The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Father Callan’s Commentary on 2 Corinthians Chapter 6

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 30, 2018

Text in red are my additions.

A Summary of 2 Corinthians 6:1-10

In verse 20 of the preceding chapter St. Paul had exhorted the Corinthians, especially those who were not yet Christians, to be reconciled to God. He now extends that exhortation directly to the faithful who, while they have received God’s friendship, must be careful not to lose it, if they wish to be saved. They have before them the life of the Apostles, who, in their way of living, in the virtues they practice, and in the vicissitudes they encounter, never allow themselves to be disturbed or moved from their faithfulness.

2 Cor 6:1. And we helping do exhort you, that you receive not the grace of God in vain.

And we helping, etc. Better, “But we co-operating” (συνεργουντες δε = synergountes de), i.e., we Apostles, working together with God (cf. 2 Cor 5:20), do exhort, i.e., do entreat, that you remember your obligation of being faithful to the grace which God has given you in converting you from paganism to Christianity.

2 Cor 6:2. For he saith: In an accepted time have I heard thee; and in the day of salvation have I helped thee. Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

This verse is parenthetical. Citing the LXX of Isaiah 49:8 the Apostle now gives a reason why the Corinthians should heed his exhortation without delay.

For he saith, i.e., God says in Isaiah, etc. The Prophet represents God as addressing His Servant, the Messiah, and through Him His people, assuring Him that His prayers and labors for the salvation of mankind have been heard. Commenting briefly on the words quoted, the Apostle says that the Messianic time spoken of by the Prophet has come, and that therefore everyone should profit by the graces now given, because, if they are abused, there will be no hope of salvation, since another Messiah shall not come. “We must labor now, while still the eleventh hour is left” (St. Chrys.).

2 Cor 6:3. Giving no offence to any man, that our ministry be not blamed:

After the parenthesis in verse 2 the thought goes back to verse 1, and giving no offence, etc., follows immediately upon we helping, etc. (verse 1). Hence the sense is: The Apostles, St. Paul and his companions, give no offence in anything (εν μηδενι = en medeni), i.e., they avoid everything in the exercise of their ministry, and in their dealings with men, that might bring any blemish on their profession and thus keep people from the Gospel. If a preacher of the Gospel leads a life that is out of harmony with his preaching, he gives occasion to men of despising the sacred ministry.

That our ministry. Better, “That the ministry,” etc.

The nemini of the Vulgate should be in nullo.

2 Cor 6:4. But in all things let us exhibit ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in tribulations, in necessities, in distresses,
2 Cor 6:5. In stripes, in prisons, in seditions, in labours, in watchings, in fastings,

But in all things let us exhibit, etc., should be, according to the Greek: “But in everything commending ourselves,” etc. St. Paul is continuing the description of the Apostles’ conduct, as in verses 1 and 3.

Ministers (Vulg., ministros) is nominative in Greek (διακονια = diakonia), agreeing with the subject of the clause, (we) commending, etc., and the sense is: The Apostles, as ministers of God, commending themselves in much patience, etc.

In much patience, etc., i.e., by much patience, the preposition  εν (“in”) being used to indicate instrumentality. Nine classes of things which tried the patience of the Apostles are now mentioned in these two verses; the first three are general, the others particular. Of the last six, three came unsought from without, three are voluntarily assumed.

Tribulations . . . necessities . . . distresses, i.e., a gradation of evils, increasing in pressure.

Stripes refers to the scourgings or beatings of 2 Cor 11:23-25; Acts 16:23.

Prisons. We are told of only one imprisonment of St. Paul previous to this letter, and that was at Philippi, but there must have been others (2 Cor 11:23).

In seditions, i.e., in tumults (Acts 19:23 ff.).

In labours, etc. The Apostle now mentions three classes of troubles which were voluntarily undertaken. Labours, i.e., things that cause weariness and fatigue;

watchings, i.e., things interfering with sleep, such as traveling, praying, anxiety and the like; fastings, i.e., voluntary abstinences from food and drink. For other New Testament references to fasting and its lawfulness, see 2 Cor 11:27; Matt 4:2; Matt 9:15; Acts 13:3; Acts 14:22.

2 Cor 6:6. In chastity, in knowledge, in long-suffering, in sweetness, in the Holy Ghost, in charity unfeigned,
2 Cor 6:7. In the word of truth, in the power of God; by the armour of justice on the right hand and on the left;

From the ways in which patience was especially exercised the Apostle now passes to nine other practices by which he and his companions commended themselves and their ministry.

In chastity, i.e., in general purity of soul and holiness of life.

In knowledge, i.e., in the wisdom of the Gospel, or in the practice of religious truth, or in prudence.

In long-suffering, i.e., in forebearance of injuries.

In sweetness, i.e., in kindness towards others.

In the Holy Ghost. This likely means that the Holy Spirit is the source of the foregoing virtues, and He is mentioned, like the “power of God” below, as the closing member of a series.

The word of truth perhaps does not refer to the Gospel, but to the general sincerity of the Apostles’ utterances.

The power of God, i.e., the special divine assistance which accompanied the whole Apostolic ministry, and which was particularly manifested in the miracles of the Apostles.

By the armour of justice, etc. The preposition changes here from εν (“in”) to δια (“by”). The Apostle probably means that he and his companions made use of all the weapons of justice, or of righteousness, having on the right hand weapons of offence, i.e., virtues by which justice is promoted, and on the left weapons of defense, i.e., virtues by which justice is maintained.

2 Cor 6:8. By honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report; as deceivers, and yet true; as unknown, and yet known;
2 Cor 6:9. As dying, and behold we live; as chastised, and not killed;
2 Cor 6:10. As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as needy, yet enriching many; as having nothing, and possessing all things.

In a series of antitheses St. Paul now shows how, under all conditions of life, he and his companions conducted themselves as became their high office and ministry. No external condition could make them unfaithful to their duty. When they were honored by God, they were not puffed up; when dishonored by their enemies, they were not discouraged. In their practice of virtue they were not influenced by reports bad or good. Although called deceivers by their enemies, they ever spoke the truth; although they were said to be unknown and insignificant teachers, they were known throughout the Church (1 Cor 13:12; 1 Cor 14:38). While they were always in a dying state, i.e., exposed to death (2 Cor 4:10-11), they were constantly being revived spiritually; while they were chastised, i.e., chastened by God, they were preserved from death (2 Cor 4:8 ff.). Their enemies regarded them as sorrowful, but they were in reality filled with joy (Acts 5:41 ff.). They were derided as paupers and beggars, but they were all the while enriched with the treasures of grace (1 Cor 1:5; cf. Mark 10:27-30).

A Summary of 2 Corinthians 6:11-18

St. Paul now begs the Corinthians to exhibit towards him the great love which he has shown them. And since charity is proved by deeds, he admonishes them to shun the vices of paganism, so repugnant to the sanctity of Christianity. They who have God for their father ought to keep themselves clean from all defilement.

2 Cor 6:11. Our mouth is open to you, O ye Corinthians, our heart is enlarged.

Before giving the severe admonition that follows in 2 Cor 6:14-18, the Apostle explains (in 2 Cor 6:11-13) why he has spoken so freely to the Corinthians (2 Cor 6:3-10) of the labors and sufferings of himself and his companions. It is because he loves them. His heart is enlarged towards them, and he speaks freely and frankly, as a friend to a friend. In spite of their treatment of him, his heart goes out to them.

O ye Corinthians is simply “Corinthians” in Greek. This is the only place in which he addresses them by name (cf. Gal. 3:1; Phil 4:15).

2 Cor 6:12. You are not straitened in us, but in your own bowels you are straitened.

You are not straitened in us, but in your, etc., i.e., there is plenty of room for you in my big heart; but in your heart there is no room for me; you are too full of suspicion and resentment.

Bowels here includes the heart, lungs and liver, rather than the bowels proper. The expressions heart and bowels both meant the seat of the affections (Plum.).

2 Cor 6:13. But having the same recompense, (I speak as to my children), be you also enlarged.

Having is not in the Greek. The sense of the verse is: By way of exchange … let your heart also be enlarged, i.e., reciprocate my love for you.

My children. The term here employed, τέκνοις (=teknois), is more affectionate than υἱόί (= huioi). Children should love their parents. The Apostle now returns to the thought of verse 1, and he tells the Corinthians practically how they can prove their fidelity to God and their love towards himself.

In the Vulgate habentes should be omitted.

2 Cor 6:14. Bear not the yoke with unbelievers. For what participation hath justice with injustice? Or what fellowship hath light with darkness?

2 Cor 6:14-18-7:1 are regarded by some Rationalists as an interpolation, or as belonging to a lost letter of St. Paul’s. See Introduction, III.

Bear not the yoke. Rather, “Bear not unequal yoke” (ἑτεροζυγοῦντες = heterozygountes). There is an allusion here to Deut. 22:10, where it is forbidden to yoke animals of a different kind: “Thou shalt not plough with an ox and an ass together.” The Apostle means that believers and unbelievers belong to different classes, and should not, therefore, have fellowship, one with the other; that is, Christian justice, i.e., righteousness (δικαιοσύνῃ = dikaiosyne), should not be mingled with pagan injustice, i.e., iniquity or lawlessness (ἀνομίᾳ = anomia); neither should light, i.e., the teachings of Christianity, be joined to the darkness, i.e., the ignorance, of paganism.

In the Vulgate jugum should be modified by inaequale, to agree with the Greek.

2 Cor 6:15. And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath the faithful with the unbeliever?

Belial is usually read Beliar. It is a Hebrew word meaning, primarily, uselessness or worthlessness; its secondary meaning is extreme wickedness. Thus it was understood in the Old Testament (Deut. 13:13; Nahum 1:15; Job 34:18); but toward the dawn of the Christian era it came to be a designation for Satan. So the Fathers commonly interpret it.

2 Cor 6:16. And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God; as God saith : I will dwell in them, and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

The Apostle now says that Christians are the temple of God, and that they therefore should not suffer themselves to be profaned and desecrated by heathen vices and profanations.

You are the temple, etc., should be “We are the temple,” etc., according to the best MSS.

To prove that Christians are the temple of God St. Paul quotes the LXX of Lev. 26:12 with slight variation, and with a recollection of Ezek 37:27. The words quoted were originally spoken of God’s dwelling among the Israelites in the Tabernacle (Ex. 40:34), but the divine dwelling is far more perfect among Christians (1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19; Eph. 2:21). The Apostle is emphasizing God’s fidelity to His Christian people.

The Vulgate vos estis should read nos sumus, in accordance with the best Greek.

2 Cor 6:17. Wherefore, Go out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing:

Wherefore, Go out, etc. The meaning is that Christians must be separated at once and decisively from the corrupt practices and lives of the heathen. The quotation is freely from the LXX of Isa 52:11, which literally was an exhortation to the Jews to leave Babylon as soon as the captivity was ended, and to hold themselves aloof from the contamination of paganism.

2 Cor 6:18. And I will receive you; and I will be a Father to you; and you shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.

This verse appears to be a combination of several passages of the Old Testament. The substance of it is found in Jer. 32:37, 38; 31:9; Deut. 14:1, 2; 32:6, 9. The Apostle is pointing out God’s fatherly care of all the faithful. The mention of daughters shows how all-embracing is this divine solicitude, and is especially intended to give woman, so degraded at Corinth, her proper and dignified place in the Christian family.

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