Chapter 06 – THE TEMPLE OF THE LIVING GOD
I. THE DAY OF SALVATION (v1-2)
“Working together with Him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For He says,
‘In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.’
Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”
These opening verses are Paul’s concluding remarks regarding His appeal to the Corinthians from the previous chapter. If we can recall, Paul is inviting or encouraging the Corinthians to become “Ambassadors for Christ” (2 Cor. 5:20). And so, for Paul’s final invitation, he warned them to “not receive the grace of God in vain.” What did he mean by this?
The grace of God is a familiar concept in most of Paul’s letters (particularly Romans and Ephesians). Grace simply means “unmerited favor.” It is something that is given freely without any precondition on the part of the recipient. It is undeserved and unearned (and unearnable). Now, in his letter to the Ephesians, Paul revealed that our salvation is God’s grace.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” – Ephesians 2:8
Therefore, salvation is a gift from God. The usage of the term “gift” further amplifies the idea that salvation is the finished work of God which He freely gives to anyone who will believe in Christ for their salvation. Now, this is the part that Paul wants to clarify with the Corinthians.
Paul warned them to not receive the grace of God in vain. What he meant by this is that since God’s grace is freely given without any cost on their part, it doesn’t mean that they can take it for granted (in vain). Just like in chapter 05, Paul continues to discourage the Corinthians from being passive. He doesn’t want them to waste their lives in their worldly habits and pursuits. REMEMBER THIS: WHILE THE GRACE OF GOD IS FREE, IT IS CERTAINLY NOT CHEAP. It is the very life of Christ that was sacrificed to pay for our sins. Is God’s goodness any more evident than this? The cost of salvation is very high yet God gives it freely to us. Therefore, it would be a form of insult to waste our saved lives by not living it for God. This is Paul’s ultimate encouragement not just to the Corinthians, but also to all believers. Paul adds that we shouldn’t wait and waste time when to start. The best time to commit our lives to God is now; for according to Paul: “now is the favorable time; now is the day of salvation” (quoted from Isaiah 49:8).
II. PAUL’S HARDSHIPS (v3-10)
“We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way:
by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.”
In this passage, Paul transitions to a new, but still connected, line of thought. Since his last discourse is about serving God, he now presents and explains his ministry.
If we will recall from the premise of this letter, Paul’s humble way of doing ministry has been attacked and ridiculed by the Super-Apostles and the Corinthians. Aside from him being poor and an unimpressive speaker, his credentials as an apostle is also constantly questioned. And to make things worst, his first letter to the Corinthians also offended them very much. This is why Paul explained that his ministry is not meant to offend anyone (or put obstacles in their way). And more than anything, his ministry is pure and commended by God. To prove this, Paul presented his hardships in ministry.
Paul’s reason for presenting his hardships in ministry is that it proves his sincerity in serving God. In counter logic, anyone whose intention is not pure or sincere will easily give up when things get rough. By presenting to them his hardships, Paul is also presenting his love and sincerity for them. And so, what are these hardships that Paul went through?
In this passage, Paul presented 17 kinds of hardships that he went through. These are:
7) Labors (exhaustive work)
8) Sleepless Nights
12) Treated as Impostors
13) Unknown (means Ignored)
14) Near-Death Experiences
17) Poverty (poor and having nothing)
So, is there any more doubt regarding Paul’s sincerity?
Here are some supporting passages about suffering:
John 15:18-25; 1 Peter 4:12-19
“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,”
-2 Timothy 3:12
“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him.” – James 1:12
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,” – 2 Cor. 4:16-17
III. “OPEN YOUR HEARTS TO US!” (v11-13)
“We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also.”
In the New Living Translation (NLT) of this passage, it says:
“Oh, dear Corinthian friends! We have spoken honestly with you, and our hearts are open to you. There is no lack of love on our part, but you have withheld your love from us. I am asking you to respond as if you were my own children. Open your hearts to us!”
In the greatest sense, this is Paul’s plea for their full reconciliation and forgiveness. Paul said that his heart has been always open to them. He loved them and served them with all of his heart. The problem, according to Paul, is that it is them who is withholding their hearts from their full reconciliation. As Paul said, they are “restricted in [their] own affections.” This is probably because the Corinthians are still hurt and offended by all that’s happened. But as Paul told them, he wants them to respond as if they were his children. The reason why Paul said this is that in the context of a family conflict, no matter how bad it is, they are still family in the end. Nothing in the world can change that. No conflict should ever get on top of a family’s love for one another. So in this manner, Paul is telling them that they are family and it is only fitting that they open their hearts to one another and forgive one another.
IV. THE TEMPLE OF THE LIVING GOD (v14-18)
“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? 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.
Therefore go out from their midst,
and be separate from them, says the Lord,
and touch no unclean thing;
then I will welcome you,
and I will be a father to you,
and you shall be sons and daughters to me,
says the Lord Almighty.'”
In this passage, Paul brought up a new issue that is one of the probable reasons why the Corinthians had trouble reconciling with him; and that is their fellowship with unbelievers.
While Paul didn’t mention it, the Super-Apostles could be one, if not wholly them, of these unbelievers who prevent the Corinthians from fully reconciling with Paul. Now, this teaching is not new. Ever since the days of Moses, God has commanded the Israelites from having fellowship with unbelievers. The most familiar context of this command is marriage. God has forbidden them from marrying non-Jews (Deut. 7:1-4). And accordingly so, Paul quoted a lot of Old Testament verses in this passage to emphasize this ancient but truthful command. But what is the problem or danger with this?
The concept of being “unequally yoked” originated from farming. The animals assigned to plow the field are equipped with a farming apparatus that will plow the field just by pulling it. To hasten and ease the process, animals usually work in pairs to carry the same apparatus. Now, this is where the problem comes in. For this to work, the two animals must be “equally yoked.” It means both of them should pull the apparatus with the same effort and strength. Now on the contrary, if only one of them is working of functioning, or “unequally yoked,” then that particular animal will suffer for he has to double his efforts to compensate for the dysfunctional partner. This is the problem with unequally yoked partnerships. And in the same logic, this will also be the problem if Christians enter into partnerships with unbelievers.
As it is proven in most cases, the Christian is the one who suffers from the failures and immoral values of the unbelieving partner. To clarify, the context of this partnership is any form of a long-lasting relationship. While this passage is mostly discussed in the context of marriage, it can also apply to any other partnerships like in businesses and friendships. And to clarify again, this passage is not teaching us to totally avoid unbelievers. What it is commanding us to avoid is any partnership with them especially legally binding ones (like marriage). Aside from the innate sufferings that comes from this kind of relationship, the real danger that God is protecting us from is the danger of being corrupted by the values of the unbelieving partner. This is exactly the problem that happened with the Israelites when they disobeyed this command. The idolatrous culture of the surrounding nations penetrated the religious system of Israel that resulted in the idolatry crisis that they had for many years. And in the situation of the Corinthians, it is their fellowship with unbelievers that prevented them from truly living the life that God intended for them.
This is why Paul is reminding everyone of this valuable command. Just like with the rest of God’s commands, this command is for our protection. While we are commanded to reach out to unbelievers, we must also protect ourselves from their corrupted values. The best analogy for this is the ship and the sea. The ship is on the sea, but the seawater is being kept from entering the ship. Once the seawater penetrates the ship, the ship will start to sink. So, while it is on the sea, the ship must do its best to keep the seawater from entering it. This is also how we ought to do. We will reach out to unbelievers to share the Gospel with them, but we must also guard ourselves from them. And one of the best ways to protect ourselves from this is by not entering into any binding relationships with them.
To close the matter, Paul reminded the Corinthians that they are the “Temples of the Living God.” Like with God’s actual earthly temple, it is sacred and must be kept safe from all kinds of impurity. Paul said that we should apply that same protective principle with ourselves. We must do our best to prevent ourselves from being corrupted by the values of this fallen world. Remaining pure and sacred is one of the ways that we can serve God. And just like with Paul, it will also cause us unwanted sufferings. But that is not a big problem anymore for we know that the glory that awaits us will far exceed it all.
God Bless!! 🙂