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2 Corinthians 6:3–5

“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.”

Paul makes clear in 2 Corinthians 6:1–2 the urgency of heeding his message concerning the grace of God, quoting Isaiah 49:8 to support his argument. The text he cites from the prophet appears in a section of the book of Isaiah that concerns Judah’s final return from the Babylonian exile, which Isaiah sees as culminating finally in the new heaven and earth (see Isa. 65:17–25). In other words, the true return from exile is the final era in redemptive history, the work of God that immediately precedes the consummation of His great plan of salvation. In associating the Apostolic ministry with Isaiah’s return from exile, Paul is arguing that the preaching of the gospel is what brings about the true return from exile, which could happen only when the people of God repented and returned to Him (Deut. 30:1–10). The means by which the Lord restores His people to Himself is through the preaching of Christ crucified and resurrected, for God uses such preaching to work faith and repentance in His elect. By such faith and repentance people are restored from the fundamental exile that they suffered when Adam sinned and was banished from the garden (Gen. 3). It is not merely that the Jews come back to their own land from Babylon, though ultimately God’s people will possess the earth at the return of Christ. Instead, in the true return from exile, all nations are blessed as people from every nation are restored to a right relationship to the Lord, even becoming a royal priesthood (Isa. 66:18–21). Because this return has begun in Christ, who commissioned Apostles such as Paul, the Apostolic message must be received with faith.

As we have noted, some in Corinth questioned Paul’s Apostolic calling. Thus, they essentially blamed Paul for the failures of some to heed his message, for their not taking seriously that it was the day of salvation. Yet, as Paul says in today’s passage, any failure to believe him was not his fault, for he put no obstacle in anyone’s way. Indeed, he could say that no fault could be found with his ministry (2 Cor. 6:3). Basically, the Apostle is noting that he was blameless in the way that he conducted his work, and that blamelessness served as an indirect commendation from God (v. 4). Paul was never about commending himself (3:1; 5:12), but he was also not afraid to note when other factors commended his ministry. His honorable conduct was a proof of his Apostolicity. Moreover, despite the claims of his opponents, his sufferings also demonstrated his Apostolic call (6:5).

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

The conduct of a professing Christian does not determine the truth of his message. Truth is truth even when it comes from the lips of an unbeliever. Nevertheless, our conduct can make people more or less willing to hear what we say. As Charles Hodge comments, “The moral power of a preacher depends almost entirely on the conviction which the people have of his sincerity and of the purity of his motives.”

For Further Study
  • Proverbs 20:11
  • 2 Corinthians 8:21
  • 1 Timothy 3:1–7
  • Titus 2:9–10

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From the October 2021 Issue
Oct 2021 Issue