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The Apostolic Ministry
Summary —An Exhortation to Believers. The Blameless Ministry of Paul and His Fellow-Workers. Their Endurance of Trials. Their Unselfish Self-Denial. An Appeal for Greater Love. The Intimate Association With Unbelievers Forbidden. Saints the Temple of God.
1–3. We then. Paul and Timothy especially (1:1), and other ministers associated with them. As workers together. Not only fellow-laborers, but workers with Christ. See conclusion of last chapter. That you receive not the grace of God in vain. The grace (favor) of God meant is the gospel, the ministry of reconciliation. To receive it in vain would be to receive it and then fall away. Compare 1 Cor. 15:2. 2. For he saith. Isaiah 44:8. The prophecy is an offer of salvation to the Gentiles, to whom the Corinthians belonged. The point is that God has offered the salvation, but that now is the accepted time, and it is not safe to neglect it. 3. Giving no offence in any thing. The participle “giving” refers to “we” (verse 1). Paul describes the manner of life of himself and fellow ministers. They were careful that the ministry be not blamed. It matters not what be the talents of a minister, if there be no confidence in his purity of life his influence will be neutralized. Every one should be anxious that his life hinder not the gospel.
4–10. In all things approving ourselves as ministers of God. Living lives that show that we are holy ministers, consecrated to God. Paul next gives some details of the apostolic life. In much patience. Rather, in steadfast constancy and endurance, holding out under trials. Some of these trials are now given. Afflictions. The first three details are general. 5. In stripes. See 11:23, 24. In imprisonments. He was imprisoned at Philippi, Jerusalem, Cæsarea, and Rome, at least. In tumults. See Acts 14:19; 16:22; 19:29; 21:30. 6. Verses 4 and 5 show what Paul suffered at the hands of men. He now tells his manner of life under such persecution. In pureness. Living a holy life. Chaste. By knowledge. His knowledge goes hand in hand with purity of life. By the Holy Spirit. Showing forth its influence and power. 7. By the word of truth. By preaching the gospel with power. By the power of God. Shown in his great activity and unparalleled success (4:7). By the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left. See Eph. 6:11. On the left hand was the shield; in the right, the sword. Protected by the shield of faith, Paul used the sword of the Spirit. 8. By honor and dishonor. A series of contrasted situations, nine in number, are now given. Sometimes “honored,” sometimes treated as an outcast; sometimes well spoken of, sometimes slandered. As deceivers, and yet true. Sometimes represented as artful impostors, yet true in life, word and deed. 9. As unknown, and yet well known. Obscure in the great, indifferent world, but well known in the church and to God. As dying. Always exposed to death, and yet preserved, and having eternal life. Chastened, and not killed. See Psalm 118:18. Though many a blow fell upon him, his life was spared. 10. As sorrowful. His suffering caused him grief, yet he rejoiced in hope. Poor. Without worldly wealth, but carrying the riches of Christ to men. Possessing all things. Compare 1 Cor. 3:21.
11–13. Our mouth is open to you. I speak freely to you, my Corinthian brethren. Our heart is enlarged. Filled with affection for you. 12. Ye are not straitened in us. Our heart is large enough to embrace you all. It is you who are straitened; your hearts are confined so that you do not give me free admission. After the noble portraiture of what he suffered for them, he proceeds to affectionate entreaty. 13. Now for a recompense. In return for his openness and tender affection, let there be a reciprocation of his love for them. He speaks as their spiritual father in paternal tenderness.
14–18. Be not unequally yoked with unbelievers. The figure is drawn from the prohibition of Deut. 22:10 and Lev. 19:19. The meaning is that Christians are not to pair off with unbelievers. All intimate associations are forbidden. The primary reference is to intermarriage and to association in heathen festivals. All close fellowship with unbelievers is included. Saints should choose Christian alliances and associations. 15. What concord hath Christ with Belial? Belial, a heathen god like Beelzebub, is used as a synonym for Satan. See Matt. 12:24. As Christ has nothing in common with Satan, how can a believer in him have a close intimacy with one who is still under the dominion of the prince of this world? 16. What agreement hath the temple of God with idols? As God's temple has nothing in common with the idol temple, so the saints are to be separated from idolators. For ye are the temple of the living God. The Christian is himself the sanctuary of the Lord, as is proved by the passage quoted from Lev. 26:12. God dwells in his people as the Shekinah dwelt between the cherubim. 17. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, etc. Quoted from Isa. 52:11. A call to Israel to cleanse itself from pagan pollutions. 18. And I will be a Father unto you. Quoted from Jer. 31:1, 9; Isa. 43:6, and other passages. It is a free combination of the spirit of several passages. The two passages teach that it is the Divine will that his worshipers should be separate from the world; that if they are thus separate he will receive them, and will accept them as his own children. Compare Rom. 12:2, and James 1:27.
Note on Mixed Marriages. —“The unequal yoking” covers the question of marriage between Christians and irreligious persons. The whole spirit of the Bible is against the practice. Marriages of the “sons of God” with the “daughters of men” caused the sins which brought on the Flood (Gen. 6:1–7). Alien marriages were forbidden to Israel (Exod. 34:16; Deut. 7:3, 4); this was the pit into which Samson fell (Judges 14:3); to this cause was due the fall of Solomon (1 Kings 11:1–10); Ezra made the Jews put away alien wives (Ezra 9:10), and in the discussion of the subject in 1 Corinthians, chapter 7, the whole implication is that intermarriage with unbelievers was out of the question. The widow is only allowed to marry a Christian (1 Cor. 7:39).
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