The Experience of the Ministry. 1* Working together,a then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain.* 2For he says:
“In an acceptable time* I heard you,
and on the day of salvation I helped you.”b
Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. 3c We cause no one to stumble* in anything, in order that no fault may be found with our ministry; 4* on the contrary, in everything we commend ourselves as ministers of God, through much endurance,* in afflictions, hardships, constraints,d 5beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, vigils, fasts;e 6* by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, in a holy spirit, in unfeigned love,f 7in truthful speech, in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness at the right and at the left;g 8through glory and dishonor, insult and praise. We are treated as deceivers and yet are truthful;* 9as unrecognized and yet acknowledged; as dying and behold we live; as chastised and yet not put to death;h 10as sorrowful yet always rejoicing; as poor yet enriching many; as having nothing and yet possessing all things.i
11* We have spoken frankly to you, Corinthians; our heart is open wide. 12You are not constrained by us; you are constrained by your own affections.j 13As recompense in kind (I speak as to my children), be open yourselves.k
Call to Holiness. 14* Do not be yoked with those who are different, with unbelievers.* For what partnership do righteousness and lawlessness have? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness? 15What accord has Christ with Beliar? Or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? 16l What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said:
“I will live with them and move among them,*
and I will be their God
and they shall be my people.
17Therefore, come forth from them
and be separate,” says the Lord,
“and touch nothing unclean;
then I will receive youm
18and I will be a father to you,
and you shall be sons and daughters to me,
says the Lord Almighty.”n
* [6:1–10] This paragraph is a single long sentence in the Greek, interrupted by the parenthesis of 2 Cor 5:2. The one main verb is “we appeal.” In this paragraph Paul both exercises his ministry of reconciliation (cf. 2 Cor 5:20) and describes how his ministry is exercised: the “message of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:19) is lived existentially in his apostolic experience.
* [6:1] Not to receive…in vain: i.e., conform to the gift of justification and new creation. The context indicates how this can be done concretely: become God’s righteousness (2 Cor 5:21), not live for oneself (2 Cor 5:15) be reconciled with Paul (2 Cor 6:11–13; 7:2–3).
* [6:2] In an acceptable time: Paul cites the Septuagint text of Is 49:8; the Hebrew reads “in a time of favor”; it is parallel to “on the day of salvation.” Now: God is bestowing favor and salvation at this very moment, as Paul is addressing his letter to them.
* [6:3] Cause no one to stumble: the language echoes that of 1 Cor 8–10 as does the expression “no longer live for themselves” in 2 Cor 5:15. That no fault may be found: i.e., at the eschatological judgment (cf. 1 Cor 4:2–5).
* [6:4a] This is the central assertion, the topic statement for the catalogue that follows. We commend ourselves: Paul’s self-commendation is ironical (with an eye on the charges mentioned in 2 Cor 3:1–3) and paradoxical (pointing mostly to experiences that would not normally be considered points of pride but are perceived as such by faith). Cf. also the self-commendation in 2 Cor 11:23–29. As ministers of God: the same Greek word, diakonos, means “minister” and “servant”; cf. 2 Cor 11:23, the central assertion in a similar context, and 1 Cor 3:5.
* [6:4b–5] Through much endurance: this phrase functions as a subtitle; it is followed by an enumeration of nine specific types of trials endured.
* [6:6–7a] A list of virtuous qualities in two groups of four, the second fuller than the first.
* [6:8b–10] A series of seven rhetorically effective antitheses, contrasting negative external impressions with positive inner reality. Paul perceives his existence as a reflection of Jesus’ own and affirms an inner reversal that escapes outward observation. The final two members illustrate two distinct kinds of paradox or apparent contradiction that are characteristic of apostolic experience.
* [6:11–13] Paul’s tone becomes quieter, but his appeal for acceptance and affection is emotionally charged. References to the heart and their mutual relations bring the development begun in 2 Cor 2:14–3:3 to an effective conclusion.
* [6:14–7:1] Language and thought shift noticeably here. Suddenly we are in a different atmosphere, dealing with a quite different problem. Both the vocabulary and the thought, with their contrast between good and evil, are more characteristic of Qumran documents or the Book of Revelation than they are of Paul. Hence, critics suspect that this section was inserted by another hand.
* [6:14–16a] The opening injunction to separate from unbelievers is reinforced by five rhetorical questions to make the point that Christianity is not compatible with paganism. Their opposition is emphasized also by the accumulation of five distinct designations for each group. These verses are a powerful statement of God’s holiness and the exclusiveness of his claims.
* [6:16c–18] This is a chain of scriptural citations carefully woven together. God’s covenant relation to his people and his presence among them (2 Cor 6:16) is seen as conditioned on cultic separation from the profane and cultically impure (2 Cor 6:17); that relation is translated into the personal language of the parent-child relationship, an extension to the community of the language of 2 Sm 7:14 (2 Cor 6:18). Some remarkable parallels to this chain are found in the final chapters of Revelation. God’s presence among his people (Rev 21:22) is expressed there, too, by applying 2 Sm 7:14 to the community (Rev 21:7). There is a call to separation (Rev 18:4) and exclusion of the unclean from the community and its liturgy (Rev 21:27). The title “Lord Almighty” (Pantokratōr) occurs in the New Testament only here in 2 Cor 6:18 and nine times in Revelation.
a. [6:1] 1 Cor 3:9; 1 Thes 3:2.
c. [6:3] 1 Cor 9:12; 10:32 / 8:20–21.
d. [6:4] 4:8–11; 11:23–27; 1 Cor 4:9–13.
e. [6:5] Acts 16:23.
g. [6:7] 10:4; Rom 13:12; Eph 6:11–17.
i. [6:10] Rom 8:32; 1 Cor 3:21.
l. [6:16] 1 Cor 10:20–21 / 1 Cor 3:16–17; 6:19 / Ex 25:8; 29:45; Lv 26:12; Jer 31:1; 32:38; Ez 37:27.
m. [6:17] Is 52:11; Ez 20:34, 41; Rev 18:4; 21:27.
n. [6:18] 2 Sm 7:14; Ps 2:7; Is 43:6; Jer 31:9; Rev 21:7 / Rev 4:8; 11:17; 15:3; 21:22.