As we examine 2 Corinthians 6:1–13 today, we must remind ourselves of what Paul has just said in chapter 5. Remember, Paul didn’t write in the chapter and verse numbers, so not only are they not inspired, sometimes they’re downright misleading. Paul has just proclaimed an amazingly succinct Gospel message (5:16–21) saying also that, “We are ambassadors for Christ” (5:20) and that “We might become the righteousness of God” (5:21).
Please forgive me as I’m going to get a little nerdy, but it will make sense shortly. As we step into chapter 6, Paul has a very emphatic construction that no English translation brings out well. In English, it’s really easy to see a “therefore” and know to review the previous passage. Well, the conjunction used here does a similar thing saying basically, “Based on everything that was said in chapter 15…” Also, if Paul could have used bold or italic font, this verse would have been so. Paul then writes, “Now because we are fellow workers, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain” (v1, NET).
Chuck Swindoll often says that “familiarity breeds contempt.” So, slow down and read verse 1 a few times. Imagine reading this on your first day as a Christian. Imagine that you’ve never heard of the idea that not only can you serve God, but you can serve with or alongside God, you are co-workers (NIV), working together (NASB, ESV). That’s huge!
Paul quotes Isaiah 49:8, and follows it up with two “Behold” (or “Look,” “See”) statements. This is super common in Hebrew to insert these little emphatic words to make the reader slow down, pay attention, and think about what comes next. Again, with as much bold or italic type as Paul could muster, “Now is acceptable time” and “Now is the day of salvation!” (v 2.)
As Christians, we are ministers of the Gospel. Verses 3–13 really flesh out the reality of Gospel ministry—and it ain’t always pretty. To take the “grace of God in vain” is to not uphold the divine obligation to share the Good News of the Gospel. If we do not realize that “Now is the time, the day of Salvation,” we might miss the boat. Like any day of the calendar, this day will come and go.
Much of ministry is fraught with hardship, like Paul we pour our hearts out to people and echo his words, “We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us” (v 12, NIV). Sometimes ministry means laying your heart out on the table and handing people a hammer. If you are unwilling to be hurt by people, you will not do ministry; if you do not do ministry, you will receive the grace of God in vain and miss this day of salvation.
As much as I’d like to erase that last sentence, somebody reading this needs to hear it. You may have been hurt in ministry or you may be dealing with ongoing repercussions of something; you need to know, it’s not in vain. Let me also say clearly, if you’re pursuing the Lord and pursuing people and haven’t been hurt, you will be. That shouldn’t stop you.
Paul wrote previously to the Corinthians words that every servant of Christ needs to take to heart as an encouragement through hard ministry times, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.” (1 Cor 15:58).
By: Tyler Short — Connections Ministry Associate