2 Corinthians 6:1-18

Submitted by admin on Thu, 2009-10-29 12:14.

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The opening Greek word synergéo, meaning “working with,” does not have an object. Earlier (in 5:20), God is represented as making the entreaty through the ambassadors for Christ. So there is a basis for considering “God” to be the object, and numerous translations contain renderings that make the reference to God explicit (“God’s fellow workers [NIV]; “sharing in God’s work” [REB]; “work together with God” [CEV]; “workers together with God” [NCV]). As a participant in God’s work, Paul appealed to fellow believers not to accept God’s gracious favor or unmerited kindness “in vain.” For believers, God’s favor related to having their sins forgiven and coming to be reconciled to him. If they were to fail in living upright lives as God’s obedient children, they would be acting contrary to the purpose for which they had been shown his favor. This would mean that their initial acceptance of it would prove to be for nothing. (6:1)

With an apparent reference to God as the speaker, Paul continued, “For he says,” and then quoted from Isaiah 49:8 (LXX), “In an acceptable time I heard you, and in a day of deliverance I helped you.” The apostle then made an application, “Look! Now [is] the acceptable time. Look! Now [is] the day of deliverance.” It was the “acceptable,” right, or appropriate time for entreating others to become reconciled to God and for appealing to those who had responded to the appeal to live in keeping with its purpose. It proved to be a time for God to “hear” or respond favorably to those who desired reconciliation with him. From the standpoint of seizing the opportunity to have God’s favorable hearing, it was also an acceptable time for the world of mankind. It was a “day of deliverance” or salvation, for it opened up to responsive ones forgiveness of sin and deliverance from the resultant condemnation. (6:2)

In working together with God, Paul determined not to give anyone reason for legitimate offense, for he did not want his ministry to be faulted. (6:3) Using the first person plural verbs, he apparently spoke of his own course and indicated how he, “in all [circumstances],” recommended himself as a minister or servant of God. Paul endured much, repeatedly facing hardships, mistreatment, and hostility. While sharing the message about Christ with others, he experienced tribulations or afflictions and found himself in needy or distressing circumstances and in difficulties. (6:4)

He was beaten, imprisoned, and thronged by enraged mobs. Besides working hard in advancing Christ’s cause, he labored with his own hands for life’s necessities. Paul often went without sleep and food. (6:5)

Despite the troubles and hardships the apostle endured, he recommended himself as God’s servant by the “purity” of his life, the “knowledge” about God and Christ he imparted to others, the “patience” he displayed, bearing up without becoming bitter or resentful, and the “kindness” he manifested in his dealings with others. Paul’s reference to recommending himself in “holy spirit” may be understood to mean that he continually allowed God’s spirit to guide him in thought, word, and deed. Moreover, the spiritual gifts with which he had been endowed revealed the operation of God’s spirit within him. The “love” Paul showed in carrying out his commission was “unhypocritical,” a genuine reflection of his deep care and concern for others. He was willing to forego personal interests and rights in order to appeal to the conscience of those to whom he proclaimed the good news about Christ and to the conscience of believers. (6:6)

The expression “truthful word” (literally, “word of truth”) may be understood to relate either to the apostle’s proclaiming a truthful message or to his being truthful in his speaking. He relied on the “power of God” and not on his own strength or ability. The “weapons of righteousness” that Paul used were of a spiritual kind. He employed them for the benefit of others in battling error or anything that stood in the way of the advancement of Christ’s cause. In literal warfare, the right hand would usually be used for wielding a sword or another weapon, whereas the shield would be held in the left hand. So, when referring to the “weapons of righteousness” as being on the “right and the left,” Paul meant offensive and defensive spiritual implements. His primary weapon would have been the “sword of the spirit” or the “word of God,” which word or message exposes error and reveals the truth about how to be reconciled to God through his Son. (6:7; Ephesians 6:17; see Ephesians 6:14-17 for a description of the spiritual armor.)

In expression of unmerited divine favor, Paul had been called to be an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. In his capacity as an apostle, Paul was in possession of glory or honor. By faithfully discharging his sacred trust, he did so “through glory.” At the same time, when declaring the glad tidings about Jesus Christ, he was subjected to abuse and misrepresentation. Accordingly, he also recommended himself as God’s minister through the dishonor opposers or detractors heaped upon him. The “bad report” could designate the slander or insult that was directed against Paul, and the “good report” could relate to the kindly expressions of commendation made about him as a devoted apostle. There were those who maligned Paul, maintaining that he was a deceiver with ulterior motives. Others recognized him to be exemplary in trustworthiness and truthfulness. So Paul could speak of recommending himself as God’s minister both as a deceiver (one falsely accused of being such) and a truthful person. (6:8)

To the world alienated from God, Paul was unknown. In the eyes of people generally, he did not have the kind of wealth and position that distinguished famous men. Yet, among believers, he was recognized as an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ and a beloved brother, a fellow member of God’s family. The apostle could speak of himself as dying because he repeatedly faced dangers that could have led to his death, but he lived. Through the operation of God’s spirit, the man he was in his inmost self continued to be revived and strengthened, and time and again he was delivered from mortal perils. Likely Paul regarded the difficulties and hardships he encountered as “discipline,” serving to mold him to be conformed ever closer to the image of God’s beloved Son. (Compare Hebrews 12:4-11.) Although the discipline in the form of trials and suffering proved to be severe, the apostle had not yet endured to the point of death. (6:9)

Paul spoke of himself as “being saddened but ever rejoicing.” He was deeply grieved when fellow believers became unfaithful or failed in conducting themselves as obedient children of God and when his fellow countrymen and others did not respond to the good news about Jesus Christ. (2:4; Romans 9:2, 3; Philippians 3:18) Nevertheless, he could at all times rejoice in the Lord Jesus Christ, being filled with joy on account of being at one with him, having been extended extraordinary kindness and mercy, and continuing to be the recipient of divine aid and guidance. From a material standpoint, Paul was poor. He had no home of his own and labored with his hands to care for his basic needs. From a spiritual standpoint, though, he was in a position to make many “rich,” imparting to them the vital knowledge about God and his Son that opened up the priceless treasure of coming to be members of God’s family of beloved children liberated from sin and its resultant condemnation. As children of God, believers also came to be heirs, destined to enjoy an inheritance in the heavens that was more valuable than any earthly inheritance could possibly be. Whereas the apostle had “nothing” from a material standpoint, he considered himself as possessing “everything,” for he had the far more valuable enduring spiritual riches that made transitory material wealth appear worthless. (6:10)

With reference to himself, Paul appears to have continued to use the first person plural pronouns and verbs. He had “opened” his mouth to the Corinthians, indicating that he had expressed himself sincerely, not concealing anything. His “heart” had been widened for them, suggesting that he had made ample room for them in his affections. They were very dear to him. (6:11)

As far as Paul was concerned, he had not limited his love for them. The Corinthians, though, had restricted their compassionate, affectionate, or caring feelings for him. (6:12)

For this reason, the apostle spoke to them as one would to children. He told them to “widen out” respecting their affection for him as a recompense for (or in return for or in response to) the unrestricted love he had for them. (6:13)

Possibly their close association with unbelievers had contributed to their failure to express love fully. This may explain why Paul, with pointed questions, stressed that the Corinthians should not become yoked with unbelievers. “For what partnership [do] uprightness and lawless [have]? Or what fellowship [does] light [have] with darkness? And what [can be said about] Christ’s harmony with Belial [Satan]? Or what share [does] a believer [have] with an unbeliever? And what agreement [does] the temple of God [have] with idols?” (6:14-16) Uprightness and lawlessness, light and darkness, Christ and Belial or Satan, a believer and an unbeliever, and God’s temple and idols are opposites. No partnership, fellowship, harmony, share, or agreement exists between them. Accordingly, any kind of yoking to unbelievers (or a deliberate choice of intimate or close association) was rightly something the Corinthians needed to avoid in order to safeguard their standing as God’s approved children. (See the Notes section regarding Belial [verse 15].)

Commenting on the sacred status of believers, Paul continued, “For we [you, according to other manuscripts, including P46 (c. 200)] are the temple of the living God.” Idols are lifeless or dead, but the true God is living and has life-giving power. Believers are his people and, as a corporate whole, constitute his temple, for he is with them by means of his spirit. With quotations from the holy writings, Paul established that God’s people are his temple. “As God said,” the apostle continued, “I will dwell among them and walk [in their midst], and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” This is not an exact quotation of a specific text, but is one that incorporates thoughts expressed in Leviticus 26:12, Jeremiah 32:38 (39:38, LXX), and Ezekiel 37:27. God’s residence is his sanctuary, and so his people, among whom he manifests his presence, are his temple. (6:16; see the Notes section.)

“Therefore,” the apostle continued, “come out of their midst and separate [yourselves], says the Lord, and do not touch the unclean [thing], and I will take you in. [Isaiah 52:11] And I will be a father to you, and you will be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Samuel 7:14; Isaiah 43:6; Jeremiah 31:9 [38:9, LXX]) Again, the quotations express thoughts found in the sacred writings but do not match the wording of specific passages. As God’s people, believers need to guard against contaminating their holy or clean standing. So the Corinthians needed to keep separate from unbelievers, not making them their intimate associates and defiling themselves through joint participation in God-dishonoring practices. Believers have been “taken in” or accepted as part of God’s family. They are his sons and daughters, and he is their Father. (6:17, 18; see the Notes section.)


In non-biblical Dead Sea Scrolls (including the Damascus Document and a composition about the heavenly prince Melchizedek [11Q13]), Belial is a designation for Satan, the prince of darkness.

The wording of the quotations in verses 16 through 18 reflects that of the extant Septuagint text.