We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.
2 Corinthians 6:1
I. Consider, first, the Apostle's caution, that we do not receive the grace of God in vain. The word grace has various significations in Scripture, some of more restricted and some of wider meaning. Sometimes it denotes mere kindness of purpose, and is applied to the free and unmerited love of God, by which He was first moved to the scheme of human redemption. Sometimes it stands as the general name for the gospel, as indicating the kindlier genesis of that economy as distinguished from the bondage spirit of law. Sometimes it is put for all the sanctifying, comforting, and sustaining influences of the Holy Spirit. But in the text, and in some other passages, the word is better understood in a broader sense than any of these, and indeed as inclusive of them—namely, as referring not only to all the overtures of grace and mercy which God has made to us in the gospel of His dear Son, but to all those ministries of the Word and the Spirit by which those overtures may be most easily accepted. Now such is the perverseness of man's will, it is implied in the text, that all these means and ministries for his happiness may be offered him to no purpose. The injured Father of our spirits may stretch out His hand and find there is none to regard it; and the grace that He would have bestowed upon us for our conversion is either rejected or received in vain.
II. The text supposes that it is a real option with us whether the grace of God is received in vain or not; that despite of all apparent difficulties, whether based upon the Divine decrees or upon the sovereignty and spontaneousness of Divine grace itself, it is practically competent to every one of us to use such means as shall facilitate the proper and effectual influence of grace upon our minds. While we must cherish the habitual conviction of our dependence upon God's promised influence to render His own message effectual, we are really bound, on the other hand, to use all moral endeavours for making it effectual. We shall receive the grace of God in vain if we receive it doubtingly, with perplexed thoughts, with limitations either in it or in ourselves, calculated to make it insufficient for its end.
D. Moore, Penny Pulpit, No. 3395.
Consider certain particulars, in which men, endowed with a certain degree of right feeling in religion, are most apt to go wrong.
I. In the government of their thoughts and imaginations men are apt sometimes to fancy, if they do right, that they may think as they please. But this is surely an inexcusable mistake; for the order and government of our thought proves what we are more distinctly than anything else. In thinking we are alone with God, and the ordering of our thoughts aright is neither more nor less than behaving rightly towards Him. Consider, then, whether your improvement in this respect has been answerable to the means of grace which Almighty God has mercifully afforded you. We ought not to be satisfied with our own devotion of heart, till we find our thoughts returning of their own accord towards heaven whenever they have been interrupted by any worldly call or anxiety.
II. To know whether we are quite sincere in receiving the grace of God, we must consider whether we are the better for it in our daily discourse and conversation with other men. Not that we are to be always talking of religious subjects, but since one of the most necessary truths for a Christian to believe is the corruption of the heart and tongue, it is impossible but that one, who has a true and increasing sense of it, must be more and more on his guard that he offend not in words. This will, perhaps, be the very surest sign and mark by which a sincere man may satisfy his own conscience, that he is really the better for the inestimable love of God in making and keeping him a Christian.
III. Another mark is this—Are we daily becoming more industrious and readier to deny ourselves for the help and comfort of our neighbour? The more we know of the gospel, the more we know of God's love to us, how dear it cost Him, how far it reaches, how unceasing and unwearied it is; the more pressing, therefore, is the call upon us to think nothing too good for our brethren, no sacrifice too costly to be offered for the sake of ensuring their eternal welfare.
Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times" vol. iv., p. 1.
What is it to receive the grace of God in vain? To this question a threefold answer may be given.
I. There is the non-use of grace—the neglect of a great salvation. In vain is it here, within the sphere of our knowledge and within the possible grasp of our faith, ready for immediate application to all the uses of life and to all its heart-needs, if it be simply ignored.
II. A thing is received in vain if it is perverted and turned to some alien use. Such perversion of the gospel is, alas! too easy and too common. It may be made (1) a cloak for sin, (2) a tent for indolence, (3) the signal for perpetual controversy.
III. There is yet another way of perverting the grace of God, and one which comes closely home to ourselves—the very little and imperfect use we make of it as Christians.
A. Raleigh, From Dawn to the Perfect Day, p. 297.
Fellow-workers with God.
In these words is expressed the bond of fellowship in which we all meet as brethren in the Church of God: "fellow-workers with God," not blind instruments, not simple recipients, but having freedom to work for ourselves and being called to cooperate in the work with the Almighty Hand which can need nothing of His creatures. This grand yet mysterious title belongs to man as man, but belongs especially to Christians as Christians.
I. Such power is the birthright of humanity, and the birthright, as always, is restored to us in a Diviner perfection by the Lord Jesus Christ. The very mystery of His incarnation is the supreme exemplification of the working together of humanity with Godhead for the salvation of the world. The Christian who knows God as his Father in heaven, and who in the true Son of God and man has at once the strength and the pattern of an energetic service of faith, is without excuse if he ever forgets that he is a fellow-worker with God.
II. What is it to be a fellow-worker with God? There is a true service of God in the sphere of the visible world and this present life; but there is a deeper and truer service in conscious fellow-working for the kingdom which is avowedly the kingdom of salvation, not touching merely the transitory and visible present, but dealing with that which, being spiritual, is immortal, and so stretching on to an illimitable future.
III. This view of life is full of grandeur and of far-reaching and manifold significance. It has a lesson (1) of humility and sobriety; (2) of confident hope; (3) of unity among ourselves; (4) of cheerful and hopeful patience.
A. Barry, First Words in Australia, p, 35.
References: 2 Corinthians 6:1.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iv., p. 89; vol. viii., p. 91; J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 8th series, p. 193; W. Hay Aitken, Mission Sermons, vol. i., p. 331; E. Cooper, Practical Sermons, p. 32; R. Forrest, Church of England Pulpit, vol. ix., p. 85; Scott, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xx., p. 1. 2 Corinthians 6:1, 2 Corinthians 6:2.—W. Hubbard, Ibid., vol. ix., p. 296; S. Martin, Sermons, p. 23. 2 Corinthians 6:1-10.—A. Short, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xii., p. 376; F. W. Robertson, Lectures on Corinthians, p. 347. 2 Corinthians 6:2.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. x., No. 603; vol. xxiv., No. 1394; W. C. E. Newbolt, Counsels of Faith and Practice, p. 114; R.A.Bertram, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vii., p. 315; G. Brooks, Five Hundred Outlines, p. 327; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 274. 2 Corinthians 6:3.—A. M. Brown, Christian World Pulpit, vol. ix., p. 220. 2 Corinthians 6:5.—C. S. Horne, Ibid., vol. xxxvi., p. 232. 2 Corinthians 6:6.—C. J. Vaughan, Words of Hope, p. 113. 2 Corinthians 6:7-10.—Homilist, 4th series, vol. i., p. 31. 2 Corinthians 6:9.—J. Edmunds, Sermons in a Village Church, p. 114.
2 Corinthians 6:9-10A String of Paradoxes.
I. Note the first paradox of the text: "As unknown, and yet well known." The early disciples were a literally unknown and obscure set of persons, even the Apostles themselves being called from the most ordinary avocations of life. By far the greatest of their number, notwithstanding his natural and acquired ability, was sneered at by the world of his day. The world, as a whole, still misjudges and underrates the Church. The Apostle John's declaration is as true now as ever: "The world knoweth us not,"—unknown to the world, yet well known to the Church triumphant and to the angels of God. Our names are written, not on earth, but in heaven itself.
II. "As dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed." It is not our only life that the world sees; we have another, an inner, higher, diviner life, hid with Christ in God—a life of faith, a life of love, a life of hope, hope which, like an electric conductor, draws light from the very Throne of God, and tinges the dark death-cloud with the radiancy of the immortality beyond. And though this the earthly house of our tabernacle be dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
III. Hear also the third paradox: "As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing." When the little bird starts from the twig to breast the force of the storm, the wind as it meets it only tends to drive it higher and higher towards the sky. In like manner the storms of life, as the Christian faces them, do but force him higher and higher, until he reaches that calm elevation above the storm where the sun of Divine love and peace sheds its light and warmth upon his soul.
IV. "As poor, yet making many rich." Poor enough were the Apostles and their early followers, and significant is the fact that not poverty but wealth has been the Church's chiefest bane. But amidst present poverty, God's children have the power to scatter broadcast present wealth—the power to impart a knowledge of riches that wax not old.
V. "As having nothing, and yet possessing all things." A man may own a magnificent picture-gallery on earth, and yet, because of his lack of sympathy with painting, the poor man whom he permits to visit it, who has the mystic sympathy, may be the truest possessor of the pictures. Even so in reference to the Christian and the universe in which he lives: though legally he may have nothing, yet, being in harmony with the Spirit of the great Creator, he can trace His hand in every work; and whilst the wicked never acknowledge God in nature, he in reality, by sympathy and spiritual discernment, possesses all things.
J. W. Atkinson, Penny Pulpit, new series, No. 956.
References: 2 Corinthians 6:10.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. viii., p. 1; J. Vaughan, Sermons, 13th series, p. 101; W. Moffat, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xvi., p. 325; Sermons for Boys and Girls, p. 14; Homilist, 2nd series, vol. iv., p. 217. 2 Corinthians 6:11.—Ibid., 4th series, vol. i., p. 352.
2 Corinthians 6:14Communion with God.
I. We can require no proof that God and the wicked man cannot be said to have fellowship or communion, though God be about that wicked man's path and spieth out all his ways. There is no proposing of the same object or end, for God proposes His own glory, whereas the wicked man proposes the gratification of his own sinful propensities. To have fellowship, to have communion with God, what can this denote, if not that human nature has been wondrously purged from its corruption, refined into something of affinity to the ethereal, and endowed with affections which find their counterpart objects in the Divine Being alone? You see at once the contradiction between the assertions—that a man is in fellowship with God and yet loves the present world—is eager for its wealth, addicted to its pleasures, or ambitious for its honours. The phraseology of our text implies a state of concord or friendship—a state, in fact, on man's part, of what we commonly understand by religion.
II. We cannot conceal from ourselves that there is a great deal of vague hope of heaven which takes little or no account of what must necessarily be the character of the inhabitants of heaven. It follows so naturally, with regard to earthly things, that we seek what we love, that there is very little difficulty, with regard to heavenly things, to draw from the fact of loving the inference that we must be in earnest as candidates for a kingdom of which we so readily recognise the worth and attractiveness. But we forget that in order to anything of happiness there must be a correspondence between the dispositions of the inhabitants of a world and the glories and enjoyments of that world. It is nothing that we have a relish for descriptions of heaven. The question is whether we have any conformity with the inhabitants of heaven.
H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 2215.
References: 2 Corinthians 6:14.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. i., p. 223; Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 246. 2 Corinthians 6:15.—G. Brooks, Five Hundred Outlines, p. 260. 2 Corinthians 6:16.—Homilist, 2nd series, vol. i., p. 296; vol. iv., p. 588; J. Irons, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. ix., p. 85; F. W. Farrar, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxx., p. 8; Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 126: Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times," vol. x., p. 142. 2 Corinthians 6:17.—Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 255. 2 Corinthians 6:17, 2 Corinthians 6:18.—W. Landels, Christian World Pulpit, vol. v., p. 4; Preacher's Monthly, vol. ix., p. 115.
(For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)
Giving no offence in any thing, that the ministry be not blamed:
But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses,
In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings;
By pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned,
By the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left,
By honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report: as deceivers, and yet true;
As unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed;
As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.
O ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged.
Ye are not straitened in us, but ye are straitened in your own bowels.
Now for a recompence in the same, (I speak as unto my children,) be ye also enlarged.
Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?
And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,
And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.