We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain. 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. 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; 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, 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.
O Corinthians! We have spoken openly to you, our heart is wide open. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted by your own affections. Now in return for the same (I speak as to children), you also be open. 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? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: I will dwell in them
And walk among them.I will be their God, And they shall be My people." 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." (NKJV)
“Living a Life of Separation in Christ Jesus”
I. The Marks of the Gospel Ministry (verses 1-10)
A. Apostolic Appeal: Don’t receive God’s grace in vain! (VS. 1-2)
NOTE: We learn, that it was possible to receive the grace of God and not ultimately benefit by it; or, in other words, to begin in the Spirit and end in the flesh. The sense is, that it was possible that this offer might be made to them, they might hear of a Savior, be told of the plan of reconciliation and have the offers of mercy pressed on their attention and acceptance, and yet all be in vain.
B. God’s Appeal: (Isaiah 49:8) I have sent you the Messiah! (vs. 2)
Through Jesus the Messiah, God would be willing to hear the cry of the people and to show mercy to both the Jew and to the Gentile. That would be an acceptable time. For this reason, Jesus said “The day you hear MY voice, harden not your hearts as in the days of “provocation.””.Paul said that time was now because the “Messiah” has come, and now God is willing to both pardon and save you. God is willing to show mercy to people. In him (Christ) alone is the throne of grace accessible, and now that he has come, God is willing to pardon all who came. People should avail themselves of the offers of mercy.
II. A Blameless and “Approved” Ministry (Isaiah 49:8) (vs. 3-10)
This passage of scripture (VS. 3-10) fulfills the prophecy contained in Isaiah 49:8. Paul stands up for the integrity of the Apostolic ministry, that he and his fellow-apostles labored in such a way that no one who saw or knew them, saw them falling into sin or living in compromised manner (stumbling) that would taint their Christian testimony and hinder the spread of and the belief in the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Corinthian church and others. Paul and the rest of the Apostles dedicated their lives to live pure and self-denying lives in order to present to the church the strongest argument for anyone hearing the Gospel to firmly embracing it and accept Jesus Christ. Compare with Matthew 10:16; 1 Corinthians 8:13; 10:32-33; Philippians 2:15 ; 1 Thessalonians 2:10 and Chapter 5:22.
The idea is, for a minister of God to do good and commend their ministry, each one of them must be an example of patience. The minister must understand that they are called to preach as a duty to others; and if, when they are poor (in poverty), persecuted, oppressed, calumniated, or imprisoned, if they should complain, or be non-submissive, the result would be they will do little good and become ineffective by all their preaching. God often places his ministers in circumstances of “special trials” among other reasons, in order that they may illustrate their own precepts by their example, and show to the people the kind of temperament and spirit they need to have whenever they are going through some type of suffering to suffer.
Ironically, Ministers often do a whole lot more good by their example and attitude while in suffering, than they do a lot of times in their preaching. It is easy to preach to others; it is not so easy to manifest the right spirit in those times of persecution and trial. People too can resist preaching, but they cannot resist the effect and power of a good example in times of suffering as easy. In regard to the manner in which Paul says that the ministry may commend itself, it may be observed, that he groups several things together; or mentions several classes of influences or means. In this and the next verse he refers to various kinds of afflictions.
In the following verses he groups several things together, pertaining to a holy life, and a pure conversation.These verses (3-10) also show the experiences the Apostles endured to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the churches and to the people they met along the way:
1. Approving themselves in all things: suffering afflictions in necessities, in distress
2. In stripes (being whipped), in imprisonment(s), in tumults, in labor, in watching(s),
3. In fasting(s), by pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness,
4. By the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, By the Word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left
5. By honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report: as deceivers , and yet true.
6. As unknown and yet well known, as dying and behold, we live; as chastened and not killed.
7. As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor. Yet making rich; as having nothing, yet possessing all things.
III. A Humane and Compassionate Ministry (verses 11-13)
A. Paul said “We spoke to you openly and from our hearts to you.”
B. We lacked no room in our affections toward you. We loved you so much that we are willing to do all that is needed for your welfare and well being, but you have formed factions (clics) among yourselves and even have allegiance to false teachers. Thus the reason why they had not fully received Paul and the Gospel message fully as they should have.
C. We appeal to you to open your hearts toward us as we have toward you. All we ask is a “love” response to the love we’ve shown and a strong devotion to the Gospel we preach and love.
IV. A “Separated” Ministry (verses 14-18)
A. Separate yourselves from all improper alliances with unbelievers in the faith.
1. Separate from unrighteousness because you are the righteousness of God.
2. You are the children of “the Light” (Jesus) light does not fellowship with darkness
Note: There is a big difference between Christians and those who are not. The difference is so great that companionship and fellowship between the two factions causes such personal relationships not only to be improper but morally and spiritually hazardous, especially to the believer in Christ. This alone explains why, all kinds of improper connections with unbelievers is implied here.
It's important to remember:
"While it’s clear that this command refers to marriage relationships, this command is not confined to just marital relationships. It refers to any “intimate” connection, which would include friendships, business partnerships or to participate in their forms of amusements and employments. To do this is considered radical by social standards, but the premise is these relationships put the Christian at risk of being corrupted by bad morals".
Paul said the church (Corinthians converts) were to abstain from all fellowship connections with unbelievers-with infidels, and pagans, and those who were not Christians, which would identify them with them; or they were to have no connection with them in anything as unbelievers, pagans, or infidels; they were to partake with them in nothing that was special to them as such. They were not to have any part with their paganism unbelief, idolatry, or infidelity. They were to refrain from uniting with them in any way or sense where it would suggest that they were partakers with them in any those things.
Barnes Note Commentary gives the following commentary in verses 15 and 16:
In the remainder of this verse and the following verses (2 Corinthians 6:15-16), Paul states reasons why they should have no such contact.
“There is no principle of Christianity that is more important than that which is here stated by the apostle; and none in which Christians are more in danger of erring, or in which they have more difficulty in determining the exact rule which they are to follow”.
These questions which commonly arise are very important and need to be answered.
1. Are we to have no contact with the people of the world?
2. Are we cut loose from all our friends who are not Christians?
3. Are we to become monks, and live a recluse and unsocial life?
4. Are we never to mingle with the people of the world in business, in innocent recreation, or in the duties of citizens, and as neighbors and friends?
It is important, therefore, in the highest degree, to endeavor to find out what are the principles on which the New Testament requires us to act concerning this important matter. And in order to get a correct understanding of this, the following principles were suggested by the Barnes’ Notes Commentary:
I. The Influence of the "Supernatural World" on the "Natural World"
There is a large field of action, pursuit, principle, and thought, over which infidelity, sin, paganism, and the world as such, have the entire control. It is wholly without the range of Christian law, and stands opposed to Christian law. It pertains to a different kingdom; is conducted by different principles, and tends to destroy and annihilate the kingdom of Christ. It cannot be reconciled with Christian principle, and cannot be conformed to but in entire violation of the influence of religion. Here the prohibition of the New Testament is absolute and entire. Christians are not to mingle with the people of the world in these things; and are not to partake of them. This prohibition, it is supposed, extends to the following, among other things:
(1) To idolatry. This was plain. On no account or pretense were the early Christians to partake of that, or to countenance it. In primitive times, during the Roman persecutions, all that was asked was that they should cast a little incense on the altar of a pagan god. They refused to do it, and because they refused to do it, thousands perished as martyrs. They judged rightly; and the world has approved their cause.
(2) Sin, vice, licentiousness. This is also plain. Christians are in no way to patronize them, or to lend their influence to them, or to promote them by their name, their presence, or their property. "Neither be partakers of other people's sins;" (1 Timothy 5:22; 2 John 11).
(3) Arts and acts of dishonesty, deception, and fraud in traffic and trade.
Here the prohibition also must be absolute. No Christian can have a right to enter into partnership with another person where business transactions are to be conducted based on dishonest and unchristian principles, or where it shall lead to the violation of any of the laws of God. If it involves deception and fraud in the principles on which it is conducted; if it spreads ruin and poverty-as the distilling and vending of ardent spirits does; if it leads to the necessary violation of the Christian Sabbath, then the case is plain. A Christian is to have no "fellowship with such unfruitful works of darkness, but is rather to reprove them;" (Ephesians 5:11).
(4) The amusements and pleasures that are “entirely” worldly, and sinful in their nature; those that are wholly under worldly influence, and which cannot be brought under Christian principles. Nearly all amusements are of this description.
The real principle here seems to be, that if a Christian in such a place is expected to lay aside his Christian principles, and if it would be deemed indecorous and improper for him to introduce the subject of religion, or if religion would be regarded is entirely inconsistent with the nature of the amusement then he is not to be found there. The world reigns there, and if the principles of his Lord and Master would be excluded, he should not be there. This applies of course to the theater, the circus, the ballroom, and to large and splendid parties of pleasure.
That said, we are not to associate with idolaters in their idolatry; nor with the licentious in their licentiousness; nor with the infidel in his infidelity; nor with the proud in their pride; nor with the frivolous in their gaiety; nor with the friends of the theater, or the ballroom, or the circus in their attachment to these places and pursuits. And whatever other connection we are to have with them as neighbors, citizens, or members of our families, we are not to participate with them in any of these things. Thus far all seems to be clear; and the rule is a plain one whether it applies to marriage, or to business, or to religion, or to pleasure; compare note, (1 Corinthians 5:10).
II. Common Social and Business situations:
"There is a large field of action, thought, and plan which may be said to be common with the Christian and the world. That said,, under no circumstances is the Christian to abandon his own principles, where there will be, or need be, no compromise of the sternest views of truth, or the most upright, serious, and holy conduct. He may carry his principles with him; may always manifest them if necessary; and may even commend them to others, but never compromise God’s principles, precepts or compromise the truth of God’s standards in his or her conduct and business transactions".
A few of these may be referred to the following:
(1) Commercial transactions and professional engagements that are conducted on honest and upright principles, even when those with whom we act are not Christians.
(2) Literary and scientific pursuits, which never, when pursued with a right spirit, interfere with the principles of Christianity, and never are contrary to it.
(3) The love and affection which are due to relatives and friends. Nothing in the Bible assuredly will prohibit a pious son from uniting with one who is not pious in supporting an aged and infirm parent, or a much loved and affectionate sister. The same remark is true also respecting the duty which a wife owes to a husband, a husband to a wife, or a parent to a child, though one of them should not be a Christian. And the same observation is true also of neighbors, who are not to be prohibited from uniting as neighbors in social contact, and in acts of common kindness and charity, though all not Christians.
(4) As citizens. We owe duties to our country, and a Christian need not refuse to act with others in the elective franchise, or in making or administering the laws. Here, however, it is clear that he is not at liberty to violate the laws and the principles of the Bible. He cannot be at liberty to unite with them in political schemes that are contrary to the Law of God, or in elevating to office people whom he cannot vote for with a good conscience as qualified for the station.
(5) In plans of public improvement, in schemes that go to the advancement of the public welfare, when the schemes do not violate the laws of God. But if they involve the necessity of violating the Sabbath, or any of the laws of God, assuredly he cannot consistently participate in them.
(6) In doing good to others. So the Savior was with sinners; so he ate, and drank, and conversed with them. So we may mingle with them, without partaking of their wicked feelings and plans, so far as we can do them good, and exert over them a holy and saving influence. In all the situations here referred to, and in all the duties growing out of them, the Christian may maintain his principles, and may preserve a good conscience. Indeed the Savior evidently contemplated that his people would have such contact with the world, and that in it they would do good. But in none of these is there to be any compromise of principle; in none to be any yielding to the opinions and practices that are contrary to the laws of God.
III. Christian common Ground
There is a large field of action, conduct, and plan, where Christians only will act together. These relate to the special duties of religion-to prayer, Christian fellowship, the ordinances of the gospel, and most of the plans of Christian beneficence. Here the world will not intrude; and here assuredly there will be no necessity of any compromise of Christian principle.
[For what fellowship] Paul proceeds here to state reasons why there should be no such improper connection with the world. The main reason, though under various forms, is that there can be no fellowship, no communion, nothing in common between them; and that therefore they should be separate. The word "fellowship" (metochee) means “partnership” or “participation”. What is there in common; or how can the one partake with the other? The interrogative form here is designed to be emphatic, and to declare in the strongest terms that there can be no such partnership.
[Righteousness] Such as you Christians are required to practice; implying that all were to be governed by the stern and uncompromising principles of honesty and justice, those principles that embodies God’s righteousness.
[With unrighteousness] Dishonesty, injustice, sin; implying that the world is governed by such principles.
[And what communion] (koinoonia). Participation; communion; that which is in common. What is there in common between light and darkness? What common principle is there of which they both partake? There is none. There is a total and eternal separation.
[Light] The emblem of truth, virtue, holiness; see the note,( Matthew 4:16; 5:16; John 1:4; Romans 2:19; 2 Corinthians 4:4,6.) It is implied here that Christians are enlightened, and walk in the light. Their principles are pure and holy-principles of which light is the proper emblem.
[Darkness] The emblem of sin, corruption, ignorance; implying that the world to which Paul refers was governed and influenced by these. The idea is, that as there is an entire separation between light and darkness in their nature; as they have nothing in common, so it is and should be, between Christians and sinners. There should be a separation. There can be nothing in common between holiness and sin; and Christians should have nothing to do "with the unfruitful works of darkness:"( Ephesians 5:11).
V. "Come out from Among them and Separate Yourselves" (verses 17-18)
A. You are a “special people” God indwells you (Holy Spirit)
B. Separate yourselves from a vain, frivolous, and idolatrous world
(unsaved countrymen) and the wicked influences they portray.
C. Have no close unnecessary contact with unbelievers or the things they do. Live a life of purity and holiness.
D. Then you will be accepted as my friends and adopted children (God through Paul)
Conclusion: And I (the Lord) will be your protector, guide, instructor and provider in your time of need.
God says, that he will be to his people their protector, counselor, guide, and friend. He will cherish toward them the feeling of a father; he will provide for them, he will acknowledge them as his children. No higher honor can be conferred on mortals than to be adopted into the family of God, and to be permitted to call the Most High our Father. No rank is so elevated as that of being the sons and the daughters of the Lord Almighty. Yet this is the common appellation by which God addresses his people; and the most humble in rank, the most poor and ignorant of his friends on earth, the most despised among people, may reflect that they are the children of the ever-living God, and have the Maker of the heavens and the earth as their Father and their eternal Friend.
Dr. William Edward Boddie