In chapter 6 Paul is taking on an appropriate tone of urgency. What is normal in God’s eyes is a full and immediate response to His graceful call when it is made. The 12 disciples are good examples of this. They were busy men but left all to follow Jesus. They also eventually gave all. The rich young ruler did not heed the call of Christ and went away sorrowful and stunned (see Mark 10:20-22.)
Paul says to not receive God’s grace in vain, or in an empty way. He also made it clear in VS 1 that the call is from God (Working together with Him.) The call of God is a good thing, precious, and should be obeyed.
Concerning this call specifically Paul sites Isaiah 49:8 in VS 2: “In an acceptable time, I heard you, and in the day of salvation, I helped you. Look, now is the acceptable time; look, now is the day of salvation.“
“Now is the day of salvation” should be understood broadly as the time between Christ’s first and second comings & specifically the moment someone hears the gospel. Some have argued that Paul was in a way identifying his ministry with Isaiah’s prophetic calling. This could very well be true because Paul defends his ministry in this letter frequently and strongly. See 2 Corinthians 11:23-33; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10; 2 Corinthians 1:3-11; 2 Corinthians 2:14-17
VS 3-11 Paradoxes of true Christian Ministry
Paul placed high value in ministry, he avoided dishonoring it at all costs. In VS 3-11 he lists things that had followed his ministry. The first 1/2 of his list reads like this…..
In following Christ we will have times of unhindered ministry (see Acts 28:30-31) and times of hardship.
The following list is of paradoxes, vs 7-11 and is a little more difficult to interpret. I think the best way to look at it is what is seen in the flesh and/or temporal (slander, deceivers, poor, etc) is not the ultimate reality though it all was going on. Good report, true, making many rich, etc. was the reality. Ministry encompasses many aspects but there awaits a reward for the faithful, and God will encourage, enable, an anoint along the way.
VS 14 – 16 Don’t be mismatched with unbelievers
Paul gives a stern commandment. Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers, the HCSB uses the term “mismatched” with unbelievers. This does not mean to avoid friendships with those who are not Christians and it does not mean to have an exclusive Christian commune until Jesus returns. No hermits or Lone Rangers in the Kingdom!
Think for a moment of this logic in farming……the absurdity of yoking or hitching up two different types of animals together to accomplish a job. You would never yoke an ox and a chihuahua together to plow a field! They are completely different animals and will not walk and work in agreement.
The ESV Study Bible says it well….” It is thus an image for being allied or identified wrongly with unbelievers…..one person’s conduct and direction of life strongly influences or controls the others.”
The implications are obvious: marriage, close personal friends, starting a business together, etc. When a believer (who walks in the light) is mismatched with an unbeliever (who walks in darkness) how can they, in Paul’s words, have partnership, fellowship, agreement, or have all things in common? Light cannot fellowship with darkness and Christ has no agreement with demons (Belial means useless or worthless and can be seen as an epithet of Satan.)
There is no agreement between God’s sanctuary and idols! “The word for temple (Gk. naos) refers to the Most Holy Place, where God’s presence was manifested over the ark of the covenant, not to the more general temple complex or building…” (ESV Study Bible) This leads into Paul’s main point for the rest of the chapter and into 7:1….
VS 16 – 7:1 Come out from Among Them
“16b-18 These verses assemble a number of OT texts. Verse 16b is stated first in Lv 26:12 and repeated in Jer 31:33; 32:38. This was God’s promise of His presence to His covenant people, now fulfilled in the new covenant instituted by Christ (Heb 8:7-13). Verse 17 cites Isa 52:11, referring to Israel’s future holiness when they will be restored to the Lord’s favor. 2 Cor 6 Verse 18 is found first in 2Sam 7:14 in God’s covenant promise to David, but it is echoed in Isa 43:6; 49:22; 60:4; Hos 1:10. In these passages the Lord promised a family relationship between Himself and His people.” – HCSB Study Bible
These verses emphasized a truth found in Leviticus 19:2 & 1 Peter 1:16 – “Be holy for I am Holy.” These verses are also exceptionally personal and warm. When we are united with Christ & live in holiness by His power He will walk among us (before the fall the LORD would walk with man – Gen 3:8). He will welcome us, be a Father to us, and we will be His sons and daughters.
I have included 7:1 because it continues Paul’s thoughts here. Because of these great promises we have a great responsibility. It is interesting because it says for us to “wash ourselves.” Jesus cleanses from every sin. He cleanses us. We cannot remove sin by our own power. This is also not talking about water baptism. It’s best understood as the daily cleansing the believer should experience. Sometimes we need to do specific things to rid ourselves of impurities of the flesh and spirit.
Because of the fear of God we should rid ourselves of impurities. Flush the alcohol. Trash the pornography. Think before you respond. Love when you are insulted. Say no to sin. You get the point. Jesus forgives and heals but we must also have the discipline to live the free life.
What do we take away from this today?…
- Immediately respond to God’s call when we hear it
- Value the ministry (whatever you are called to do) and bring no dishonor to it
- Touch no unclean thing and live holy. Repent if you fall. He promises to be near and walk with us.