God’s Suffering Servants, 1-10

6:1 Now because we are fellow workers, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain. 6:2 For he says, “I heard you at the acceptable time, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” Look, now is the acceptable time; look, now is the day of salvation! 6:3 We do not give anyone an occasion for taking an offense in anything, so that no fault may be found with our ministry. 6:4 But as God’s servants, we have commended ourselves in every way, with great endurance, in persecutions, in difficulties, in distresses, 6:5 in beatings, in imprisonments, in riots, in troubles, in sleepless nights, in hunger, 6:6 by purity, by knowledge, by patience, by benevolence, by the Holy Spirit, by genuine love, 6:7 by truthful teaching, by the power of God, with weapons of righteousness both for the right hand and for the left, 6:8 through glory and dishonor, through slander and praise; regarded as impostors, and yet true; 6:9 as unknown, and yet well-known; as dying and yet—see!—we continue to live; as those who are scourged and yet not executed; 6:10 as sorrowful, but always rejoicing, as poor, but making many rich, as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

v2 The quote is from Isa 49:8 (LXX). See also Isa 61:2; Eze 16:8; Lk 4:19; 19:42-44; Heb 3:7; 13 4:7.

Paul ‘applies to the (mostly Gentile) Christians at Corinth words originally addressed to Jews in exile in Babylon.’ (Travis, I Believe in the Second Coming of Jesus, p131)

‘Dream not that you will ever obtain eternal life hereafter unless you receive it in this life. Unless you are partakers of it now, tremble for the consequences. Where death finds you, eternity will leave you.’ (The Best of Spurgeon, 335)

The reference to ‘in the right hand and in the left’ may be to readiness to attack from any quarter, or to weapons of offence (such as a sword in the right hand) and to those of defence (such as a shield in the left hand).

A similar military metaphor is used elsewhere in Paul’s writings. In 10:3-5, the weapons which have divine power are used to ‘demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God.’ Accordingly, we should view these weapons as the presentation and argumentation of the gospel, cf. Acts 19:8-10.

In Rom 13:12 ‘the armour of light’ evidently refers to Christian character and behaviour.

In Eph 6:10-20 (cf. 1 Thess 5:8) the weapons mentioned are mainly defensive. The one exception is ‘the sword of the Spirit’ which symbolises the word of God. Here again, then, the presentation of the Gospel is the only means acknowledged by Paul to confront the ‘principalities and powers’ which oppose the gospel.

“Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing”

‘The Christian life oscillates between these two poles — the overflowing joy of the “already” redeemed (Ephesians 1:7) and the tearful yearning of the “not-yet” redeemed (Ephesians 4:30). Not that we ever leave the one or the other in this life. We are always “sorrowful yet rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10).’

John Piper

‘A real Christian is an odd number, anyway. He feels supreme love for one who he has never seen; talks familiarly every day to Someone he cannot see; expects to go to heaven on the virtue of Another; empties himself in order to be full; admits he is wrong so he can be declared right; goes down in order to get up; is strongest when he is weakest; richest when he is poorest and happiest when he feels the worst. He dies so he can live; forsakes in order to have; gives away so he can keep; sees the invisible, hears the inaudible, and knows that which passeth knowledge.’ (A.W. Tozer)

Cf. Mt 10:39; 2 Cor 6:8-10; 2 Cor 12:10; Eph 3:19; 1 Pet 1:8; Eph 2:8; Heb 12:28.

6:11 We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart has been opened wide to you. 6:12 Our affection for you is not restricted, but you are restricted in your affections for us. 6:13 Now as a fair exchange—I speak as to my children—open wide your hearts to us also.

J.B. Phillip’s rendering of vv11-13 shows how that a free paraphrase can sometimes score heavily over a more literal translation in terms of clarity and impact: “Oh, our dear friends in Corinth, we are hiding nothing from you and our hearts are absolutely open to you. Any stiffness between us must be on your part, for we assure you there is none on ours. Do reward me (I talk to you as though you were my own children) with the same complete candour.”

Unequal Partners, 14-18

6:14 Do not become partners with those who do not believe, for what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship does light have with darkness? 6:15 And what agreement does Christ have with Beliar? Or what does a believer share in common with an unbeliever? 6:16 And what mutual agreement does the temple of God have with idols? For we are the temple of the living God, just as God said, “I will live in them and will walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” 6:17 Therefore “come out from their midst, and be separate,” says the Lord, “and touch no unclean thing, and I will welcome you, 6:18 and I will be a father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters,” says the All-Powerful Lord.

Do not become partners with those who do not believe – This metaphor is taken from Deut 22:10, which forbad the yoking of ox and ass together, suggesting that ‘the Christian is a different breed from the unbeliever and is forbidden an improper relationship with him’ (Fee).

See Mt 10:34-39.

Fee & Stuart say that ‘Traditionally, picking up a more contemporary metaphor, this has been interpreted as forbidding marriage between a Christian and non-Christian. However, the metaphor of a yoke is rarely used in antiquity to refer to marriage, and there is nothing whatsoever in the context that remotely suggests that marriage is in view here.’ (How To Read The Bible For All Its Worth, 4th ed., p80).  However, these authors recognise that we cannot be sure what Paul is referring to here, but it may well be legitimate to extend its application, because ‘it is indeed a biblical principle that can be sustained apart from this single text.’

‘There is no call here, as is often claimed, for Christian to separate from Christian for doctrinal or ethical reasons. Neither is Paul requiring a wholesale separation from unbelievers. If a Christian is married to an unbeliever the believer should not seek divorce. (1 Cor 7:12-15) If invited to the home of an unbeliever he is free to attend. (1 Cor 10:27) Unbelievers were not forbidden to attend the Christian meetings. (1 Cor 14:22-25) Indeed, as Paul writes earlier, total separation from the immoral, the greedy, the robbers, the idolaters would necessitate going ‘out of the world’ altogether. (1 Cor 5:9-11) Rather, as the rhetorical expansion which follows makes clear, it is a specific and technical association with temple worship which the apostle forbids. For this reason it is doubtful that Paul would agree with Christians today attending inter-faith services with Muslims or Hindus, for example, since that would mean being mismated with unbelievers.’ (Barnett)

No unholy alliances

‘Paul’s clarification in 1 Cor 5:9–10 makes it clear…that he is not asking them to shun pagans altogether. He assumes that they will shop in the market (1 Cor 10:25) and encourages them to go to dinner at a pagan’s home if they are invited and disposed to go (1 Cor 10:26). But he does want to form their spiritual identity so that they are distinguished from the pagan society surrounding them and will realign their values accordingly. Christians hold values dear that others reject. They must not allow themselves to be hitched to the same yoke as those whose beliefs are hostile to Christian faith. Therefore, Paul pleads with them to withdraw from these unholy alliances.’ (Garland)

As God has said – See Lev 26:12; Eze 37:27.

“Come out from them and be separate” – ‘These verses…of themselves do not call either for total separation from the world or for withdrawal from Christians with whom doctrinal differences exist. They all relate to the specific exhortation not to engage in idolatrous meals or services, which apparently (some of) the Corinthians had continued to do.’ (Barnett)