Background Material and Sermon Help
1 Samuel 17:(1a, 4-11, 19-23), 32-49 – David and Goliath: The Lord who saved me from the lion and the bear will deliver me from this Philistine.
I Samuel 17:57 – 18:5, 10-16 – Jonathan loved David. Saul tries to kill David.
Job 38:1-11 – The Lord answers Job out of the whirlwind: Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Psalm 9:9-20 – The Lord judges the nations.
Psalm 133 – How good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity.
Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32 – God stilled the storm and quieted the waves of the sea. (Ps. 107:29)
2 Corinthians 6:1-13 – Now is the acceptable time; now is the day of salvation. We have endured beatings, riots, hunger, and imprisonment…
Mark 4:35-41 – Jesus asleep in the boat, wakes and calms the sea: Peace. Be still.
Week 3: Open Your Heart
2 Corinthians 6:1-13
As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says, “At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you.” See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see—we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
We have spoken frankly to you Corinthians; our heart is wide open to you. There is no restriction in our affections, but only in yours. In return—I speak as to children—open wide your hearts also.
In chapter 4 Paul said to not lose heart. In chapter 5 Paul said if anyone is in Christ there is a new creation. Now Paul will put a full-court press on the Corinthians to open their hearts and be reconciled to God and to him.
Now is the acceptable time. Now is the day of salvation. Salvation is at hand, so we must act like it; we must live into it. If we have been reconciled to God, how much more should we now be reconciled to one another?
Paul points out there are no obstacles in anyone’s way. What could possibly stop them from patching things up? Nothing is left to keep them from reconciliation. No one has found fault with Paul’s ministry. “Let’s mend these fences, for the sake of the gospel,” Paul seems to be saying.
This is the final part of Paul’s argument for reconciliation. Now he will make a personal appeal.
In verses 4-10, Paul lists the hardships he and his colleagues have endured. As we learned last week:
Hardships: in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger…
Have they given as much? Suffered as much for the ale of the gospel? Does not their willingness to endure so much for the sake of the gospel prove their authenticity?
Then Paul continues with the virtues with which he has endured the aforementioned hardships:
Virtues: …by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute.
There can be no mistake here. For Paul, holiness has to do with how one responds to one’s sufferings. Jesus is our model. He prayed for those who were torturing him: “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”
Finally, Paul shares the unfairness of how they have been treated:
Treatment: We are treated as impostors and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see—we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
This is reminiscent of the Sermon on the Mount in which Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people revile you and curse you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account…”
These lists are not unlike the virtue lists of the stoic philosophers. They are designed to set an example and commend the speaker to the listener. They also garner some sympathy and credibility. The Corinthians should listen to Paul because of what he has endured and how he has come through it. He will repeat and amplify this argument in 11:23-27. Both of these passages mimic stoic virtue lists, but his virtues are more Christian. They explore not the qualities of greatness as much as the qualities of humility, the qualities of a servant of God. As Christ endured suffering, he and his coworkers have also. If they have endured so much, perhaps the Corinthians can cut them a little slack and let bygones be bygones.
Ben Witherington III, in Conflict and Community in Corinth: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians, says the point is not just that Paul has endured, but that he has endured with integrity and character. The virtues show how he handled the hardships. Paul has pure motives and authenticity as an apostle. Therefore, the Corinthians should listen to him.
His ministry has been characterized by love and purity, so theirs should be too. He has been expansive in his heart toward them. They should be the same.
This phrase in the last part of the reading is telling: “Our hearts are wide open to you.” Would that his was the description of every church.
Paul goes on to say there is no restriction to his affection, only in theirs. He grieves this. He stands read for reconciliation. This allows him to speak as an adult to a child, in words that may still be directed to us today: “Open your hearts wide open also.”
Heart Passages in 2 Corinthians
2 Corinthians 1:22
by putting his seal on us and giving us his Spirit in our hearts as a first installment.
2 Corinthians 2:4
For I wrote you out of much distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain, but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.
2 Corinthians 3:2
You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all;
2 Corinthians 3:3
And you show that you are a letter of Christ, prepared by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
2 Corinthians 4:1
Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart.
2 Corinthians 4:6
For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
2 Corinthians 4:16
So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.
2 Corinthians 5:12
We are not commending ourselves to you again, but giving you an opportunity to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast in outward appearance and not in the heart.
2 Corinthians 6:11
We have spoken frankly to you Corinthians; our heart is wide open to you.
2 Corinthians 6:13
In return—I speak as to children—open wide your hearts also.
2 Corinthians 7:2
Make room in your hearts for us; we have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have taken advantage of no one.
2 Corinthians 7:3
I do not say this to condemn you, for I said before that you are in our hearts, to die together and to live together.
2 Corinthians 7:15
And his heart goes out all the more to you, as he remembers the obedience of all of you, and how you welcomed him with fear and trembling.
2 Corinthians 8:16
But thanks be to God who put in the heart of Titus the same eagerness for you that I myself have.
Texts and Themes
Pentecost 3B: June 14 – 2 Corinthians 5:6-10, (11-13), 14-17 – New Creation. If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation. We walk by faith and not by sight, at home in the body and away from the Lord.
Pentecost 5B: June 28 – 2 Corinthians 8:7-15 – Eager Generosity. The offering for the poor in Jerusalem. Now as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you—so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking.