2 Corinthians 6:1
The grace of God had been manifested in the reconciliation of which he had been treating; and this reconciliation had its period, or season, special as to its character and advantages. Everything has relation to time. Life has infancy, childhood, youth - successive eras. Nature has her seasons. It was now God's receiving time, a dispensation of mercy, an acceptable time, a day of salvation. So sensible was St. Paul of this fact that he, as a coworker with God, pressed the exhortation on the Corinthians not to neglect the grace of God freely vouchsafed in this auspicious time. Good influences were conspiring in their favour; "receive not the grace of God in vain." It was a coworking period. Out of the turmoil, the strife of tongues, the collisions within the Church and without, doctrines were emerging into clearer view, and, as doctrines were better understood, duties would be more faithfully discharged. Had not these Corinthians been revived and strengthened of late? Had they not heeded his affectionate warning and purified the Church? It was a season for continued and enlarging coworking, the Holy Spirit and the Church combining in an effort, peculiarly desirable then, to extend Christ's kingdom. And what was he doing to this end? For his part he was studious to put no stumbling block in the way of others, lest the ministry be reproached. That was the prudence which wards off evil. It has grave duties. It is vigilant, able to see the approach of danger and measure the extent of the peril. It is prompt to set in a precautionary manner. Yet this was only one part of a coworker's duty. On the other hand, then, he was intent on commending himself to their confidence and affection, and by what means? The portraiture of St. Paul as a coworker is now presented. Previously to this he had sketched himself (see ch. 2., 3., 4.) in certain specific relations, such for instance as an "able minister," and as one who carried his treasure in an "earthen vessel;" but it was now his purpose to delineate himself and his experience with reference to a particular end. To be a cooperator, patience is the first virtue required. He speaks, therefore, at the outset, of "much patience," and assuredly he did not mistake the basic position of this great quality. He mentions nine forms of suffering which have been regarded by some commentators as constituting three classes, viz.: afflictions or general calamities, necessities, distresses, the leading idea being pressure, or "narrow straits;" then stripes, imprisonments, tumults, referrable to the popular excitement against him as a preacher; and lastly, labours, watchings, fastings, as indicative of ministerial experience: In all these things patience was exercised, keeping him steadfast, enabling him to endure, and preserving his mind in the peace of Christ. It is a description of one whose body was open on all sides the invasions of pain as the infliction of opposition and malice; and again, of one whose mind had anxieties and sorrows originating in its own sense of responsibility. Body wrought upon mind, mind upon body. Under these conditions the coworker had to proceed with his task - patience "much patience." being the cardinal excellence of his character. But, further, the coworker speaks of purity, knowledge, long- suffering, kindness, endowments of the Spirit, sincere love; and again, he speaks or the word of truth, how he worked with God's power, and fought also with an armour of righteousness, right hand and left hand engaged in the conflict. Just here the mind of St. Paul reacts from its subjective state, the enumeration of his moral virtues is suspended, and the idea of conflict brings back the "afflictions" alluded to (ver. 4). Nearly all his transitions occur in one of two ways, either as the immediate product of a physical sensation or as the result of some exciting thought, having its source in his train of reflection. At the instant when the image of battle comes before him, the coworker has the doctrine and morality of the gospel to defend against fierce, vindictive, might assailants. The honor of his position and the glory of Christ as the Captain of his salvation are at stake. Sword and shield are in hand, and for what is he fighting and how? "Armor of righteousness is very expressive. The great truth was in his mind foremost as a restraint as well as an impulse, the truth so ably argued in the previous chapter that we are "made the righteousness of God in him." Give the ethical philosopher all the credit he deserves; honour the moralist who strives to protect society from immorality; and yet it is very obvious that a man who feels himself set for the defence of the "righteousness of God" as manifested in Christ stands on ground infinitely higher than the mere philosopher and moralist. This cannot be denied; such a man has a spirit, a motive, an end, far remote from the others, and peculiar to the sphere he fills. What the apostle fights for is righteousness. And how is he fighting? It is important that we should see his temper, his tactics, his whole method of conducting the campaign. Men who ostensibly fight for righteousness are not always righteous fighters. "I will not trust in my bow, neither shall my sword save me," said one of the psalmists. "Make haste to help me, O Lord my salvation," was David's prayer. "Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of," were the words of Jesus when the "sons of thunder" wished to call down fire from heaven on the Samaritan village. Michael the archangel, in contention with the devil, "durst not bring against him a railing accusation." A bad spirit is not allowable even towards Satan, nor can an archangel go beyond "The Lord rebuke thee." Now, the apostle speaks of himself as fully armed for offensive and defensive warfare. And the fight goes on amid honour and dishonour, praise and cheer from friends, hostility and contempt from enemies; by evil report and good report; vilified as a deceiver, but yet a true man; as unknown ("obscure nobodies") to men, but known to God; as dying, and behold, out of perils, life springs renewed and enlarged; chastened as a discipline needed for a spiritual warrior who was meantime in everything a coworker with Christ; a sorrowful man in the estimation of many, but in reality always rejoicing; poor, working with our own hands for a living, but making many rich in spiritual blessings; and, finally, having nothing, and yet - glorious paradox - possessing in Christ all things. - L.







We then, as workers together with Him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain
Once when a number of employees were invited down to Mr. George Moore's country house, Mrs. Moore, going out one morning, met a venerable man standing and staring about him with astonishment at the gardens and buildings. "Are you looking for somebody?" asked Mrs. Moore. "No," said he, "I am just looking round about, and thinking what a fine place it is, and how we helped to make it; I have really a great pride in it." Then, with tears in his eyes, he told how he was the first porter for the firm forty years ago, and how they had all worked hard together.

(H. O. Mackey.)

Consider —

I. THE ADMONISHERS.

1. Not loiterers, but labourers; therefore they are often compared to husbandmen, builders, soldiers, and fishermen. They who imagine that the ministry of the gospel is an easy work are greatly mistaken.

2. "Workers together."(1) With God. They are engaged in the same cause with Him who "would have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth." Without Him they can do nothing. Melancthon began with too much confidence in himself, and after many fruitless exertions, said, "Old Adam is too strong for young Melancthon." But old Adam is not too strong for the God of all grace, who hath said to His ministers, "Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world."(2) But the words "with Him" are in italics, and may be omitted. As if He had said, we differ in our abilities, modes of preaching, etc., and there are some who take advantage of this to form divisions, and say, "I am of Paul, and I of Apollos, and I of Cephas"; whereas we are fellow-workers.

II. THE SUBJECT OF THEIR ADDRESS.

1. What are we to understand by "the grace of God"?(1) The source of the gospel. Was it not "free" in every sense of the word!(2) Its subject. The gospel is an offer of free, full, and everlasting salvation to sinners.

2. The gospel is received in vain when it is received —(1) Partially. If you regard it as a system of doctrine only, or as a system of duty only, you only receive one-half of it, and the one cannot live without the other.(2) Speculatively. I mean in distinction from experience and practice; for such a reception does not accord with the nature and design of it.(3) Unperseveringly. "He only that endureth unto the end shall be saved."

III. THE REASONS OF THEIR ANXIETY AND EARNESTNESS. They "beseech you."

1. They apprehend the event which very commonly follows. In all ages God's servants have been compelled to complain, "Who hath believed our report?" Four soils received the very same seed. Only one of the four yields anything to the purpose.

2. They dread the event as deplorable. They are affected by the thought of it —(1) On God's account. They know how He is dis-honoured; Christ is made to have died in vain.(2) On your own account: they knew that hence will arise your chief sin and condemnation.(3) On their own account. It is painful in the extreme to plant and not to gather, to sow and not to reap.

(W. Jay.)

I. WHAT THIS GRACE OF GOD IS. In the language of the schools it is anxilium speciale, "that special and immediate furtherance" by which God moves us to will and to do. And this is that which St. Paul mentioneth (1 Corinthians 15:10-11). But this is not the grace meant in the text, which is "the grace of" reconciliation by Christ, the doctrine of "the gospel," which Christ commanded to be "preached to all nations."

II. AND WHAT IS A GIFT, IF IT BE NOT RECEIVED? Like a meal on a dead man's grave, like light to the blind, like music to the deaf. What is the grace of God without faith? The receiving of it is that which makes it a grace indeed — gospel. We usually compare faith to a hand, which is reached forth to receive this gift. Without a hand a jewel is a trifle, and the treasure of both the Indies is nothing; and without faith the gospel is nothing. Without this receipt all other receipts are not worth the casting up. Our understanding receives light, to mislead her; our will, power, to overthrow her; our affections, which are "incorporeal hands," receive nothing but vanity. Our moral goodness makes us not good: our philosophy is deceit. Our habits lift us no further than the place where they grow. But with this gift we receive all things: we receive the favour of our Creator, who in Christ is well pleased.

III. THIS GRACE MAY BE RECEIVED IN VAIN. The philosopher will tell us: "All is not in the gift; the greatest matter is in the manner of receiving it." The gospel is grace indeed; but it will not save a devil, nor an obstinate offender. Seneca tells us: "A foul stomach corrupts all that it receives, and turns that meat, which should nourish the body, into a disease"; and a corrupt heart poisons the very water of life. The grand mistake of the world is in the manner of receiving Christ. "To one it is the savour of life unto life; and to others the savour of death unto death" (2 Corinthians 2:16). Great care then must be taken that we may not receive it in vain. We must receive it to that end it was given. We must receive it as law as well as physic. God gives us this gift, that we may give Him our obedience; and He hath done this for us, that we may do something, even "work out our salvation with fear and trembling." This grace, then, we must receive both to save us and instruct us; as a royal pardon, and as a "royal law" (James 2:8). To interline the pardon, and despise the law, makes a nullity: and this is "to receive in vain."

1. A pardon we must not interline. For to blend it with the law of works, or our own merits, is to make it void (Galatians 2:21; Ephesians 2:8, 9). Works, though they be a condition required of a justified person, yet cannot be brought in as a part or helping cause of our justification.

2. It is equally vain when we receive the grace of God only as a pardon, and not as a law. It is our happiness by grace to be freed from the covenant and curse of the law; but it is our duty, and a great part of our Christianity, to square our lives by the rule of the law. Therefore religion was called in her purer times "The Christian law."

(A. Farindon, B. D.)

I. THIS TAKES PLACE WHEN IT IS NOT USED AT ALL — when the great salvation is neglected (ver. 2). In vain is it here, within the sphere of our knowledge and the grasp of our faith, if it be simply ignored. Here is gold in a casket or bag, and I am poor, and yet I will not unloose the strings or open the casket. Of what avail to me is that locked-up wealth? Here is seed-corn, and I have fields where it might be sown, yet I will not sow it. Of what avail to me is the seed, or the soil, the sun, or the shower? I am going on a journey through an unknown country, and here is a guide-book, yet I never open it, but go wandering on. That guide-book is as utterly "in vain" to me as if it were in the depths of the ocean. "Ah yes," you say, "but the grace of God is not so definite, so available, as the money," etc. Yes it is. It shines out in the light of every Sabbath day; it is the keynote of every true sermon; it is in every providence, whether dark or bright; it is everywhere, and always abundant, sufficient, and free. It is sad that many will not be persuaded of this. When the sleeping mind begins to awake; when the dull heart begins to feel, and the glad discovery breaks on the soul that all this is a present and sure gift of eternal love, then begins the actual reception of the manifold blessings of the gospel; but until then "the grace of God," with all its riches which we proclaim and set forth as common property, and free alike to all, is "in vain."

II. A THING IS RECEIVED IN VAIN IF IT IS PERVERTED AND TURNED TO SOME ALIEN USE.

1. It may be made a cloak for sin. The danger is that we magnify God's grace and slur over the evils of our own hearts.

2. It may be made a tent for indolence. Somehow we get the comfortable conviction that what has to be done in and by us will be done soon or late, and that we shall have full entrance at length into perfect purity and eternal life.

3. It may be made the signal for perpetual controversy. We are glad of controversy, in proper spirit and measure — it braces the soul; it clears the air; it defends and instrumentally perpetuates the truth among men. But there is hardly anything which runs more easily to excess, and becomes a perversion, and no longer a defence of the grace of God. The grace of God is gracious; and in its prevailing influence ought to lead us into gracious ways, and words, and dispositions.

III. IT IS RECEIVED ALMOST IN VAIN IF IT IS USED VERY LITTLE AND VERY IMPERFECTLY. This is the case with many Christian people. The plough is taken to the field, but does not plough the whole day; or it ploughs one little field, and leaves all the rest fallow. The seed-corn is cast in only in patches, and some of these but thinly sown. Here is a great world of grace brought down to us, waiting for us, and we may have as much or as little as we will.

(A. Raleigh, D. D.)

This is to be understood as —

I. THE GOSPEL OF HIS GRACE (Titus 2:11), or "the word of His grace" (Acts 20:32; Acts 14:3), termed the grace of God, because it proceeds from that grace (Luke 1:78, 79), displays it, and is the instrument whereby we receive it and its fruits.

II. REDEEMING GRACE.

III. ENLIGHTENING GRACE.

IV. JUSTIFYING GRACE.

V. REGENERATING AND RENEWING GRACE.

VI. STRENGTHENING AND QUALIFYING GRACE (2 Timothy 2:1).

VII. COMFORTING GRACE, which is given that we may be supported amidst all our trials; but in vain, if we are still cast down and decline from God: and that we may comfort others (2 Corinthians 1:3-6), but in vain, if this end be not answered.

(J. Benson.)

Note —

I. HOW THE GRACE OF GOD HAS BEEN MANIFESTED IN REVEALING UNTO MAN THE WHOLE COURSE OF THIS METHOD OF SALVATION. This is seen —

1. In the fact that the great God Himself speaks to men. It is grace that He should have anything to do with us. Why did He not, since we put out the light, leave man to grope his way in the dark? What a wonder that God should speak in this way to sinners.

2. In the suitability of the gospel to those to whom it is sent. Here we are vile; there is mercy for the vilest. How beautifully this suits the case of men!

3. In the way God has revealed His holy truth.(1) By degrees. The great truths that are now taught you the world was not always ripe for. You don't get daylight coming in all its bright glory at once. The Lord gave the first glance of the light of the morning in that sweet promise about the seed of the woman.(2) At first by types and symbols. When you teach children you don't often make use of abstractions, but you get pictures. Now the Book of Leviticus is God's object lesson of the gospel. Every lamb was a picture of that true Lamb, and every priest of that true Priest. That whole Temple service pointed to Calvary.(3) By adapting it to different types of mind.

4. The revelation which God makes of Himself. Suppose you are standing over against some palace, and it is near midnight, and the gates are opened. Forth from that palace gates there comes a procession. The prince has come forth attended by many of his train. He has not gone far, however, before you hear that the prince has dropped a beautiful gem. He is anxious about that gem, not simply for its intrinsic value, but it was the gift of one he loved, and he calls for lights. Now, the light which falls on the road where that gem is lying goes up also into the face of the prince, and while he finds his gem you see him as you never would have seen him but for that loss. Now, it is like that with the revelation of God. When God came forth from the shrouding darkness that had been about Him in His own eternity, to the salvation of men, there was light which, while it was thrown on the poor, lost sinner that he might be found, was thrown upon the face of God, who came to seek him and to save him.

II. WHEN MAY WE BE SAID TO RECEIVE THE GRACE OF GOD IN VAIN? When men —

1. Do not believe it. Suppose that during the time of that Indian revolt I had been sent by Her Majesty with a commission — say to the Nana Sahib, and I had been told to proclaim to him that if the rebels would come and yield themselves up entirely to her mercy, she would entirely forgive them. But suppose that that fierce ringleader had said to me, "Ah, if they can only just get hold of me, I know what mercy they will give me; I know it is too far gone for that." Well now, he has to surrender in three months, or the law is to take its course. The time passes, and the man is captured, and he is brought to the gallows. Now, whose fault is that? You see he received the Queen's grace in vain. Now, it is like that when I come and tell you of God's readiness to pardon, and you won't believe it. You might as well expect a man to be fed by bread that he will not eat as expect a man to be saved by a gospel that he will not believe.

2. Despise it. Yonder there are a number of suffering poor, and of course some are of a very independent spirit. Now suppose I go to some pale, haggard man, and say to him, "Here is a ticket for you; if you will apply at yonder office you will get the relief you need," and the man says, "Sir, what right have you to talk to me as if I were a pauper? what right have you to suppose I want any man's charity?" That poor man is too proud to take help, and to-morrow he is dead on his cottage floor for want of food. Now, whose fault is that? He despises the grace that was offered! That is just how it is with many sinners. They will not have God's salvation because they cannot buy it. If they could take their little petty, paltry doings, and buy it with their deeds, they would have it. If they could go and purchase it, they would have it; but because they must have it as a gift they despise it.

3. Neglect it. Now suppose that there had been during the time of the great fire at Moscow some miserly wretch up at the top storey of some tall house. There is great trouble in the town, but all he cares about is his gold bags. The alarm bells are ringing in all directions, and everybody is trying to escape; but that old man never listens to the alarm bells, and while he is counting his cash the fire is creeping up the stairs from chamber to chamber till at last it is burning the very joists of the floor on which he stands. You see he neglected the alarm. That is very like the worldling. We go and tell him of danger and salvation. You know if you go and stand by a blacksmith's smithy and you talk to him, he is so busy with the sound of his hammers that he can't hear what you say, and he keeps on hammering in spite of all your remarks, and does not hear a word. So it is with the busy worldling. Busy with the din of their worldliness, they never seem to hear the message. They neglect the great salvation. They do not deny it, but they just leave it alone. Now if you neglect this great salvation you will perish.

(S. Coley.)

I. THE MEANING OF THE APOSTLE'S CAUTION.

1. What is meant here by grace? Sometimes it denotes the free and unmerited love of God in redemption (Titus 2:11). Sometimes the gospel generally (John 1:17). Sometimes all the gracious influences of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 12:9). But in the text the word includes not only all the overtures of grace which God has made, but all those ministries by which those overtures may be most easily accepted.

2. Now such is the perverseness of man's will that all these means and ministries may be offered to him to no purpose. The injured Father of our spirits may stretch out His hand, and find there is none to regard it.(1) Take the instrumentality of the Word. Grace is received in vain.(a) When the Word is not received in the love of it. Now no place is left for any possible deficiency in the Word itself; in its evidence, that it is not strong enough; in its statements, that they are not clear enough; in its motives, that they are not encouraging enough. It is of no use saying, "I cannot see these things in the same light as others do," for we answer, "You do not see them because you have never honestly tried to see them, never put up the prayer in earnest, 'Lord open Thou mine eyes that I may see the wondrous things of Thy law.'"(b) When we neglect to apply the gospel message to our own heart and conscience. To have received the incorruptible seed in barrenness is to have received the grace of God in vain.(2) And so of those communications of divine grace which come to us apart from the agency of the Word. The Holy Spirit speaks to the ear of the inner man by the lessons of Providence, by the ministries of friendship, and the incidents of common life, etc. And to check these inner convictions, as Agrippa did, or to dismiss them, as Felix did, is to receive the grace of God in vain.

II. IT IS A REAL OPTION WITH US WHETHER THIS GRACE OF GOD BE RECEIVED IN VAIN OR NOT. It is practically competent to every one to use such means as shall facilitate the effectual influence of grace upon our minds. The best answer to the man who should object that he could do nothing towards his own salvation because he is not the subject of divine grace, is that he does not believe in his own objection, would not act upon it if accident or sudden sickness should threaten him with the probability that he might die to-morrow. And herein it is that the sinner will be condemned out of his own month. Never mind how much or how little he could do towards the making of his peace with God, has he done all he could? He could not cause the glorious light of the gospel to shine into his heart, but was he compelled to close the door against the entrance of that light? Though the ordinances and instrumentalities of grace have the most perfect adaptation to our state and character, they yet demand all the concurrence of our own moral effort, to work within us a saving result.

(D. Moore, M. A.)

(cf. 1 Corinthians 3:9): — We are fellow-workers with God. The one thing which increased learning proves to us is the absence of caprice in the government of the world. The one thing forced upon us is the inevitable sequence of cause and effect. If, on the one hand, we seem to sink into the inconsiderable atoms of a whole too vast for the mind to grasp, on the other we rise to the majestic conception that we are fellow-workers with God. Where can we find a thought more fit than this to stir the heart and rouse the courage within us? The false and frivolous view of life that lies at the root of all our evils, shrivels up the worth of our manhood. It is not our own little interests alone, it is the weal and the woe, the growth and perfection of the whole human family around us, which rests upon us. It is nothing short of world-wide interests which hang upon our doing, with truth and honesty, and hearty energy, that little morsel of God's work we find placed before us. Our own little fragment of it is no longer the sordid shred of a chance struggle for existence, but the distinct though humble portion of God's great redeeming work. Let us see how this consciousness of the solemnity and reality of life touches all our commonest actions and employments. Our natural business here is intellectual work. To some it becomes merely an interesting amusement for the mind. To many it is a half distasteful necessity which is undergone in obedience to the dictates of society, to fit us to occupy our proper place in life. To still more, perhaps, it represents the preparation for the future struggle of the world. Regard it in its true light, and all these views seem trivial. It is the search for truth. It is the development of ourselves, because it is fitting to improve to its uttermost the gifts we have received. It is something holy; it is the work of God. What is not given here to intellectual training is chiefly given to social intercourse. Now what is that to most of us? A mere seeking of pleasure for pleasure's sake, or perhaps an exaggerated recreation-time far beyond our requirements. Such things in the light of the reality and seriousness of life it cannot be. For our social intercourse is then the chosen ground in which our wits clash with those of our fellows, that part of our lives where intercourse with them gives us our only chance of drawing from them good for ourselves or of implanting good in them. It is a time when we may in the most natural way be helping forward the great work of God. Yet certainly some of you will say, "according to this, the very fact which makes our calling so high deprives it of all virtue. The very argument on which the glory of our position as fellow-workers with God with all the coercive force it might exert, is rested, is upon necessity. We are workers with Him because everything, for good and evil alike, is like a piece of mechanism of which He keeps the key. Necessity excludes responsibility: we, like the rest, must do as He bids us do." To such an answer neither I nor any other man can give a full reply. We cannot but know that with each of us there lies the momentous choice whether we will consciously give our work to further God's work, or put ourselves as hindrances to check its way. Hitherto we have found the dignity which hangs about us as the fellow-workers with God in the fact of His universal presence. It is the all-pervading character of His work- and the consequent serious and holy character of life. — which has supplied us with the belief of the grandeur of our calling. Can we not find something which shall raise us with respect to our inner selves to the same height which we have to reach with respect to our outward energy? Now the imagery of my second text seems to give us such a thought. For it leads us to recollect that we are at once the workers and the work, at once the labourers and the husbandry, the builders and the house built. If we grasp the idea of the unity of the world, and of the presence of God in it all, it is plain that while we are acting as God's fellow-workers upon others, those others will act upon us — that while we are helping the world onwards we shall ourselves be helped. In the general unity it is impossible but that we shall play both parts. While we ourselves are building we must become a portion of the edifice built. And that building is nothing less than the home and temple of Christ.

(J. F. Bright, D. D.)

I. IN WHAT SENSE IS A MINISTER "A FELLOW-WORKER WITH GOD"?

1. In the same way that the husbandman, in the fields, works with the elements. Can he do anything without them? And yet, has not God covenanted to send them, to give effect to his labour?

2. In the same way as the mariner works with the wind. "The wind bloweth where it listeth," but as he sits at the helm and holds the canvas in his little boat, he is conscious, "I am working with the wind."

3. As ambassadors. The ambassador has no pretension to be the king, he is only a favoured subject. Nevertheless, so long as he is an ambassador, he carries the king's credentials, dignity, and power.

II. THIS GREAT THOUGHT OF THE FELLOWSHIP WHICH HE HAD IN HIS WORK WITH GOD, ST. PAUL USED TO ENFORCE THE EXHORTATION NOT TO RECEIVE THE GRACE OF GOD IN VAIN. It was as though he said, in reference to his Master, what his Master said in reference to His Father, "The words that I speak unto you are not mine, but His that sent me." When he added "also," it was because he himself had "not frustrated the grace of God," for, as he said to these Corinthians, "His grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain," so that he was the better prepared to urge upon others not to receive it in vain.

III. WHAT IS IT TO RECEIVE GRACE IN VAIN.

1. We must look at this discriminatingly. No word of God, under any circumstances, is ever "vain" (Isaiah 4:10). But every word does not comfort, convince, save. What, then, does it do? It cannot do nothing. Does not it harden, condemn? Is the light not light, when it blinds the eye that is not fitted to receive it? Or is warmth not warmth when it hardens, but does not melt? No; God's word "cannot return void" — it must glorify God either in His mercy or in His justice. Therefore the words must be taken only in relation to man, for that which has not produced holiness and peace to us has evidently been "in vain."

2. There are several ways by which this sin may be committed.(1) Many "receive the grace of God in vain," in the same sense in which that word is used in the third commandment — in the trifling, irreverent, inconsiderate manner in which they deal with God's truth. Men go to church almost as if they went to any other assembly. The mind is not set to the sacred tone of the services in which they are mingling. The message of mercy is to them just as a pleasant tale, or a mere matter of criticism and of conversation.(2) But there are serious people who see the dignity and gravity of religion. But "grace" has only reached their understanding; it has not gone down into their hearts. They can define faith, but they cannot use faith.(3) There are those who have felt the power of Christ's grace in their hearts; but they have lost it. The force of early convictions has passed away. Many an influence of the Holy Spirit is now being quenched in them. Consider what it will be to have once carried such a treasure, and then to have dropped it! — to have known and loved such a Saviour, and then to have denied Him!(4) There are those of you who have "received the grace of God," but you have never yet known what it is to rest, with a quiet assurance that you are forgiven. Now, when God's "grace" came to you it had this express purpose. If, then, you do not quietly accept His love, and settle down in a happy sense of your pardon, then "grace" is of no effect to you t What use is it, then, to talk of your faith; if you have no confidence?

(J. Vaughan, M. A.)

I. WHAT IS MEANT BY THE GRACE OF GOD? The doctrine of the gospel (Ephesians 3:2; Colossians 1:6; Acts 20:32; Titus 2:11). And it is so-called because —

1. It is graciously, and out of the free favour of God, bestowed.

2. Its subject-matter is grace. Whatever saving benefit is contained in the gospel, is all from grace.

(1)Forgiveness of sin (Ephesians 1:7).

(2)Eternal life (Romans 6:23).

(3)Calling (2 Timothy 1:9).

(4)Faith (Philippians 1:29).

(5)Repentance (2 Timothy 2:25).

3. It is the instrument, under the Spirit of God, of bestowing the benefits of free grace upon us. It is an invitation to the benefits of free grace, and it is our warrant of receiving those benefits, and of applying them.

II. THE RECEIVING THEREOF IN VAIN. The word signifies to receive it "emptily, unfruitfully, unprofitably." The gospel cannot save us unless it be received; and therefore you read of receiving it (Matthew 13:23; Acts 2:41; Acts 11:1; Acts 17:11; 1 Thessalonians 1:6). But the gospel may be received ineffectually.

1. In regard of the manner of receiving. When we receive it —(1) Not with an empty hand. When it is not so received as to be empty of the opinion of our own works and righteousness (Luke 1:53).(2) Not with the highest estimation. When it is not looked upon to be "worthy of all acceptation" (1 Timothy 1:15); when it is not received as a pearl of greatest price. If all be not sold for it, soon will it be left for any thing.(3) Not with the greatest ardency of desire.(4) Not with a particular fiducial application of Christ, but only by a general assent — i.e., when we receive it into our heads by light, but do not receive it into our hearts by faith. When we receive it only into our ears, lips, and professions; but do not receive it in the soul.

2. In regard of the issue.(1) When it is not received so as to purify the heart; when men will have an angelical gospel, but will live diabolical lives.(2) When it doth not quicken us to new obedience. When there is a receiving without returning; when there is no "delight in the law of God;" "when faith is not made incarnate," as Luther speaks, "by maintaining good works" (Titus 3:8).(3) When we so receive grace as that it doth not sustain us in our troubles, nor bear us up in our sufferings. When it is not a "word of patience" (Revelation 3:10).(4) When we so receive grace as not to impart it, and communicate it unto others. If we be living we shall be lively Christians; if we have the life of grace in us, we shall warm others. If we do no good, it is a sign we have got no good.(5) When it is so received as that thereby we do not obtain salvation. "The gospel of salvation," received into your houses, heads, or mouths, brings not any to heaven (Matthew 7:23).

(W. Jenkin, A. M.)

(Text and ver. 2): — We have here the privileges of the Christian dispensation.

1. Connected with the heart of God.

2. Associated with the services of the ministers of Christ.

3. Looked at as in the hands of confessed Christians.

4. Regarded as the blessing of. the present time. We can, however, only deal with two of these topics.

I. WHAT IS MEANT BY "THAT YE RECEIVE NOT THE GRACE OF GOD IN VAIN"?

1. Merely to hear, is to be like a sick man who is told of a physician, but who does not apply to him; or a poor man who is told of a treasure and does not seek it. They receive the communications "in vain."

2. Only to comprehend intellectually the word of God's grace is to receive it "in vain." It is to be like a man who devotes himself to the study of the chemistry of food, but who neglects to eat. Of what advantage is his knowledge?

3. Only to be pleased with the Christian manifestations of the grace of God, is to receive it "in vain." This is like a man who, delighting in good advice, follows his own counsel.

4. To believe what is said of the grace of God without a personal application of those words, is to receive it "in vain." It is to be like a man in a house on fire, who sees a way of escape, but does not flee. He will be burned.

5. Anything short of a complete use and enjoyment of the grace of God, is in measure, to receive it "in vain." If present pardon, e.g., be not enjoyed as well as possessed, then, in a certain limited sense, it is received "in vain."

II. IF "THE GRACE OF GOD" COME TO US IN A TIME ACCEPTED, AND IN A DAY OF SALVATION, IT CANNOT BE RECEIVED PREMATURELY, AND THEREFORE WE ASK YOU TO RECEIVE IT. Open your mouth wide, open your hands and stretch out your arms and "receive."

1. This is God's giving time.

2. This is God's redeeming time. He is working out your personal salvation on the basis of the sin offering, which His own Son has made.

3. This is your needy time. You will never be more needy than you are now. God seeks to drive that need away, and to fill you with blessings. It is true that you are guilty and most unworthy, but you may receive. Receive, then, to the highest purpose. Receive to the largest extent. Some professing Christians are like cups turned upside down. They will have to be converted before they can be filled. Your capacity to receive will have to be directed heavenward. Let a cup or any vessel be placed on the angle, and can you fill it? Just so with your religion. It must be true to God, to the Saviour, to the Spirit, or you cannot be filled with the fulness of God.

(S. Martin.)

I. THE EXHORTATION EXPLAINED. The subject is "the grace of God." The great plan of reconciliation is "the grace of God" in question.

1. This is called "the grace of God" by way of eminence, because —(1) The gift of Jesus Christ is the highest display of the goodness of God to man (1 John 4:10; 1 John 3:1; Romans 8:32).(2) It is that which procures for us all other-blessings.

2. Now this grace is to be "received"(1) The mind must have a clear perception of it. Many call this head-knowledge; but is not our religion to be "in all knowledge and spiritual understanding"? If we knew more, we should love more.(2) The heart must receive the Saviour. "With the heart man believeth unto righteousness."(3) There must be a practical reception of this grace — an adorning of it in the conduct; not talking, but working. Thus the judgment, the affections, the life, all receive the grace of God.

3. Now this grace must not be received "in vain." Many have so received it.(1) The light within has become darkness, and "how great is that darkness."(2) The love they once had, where is it? Their hearts are a moral icehouse.(3) Their ways now have no tendency to glorify God.

II. THE EXHORTATION ENFORCED.

1. From a consideration of the value of the benefit — God's greatest gift.! — the astonishment of heaven! We value a thing occasionally —(1) By the amount it cost us. But, ah! we know not what was the value of this, for, though it was bestowed freely, it cost heaven all!(2) From what it purchased for us. It redeems from death and purchases heaven. "How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?"

2. From the fact that if this be received in vain, every other benefit is in vain. All the sermons you have heard, all the prayers, all your afflictions, convictions, all the strivings of God's Spirit, etc. In vain pious parents, a religious education, early impressions, good resolutions, etc.

3. From the punishment awaiting such a one.

4. Because this is the only day in which you can receive the grace of God. When time ends with thee, then eternity. Time is the term for thy salvation.

(J. Summerfield, A. M.)

The Literary Churchman.
In the Eastern country, as I dare say you have heard, there are great deserts of sand. For many miles in every direction, you can see nothing but bare and barren sand. You might dig down and down, and you would still find nothing but sand until you came to the hard rock. Nothing grows in these deserts, as you may imagine; nothing can grow there. When the rain which brings greenness and fertility, grass and corn and palm trees, everywhere else, falls on this barren, sandy tract, it does no good at all. It just sinks in for a time until the surface is baked again by the hot sun, and then it rises up again in vapour. Anywhere else it would clothe the soil with greenness; but here it is useless — it does no good. Now what a picture this is of the heart that receives and does not obey God's grace I As the rain would render the soil fertile with grass and corn, so God's grace would inspire the heart of man with good thoughts and good actions. As the raindrops, when they fall upon the sand, are wasted and made useless, so the divine grace, the pleadings of the Blessed Spirit, falling upon a heart that obstinately neglects them, or refuses them, or resists them, not only bring forth no fruit, but lay up for the impenitent sinner a heavy load of guilt and of punishment.

(The Literary Churchman.)

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