2 Corinthians 6

As we open chapter 6, we find Paul making a personal application and
an appeal to the Corinthians concerning these things. Paul and his
companions were fellow-workers in connection with the ministry (the
words, "with Him," are to be omitted); and they had faithfully brought
the word whether of new covenant grace or of reconciliation, to the
Corinthians. Now their beseeching was that the grace of the Gospel
should not be received in vain by them. Grace is received in vain if it
does not work out to its legitimate end and effect. In the epistle to
Titus we are told how grace teaches us to live in a sober, righteous
and godly way, and the Corinthians were very defective in these things;
so the exhortation was needed by them, as also it is needed by us.

Verse 2 is parenthetical and in brackets. The first part of it is a
quotation from Isaiah 49: 8. The words quoted are addressed
prophetically to the Messiah, who was to be rejected, and yet become a
light to the Gentiles and salvation to the end of the earth. In spite
of His rejection He should be heard and helped of Jehovah; and the hour
when He should be heard and helped would be the time accepted and the
day of salvation. The latter part of the verse points out that we are
living in that very hour. He has been heard in resurrection, and with
His resurrection the day of salvation has begun. It will continue until
the day of Judgment supervenes. That of course is the reason why grace
has visited us at all. We are not to receive it in vain.

Having exhorted us thus, the Apostle does not for the moment carry
his beseechings further (he does this, we believe, from verse 11
onwards) but again turns aside to speak of the features that had
characterized himself and his companions. He had said a good deal as to
these in chapter 4, and one may be tempted to wonder why he should be
led to recur to the matter here. We cannot but think that the reason is
that the character, the behaviour, the whole spirit of those who are
God's ministers is of the utmost importance. It has an effect upon
their ministry which is simply incalculable by us. Reading the Acts of
the Apostles, we see what exceptional power marked the ministry of
Paul. It was of a type that either brought very great blessing or
stirred up the fiercest opposition: it could not be ignored. The power
of God was with him; that was the explanation. But why was the power of
God with him in this exceptional degree? because he was characterized
by the features mentioned in verses 3 to 10 of our chapter.

First there was the studied avoidance of all that would give
offence, for he knew well that any blemish discernible in the servant
would be put down as a black mark against his service. The great
adversary is continually striking blows against the work of God, first
by enticing the workmen into offences, and then by giving the offences
wide publicity so as to discredit his work. Sometimes, sad to say,
Christians play into his hands by acting as his publicity agents. They
noise abroad their brother's failure to the blame of the ministry of
the Gospel.

It is not enough however to avoid offence. There must be the
commendation which flows from good. This was found very abundantly with
the Apostle, for he was marked by much patience, or endurance, and that
in the presence of a whole host of adverse and trying circumstances,
which he summarizes under nine heads. Most of these nine things are
clearly specified in the history of the Acts-such as afflictions,
stripes, prisons, tumults, labours. The rest were not absent, as we can
see reading between the lines. Through all these things he went with
endurance, pursuing the ministry of grace.

And then he himself was marked by grace, in keeping with the grace
he proclaimed. Verses 6 and 7 speak of this. Again we find the matter
summarized under nine heads, beginning with pureness and ending with
the armour of righteousness on the right hand and the left. Purity and
righteousness stand like sentinels, right and left, before and behind;
and protected thus, knowledge, longsuffering, love, truth, are found in
the energy of the Spirit, and in the power of God. What a beautiful
blending of spiritual graces is found here. The servant of God who is
armed with righteousness, and yet is full of longsuffering and kindness
and love unfeigned, must be like a polished sword in the hand of the
Holy Ghost.

We have in these verses then, first, the negative virtue seen in the
absence of offence. Then, the commendation springing from endurance
under all kinds of opposing forces. Third, the positive virtues
connected with both righteousness and love. And now lastly, the
paradoxical state of affairs that resulted from the contradiction found
between his state as to outward appearance and his state in inward
reality. Once more we find nine heads under which the paradox is set

If one looked merely on the surface appearance of things from a
worldly standpoint, that which would have met the eye would have been
dishonour. Here was a man who had thrown away all his brilliant
prospects. Evil reports continually circulated about him. He appeared
to be a deceiver, unknown and unrecognized by the men of religious
repute. His life appeared to be a living death. Even God seemed to
chasten him. Sorrow continually surged around him. He was poor, and
possessed practically nothing. What a story!

There was another side to the story however. There was honour, and a
good report from God. Sometimes there may have been a good report from
his converts; but that was a small matter compared with his joining the
company of those others who obtained "a good report through faith," as
Hebrews 11, tells us. He was a true man, and well known on high. He was
entering into that which is really life. He was inwardly always
rejoicing. He was so serving as to enrich a great multitude. He was
like a man rolling in spiritual riches, for he possessed all things.
Again we say, What a story! Only this time there is another tone in our

This amazing servant of God was the leader of that little band of
men who were spoken of as, "These that have turned the world upside
down," (Acts 17: 6)-and no wonder! The ingredients of spiritual power
are found in the verses we have just considered. Let us inwardly digest
them very well, and may they be a blessing to us in this day of
abounding evil in the world, and small faith and devotedness amongst the people of God.

Twice already had the Apostle spoken of the ministry of exhortation
which was his, "beseeching" men (2 Cor. 5: 20, 2 Cor. 6: 1). These
exhortations were of a more general nature; but in verse 11 he comes to
one of a very personal sort, addressing the Corinthians in direct
fashion. It is evident that at this point he found his mouth opened and
his heart free to bring them plainly face to face with the error which
lay at the root of so much that was wrong in their midst. They had not
realized that if they remained yoked with unbelievers they would of
necessity be dragged into much of their evil ways.

Paul did not bluntly bring them to book on this point directly he
opened his first epistle. Whence came the tendency to split into
parties and schools of opinion? Whence the immorality, the love of
litigation, the carelessness about idolatry, the disorder in their
meetings, the speculative errors as to the resurrection? From the flesh
doubtless; but also as imported from the world around them, for Corinth
was full of things of that kind. We may learn a valuable lesson from
Paul's wise action. In his first epistle he contented himself with
meeting the errors which lay on the surface, waiting until that letter
had had its effect before he exposed the underlying causes. Now
however, a suitable spiritual atmosphere had been produced. He had been
able to direct their thoughts to the ministry of reconciliation. God
and the world are in the sharpest possible antagonism, and therefore reconciliation with the One must involve separation from the other. Hence the opportune moment to speak plainly on this point had arrived.

The Apostle Paul was the man of large heart. The Corinthians were
saints of narrow affections. "Straightened," means narrowed, and
"bowels," signifies affections. Quite remarkable-do you think not? The
average man of the world would assess matters just the other way round,
and not a few Christians would agree with him. They would dub the
separate Christian as, the "narrow-minded man," and praise the
easygoing one of worldly type, as the large-hearted man. But, as a
matter of fact it is the separate believer who finds his centre in
Christ, and so enters into the largeness of His interests. The worldly
believer is limited by this little world and narrowed down to selfish
interests. Paul exhorted the Corinthians to be enlarged by separation from the world.

Verse 14 contains an allusion to Deuteronomy 22: 10. The word
literally is "diversely yoked" though of course if two, of diverse
nature and form, such as the ox and the ass, were put together the
resultant yoke would prove to be unequal. Any yoking together of the
believer and the unbeliever must be unequal because they are diverse in
their very nature and character-the one, born of God, a child of light;
the other still in the Adamic nature, a child of darkness. The yoking
together of two, so wholly diverse, must prove disastrous.

It is a question, be it noted, of a yoke. The believer is
left in the world, and comes into contact with all sorts, as is
indicated in 1 Corinthians 5: 9, 10. While mixing thus with all sorts
he is to be careful to avoid being yoked with any. The most intimate
and permanent yoke that the world knows is that of marriage. A believer
may yoke himself with an unbeliever by a business partnership. Before
he is through with it he may suffer much spiritual loss and the Lord's
Name be dishonoured; since he has to share in the responsibility of
evil things wrought by the unconverted partner. But at least he can get
out of it in process of time, even if at financial loss to himself. But
marriage he cannot get out of save by death-his own or his partner's.
And there are many other yokes besides those in marriage and in
business, though not so strong and enduring. We are to shun all of them.

Consider what the believer stands for-righteousness, light, Christ,
the temple of God. The unbeliever stands for unrighteousness (or
lawlessness), darkness, Belial, idols. Now what possible yoke, or
fellowship, or agreement, can there be between the two? None whatever.
Then why take up a position which involves an attempt to bring together
things which are as the poles asunder? The unbeliever cannot possibly
fit in with the things which are the very life of the believer. He has not got the life which would enable him to do so. The
believer can entangle and damage himself with the things of
unrighteousness which occupy the unbeliever, for though born of God he still has the flesh within him. Yoke the two together, and what must be the upshot?

No deep understanding is needed to answer that question. The one can only travel in one direction: the other can travel in either direction.
The way of the unbeliever prevails, though the believer may be dragged
very unwillingly, and hence act as a kind of brake on the wheels.

The exhortation then is that we come out from among the unbelievers
and be separate, not even touching what is unclean. The believer cannot
be too careful to avoid every kind of connection and complicity with
what is evil; and that because of what he is in his individual
character as a child of light, and also what he is collectively with
other believers as the temple of the living God. Being the living God,
He not only dwells in the midst of His people but He walks in their
midst, observing all their ways. And holiness becomes his house for

Some of us may say to ourselves, "Yes, but if I obey this injunction
and consequently break these or those links, I shall suffer a great
deal of loss and be in a very difficult position." That is very
possible. But such a contingency is foreseen. The world may cast you
out, but God will receive you, and be a Father to you. The last verse
of our chapter does not refer to proper Christian relationship which is
established in Christ, which is expounded by the Apostle in Galatians
3: 26 to 4: 7; but rather to that practical "fathering" of the believer
which he needs when suffering from the world. If we may so put it, with
all reverence, God Himself will play the part of Father to him. Hence
we are said to be His sons and daughters. When it is a question of
proper Christian relationship we all, whether male or female, are His

And notice this; the One who is pledged to play the Father's part is
the Lord, Almighty. Here then we have brought together His three great
Names-Father, Jehovah, Almighty. He is Jehovah, the unchanging One,
faithful to His word. He wields all power. And the value of both Names
He brings into His fatherly care. We need not be afraid to cut all
links with the world, cost what it may.

An interesting and encouraging contrast between this verse and
Ephesians 6: 12 may be pointed out. There are "the rulers of the
darkness of this world," or, more literally, "the world-rulers of this
darkness"-Satanic authorities and powers, no doubt, who dominate this
world of darkness. We might well fear them were it not that we are
under the protection of the Lord Almighty. The word translated,
Almighty, is literally the All-ruler. The world-rulers may be great, but they are as nothing in the presence of the All-ruler; just as this world, though great to us, is very small when compared with all things-the mighty universe of God.