2 Corinthians 6:1-10
We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that you receive not the grace of God in vain.
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.
Parallel VersesKJV: We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.