quarter under heaven; and the heavens themselves shall sing and the earth be joyful in Jehovah's mercy and comfort for His afflicted people. Yet in presence of such an anticipation, bright as it was in the apostle's heart, there shone a light brighter by far in Him who is exalted into a new and higher glory at God's right hand, which leads him to say, “Behold now a right acceptable season, behold now a day of salvation:” words suggested by the prophecy, but designedly rising above them in strength as expressive of God's present display of grace in the gospel.
Then resuming the thread of his exhortation to the Corinthians, the apostle shows how far he was from refusing to measure himself and his service by that which he meted to others, “Giving none offense in anything, that the ministry be not blamed.” Who knew better that inconsistency above all things undermines preaching or teaching? Christianity is real and living, not dogmatic only, still less official: else it becomes of all things the most contemptible; just as when genuine it is heavenly and of the Holy Spirit, as the moral expression of Christ in those that are His. In Moses' chair sat the scribes and the Pharisees, it was a duty to do and keep all things whatever they might bid, whilst not doing according to their works; for they said and did not. But unreality, as it is a lie against Christ, destroys the weight of Christian teaching, which derives its power from the Spirit of God. And no more eminent witness of his own words ever lived than the apostle, not more to endure the heaviest burdens for Christ's sake than to bear those of any or of all others. His life, not only as a whole but in every detail, was a comment on his ministry; and who so vigilant to cut off occasion from those who sought it?