Thursday, January 28, 2016

2 Corinthians 6:1–10

1 We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain. 2 For He says: In an acceptable time I have heard you, And in the day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation. 3 We give no offense in anything, that our ministry may not be blamed. 4 But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, 5 in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings; 6 by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love, 7 by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, 8 by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report; as deceivers, and yet true; 9 as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as chastened, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.

Vs. 1-2 1 We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain. 2 For He says: In an acceptable time I have heard you, And in the day of salvation I have helped you. Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation. 

Continuing on from his exhortation to be reconciled to God (2 Cor 5:21), the Apostle Paul now warns us all not to receive the grace of God in vain. For one can turn back to the law (and or man made commandments) for a righteousness standing before God, just as surely as one can turn back to the world and ones sins (consider Matt 15:9; Luke 17:32-33; 1 Cor 15:2; Gal. 2:21, 3:4, 4:11; Phil 2:16 etc.). Therefore to encourage our ongoing commitment to Christ through His Word, the Apostle Paul now cites a section of Scripture from the Book of Isaiah which says: In an acceptable time I have heard you, And in the day of salvation I have helped you. Isaiah 48:9  
The passage is poignant for it declares that God hears each and every one of us who call upon Him in truth, through His Son the Lord Jesus Christ. For God is not indifferent to either our, or humanities plight and problems. Indeed everyone of us who believe In Christ have all had to come to realize our own lost and separated condition from God before salvation came to us, and thus in that moment of realization and despair cry out to Jesus to come and save us (Rom 10:13). And that is what is lacking in this world, not an indifference by God towards humanity, but an indifference, and or unwillingness by humanity to seek God through Christ by repentance and faith, so that He might also save and heal them. And so as long as either an individual, or church, or nation seeks to solve and resolve it's own problems by it's own resources, God's Person and His resources will not be availed by them (antithesis of such self-sufficiency: Psalm 18:2; 27:1; 28:7; 34:17-18; 54:4; 59:17; 100:5). Now it's not how we come to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ that matters, it's that we come to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as testified to in the Scriptures, and thus seeing Him as He is, see our own need for Him, and thus unconditionally and unreservedly receive Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior (John 1:12; Rev. 3:20). For as the Apostle Paul is emphatically stating here, "Behold now is the accepted time, behold now is the day of salvation." Salvation then is not something to be put off or delayed (consider Jesus' Words in Luke 14:15-24), just as the grace of God is not to be received in vain. Rather if you believe receive Christ for yourself today! For God is gathering His people into His Kingdom here and now! Therefore if God is calling you, don't delay, receive Christ today! 

Vs. 3 "We give no offense in anything, that our ministry may not be blamed." 

The Apostle Paul now lays forth the guiding principal for his ministry and life, which was to keep himself from giving offenses, so that the ministry Christ entrusted to him may not be blamed. Now this takes both personal discipline and ongoing resolve, governed by a heavy dependence upon the Lord to carry out, especially when circumstances or opposition are pressing down most heavily upon us, as the Apostle Paul will elucidate further in the upcoming verses. 

Vs. 4-10 4 But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, 5 in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings; 6 by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love, 7 by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, 8 by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report; as deceivers, and yet true; 9 as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as chastened, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.

Therefore the Apostle Paul's says that we commend ourselves as ministers of God in all of the litany of hardships, troubles, and tribulations he lists. Demonstrating to the Corinthians (and to us all) that he is a true minister of the Gospel. Now this the Apostle Paul does not to shame anyone, rather it is to encourage all believers everywhere to carry on in their own trials and tribulations. And so it is the Apostle Paul says that in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God. Thus Paul's circumstances never dictated when he preached the Gospel, nor to whom he ministered the Gospel, or where or how Paul shared the Gospel. For the Apostle Paul's life was bound up in the life and ministry of the Gospel; and thus through his ministry and life the truth of the Gospel, and thus the power of God to salvation was being made known to everyone, everywhere. Therefore the Apostle Paul says in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses (vs. 4), Paul commended himself to every person as a minister of God. That is through these things the Apostle Paul not only conducted himself as a minister of God, but he also continued to minister the Gospel through them all. For again Paul didn't fold when things got difficult, instead by the strength of Christ strengthening him, Paul carried on ministering. The Apostle Paul then goes on to mention six more things in which he continued to minister the Gospel through: in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings (vs. 5). In strips means those wounds inflicted upon Paul when being flogged (often described as being scourged or beaten in the NKJ); like that which occurred to him and Silas in Acts 16:22-24; which later led to their sharing Christ in the prison to which they were confined for their faith; and so it is while there, even the prisons guardian, and later his whole household came to faith In Christ (Acts 16:25-34). In imprisonments is something which the Apostle Paul had to frequently endure for his faithfulness towards Christ (see 2 Cor 11:23). Nonetheless these seemingly outward defeats of his ministry, only became the means by which he continued to minister the Gospel to believers everywhere through the written Word. For it was during these "downtime's" that the Apostle Paul scribed or dictated many of his N.T. epistles. And so it is that though the Apostle was frequently chained, the Word of God through him was never chained (2 Tim 2:8-10). In tumults refers to the uprisings that came against him and those with him for preaching the Gospel, like those that occurred in Ephesus (Acts 19:21-40), or later in Jerusalem (Acts 21-23). And so it was the Apostle Paul did not shun sharing the Gospel because of these even when faced with certain harm or death from an angry mob. In labors too the Apostle Paul commended himself as a minister of God. Therefore Paul was, when he could be, a self-supporting missionary (see Acts 18:1-4 and how Paul supported himself by his tent making trade skills). Thus Paul didn't needlessly burden the church, or anyone else as he traveled around preaching and teaching the Gospel. Instead Paul worked and labored with his own hands, not shunning any sort of manual labor of whatever sort it was, for if Paul could do it, then he did it, so as to neither hinder the Gospel, nor be a burden anyone (consider 1 Thess 2:9; 3:8-12). In sleeplessness. In the early church the Gospel worker was seemingly almost always on the move, preaching here, teaching there, and so there was no nine to five routine. Sleep then was something that you did when you could, and if you could (consider Acts 20:7-12 and Paul's teaching all night in a house church). Not too mention the nights that Paul would've spent studying and thinking on the Word of God, or in prayer, in travels, or simply enduring local opposition, and or spiritual persecution etc. For anyone who has entered into the Lord's life and labors knows all to well that the enemy always attacks believers on this front. In fastings means that the Apostle Paul frequently went without food. Now the word used here often is indicating that this was a prolonged event and was born out of need, rather than something that was self imposed (see Louw Nida 23:31). And so whether by need, or wilful abstinence (as in Acts 27:21-26), the Apostle Paul new what it meant to go without food (consider Luke 6:20-26, vs. 25). Having then stated some of the most severe things the Apostle Paul endured for the Gospels sake, Paul now goes on to list in verses six and seven some of out workings of God through his person and life, by which he also commended himself as a minister of God:
6 by purity, Paul not only strove to keep the Gospels message pure and unadulterated, but he himself lived a life of purity. 
by knowledge, knowledge here is knowledge of the One true God and Jesus Christ whom He sent; as well knowledge also applies to knowledge of God's Will for himself and the church. 
by longsuffering, longsuffering means enduring patience, that is "having or showing patience in spite of troubles, especially those caused by other people." Oxford Dictionaries © Oxford University Press And so whether these troubles came from opposition too the Gospel, or even from other believers whom the Apostle Paul cared deeply about, Paul remained patient with all (consider Ecc. 7:8; 1 Thess 5:14; 2 Tim 2:24).
by kindness, In the Bible kindness is often linked with love; being an essential part of God's Person and His dealings with us (Psalm 36:7; Jeremiah 9:24). That being so kindness is also a fruit of the Holt Spirit so that God may manifest His kindness through us all who believe (Gal 5:22). Therefore as disciples of Christ we are to treat each other with kindness (Col 3:12-14). 
by the Holy Spirit, The Holy Spirit is not only the source of every noble and virtuous attribute and holy disposition that we posses and manifest, but here the Apostle Paul is saying that his ministry was not rooted in the flesh; and thus his own strength, power, resolve, or abilities; rather it was rooted in the Holy Spirit which gifted, empowered, and enabled him to be Christ's Apostle and thus to bring forth the Word of God for us all. Now this the Holy Spirit also does in and through us by gifting and enabling us all who believe to also be Christ's servants and workers (consider Zechariah 4:6; John 6:63). 
by sincere love, If there is anything marks a true Christian, it is our love for God and each other (1 John 3:10, 14-15; 4:7-8, 20). 
7 by the word of truth, The Apostle Paul's person and ministry wasn't only grounded in the word of truth, that is God's Word, but the Apostle Paul himself ministered the Word of God in truth; that is he made it as clear and plain and easy to understand as he could. And thus he strove to make the Gospel assessable to all, the antithesis which is described in Ephesians 4:14-15. 
by the power of God, already touched on, thus the power of God is not only the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes (Rom 1:16-17; 1 Cor 1:18); but it is the power of God to live a new life. And thus too manifest the life, death, and sufferings of Christ; and as an Apostle of Christ the mighty works and miracles of Christ (consider John 14:12-14; 1 Cor. 2:1-5; Gal. 3:1). 
by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, Here the Apostle Paul makes it clear that both his personal life, as well as his ministry was conducted in righteousness. For no true minister of Christ is a minister of sin (Gal 2:17). That is either practicing sin, or preaching, or teaching, or allowing any thing which God condemns as perversion and sin (consider 1 Tim 5:19-20). 
8 by honor and dishonor, And so whether honored as a true Apostle of Christ by those who believe, or held in dishonor and disdain by the unbelieving and ungodly for the same, the Apostle commended himself to all as true minister of Christ. 
by evil report and good reportas deceivers, and yet true; whether slandered by an evil report; or whether praised through a good one, the Apostle Paul wasn't swayed from God's purposes for him when someone gave a bad report about him or condemned him as a deceiver. For Paul knew Christ knew him, and his heart and motives and service as being true, so Paul continued to minister the Gospel everywhere and in everyplace, neither swayed by a bad report, or puffed up by a good one. 
9 as unknown, and yet well known; To the unbelieving yes, Paul was unknown, just as all Christians are basically "unknown" to this world and people of it (consider John 15:19-21). Yet Paul was well known to church and the many peoples lives Christ changed through him and his service forever. 
as dying, and behold we live; The Apostle Paul's life was one of not only daily dying to self, but literally his life was very often, "hanging in the balance", as his person and life was often plotted against by the Jews, persecuted by the world, arrested and imprisoned by governing authorities, and yet through it all Christ sustained his person and life, and so Paul could rejoice and say we live! 
as chastened, and yet not killed; Chastened here is not God's chastening us, rather Paul is describing the many beatings he endured for his faith in Christ and faithfulness towards Him. And so though beaten Paul was not killed, something which must have really strengthened his faith and resolve. For from the beginning Christ told that these would happen to him, and yet He would sustain him against the overwhelming opposition that would come against him (see Acts 9:15-16; 20:33; 2 Cor. 11:24-25 etc.). 
10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; Sorrow comes with a life of service for Christ, and yet the Apostle Paul could rejoice because of the ever present reality of Christ in his person and life. And so though there are those times of sadness, or loss, or grief etc., there is still far more joy from God given to us through the Holy Spirit, as we also see the wonderful works of God all around us, saving and changing and transforming people and lives, but we also personally experience the changes that God is making in our own persons and lives (consider Psalm 30:5). 
as poor, yet making many rich; Though the Apostle Paul was poor, yet through his life and ministry he was making many rich (something which continues to this day). Thus the Apostle Paul's ability to be and bring God's blessing into peoples lives was not based upon his finances. And so people in the church also need to see this for themselves. That what we do, and how effective we are for Christ is not based upon our financial abilities to give and share. For through the gifts and talents and abilities God has given us all, God intends to bring His blessings to one and to all. Even our own life stories and experiences (whether good or bad); can be the means by which God enirchens people's lives with the Gospel. And so being poor has never disqualfied anyone from being God's blessing. For we can all share a Scripture, or be a friend, or show empathy or compassion, or give a timely word, or simply share what we have learned through our lives experiences, and thus be far more enriching than merely writing a check, and then basically checking out. Now if your ministries primary focus is on fundraising, and not relationship building, then maybe you need to re-examine your priorities.  
as having nothing, and yet possessing all things; And so it is the Apostle Paul was not only enriching people and their lives through his Gospel ministry, but he was also being enriched himself. For though Paul had nothing substantially of any material worth, yet he was truly possessing all things that really matter. 

Scripture Quotations
The New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982.

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