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  • ADAM CLARKE'S BIBLE COMMENTARY -
    2 CORINTHIANS 6

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    CHAPTER VI.

    We should not receive the grace of God in vain, having such promises of support from him, 1, 2. We should act so as to bring no disgrace on the Gospel, 3. How the apostles behaved themselves, preached, suffered, and rejoiced, 4-10. St. Paul's affectionate concern for the Corinthians, 11-13. He counsels them not to be yoked with unbelievers, and advances several arguments why they should avoid them, 14-16. Exhorts them to avoid evil companions and evil practices, on the promise that God will be their Father and that they shall be his sons and his daughters, 17, 18,

    NOTES ON CHAP. VI.

    Verse 1. "We then, as workers together with him" - sunergountev de kai parakaloumen. The two last words, with him, are not in the text, and some supply the place thus: we then, as workers together WITH YOU, and the Armenian version seems to have read it so; but no MS. has this reading, and no other version. For my own part I see nothing wanting in the text if we only suppose the term apostles; we, (i.e. apostles,) being fellow workers, also entreat you not to receive the grace of God in vain.

    By the grace of God, thn carin tou qeou, this grace or benefit of God, the apostle certainly means the grand sacrificial offering of Christ for the sin of the world, which he had just before mentioned in speaking of the ministry of reconciliation. We learn, therefore, that it was possible to receive the grace of God and not ultimately benefit by it; or, in other words, to begin in the Spirit and end in the flesh. Should any one say that it is the ministry of reconciliation, that is, the benefit of apostolic preaching, that they might receive in vain; I answer, that the apostolic preaching, and the whole ministry of reconciliation, could be no benefit to any man farther than it might have been a means of conveying to him the salvation of God. And it is most evident that the apostle has in view that grace or benefit that reconciles us to God, and makes us Divinely righteous. And this, and all other benefits of the death of Christ, may be received in vain.

    Verse 2. "For he saith" - That is, God hath said it, by the prophet Isaiah, Isa. xlix. 8; which place the apostle quotes verbatim et literatim from the Septuagint. And from this we may at once see what is the accepted time, and what the day of salvation. The advent of the Messiah was the wxr ty eth ratson, the time of God's pleasure or benevolence, of which all the faithful were in expectation; and the day of salvation, h[w µwy yom yeshuah, was the time in which this salvation should be manifested and applied. The apostle therefore informs them that this is the time predicted by the prophet; and the ministry of reconciliation being exercised in full force is a proof that the prophecy is fulfilled; and therefore the apostle confidently asserts, Behold, NOW is this accepted time, NOW the Messiah reigns, NOW is the Gospel dispensation, and therefore NOW is the day of salvation; that is, the very time in which the power of God is present to heal, and in which every sinner believing on the Lord Jesus may be saved.

    I rather think that this second verse should be read immediately after the last verse of the preceding chapter; as where it now stands it greatly disturbs the connection between the first and the third verses. I will set down the whole in the order in which I think they should stand. chap. v. 20: Now then we are ambassadors for Christ; as though God did beseech you by us, we pray you in Christ's stead, to be reconciled to God. For he hath made him a sin-offering for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him: for he saith, "I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee." Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

    Immediately after this, the sixth chapter will very properly commence, and we shall see that the connection will be then undisturbed:-

    We then, as fellow workers, beseech you also, that ye receive not this grace of God in vain, giving no offense in any thing, that this ministry be not blamed. This change of the place of the second verse, which every one allows must, if it stand here, be read in a parenthesis, preserves the whole connection of the apostle's discourse, and certainly sets his argument before us in a stronger light. Let us review the whole:

    1. God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, chap. v. 18. 2. He appointed the apostles to proclaim to mankind the doctrine of reconciliation, chap. v. 19. 3. The apostles, in consequence, proclaim this doctrine; and show that Christ was a sacrifice for sin, and that through him we may be perfectly saved, chap. v. 20, 21. 4.

    They show also that all this was agreeable to the declaration of God by the prophet Isaiah, Isa. xlix. 8, where he predicts the days of the Messiah, and the grace then to be communicated, 2 Cor. vi. 2. 5. The apostle then, speaking in the person of all his fellow labourers, who had this ministry of reconciliation intrusted to them, exhorts them not to receive such a benefit of God in vain, ver. 1. He exhorts those who had embraced the Gospel not to put a stumbling block in the way of others, by acting irreligiously, lest this ministry of reconciliation should be reproached on their account, ver. 3. 7. He shows what conscientious and scrupulous care he and his fellow apostles took to preach and walk so that this ministry might have its full effect, ver. 4, &c.

    This view of the subject, if I mistake not, shows a beautiful consistency throughout the whole.

    Verse 3. "Giving no offense" - The word proskoph, read proskomma, Rom. xiv. 13, signifies a stumbling block in general, or any thing over which a man stumbles or falls; and here means any transgression or scandal that might take place among the ministers, or the Christians themselves, whereby either Jews or Gentiles might take occasion of offense, and vilify the Gospel of Christ.

    Verse 4. "But in all things approving ourselves" - The apostle now proceeds to show how conscientiously himself and his fellow labourers acted, in order to render the ministry of reconciliation effectual to the salvation of men. They not only gave no offense in any thing, but they laboured to manifest themselves to be the genuine ministers of God, in much patience-bearing calmly up under the most painful and oppressive afflictions.

    "In afflictions" - en fliyesin. This may signify the series of persecutions and distresses in general; the state of cruel suffering in which the Church of God and the apostles then existed.

    "In necessities" - en anagkaiv? Straits and difficulties; including all that want and affliction which arose from the impoverished state of the Church.

    "In distresses" - en stenocwriaiv. Such straits and difficulties as were absolutely unavoidable and insurmountable. The word implies, being reduced to a narrow place, driven to a corner, hemmed in on every side, as the Israelites were at the Red Sea; the sea before them, Pharaoh and his host behind them, and Egyptian fortresses on either hand. God alone could bring them out of such difficulties, when their enemies themselves saw that the wilderness had shut them in. So was it often with the apostles; all human help failed, and their deliverance came from God alone.

    Verse 5. "In stripes, in imprisonments" - Of these the history of the Acts of the Apostles gives ample testimony; and there were doubtless many instances of persecution in various forms which are not on record.

    "In tumults" - akatastasiaiv? Insurrections raised against them because of the Gospel. It is more natural to understand the word thus, than of agitations, or tossings to and fro in consequence of their unsettled state of life; or because of persecution, which obliged them to flee from place to place.

    "In labours" - Both with our own hands to provide for ourselves the necessaries of life, that we might not be chargeable to others; and in labours to spread the Gospel of God through all countries where his providence opened our way.

    "In watchings" - Passing many nights without sleep or rest.

    "In fastings" - Partly constrained through want of food; and partly voluntary, as a means of obtaining an increase of grace both for ourselves and for the Churches.

    Verse 6. "By pureness" - en agnothti? In simplicity of intention, and purity of affection; together with that chastity and holiness of life which the Gospel enjoins.

    "By knowledge" - Of the Divine mysteries.

    "By long-suffering" - Under all provocations.

    "By kindness" - To our most virulent persecutors, and to all men.

    "By the Holy Ghost" - There are doubts among learned men whether the apostle here means that SPIRIT who is called the third person of the holy TRINITY; or some grace, disposition, or quality of the soul, which was thus denominated, as implying a spirit wholly purified, and fitted to be a habitation of God.

    Schoettgen quotes a passage from Rabbi Bechai, in which it appears to him to have this latter meaning: "Rabbi Pinchas, the son of Jair, said: Reflection leads to sedulity; sedulity to innocence; innocence to abstinence; abstinence to cleanness; cleanness to sanctity; sanctity to the fear of sin; fear of sin to humility; humility to piety; and piety to the Holy Spirit. Of these ten virtues five are external, or belong to the body; and five internal, or belonging to the soul; but all men prefer the tenth, which is dqh jwr ruach haktodesh, the Holy Spirit." Even allowing Rabbi Pinchas to be a person on whose judgment we could rely, and whose authority was decisive, there does not appear to me any reason why we should depart from the usual meaning of the term from any thing that is said here. It appears to me plain enough that the rabbi means the constant indwelling of the Holy Spirit; and St. Paul, in this place, may have the same thing in view, and with it the various gifts of the Holy Spirit by which he was enabled to work miracles.

    "By love unfeigned" - en agaph anupokritw? Love without hypocrisy; such as disposed us at all times to lay down our life for the brethren, and to spend and be spent for the glory of God and the good of mankind.

    Verse 7. "By the word of truth" - The doctrine of truth received immediately from God, and faithfully and affectionately preached to men.

    "By the power of God" - Confirming this doctrine, not only by the miracles which we were enabled to work, but also by the application of that truth to the souls of the people by the energy of God.

    "By the armour of righteousness" - Such as that described by the apostle, Eph. vi. 13-17, which he calls there the whole armour of God, consisting of the following pieces: the girdle of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the Gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit.

    "On the right hand and on the left" - Particularly, the shield and the sword; the former on the left arm, the latter in the right hand. We have the doctrine of truth, and the power of God, as an armour to protect us on all sides, every where, and on all occasions.

    It seems far-fetched to understand the right hand as signifying prosperity, and the left as signifying adversity; as if the apostle had said: We have this armour to defend us both in prosperity and adversity. By the doctrine of the Gospel, and by the power of God, the apostles were furnished with offensive and defensive weapons; they could ever defend themselves, and discomfit their foes.

    Verse 8. "By honour and dishonour" - By going through both; sometimes respected, sometimes despised.

    "By evil report and good report" - Sometimes praised, at other times calumniated.

    "As deceivers" - Said to carry about a false doctrine for our secular emolument.

    "And yet true" - Demonstrated by the nature of the doctrine, as well as by our life and conversation, that we are true men; having nothing in view but God's glory and the salvation of the world.

    Verse 9. "As unknown" - Persons who are to be suspected as harbouring dark designs; persons of neither birth, parentage, nor respectable connections in life; And yet well known] Proved by our whole conduct to have no such designs, and demonstrated to be holy, upright, and useful, by the whole train of our peregrinations, through which we can be readily traced from place to place; having preached openly, and done nothing in a corner.

    "As dying" - Through continual dangers, fatigues, and persecutions; And, behold, we live] We are preserved by the mighty power of God in the greatest dangers and deaths.

    "As chastened" - As though we were disobedient children; And not killed] Though we continue in the very same line of conduct that is supposed to bring on us those chastisements, and which, if it were criminal, would justly expose us to death for incorrigible obstinacy; but our preservation is a proof that we please God.

    Verse 10. "As sorrowful" - Considerate men supposing, from our persecuted state and labourious occupation, (often destitute of the necessaries of life; seldom enjoying its conveniences; and scarcely ever, its comforts,) that we must be the most miserable of all men.

    "Yet alway rejoicing" - Having the consolation of God's Spirit at all times, and a glorious prospect of a blessed immortality.

    "As poor" - Destitute of all worldly good and secular interest, Yet making many rich] By dispensing to them the treasures of salvation; making them rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom.

    The Gospel, when faithfully preached, and fully received, betters the condition of the poor. It makes them sober; so they save what before they profusely and riotously spent. It makes them diligent; and thus they employ time to useful purposes which they before squandered away.

    They therefore both save and gain by religion; and these must lead to an increase of property. Therefore they are made rich; at least in comparison with that sinful, profligate state in which they were before they received the truth of the Gospel.

    "As having nothing" - Being the most abject of the poor, And yet possessing all things.] That are really necessary to the preservation of our lives. For the wants under which we labour for a time are supplied again by a bountiful Providence. The man who possesses a contented spirit possesses all things; for he is satisfied with every dispensation of the providence of God; and "a contented mind is a continual feast."

    Verse 11. "O ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you" - I speak to you with the utmost freedom and fluency, because of my affection for you.

    "Our heart is enlarged." - It is expanded to take you and all your interests in; and to keep you in the most affectionate remembrance.

    The preceding verses contain a very fine specimen of a very powerful and commanding eloquence.

    Verse 12. "Ye are not straitened in us" - That is, Ye have not a narrow place in our affections: the metaphor here is taken from the case of a person pent up in a small or narrow place, where there is scarcely room to breathe.

    "Ye are straitened in your own bowels." - I have not the same place in your affections which you have in mine. The bowels are used in Scripture to denote the most tender affections. See the note on Matt. ix. 36.

    Verse 13. "Now for a recompense in the same" - That you may, in some sort, repay me for my affection towards you, I speak to you as unto my children, whom I have a right to command, be ye also enlarged-love me as I love you.

    Verse 14. "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers" - This is a military term: keep in your own ranks; do not leave the Christian community to join in that of the heathens. The verb eterozugein signifies to leave one's own rank, place, or order, and go into another; and here it must signify not only that they should not associate with the Gentiles in their idolatrous feasts, but that they should not apostatize from Christianity; and the questions which follow show that there was a sort of fellowship that some of the Christians had formed with the heathens which was both wicked and absurd, and if not speedily checked would infallibly lead to final apostasy.

    Some apply this exhortation to pious persons marrying with those who are not decidedly religious, and converted to God. That the exhortation may be thus applied I grant; but it is certainly not the meaning of the apostle in this place. Nevertheless, common sense and true piety show the absurdity of two such persons pretending to walk together in a way in which they are not agreed. A very wise and very holy man has given his judgment on this point: "A man who is truly pious, marrying with an unconverted woman, will either draw back to perdition, or have a cross during life." The same may be said of a pious woman marrying an unconverted man. Such persons cannot say this petition of the Lord's prayer, Lead us not into temptation. They plunge into it of their own accord.

    "For what fellowship, &c." - As righteousness cannot have communion with unrighteousness, and light cannot dwell with darkness; so Christ can have no concord with Belial, nor can he that believeth have any with an infidel. All these points were self-evident; how then could they keep up the profession of Christianity, or pretend to be under its influence, while they associated with the unrighteous, had communion with darkness, concord with Belial, and partook with infidels?

    Verse 16. "What agreement hath the temple of God with idols" - Nothing could appear more abominable to a Jew than an idol in the temple of God: here, then, could be no agreement; the worship of the two is wholly incompatible. An idolater never worships the true God; a Christian never worships an idol. If ye join in idolatrous rites, it is impossible that ye should be Christians.

    "Ye are the temple of the living God" - God intends to make the heart of every believer his own house.

    "I will dwell in them, and walk in them" - The words are very emphatic: enoikhsw en autoiv? I will inhabit in them. I will not be as a wayfaring man, who turns aside to tarry as for a night, but I will take up my constant residence with them; I will dwell in and among them.

    "I will be their God" - They shall have no other God, they shall have none besides me; and if they take me for their God, I will be to them all that an infinite, eternal, and self- sufficient Being can be to his intelligent offspring.

    "They shall be my people." - If they take me for their GOD, their supreme and eternal GOOD, I will take them for my people; and instruct, enlighten, defend, provide for, support, and bless them, as if I had none else to care for in the creation.

    Verse 17. "Wherefore come out from among them" - Is it not plain from this and the following verse that God would be their God only on the ground of their taking him for such, and that this depended on their being separated from the works and workers of iniquity? for God could not inhabit in them if they had concord with Belial, a portion with infidels; &c.

    Those who will have the promises of God fulfilled to them must come under the conditions of these promises: if they are not separate-if they touch the unclean thing, God will not receive them; and therefore will not be their God, nor shall they be his people.

    Verse 18. "Will be a Father unto you" - I will act towards you as the most affectionate father can act towards his most tender and best beloved child.

    "And ye shall be my sons and daughters" - Ye shall all be of the household of God, the family of heaven; ye shall be holy, happy, and continually safe.

    "Saith the Lord Almighty." - kuriov pantokratwrĘ The Lord, the Governor of all things.

    Earthly fathers, however loving and affectionate, may fail to provide for their children, because every thing is not at their disposal; they may frequently lack both the power and the means, though to will may be present with them; but the Lord who made and who governs all things can never lack will, power, nor means. The promise is sure to the children; and the children are those who take the Almighty for their God. For the promise belongs to no soul that is not separate from sinful ways, works, and men; those who touch the unclean thing, i.e. who do what God forbids, and hold communion with unrighteousness, can never stand in the endearing relation of children to God Almighty: and this is most forcibly stated by God himself, in these verses, and in the beginning of the following chapter, the first verse of which should conclude this.

    To the Jews the promises were originally made; they would not have God for their God, but would work iniquity. What was the consequence? God cast them off; and those who were joined to iniquity were separated from him. "Then said God, Call his name Lo-ammi; for ye are not my people, and I will not be your God." Hos. i. 9. The Jews were therefore cast off, and the Gentiles taken in their place; but even these, under the new covenant, are taken in expressly under the same conditions as the apostle here most fully states. Those who apply these words in any other way pervert their meaning, and sin against their souls.

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