What does 2 Corinthians 6:1 mean?
ESV: Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain.
NIV: As God's co-workers we urge you not to receive God's grace in vain.
NASB: And working together with Him, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain—
CSB: Working together with him, we also appeal to you, "Don't receive the grace of God in vain."
NLT: As God’s partners, we beg you not to accept this marvelous gift of God’s kindness and then ignore it.
KJV: We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.
The previous chapter ended with Paul begging his readers, on behalf of Christ, to be reconciled to God. The final verse made it abundantly clear that this does not happen through human effort. It is a gift of God's grace. God made sinless Jesus to be sin for the sake of humanity. God fully punished that sin through Jesus' death on the cross. Those who trust in Christ are given credit by God for Jesus' righteousness. They literally take their place "in Christ" in God's eyes.
Paul now appeals to the Corinthians to not receive God's grace in vain. First, though, he describes himself and his co-workers as co-workers with God. Some hear this as a bold statement. How can anyone be God's co-worker? It can only happen by God's appointment. Paul has described himself and his team as "ambassadors for Christ" with God making his appeal to humanity through them (2 Corinthians 5:20). In this way, they work together with God as His representatives.
This raises the question of how anyone could receive God's grace "in vain." "In vain" means without purpose or without result. In this context, Paul is referring to the way the Corinthians respond to this amazing message. It's likely that some in Corinth believe themselves to be receiving God's grace when they are not. That could only be because they are not putting their faith in Christ in order to be forgiven of sin and be declared righteous by God. A person is not truly "in Christ" if they are not believing the true gospel.
False teachers had moved in among the Corinthians. It's possible these are Judaizers: those teaching that Christians must also follow the law in order to be truly saved. A person who trusts his own works to save him is not trusting Christ. That would be a false gospel (2 Corinthians 11:4).
It's also possible that Paul has in mind some among the Corinthians who continued to worship idols while participating in the Christian church. Again, such people would not be trusting in Christ if they believed they needed idols to provide for them, as well. They would be attempting to receive God's grace, but doing so in vain.
Second Corinthians 6:1–13 contains Paul commendation of himself and his co-workers to the Corinthians. He offers evidence that they have not been false apostles. They have faithfully represented Christ through every kind of suffering and God's power has been obvious in and through them. He declares that they have been faultless and urges the Corinthians not to miss the day of God's salvation through faith in Christ. He states warmly that his heart remains wide open to the church in Corinth and asks them to open their hearts to him again.
This passage appeals to the Corinthians not to miss the day of salvation. Paul insists that he and those who work with him have done nothing to keep anyone from believing in Christ. He points to the evidence that he has been a true apostle and representative of Christ and asks the Corinthians to open their hearts to him again. He commands them not to harness themselves to unbelievers since Christ can have nothing to do with Satan or darkness. God lives in them through the Holy Spirit, so they must separate from everything that is opposed to God.
Second Corinthians 6 is set up by the message of God's grace for sinners as spelled it out in the previous chapter. Paul begs the Corinthians not to receive it in vain. He declares that he and his team have done nothing to keep them from believing in Christ. Parallel to this, he commands the Corinthians not to be harnessed to unbelievers. This leads into a passionate discussion of affliction and comfort in chapter 7.
Second Corinthians returns to similar themes as those Paul mentioned in his first letter to this church. Paul is glad to hear that the church in Corinth has heeded his advice. At the same time, it is necessary for Paul to counter criticisms about his personality and legitimacy. Most of this text involves that subject. The fifth chapter, in contrast, contains comforting words which Christians have quoted often in times of hardship. Paul also details his expectations that the church in Corinth will make good on their promise to contribute to the needs of suffering believers in Jerusalem.
Accessed 2/25/2024 11:47:20 AM
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