2 Corinthians 6:1
We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that you receive not the grace of God in vain.
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.)
Parallel VersesKJV: We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.