2 Corinthians  – Chapter Six

by Ed Urzi


“We give no offense in anything, that our ministry may not be blamed. But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God…” (2 Corinthians 6:3-4).

The sixth chapter of the book of 2 Corinthians only consists of eighteen verses- but those few verses can be separated into four easily definable portions.

Verses one and two open by encouraging us to receive the grace that God has given us in Christ. This brief portion of Scripture also implies that it is possible to waste the unmerited favor that God extends to us if we fail to act upon it. The next section begins in verse three and continues through verse ten. There, Paul the Apostle will talk about the challenges associated with his ministry and lay the groundwork for some of the difficult and confrontational truths he will share with the Corinthians near the end of this letter.

Paul will then go on to express the depth of his emotional investment in the Corinthians in verses ten to thirteen. As we’ve seen in other portions of 2 Corinthians, this passage will serve to highlight the extent of Paul’s emotional vulnerability towards the members of the Corinthian church. Finally, verses fourteen to eighteen will close this section of Paul’s letter with an examination of how our relationship with Christ should direct and influence our relationships with those who do not follow Him.

Its interesting to note that the core of this chapter involves Paul’s commentary on his life as he sought to fulfill God’s calling. Of course, this is not the first time Paul felt compelled to act as an advocate with regard to his ministry. In fact, it seems that Paul spent a considerable amount of time defending himself in his Biblical letters to the Corinthian church.

For example, Paul defended his clear conscience before the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 4:3-4. Later in that chapter, Paul felt the need to issue a warning to those who thought he was all talk and no action (1 Corinthians 4:14-21). He then went on to contend for his rights as an apostle in 1 Corinthians chapter nine. Finally, Paul had to defend his decision to change his plans and forego a scheduled visit to Corinth in 2 Corinthians 1:13-24.

One commentator touches upon this unfortunate reality by observing…

“The disaffection in the Corinthian church against (Paul) must have been considerable (or) else he surely would not have devoted so much of this epistle to a defense of himself. In 14-18 he seems to blame the trouble, partly at least, on the heathen atmosphere in which they lived. Corinthians were very lax in morals.” (1)

(1) Henry H. Halley, Halley’s Bible Handbook, 1 Corinthians Chapter 4. Paul’s Sufferings Again [pg. 604] Copyright © 2000, 2007 by Halley’s Bible Handbook, Inc.


“We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain” (2 Corinthians 6:1).

In an earlier letter to the church at Corinth, Paul the Apostle offered the following illustration: “…we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building” (1 Corinthians 3:9). Here now in 2 Corinthians chapter six, Paul will build upon that concept with a similar labor analogy: “We are workers together with God…” (ERV).

Paul was a fellow worker with God in the sense that he worked in cooperation with God to fulfill His agenda. This does not mean that God needed Paul to accomplish His purposes; instead, God was pleased to employ Paul as “…the agent I have chosen to carry my name before Gentiles, kings, and Israelites” (Acts 9:15 CEV).

In a similar manner, we are also “…workers together with Him…” in the sense that God has graciously allowed us to partner with Him in the work He seeks to do. One source makes a connection between the role of God’s people as co-laborers with Him and our responsibility to serve as ambassadors for Christ

“The picture of ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20) is especially helpful in understanding the nature of being workers together with Him. An ambassador can rightly be described as working together with his king. Yet, the ambassador himself has no power or authority or agenda on his own – it is all bound up in his king. The king delegates power and authority to the ambassador and reveals his agenda to the ambassador, and then the king expects the ambassador to fulfill that agenda.” (1)

However, it is possible to squander the resources that God has made available to us in fulfilling this responsibility to serve as ambassadors and fellow workers together with Him. Thus, Paul encouraged the Corinthian Christians “…not to receive the grace of God in vain.” You see, there is a sense in which God’s grace towards us may become ineffectual to some extent if we fail to utilize the talents, skills, abilities, and opportunities He has given us in His service.

2 Corinthians 6:1 utilizes the word “vain” to express this idea. When used in this context, the word “vain” corresponds to something that is destitute of spiritual wealth or to those labors, endeavors, or actions that result in nothing of real value. (2) We’ll talk more about the grace of God in order to illustrate the importance of acting upon it next.

(1) David Guzik 2 Corinthians 6 – Paul’s Resume’ © Copyright – Enduring Word https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/2-corinthians-6/

(2) G2756 kenos https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?t=kjv&strongs=g2756


“As God’s fellow-workers we also urge you not to receive his grace and then do nothing with it” (2 Corinthians 6:1 CJB).

The New Testament book of Acts records a meeting that took place among the first-century elders and Apostles in Jerusalem. During that conference, the Apostle Peter made the following statement: “…We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved…” (Acts 15:11). So what is “grace” and why is it important?

Well, grace can be defined rather easily in three words: “God’s unmerited favor.” The New Dictionary of Theology expands on this definition by telling us that the Hebrew and Greek words for grace “…indicate…an objective relation of undeserved favor by a superior to an inferior…” in the original languages of the Old and New Testaments.

The word “grace” appears 119 times in the New Testament (1) and is often associated with God’s mercy, love, and compassion. Since grace involves God’s unmerited favor, we cannot earn it. In fact, there is nothing we can do to procure God’s grace because it is undeserved. In other words, grace represents God’s favor towards us without regard to our talents, capabilities, possessions, and/or social standing. If we were worthy to receive God’s favor, we wouldn’t need grace- and it is freely available to those who approach God through Christ.

Grace also represents one of the basic attributes of God’s character. For instance, Exodus 34:6 identifies God in the following manner: “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness…” We also see Jesus as the embodiment of grace in the New Testament Gospel of John: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

A few verses later, John 1:17 continues by saying, “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” So even though the Old Testament law revealed God’s grace, it was (and is) largely associated with the establishment of God’s righteous standards. However, Jesus’ atoning sacrifice not only reveals the depths of God’s grace but also provides access to it.

As the Apostle Paul will go on to say in a well-known portion of another Biblical epistle, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith– and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

(1) New King James version


“For He says: ‘In an acceptable time I have heard you, And in the day of salvation I have helped you.’ Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).

“There is only one word on God’s clock: is is now. The devil’s time is always ‘tomorrow.’ God’s time is always ‘today,’ “NOW”! Now is the day to quit looking at things like the heathen. Now is the day to start seeing everything through the revealed word of God, from the divine perspective.” (1)

A Christian was once engaged in a conversation with another person on the subject of Christianity. In the course of that conversation, the second person dismissed the importance of making a decision for Christ by saying, “I don’t want to rush things. I have the rest of my life to decide, right?”

Unfortunately, that response underscored a dangerous misconception: while we may have the expectation of a long life ahead, there are no guarantees. Jesus once illustrated this stark reality by way of a parable…

“…The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, ”You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”‘

But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:16-21 NIV).

The man in this parable operated under the unfounded assumption that he had many years of leisure and prosperity ahead. Because of this, he was ill-prepared when his life ended unexpectedly. Unfortunately, this example is reminiscent of those who acknowledge their need to get right with God but do not feel compelled to act upon it. To such people, 2 Corinthians 6:2 says, “I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.”

For those who act upon their need for salvation by accepting Jesus’ sacrifice on their behalf, Christ makes this promise: “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24).

(1) Paul T. Butler, The Bible Study Textbook Series, Studies In Second Corinthians (College Press) [p. 217] Copyright © 1985 College Press Publishing Company https://archive.org/stream/BibleStudyTextbookSeriesSecondCorinthians/132Corinthians-Butler_djvu.txt


“Hear what God says: ‘When the time came for me to show you favor, I heard you; when the day arrived for me to save you, I helped you.’ Listen! This is the hour to receive God’s favor; today is the day to be saved!” (2 Corinthians 6:2 GNB).

When used in a spiritual sense, the word “salvation” means “deliverance.” It involves God’s liberation of human beings from their state of separation from Him. One key to understanding the need for salvation involves an examination of God’s righteous character.

You see, “righteousness” is a basic attribute of God. In other words, God always does what is true, honest, good, and right. For instance, God does not maintain a double standard or bend the rules to favor one person at the expense of another. Instead, He always does what is just (Psalm 11:7). Because of this, God cannot simply dismiss human wrongdoing. This means that anyone who fails to act in accordance with His righteousness (even in the smallest matter) is someone who has violated a basic tenet of God’s character.

Now it’s probably fair to say that most human beings prefer to think of themselves as “good people” who have done nothing wrong or offensive with respect to their Creator. The problem is that the Scriptures tell us, “…all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious standard” (Romans 3:23 NLT). This means that it’s not enough to be a good person; the standard is complete, 100% righteousness at all times.

Unfortunately, the truth is that everyone has fallen short of what they could and should be in this regard- and all have failed to live up to this righteous standard of perfection. But the reality is far more alarming for the New Testament book of James tells us, “…the person who keeps every law of God but makes one little slip is just as guilty as the person who has broken every law there is” (James 2:10 TLB).

This is why Jesus Christ -who was perfect- satisfied God’s righteous requirement for humanity through His atoning, sacrificial death on the cross. Jesus’ sacrifice means salvation (or deliverance) from an eternity of separation and punishment from the Creator for those who accept it. One paraphrase of John 3:17-18 summarizes this idea in the following manner…

“God did not send his Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it. There is no eternal doom awaiting those who trust him to save them. But those who don’t trust him have already been tried and condemned for not believing in the only Son of God” (TLB).


“We give no offense in anything, that our ministry may not be blamed” (2 Corinthians 6:3).

An acquaintance of the late actor and comedian W. C. Fields once noticed a large Bible on a shelf in his extensive home library. Fields (who was an atheist and a person who regarded all religions with the suspicion of a seasoned con man), was asked to explain why he possessed a copy of the Scriptures. In his characteristic deadpan manner, Fields replied, “Looking for loopholes.(1)

Much like W. C. Fields, there is no shortage of those who are seeking to uncover a loophole or two in the message of the gospel. Perhaps the most common means of avoiding that subject involves the moral failings of some who claim to represent Christ. That objection will be the subject of our look at this portion of Scripture.

Here in 2 Corinthians 6:3, Paul the Apostle will transition from a discussion of God’s grace and the need for salvation to some of the challenges he faced in ministry. In doing so, this passage will draw our attention to a sobering reality: for better or worse, people often judge Christ and the God of the Scriptures by those who claim to represent Him.

Paul understood this reality and addressed it by saying, “We try to live in such a way that no one will ever be offended or kept back from finding the Lord by the way we act, so that no one can find fault with us and blame it on the Lord” (TLB). In a similar manner, we should also seek to live the kind of life that does not provide the basis for a legitimate accusation or justifiable criticism against Jesus.

Of course, there will always be some who will seize upon an offense (real or imagined) in attempting to discredit the gospel or justify their personal inconsistencies. However, the mistakes, moral deficiencies, or hypocritical actions of others should not prevent us from prayerfully seeking God’s help in living the kind of life that honors Him. As Paul said in an earlier message to the Corinthians, “…if you eat or drink, or if you do anything, do it all for the glory of God. Never do anything that might hurt others—Jews, Greeks, or God’s church” (1 Corinthians 10:31-32 NCV).

Finally, we should remember that the conduct of others does not relieve us of our accountability before God for, “All of us must appear in front of Christ’s judgment seat. Then all people will receive what they deserve for the good or evil they have done while living in their bodies” (1 Corinthians 5:10 GNB).

(1) Stephen C. Jordan, Hollywood’s Original Rat Pack: The Bards of Bundy Drive [pp. 151-152]


“We give no offense in anything, that our ministry may not be blamed. But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings” (2 Corinthians 6:3-5).

A number of spiritual benefits are hidden away in 2 Corinthians 6:3-10 for those who are willing to uncover them. Within this portion of Scripture, Paul the Apostle will first list some of the challenges he encountered in ministry and then go on to detail several positive virtues that resulted from the act of following God’s agenda for his life. Reading through these life experiences can help prepare us for whatever we may encounter in our own spiritual walk.

The first item on this list is patience, a word that expresses the qualities of steadfastness, constancy, and endurance. (1) Next is tribulation. Today, we might use the “pressure” to communicate the idea behind this word. Alternative definitions of “tribulation” would include words like oppression, affliction, and/or distress. (2) Paul next referred to various “needs.” This word is translated as hardships (AMP), emergencies (MKJV), and difficulties (NET) in other versions of this passage.

The next item is distresses. One commentator defines this word as the “…calamitous situations from which one cannot escape. The Greek word pictures a person trapped in a confining place.” (3) Another source notes the extent of the distresses Paul endured by observing, “These were of every kind: (1) personal rejection by former friends; (2) disease; (3) shipwrecks; (4) plots to murder him; (5) charges laid against him before governors; (6) anxieties for the churches; (7) travel delays, etc., etc.” (4)

Stripes refers to a physical lashing with a whip, a punishment that Paul endured more than once. Imprisonments requires no definition but does serve to remind us that Paul was incarcerated on a number of occasions. A tumult carries the idea of a rioting mob, something that Paul once experienced in the town of Ephesus. Labors brings to mind the physical effort that Paul invested in his work. Finally, sleeplessness and fastings (or hunger [NIV]) are experiences that are familiar to many.

While we may not be called to endure this particular set of challenges, these examples can help prepare us to overcome the difficulties we often encounter in life. As one source candidly observes, “…in these three categories, tough circumstances, tough opposition, and tough commitments, (Paul) faced continual conditions of pressure. Yet he never quit.” (5)

(1) G5281 hupomone https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?t=kjv&strongs=g5281

(2) G2347 thlipsis https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?t=kjv&strongs=g2347

(3) Thomas L. Constable, Notes on 2 Corinthians 2017 Edition [6:4-5]. Copyright © 2017 Thomas L. Constable http://www.soniclight.com/constable/notes/htm/NT/2%20Corinthians/2Corinthians.htm

(4) James Burton Coffman, Coffman’s Commentaries on the Bible, 2 Corinthians 6 [Verse 4] https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/2-corinthians-6.html10

(5) Excerpted with permission from Sensible Fanaticism, © 1979, 1995 by Ray Stedman Ministries. All rights reserved. Visit www.RayStedman.org for the complete library of Ray Stedman material. Please direct any questions to webmaster@RayStedman.org.


“by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left” (2 Corinthians 6:6-7).

After compiling a list of ministerial challenges, the Apostle Paul followed with several positive characteristics that flowed as a result of God’s work in his life in 2 Corinthians 6:6-7. But unlike the list of external difficulties that Paul mentioned earlier, these positive internal qualities should serve as a source of encouragement for those who take the time to examine them.

First among these qualities is purity, a word that characterizes a person of moral excellence. This is followed by knowledge, an idea that is associated with a good understanding of the Christian faith, insight, and sensitivity to God’s will. (1) Longsuffering or patience (HCSB) is next, a word that describes the qualities of endurance, constancy, perseverance, and slowness in seeking to avenge a wrong. (2)

Kindness is generally associated with the idea of compassion, benevolence, and good will. Paul then continued with a reference to the Holy Spirit. This prompted one commentator to remark, “Perhaps Paul used ‘the Holy Spirit’ here in the same sense that he did in Galatians 5:16. We should walk ‘in the Spirit,’ just as we walk in purity, knowledge, etc. The Spirit as a gift, rather than as a person, may be in view.” (3)

In the original language, the concept of sincere love finds its origin in the word agape’, a word that is associated with a commitment to love someone even if that love is not reciprocated. Here, “love” is coupled with the idea of sincerity. This brings to mind the message of Romans 10:9: “Let love be without hypocrisy…”

Next we have a reference to the word of truth. This phrase would be characteristic of someone who possesses a good working knowledge of the Scriptures (see 2 Timothy 2:15).

Paul’s catalog of virtues also includes the power of God. We can associate Paul’s use of this term with God’s demonstrated ability to change the lives of those who turn to Him in Christ. Finally, one source offers the following observation regarding the armor of righteousness: “The phrase ‘for the right hand and for the left’ possibly refers to a combination of an offensive weapon (a sword for the right hand) and a defensive weapon (a shield for the left).(4)

(1) Thomas L. Constable, Notes on 2 Corinthians 2017 Edition [6:6-7a]. Copyright © 2017 Thomas L. Constable http://www.soniclight.com/constable/notes/htm/NT/2%20Corinthians/2Corinthians.htm

(2) G3115 makrothumia https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?t=kjv&strongs=g3115

(3) Thomas L. Constable, Notes on 2 Corinthians 2017 Edition [6:6-7a]. Copyright © 2017 Thomas L. Constable http://www.soniclight.com/constable/notes/htm/NT/2%20Corinthians/2Corinthians.htm

(4) NET Bible Notes. Scripture and/or notes quoted by permission. Quotations designated (NET) are from the NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2016 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved. http://classic.net.bible.org/verse.php?book=2Co&chapter=6&verse=7&tab=commentaries


“by honor and dishonor, 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 yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things” (2 Corinthians 6:8-10).

Like any good communicator, Paul the Apostle did not present his message to Corinthian church in a cumbersome and inaccessible manner. Instead, Paul varied his stylistic approach to help maintain his audience’s interest and allow them to grasp the information he sought to provide. We can find an example of that God-inspired communication strategy here in 2 Corinthians chapter six.

Remember that Paul had earlier listed a number of challenges he encountered as he sought to pursue God’s course for his life. He then followed with a summary of positive attributes in verses six to seven. Here now in verses eight to ten, Paul will contrast those opposing elements with a varying a list of positive and negative qualities arranged in pairs.

The first among these couplets are honor and dishonor along with evil report and good report. Much like the Apostle Paul, every Christian is likely to encounter those who respect a sincere commitment to honor God and many who do not. Next comes deceivers, and yet true. This description should not come as a surprise to any follower of Christ since Jesus was identified as a deceiver by those who opposed Him.

This is followed by unknown, and yet well known. Although Paul was a prominent member of the first-century church, he was certainly not recognized for his self-promotional efforts. In fact, Paul may have had greater name recognition among the members of the spiritual realm than he did outside the Christian community (compare Acts 19:13-15 with Acts 28:17-22). If Paul had been a member of today’s social media community, his number of friends or followers would pale in comparison to others within the political, news, and/or entertainment world.

The next pair of negative and positive elements are dying, and behold we live. This brings to mind something Paul said in the New Testament book of Galatians: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

Paul then continued with this statement: as chastened, and yet not killed. As we’ll see when we reach 2 Corinthians chapter eleven, Paul will go on to substantiate that claim in considerable detail.


“by honor and dishonor, 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 yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things” (2 Corinthians 6:8-10).

Paul the Apostle continued with an assessment of his life and ministry 2 Corinthians 6:8-10 with the following self-description: as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing. Although the ancient city of Corinth was known for its leadership position in the areas of culture, athletics, commerce, and education, it was also noted for its idolatry, immorality, and pagan spirituality as well. These kinds of societal and cultural elements distressed Paul, just as similar elements within 21st century society often distress God’s people today.

Yet despite these things, Paul could rejoice over what God had accomplished through the message of the gospel. For instance, lives that were once marked by a sense of futility and insignificance were given new meaning and purpose in Christ. The immoral, unethical, and abusive were empowered to change and lead God-honoring lives. The murderous, hateful, and greedy received the ability to start anew through the power of the Holy Spirit. That was cause for rejoicing, just as is true today.

The next two components are poor, yet making many rich. This built upon a foundation that Paul established in his earlier letter to the Corinthians: “Through Christ Jesus you have become rich in every way—in speech and knowledge of every kind” (1 Corinthians 1:5 GW). It will also reinforce something Paul will say later regarding Jesus: “…although he was rich, he became poor for your sakes, so that you by his poverty could become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9 NET).

Finally, Paul made reference to having nothing, and yet possessing all things. In a sense, this was reflective of Jesus’ life in certain respects. For instance, Jesus’ birth took place in a rented manger. He later made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on an animal that was borrowed for that purpose. Following His death, He was laid to rest in another man’s burial chamber. In fact, Jesus once offered the following commentary on His life: “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (Matthew 8:19-20).

Nevertheless as Paul earlier reminded the Corinthians, “all things are yours… the world or life or death, or things present or things to come—all are yours. And you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s” (1 Corinthians 3:21-23).


“We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. As a fair exchange–I speak as to my children–open wide your hearts also” (2 Corinthians 6:11-13).

In a well-known passage from 1 Corinthians 13:7, Paul the Apostle identified an important characteristic of love: “(Love) always trusts” (NIV). This particular aspect of love is important for trust is something that largely determines the depth and quality of our relationships with others.

You see, 2 Corinthians 6:11-13 tells us that there were some within the Corinthian church who were reluctant to emotionally invest in Paul. One potential explanation for this reluctance involved the amount of trust they held in him. For example, most people are unwilling to invest in someone they do not trust, for trust places one in a position of vulnerability. Since an untrustworthy individual is likely to hurt a vulnerable person, he or she may be reluctant to open his or her heart in such a manner.

The well-known author C. S. Lewis once expressed this idea in his book The Four Loves

“There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal.” (1)

Nevertheless, Paul was willing to work to establish a greater degree of trust and build a more loving relationship with the Corinthian Christians. As we’ll see in the following chapter, he was also ready to clear up any misunderstandings with the members of the Corinthian church by saying, “Open your hearts to us. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have cheated no one” (2 Corinthians 8:2). That provided an open invitation for anyone who felt differently to engage with Paul and work out any disagreements.

The problem with implementing this approach is that it may involve the uncomfortable work of addressing the issues that limit our ability to establish a more loving relationship with others. Such efforts may be painful and carry the potential to learn difficult truths about ourselves that we might prefer to leave uncovered. Yet Paul was willing to open his heart to the Corinthians to establish a deeper, more loving relationship with them and in doing so, he provides us with a good example to follow.

(1) Clive Staples Lewis, The Four Loves Copyright © 1960 See http://www.cslewis.com/tag/the-four-loves/


“You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted by your own affections” (2 Corinthians 6:12).

Paul the Apostle used an unusual turn of phrase in the passage quoted above: “…you are restricted by your own affections.” This raises an interesting question: how did the Corinthians’ affections limit the relationship they enjoyed with Paul? Well, one answer to that question might involve the objects of their affections.

For instance, the members of the Corinthian church may have loved the society and culture of first-century Corinth to an unhealthy extent. Given the idolatrous nature of Corinthian society in the New Testament era, a person who was immersed in the pagan culture of the city would naturally tend to alienate anyone (like Paul, for instance) who sought to live a God-honoring life.

We can apply this idea in a modern-day sense as well. For example, a look at our financial expenditures, leisure activities, or social media posts will all help to gauge our internal affections- and what’s inside will eventually find its way outside in any number of ways.

We should also remember that people demonstrate their depth of love and affection for Christ by their choices. Jesus discussed this reality in the New Testament gospel of John…

“‘Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.’ Judas (not Judas Iscariot, but the other disciple with that name) said to him, ‘Lord, why are you going to reveal yourself only to us and not to the world at large?’

Jesus replied, ‘All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them. Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me. And remember, my words are not my own. What I am telling you is from the Father who sent me'” (John 14:21-24 NLT).

Finally, one commentator addresses this idea in terms of relationships: “Some of the Corinthians were not openhearted toward Paul, because they were doing things they knew he disapproved of. This evidently included maintaining inappropriate relationships with unbelievers.” (1) This will lead into a subject that Paul will go on to discuss over the final verses of this chapter and serve as the focus of our next few studies.

(1) Thomas L. Constable, Notes on 2 Corinthians 2017 Edition [6:14-16a]. Copyright © 2017 Thomas L. Constable http://www.soniclight.com/constable/notes/htm/NT/2%20Corinthians/2Corinthians.htm


“Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? (2 Corinthians 6:14-15).

In addition to the possibilities we’ve already considered, Paul the Apostle may have suspected that the members of the Corinthian church were not more open and loving with him for another reason: they knew Paul would not approve of the relationships they had been forming with others. To address that issue, Paul will go on to illustrate the impropriety of certain relationships over the final verses of this chapter with five contrasting elements.

He began by using an illustration that would have been familiar to the first-century inhabitants of Corinth but might not be so easily understood by the modern-day residents of a non-farm economy: “Do not yoke yourselves together in a team with unbelievers” (CJB). For those who are unacquainted with the idea behind this illustration, a “yoke” describes a type of harness that is placed between two animals to unite them together in order to pull a wagon or a plow.

It was in the farmer’s best interest to place two or more of the same animals together to obtain the best result from this working arrangement. Doing so would help ensure that each animal shared the same physical ability and increased the likelihood that they would get along together. This not only made good sense but also formed the basis of a directive from the Old Testament Scriptures as well (see Deuteronomy 22:10).

One source expands on this illustration in regard to the members of the church at Corinth…

“As this relates to Corinth, history reveals that the Corinthians were notorious for their associationalism. They had guilds, societies, or associations for practically everything. Every society had its own idol or protective deity. To fail to do obeisance to this idol would be to anger the god and bring its wrath down on the guild. Thus, the Corinthians tried to go along with this idol even though they did not believe in it.” (1)

Much like the difficulties that were certain to arise from an attempt to use two mismatched animals to pull a wagon, Paul saw a similar issue arising from a Christian who was “harnessed” together with someone whose first priority was something other than Christ. We’ll look at the potential issues that might arise from such a relationship next.

(1) Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 1503). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.


“Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?” (2 Corinthians 6:14-15 ESV).

To effectively communicate the idea of being “unequally yoked” to contemporary audiences, modern Biblical translations have sought to express this concept in a variety of ways…

“Do not keep company with those who have not faith…” (BBE).

“Stop forming inappropriate relationships with unbelievers…” (GW).

“Do not become partners with those who do not believe…” (NET).

“Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers…” (NLT).

“Do not be mismatched with unbelievers…” (HCSB).

This portion of Scripture has served as a definitive guide for dating and marriage relationships for untold numbers of God’s people- and those who disregard this prohibition do so at great risk.

You see, a Christian who is “yoked” together with an unbeliever cannot expect to receive much (if any) spiritual support from his or her spouse. At best, their relationship will never reach its full potential. At worst, the two partners may find themselves pulling in different directions in regard to the choices, decisions, and activities of daily life. As many will attest, two people who are yoked together in such a marriage may find that relationship to be unsustainable.

However, two sources expand this idea beyond its traditional application to marriage…

“Paul urges believers to not ‘team up,’ that is, form partnerships with unbelievers because this might weaken their Christian commitment, integrity, or standards. It would be a mismatch. Earlier, Paul had explained that this did not mean isolating oneself from unbelievers (see 1Co_5:9-10). Paul even urges Christians to stay with their unbelieving spouses (1Co_7:12-13). He wanted believers to be active in their witness for Christ to unbelievers but not lock themselves into personal or business relationships that could cause them to compromise their faith. Believers should do everything in their power to avoid situations that could force them to divide their loyalties.” (1)

“The prohibition against being yoked together with unbelievers must be considered in situations where significant control over one’s actions would be willingly yielded to an unbeliever through a voluntary partnership or association. Neither Paul nor the rest of the NT tells us to have no association at all with unbelievers (Mark 2:15–17; 1 Cor. 5:9, 10; 7:12–16; 1 Pet. 3:1–6). But we are told not to be “yoked together” with them in such a way that they significantly influence the direction and outcome of our moral decisions and spiritual activities.” (2)

(1) Life Application Study Bible, 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 Copyright © 1988, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1996, 2004 by Tyndale House Publishers Inc., all rights reserved. Life Application® is a registered trademark of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

(2) Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 2059). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.


“What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, ‘I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people'” (2 Corinthians 6:14-15 ESV).

Satan, Lucifer, and Beelzebub are all names that are associated with the devil in the pages of the Scriptures- and this passage presents us with another designation for this malevolent spiritual entity. That name is Belial, a word that is identified with a wicked individual or someone who is worthless. Since the devil typifies those regrettable qualities, its easy to see how he acquired such a name.

Now before we continue, we should keep in mind that the context of this passage involves the propriety of a voluntary business or personal relationship between someone who is a Christian and someone who is not. So why would any member of God’s family seek to exclude an otherwise hardworking, honest, and respectable person from a dating or business relationship simply because he or she doesn’t share the same spiritual beliefs? Well, the answer is that the individuals in those relationships are traveling down very different life paths.

While there may be many people who exhibit the positive characteristics that one might look for in a potential marriage or business partner, its important to remember that a Christian’s first responsibility involves following Christ. A partner who rejects, ignores, or is apathetic towards Jesus is someone who is following the enemy along a different road that ultimately leads to destruction, even if he or she is unwilling to accept it. This serves to explain the Apostle Paul’s question: “How can there be any unity between Christ and the devil? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?” (ERV).

Paul reinforced this idea by turning to a God-inspired analogy he used in an earlier message to the Corinthians- the concept of God’s people as His temple or dwelling place…

“Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).

“Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” (1 Corinthians 6:19).


“Therefore ‘Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, And you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the Lord Almighty'” (2 Corinthians 6:17-18).

Many public restrooms in the United States feature signs that encourage users to wash their hands before leaving the facility. These signs serve to remind us that the simple step of hand washing can help reduce the risks associated with anything that might be unclean. In a similar manner, 2 Corinthians 6:17-18 serves to encourage God’s people to take the appropriate steps to avoid anything that might be spiritually unclean or impure.

One commentator provides us with a helpful clarification regarding these verses: “This passage is not teaching that God will be a Father and an individual will be His child if that person withdraws from unbelievers. It is saying that since you are a believer and therefore God dwells in you, act like His child and you will enter fully into the experience of God being your Father. He will take care of you.” (1)

Before we close our look at this chapter, we should also pause to address a question that sometimes arises in regard to this passage. You see, these verses feature several allusions to the writings of such prominent Old Testament authors as Moses (Leviticus 26:11-12), Isaiah (Isaiah 52:11) Jeremiah (Jeremiah 24:7) and Ezekiel (Ezekiel 37:26-27). However, none of those passages contain the exact quote that Paul the Apostle references within this portion of Scripture.

So what are we to make of a “quote” that comes from a passage that doesn’t exist? Well, here’s how one source addresses that concern…

“Many have spoken of the fact that Paul here combined the thought of several Old Testament passages, even adding some words of his own (i.e. daughters); but it seems best to view this passage not as a blundering effort of the apostle to quote the Old Testament, but as his own inspired words, which quite naturally, of course, used some of the terminology of previous holy writings…

… Paul was not ‘quoting scripture’ here; he was WRITING SCRIPTURE. The difference is apparent in the formula by which he introduced this paragraph. He did not say, ‘Thus it is written,’ but ‘Thus saith the Lord’ the magnificent formula used a thousand times by the holy prophets of the Old Testament, and here used by the blessed Paul, and for exactly the same purpose!” (2)

(1) Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 1503). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

(2) Coffman, James Burton. “Commentary on 1 Corinthians 2”. “Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament”. <http://classic.studylight.org/com/bcc/view.cgi?book=2co&chapter=006>. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.