Paul's Appeal to the Corinthians: 2 Corinthians 6:11-7:5

2 Corinthians 6:11‑18; 2 Corinthians 7:1‑5  •  8 min. read  •  grade level: 9
(Chap. 6:11–7:5)
Based on his credentials as a true minister of Jesus Christ in the foregoing chapters, Paul now appeals to the Corinthians to “receive” him. The grounds of his appeal are: his deep and genuine affection for them (chap. 6:11-13), and the irreproachable character of his life (chap. 7:2-4).
1) His Genuine Affection for Them
Chap. 6:11-13—Paul says, “O ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged [expanded]. Ye are not straitened in us, but ye are straitened in your own bowels [affections]. Now for a recompense of the same, (I speak as unto children), let your heart also enlarge itself.” His mouth being opened to the Corinthians refers to the fact that he had frankly disclosed to them the secret springs of his actions in serving the Lord. He held back nothing in laying bare his desires and his motives before them. His heart was truly “expanded” toward the Corinthians; he genuinely loved them, and this led to his mouth being opened in sincerity to them (Matt. 12:3434O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. (Matthew 12:34)). He earnestly entreats them to respond in a reciprocal way, and let their affections go out to him. He said, “Let your heart also expand itself.” Any restriction of affection between the Corinthians and Paul was not on his part; he was not withholding his affection from them. The hindrance was obviously on their part.
Chap. 6:14-16—Since there was an obvious hindrance in the outflow of their affections, Paul turns to address it. He traces their restricted affections to the unequal yokes they had formed with the world. They had been careless in their associations and it had the effect of dampening their affections towards the Lord and His people. Herein lies the danger of the unequal yoke.
An unequal yoke is anything that links the believer with an unbeliever in a common purpose—whether it is social, commercial, religious, marital, or political. Such false links undermine Christian fellowship and have a way of restricting our affections toward the Lord and our brethren. We are not “of the world” because we are heavenly men through the call of the gospel. However, we have to live “in the world” (John 17:11-1511And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. 12While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled. 13And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 14I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 15I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. (John 17:11‑15)), but even in this, we don’t have to be unequally yoked together with the world. We have to do our business in the world, and thus we come in contact with it, but we don’t have to become personally involved with it. Negative influences of the world do not result from contact with it, but from complicity with it. It was complicity that was the problem with the Corinthians. Therefore, Paul’s remedy for their restricted affections was, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers.”
In these verses (14-16), Paul asks five rhetorical questions designed to show how unnatural, incongruous, and unsafe alliances with the world are. Each touches on a different realm of incompatibility in regard to believers and unbelievers:
“Righteousness with unrighteousness”—the sphere of moral behaviour.
“Light with darkness”—the sphere of spiritual knowledge.
“Christ with Belial”—the sphere of spiritual authority.
“He that believeth with an infidel”—the sphere of faith.
“The temple of God with idols”—the sphere of worship.
The five words Paul uses—“fellowship,” “communion,” “concord,” “part,” and “agreement”—should be carefully noted. Such words imply complicity with the world. Some would like to dismiss Paul’s exhortation by relegating it to the marriage bond and making it nothing more than that, but his remarks concerning the unequal yoke go far beyond marriages with unbelievers. An unequal yoke could be a social link with unbelievers in games, clubs, associations, fraternities, etc. (James 4:44Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. (James 4:4); 1 John 2:1515Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (1 John 2:15)). Or, it could be a business partnership with unbelievers (Deut. 22:1010Thou shalt not plow with an ox and an ass together. (Deuteronomy 22:10); 2 Chron. 20:35-3735And after this did Jehoshaphat king of Judah join himself with Ahaziah king of Israel, who did very wickedly: 36And he joined himself with him to make ships to go to Tarshish: and they made the ships in Ezion-geber. 37Then Eliezer the son of Dodavah of Mareshah prophesied against Jehoshaphat, saying, Because thou hast joined thyself with Ahaziah, the Lord hath broken thy works. And the ships were broken, that they were not able to go to Tarshish. (2 Chronicles 20:35‑37); Prov. 6:1-51My son, if thou be surety for thy friend, if thou hast stricken thy hand with a stranger, 2Thou art snared with the words of thy mouth, thou art taken with the words of thy mouth. 3Do this now, my son, and deliver thyself, when thou art come into the hand of thy friend; go, humble thyself, and make sure thy friend. 4Give not sleep to thine eyes, nor slumber to thine eyelids. 5Deliver thyself as a roe from the hand of the hunter, and as a bird from the hand of the fowler. (Proverbs 6:1‑5)). Or, it could be an ecclesiastical link with a sect in Christianity where unbelievers are allowed to partake in the communion services (1 Cor. 11:1919For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you. (1 Corinthians 11:19)). Or, it could be a marital tie (Deut. 7:3-43Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son. 4For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the Lord be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly. (Deuteronomy 7:3‑4); Josh. 23:1212Else if ye do in any wise go back, and cleave unto the remnant of these nations, even these that remain among you, and shall make marriages with them, and go in unto them, and they to you: (Joshua 23:12); 1 Cor. 7:3939The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 7:39)). A Christian should not marry an unbeliever, but if a believer is married to one, this passage does not justify divorce (1 Cor. 7:12-1612But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. 13And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. 14For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy. 15But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace. 16For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife? (1 Corinthians 7:12‑16)). Or, the unequal yoke could be a political link with unbelievers by joining with their political endeavours (2 Chron. 18:1-34; 25:5-101Now Jehoshaphat had riches and honor in abundance, and joined affinity with Ahab. 2And after certain years he went down to Ahab to Samaria. And Ahab killed sheep and oxen for him in abundance, and for the people that he had with him, and persuaded him to go up with him to Ramoth-gilead. 3And Ahab king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat king of Judah, Wilt thou go with me to Ramoth-gilead? And he answered him, I am as thou art, and my people as thy people; and we will be with thee in the war. 4And Jehoshaphat said unto the king of Israel, Inquire, I pray thee, at the word of the Lord to day. 5Therefore the king of Israel gathered together of prophets four hundred men, and said unto them, Shall we go to Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall I forbear? And they said, Go up; for God will deliver it into the king's hand. 6But Jehoshaphat said, Is there not here a prophet of the Lord besides, that we might inquire of him? 7And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, There is yet one man, by whom we may inquire of the Lord: but I hate him; for he never prophesied good unto me, but always evil: the same is Micaiah the son of Imla. And Jehoshaphat said, Let not the king say so. 8And the king of Israel called for one of his officers, and said, Fetch quickly Micaiah the son of Imla. 9And the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat king of Judah sat either of them on his throne, clothed in their robes, and they sat in a void place at the entering in of the gate of Samaria; and all the prophets prophesied before them. 10And Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah had made him horns of iron, and said, Thus saith the Lord, With these thou shalt push Syria until they be consumed. 11And all the prophets prophesied so, saying, Go up to Ramoth-gilead, and prosper: for the Lord shall deliver it into the hand of the king. 12And the messenger that went to call Micaiah spake to him, saying, Behold, the words of the prophets declare good to the king with one assent; let thy word therefore, I pray thee, be like one of theirs, and speak thou good. 13And Micaiah said, As the Lord liveth, even what my God saith, that will I speak. 14And when he was come to the king, the king said unto him, Micaiah, shall we go to Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall I forbear? And he said, Go ye up, and prosper, and they shall be delivered into your hand. 15And the king said to him, How many times shall I adjure thee that thou say nothing but the truth to me in the name of the Lord? 16Then he said, I did see all Israel scattered upon the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd: and the Lord said, These have no master; let them return therefore every man to his house in peace. 17And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, Did I not tell thee that he would not prophesy good unto me, but evil? 18Again he said, Therefore hear the word of the Lord; I saw the Lord sitting upon his throne, and all the host of heaven standing on his right hand and on his left. 19And the Lord said, Who shall entice Ahab king of Israel, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead? And one spake saying after this manner, and another saying after that manner. 20Then there came out a spirit, and stood before the Lord, and said, I will entice him. And the Lord said unto him, Wherewith? 21And he said, I will go out, and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And the Lord said, Thou shalt entice him, and thou shalt also prevail: go out, and do even so. 22Now therefore, behold, the Lord hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of these thy prophets, and the Lord hath spoken evil against thee. 23Then Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah came near, and smote Micaiah upon the cheek, and said, Which way went the Spirit of the Lord from me to speak unto thee? 24And Micaiah said, Behold, thou shalt see on that day when thou shalt go into an inner chamber to hide thyself. 25Then the king of Israel said, Take ye Micaiah, and carry him back to Amon the governor of the city, and to Joash the king's son; 26And say, Thus saith the king, Put this fellow in the prison, and feed him with bread of affliction and with water of affliction, until I return in peace. 27And Micaiah said, If thou certainly return in peace, then hath not the Lord spoken by me. And he said, Hearken, all ye people. 28So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah went up to Ramoth-gilead. 29And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, I will disguise myself, and will go to the battle; but put thou on thy robes. So the king of Israel disguised himself; and they went to the battle. 30Now the king of Syria had commanded the captains of the chariots that were with him, saying, Fight ye not with small or great, save only with the king of Israel. 31And it came to pass, when the captains of the chariots saw Jehoshaphat, that they said, It is the king of Israel. Therefore they compassed about him to fight: but Jehoshaphat cried out, and the Lord helped him; and God moved them to depart from him. 32For it came to pass, that, when the captains of the chariots perceived that it was not the king of Israel, they turned back again from pursuing him. 33And a certain man drew a bow at a venture, and smote the king of Israel between the joints of the harness: therefore he said to his chariot man, Turn thine hand, that thou mayest carry me out of the host; for I am wounded. 34And the battle increased that day: howbeit the king of Israel stayed himself up in his chariot against the Syrians until the even: and about the time of the sun going down he died. (2 Chronicles 18:1‑34)
5Moreover Amaziah gathered Judah together, and made them captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, according to the houses of their fathers, throughout all Judah and Benjamin: and he numbered them from twenty years old and above, and found them three hundred thousand choice men, able to go forth to war, that could handle spear and shield. 6He hired also an hundred thousand mighty men of valor out of Israel for an hundred talents of silver. 7But there came a man of God to him, saying, O king, let not the army of Israel go with thee; for the Lord is not with Israel, to wit, with all the children of Ephraim. 8But if thou wilt go, do it, be strong for the battle: God shall make thee fall before the enemy: for God hath power to help, and to cast down. 9And Amaziah said to the man of God, But what shall we do for the hundred talents which I have given to the army of Israel? And the man of God answered, The Lord is able to give thee much more than this. 10Then Amaziah separated them, to wit, the army that was come to him out of Ephraim, to go home again: wherefore their anger was greatly kindled against Judah, and they returned home in great anger. (2 Chronicles 25:5‑10)
; Isa. 45:99Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands? (Isaiah 45:9)). The point here is that there are two great opposing spheres of moral and spiritual action that cannot go on together in a Christian’s life without serious practical ramifications.
Chap. 6:17-18—To encourage the Corinthians to separate from ungodly links with the world, Paul quotes the Lord Himself, saying, “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing.” This statement is in the aorist tense in the Greek, meaning that it should be a once-for-all thing in a believer’s life.
Therefore, the Corinthians needed to not only change their attitude toward Paul (vss. 11-13), but also toward the world (vss. 14-16). They needed to open their hearts to Paul and close their hearts to the world. We all need to treat the world as it truly is—an enemy of our souls. The soul of the Christian is ever being lured back into the world, just as Israel was constantly tempted to turn to idolatry. There are some very important reasons why separation is necessary in a Christian’s life. Without it:
Separation from worldly people and things does not mean that the believer ends up walking alone. The Lord makes a three-fold promise to compensate us with His personal companionship; we are given a special sense of His presence. He says:
“I will receive you.”
“I will be a Father unto you.”
“Ye shall be My sons and daughters.”
This is an incredible reward held out to those who walk in separation—the Lord promises to be our nearest and dearest Friend! It reminds us of Abram when he declined the offers of the king of Sodom as a reward for his help in the slaughter of the confederated armies under Chedorlaomer. The Lord immediately appeared to him and said, “I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward” (Gen. 15:11After these things the word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward. (Genesis 15:1)). Could there be a greater Person in the whole universe with whom we can walk? Conversely, if a believer chooses to go on with worldly alliances and friendships, he cannot expect to have this special sense of the Lord’s fellowship in his life. It doesn’t mean that the Lord abandons him (Matt. 28:2020Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Matthew 28:20); Heb. 13:55Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. (Hebrews 13:5)), but that he is not given that special sense of His presence (Luke 24:15-1615And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. 16But their eyes were holden that they should not know him. (Luke 24:15‑16)). This privilege is conditioned on obedience (John 14:21-2321He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. 22Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? 23Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. (John 14:21‑23)). There will also be other Christians with whom we can walk in the path, but that is not mentioned here (2 Timothy 2:2222Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. (2 Timothy 2:22)).
Chap. 7:1—This verse belongs with the exhortation in chapter 6. With the encouragement of the promises of the Lord in hand, Paul says, “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” This exhortation goes beyond not being unequally yoked together with unbelievers. A person could do that and still live in unholiness. Separating from unholy outward connections with the world should be coupled with cleansing ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit within us. It shows that it’s possible to separate from things outwardly, but go on with all sorts of uncleanness inwardly in our personal lives. Hence, the exhortation would not be complete without this side of things being addressed.
2) the Irreproachable Character of His Life
Chap. 7:2-5—The second reason why he entreats the Corinthians to “receive” him is that he passed the grade on all accounts as a true minister of Jesus Christ. There is always a danger of there being some reservation toward a person who corrects us. Paul knew that this could be the case with the Corinthians and he entreats them to receive him. At the same time he confirms his love toward them by telling them that they were in his heart, and that neither death nor life was going to separate them from his love for them (vss. 3-4).
It also shows us that we can wrong someone, and though we are repentant about it, we can leave a mark on ourselves whereby people still will hold some reservation toward us. But this was not the case with Paul; he and those who ministered with him had “wronged,” “corrupted,” and “defrauded” no man.