Co-working with God
2 Corinthians 6:1-18
Key Verse: 2b
” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.”
We studied last week about believers’ reconciliation to God. That reconciliation is based on the salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ by the grace of God. God’s grace to us was through giving his one and only son as a sacrifice to die for us and rise again. This gave us the path of salvation. Last week it was important in one way to complete chapter 5 with the first two verses of chapter 6. But these two verses are also important for us to understand the rest of the chapter. So today we will study chapter 6 from verse 1 to 18.
Look at verse 1” As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain.” St. Paul was very clear in identifying himself and the believers in the church as God’s coworkers. This means that Paul was working with God. Paul was working with God according to God’s plan. And Paul submitted to God’s plan and accepted the will of God compared to his own will. This is very important for us to understand. We cannot make the work of God our own, because if we do, we automatically chose our will even in doing the work of God instead of God’s will. And in this case, we put our own agenda and our own plan instead of submitting to the plan of God. Receiving God’s grace is receiving God’s salvation. But how could a person receive it in vain? It was obvious that the one who does not co work with God, he or she receive God’s grace in vain. Why is that? Because that person would have his or her own plans and agenda, and their own thinking to consider it as the work of God.
God is giving warnings to the believers. People who went astray from God. Many times, we convince ourselves that if someone went astray from God that means he or she did not meet Jesus personally and were not saved from the beginning and therefore they went to the world. So, they were lost even when they were in the church. We say this because of the salvation question. Once a person is saved, he or she is saved. But we go through foolish argument regarding who is saved and who is not, and we forget the clear warning God is giving to the believers. And God clearly here warned the believers of receiving God’s grace in vain while not fully submitting to the will of God in their lives. So Paul completed what he was saying to the Corinthians with verse 2 where he quoted from Isaiah 49:8 “ For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.”[a]I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.”
Here according to some commentators most probably Paul was addressing some members of the church who are still not saved and did not meet Jesus personally. The time of God’s favor and his day of salvation is a period that is still existing until now. This time started from the year 33 AD when Jesus Christ was crucified, carried our sins, died and rose from the dead. Paul urged the Corinthians who did not receive God’s favor and God’s salvation to come to God. I heard a story about a hymn writer who wrote all these beautiful hymns about Jesus before she was saved, then she met Jesus personally. There are sometimes even very active people in the church who did not receive their salvation. The good news here is that the door is wide open through our Lord Jesus Christ to receive God’s salvation. Some of the Corinthians attacked Paul and his legitimacy as a servant of God. Those members received God’s grace in vain and were influenced by the world around them.
Paul pointed his character and what he has done as a servant of God. Paul laid out his life regarding his ministry in verses 3 to 10. Let’s check deeper of what Paul was saying. Verse 3 reads” We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited.” I thought deeply about this verse. I was confused a bit. In my thinking I was wondering if Paul is a sinner, this mean he sinned and he did mistakes, how could he claim that he did not put stumbling block in anyone’s path. And I know this is the inspired word of God to Paul. There must be something wrong with my trend of thought in this matter. Then I realized what Paul was talking about. He was clearly referring to the Purpose of his ministry and the center of his ministry. Jesus was the center and the purpose of his ministry. This means he would rather make sure not to bring any attention to himself and direct all the attention to Jesus. Even with many controversial issues, he would rather limit himself so that he is not a stumbling block to anyone. So, he became a Jew to the Jews and a Greek to the Greeks. It is amazing to see the contrast between him and those who came to Corinth to influence the members of the church there. Our ministry will be discredited if we have self-benefit be it glory or money or anything that is related to us. It will be discredited if we let our pride and ego lead us instead of Jesus. And if we fall in this we need to repent and glorify Jesus in everything we do for his ministry.
Paul put his qualifications as a servant of God to the Corinthians. His qualifications as a servant of God were troubled life that is full of hardship and distress. He was beaten, in prison and caused riots. These are the first qualifications that legitimized Paul as a servant of God. These characters are different from those who came to the church of Corinth with certificates to legitimize themselves. Paul’s life was his own witness. The world will look at these qualifications and say what a beaten defeated man Paul was, and if the critical Corinthians looked at Paul that way, this meant that they really had a problem with God’s grace, and they received it in vain.
We read of what was done to Paul, but what did he do to himself for the sake of the gospel. Paul worked hard, had sleepless nights and went hungry or fasting. Paul pushed to advance the gospel and he pushed his body physically as well to do so. He would rather teach the bible for the whole night even for one person to meet Jesus personally. You remember the story of the boy who slept and fell to his death while Paul was teaching the bible all night. Paul was relentless in preaching the word of God even on the cost of his body.
Then Paul explained his inner characters: “purity, understanding, patience, kindness, the gift of the Holy Spirit and sincere love” Paul was pure in his purpose to serve God and he accommodated people. He was just doing that by writing to the Corinthians and accommodating them. He was very sincere in his love to the Corinthians. Paul was patient with his bible students, and he was kind to them. Kindness to others is one of the most beautiful characters a person can possess. Kindness lightens the hearts of others and draw them nearer. Paul continued to explain himself in verse 7 “in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left” One of the things that Paul was not good at was his public speaking. He was not a charismatic speaker, but he was a truthful speaker. The truthfulness here refers to Paul’s loyalty and obedience to God. Paul was truthful to God in his obedience He was truthful to God in his ministry. He presented Jesus in God’ ministry and not himself. He depended on the power of God in his work for God. He was protected by God during his spiritual war which he went through.
If you look at verses 8 to 10 you can see how the world regarded Paul. The world dishonored Paul and had bad report about him. The world regarded Paul as an imposter. The world saw Paul as a no body, and those who criticized Paul had called him the same. On the other hand, to God, Paul was considered victorious, he was genuine and somebody in the spiritual world. Even the demons knew who Paul was but they did not recognize the imposters if you remember how demons attached them. Despite all what he went through, Paul was still rejoicing in the Lord.
Look at verses 11-13 “We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. 12 We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. 13 As a fair exchange—I speak as to my children—open wide your hearts also.” Paul concluded his description of his life in the Lord by telling the Corinthians that his heart was widely open to them. He spoke to them as to his children because he was genuine with them in his relationship. On the other hand, they did not open their hearts to Paul as if he was a stranger to them. Soon they forgot his teachings and his care for them as a father who cares for his children until they grow. Their hearts turned away from God and from Paul. They were influenced by the real imposters who led them away from God.
Once Paul was done describing his life ministry, he turned to warn the Corinthians against what they were doing in verses 14 to 16a. He said to them “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers” What does this mean? When animals are yoked together for a purpose they are equally participating and sharing with each other to get the work done. But if they are unequally yoked together none of the work will be done and they will be going in a circle with no progress. Here Paul is not telling us not to associate with unbelievers, the opposite we need to do so to draw them to Jesus. But he is warning us of being so close to the unbelievers to the point of carrying same life. This is a great influence that could lead to the believer’s destruction. Imagine that your close body is unbeliever and you do what they do. Even in 1st Corinthians Paul warned from bad company that can destroy morals. People do not realize how much influence they receive from bad company because they receive it slowly until they are far from God. Marriage is a great example. When the husband and wife don’t have same goals in life to serve Jesus and put God as their priority in their lives, they will struggle to do anything for God. Many times, one spouse start falling out of grace until God become a stranger to them. They sometimes carry themselves and leave thinking that this is their solution not realizing that they are falling out of grace. When a family is dysfunctional like this, it destructs itself and end up in a disaster. Influence is a great factor in the life of Christians, we need to guard ourselves from bad influence. When there is no common ground its like light and darkness, righteousness and wickedness, Christ and Belial. Belial is another name referring to Satan. We cannot be so close with unbeliever, because if we do, we will just end up like them. Instead we associate with them and love them for the purpose of drawing them to Jesus Christ.
The bible describes our bodies as the temple of God where God dwells. We cannot have within this temple idols. We need to keep this temple dedicated to God. Paul emphasized on this part by quoting from the old testament in verses 16-18. God directed us how to live for him. He promised us to be our God and we become his people, but at the same time he asked us to separate from the wicked and not to do what they do. God become a father to us, and we become his children.
From this chapter we can understand that Paul was calling the Corinthians to engage genuinely in God’s grace in their lives. To live the lives that pleases God. To use God’s grace, they receive to preach the gospel instead of arguing with him because they did not want to change habits, they had in their lives that do not please God. They chose the route of criticizing the saints instead of following suite to live as the light of the world. This is a wake-up call to every Christian who is receiving God’s grace in vain to wake up and start spreading the ministry of salvation. It is the time to bring people to Jesus and the door is wide open to do this. Amen
2 Corinthians 6:16 Lev. 26:12; Jer. 32:38; Ezek. 37:27
2 Corinthians 6:17 Isaiah 52:11; Ezek. 20:34,41
2 Corinthians 6:18 2 Samuel 7:14; 7:8