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2 Corinthians 6:1–2

“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.”

Questioning the calling and authority of a true Apostle of Jesus Christ is no small thing. An apostle in the ancient world was someone commissioned by an officer or another person in leadership to bring a message that carried the authority of the one who charged the apostle to deliver it. An apostle appointed by an emperor, for example, spoke on behalf of the emperor with words that had full imperial authority. To reject an emperor’s apostle was to reject the emperor himself. If this was true in the secular realm, how much more true is it when God Himself, through His Son, appoints an Apostle? If we reject an Apostle of Jesus Christ, we are rejecting the Son of God and thus rejecting God the Father (Luke 10:16).

In today’s passage, we find Paul making an appeal to the Corinthian believers based on his Apostolic authority, warning them not to be led astray by the false apostles but to receive the grace of God as it has been proclaimed by him and by other true Apostles of Christ. Remember that Paul is in the midst of a lengthy defense of his Apostolic ministry against those who labeled it invalid because of Paul’s sufferings for the Lord (see 2 Cor. 11:1–12:10). To follow these false apostles would lead them away “from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ” to following Satan himself (11:1–15). The consequences of this, of course, would be eternal, for it would mean everlasting damnation.

Thus, Paul offers an earnest plea to the Corinthians not to fall for the lies that would lead them astray. Having described his ministry of reconciliation that presents the grace of God as revealed in the gospel, Paul urges them not to receive the grace of God in vain (6:1–2). “Grace of God” here is shorthand for the gospel itself, so Paul is exhorting readers not to vainly accept the good news that he preaches as a true Apostle—that those who believe in Christ will have the righteousness of Jesus put on their accounts (5:21). Matthew Henry explains what it means to receive God’s grace in vain: “The gospel is a word of grace sounding in our ears; but it will be in vain for us to hear it, unless we believe it, and comply with the end and design of it.” Many people outwardly profess faith in Christ but then fall away, proving that they received the gospel message in vain, never having really believed it. May that not be true of us. Moreover, may we never think that we can delay in believing the gospel. Today is the day of salvation, and today will not last forever (6:2).

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

Vanity in Scripture has to do with emptiness or fleetingness, so to receive the grace of God in vain means to receive it in a fleeting way, to never truly take hold of it by faith. Those who truly believe in Jesus will never let Him go; such people can never receive the grace of God in vain (Phil. 1:6). Many, however, do not truly hold on to Christ by faith even though they claim to. Let us continually encourage one another to hold fast to Jesus.

For Further Study
  • Isaiah 49:8
  • Mark 4:1–20

    The Witness of Truth and Integrity

    The Armor of God

    Keep Reading The Doctrine of Justification

    From the October 2021 Issue
    Oct 2021 Issue