2 Corinthians 6:4
But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses,
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(4) But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God.—Better, as keeping up the connection with 2Corinthians 3:1; 2Corinthians 5:12, as ministers of God commending ourselves. He harps, as it were, upon that phrase. Yes, he does commend himself; but how? He looks back on his life of labour and sufferings and challenges comparison. Can others, with their letters of commendation, point to anything like this? The word “ministers” in the Greek is in the nominative case, while the English at least suggests that it is in the objective after the verb. What he means is that he, as the minister of God should do, commends himself by acts and not by words. It is obvious that what follows was likely to expose him to a repetition of the cynical sneer, but of this his generous indignation makes him nobly regardless.

In much patience . . .—Better, as elsewhere, endurance. The word has a much stronger meaning than our English “patience.” (See Notes on Luke 8:15; Luke 21:19.) The general term is naturally followed by a specification of details. It is not, perhaps, easy to specify what he refers to under each head. Possibly he used such words, as we habitually use them, without a formal classification. The root-idea of the first word of the triad is that of being pressed upon; of the second, that of a constraint that leaves no choice of action; of the third, that of being so hemmed in that there is no room to move.

6:1-10 The gospel is a word of grace sounding in our ears. The gospel day is a day of salvation, the means of grace the means of salvation, the offers of the gospel the offers of salvation, and the present time the proper time to accept these offers. The morrow is none of ours: we know not what will be on the morrow, nor where we shall be. We now enjoy a day of grace; then let all be careful not to neglect it. Ministers of the gospel should look upon themselves as God's servants, and act in every thing suitably to that character. The apostle did so, by much patience in afflictions, by acting from good principles, and by due temper and behaviour. Believers, in this world, need the grace of God, to arm them against temptations, so as to bear the good report of men without pride; and so as to bear their reproaches with patience. They have nothing in themselves, but possess all things in Christ. Of such differences is a Christian's life made up, and through such a variety of conditions and reports, is our way to heaven; and we should be careful in all things to approve ourselves to God. The gospel, when faithfully preached, and fully received, betters the condition even of the poorest. They save what before they riotously spent, and diligently employ their time to useful purposes. They save and gain by religion, and thus are made rich, both for the world to come and for this, when compared with their sinful, profligate state, before they received the gospel.But in all things - In every respect. In all that we do. In every way, both by words and deeds. How this was done, Paul proceeds to state in the following verses.

Approving ourselves as the ministers of God - Margin, "Commending." Tyndale renders it, "In all things let us behave ourselves as the ministers of God." The idea is, that Paul and his fellowlaborers endeavored to live as became the ministers of God, and so as to commend the ministry to the confidence and affection of people. They endeavored to live as was appropriate to those who were the ministers of God, and so that the world would be disposed to do honor to the ministry.

In much patience - In the patient endurance of afflictions of all kinds. Some of his trials he proceeds to enumerate. The idea is, that a minister of God, in order to do good and to commend his ministry, should set an example of patience. He preaches this as a duty to others; and if, when he is poor, persecuted, oppressed, calumniated, or imprisoned, he should complain, or be insubmissive, the consequence would be that he would do little good by all his preaching. And no one can doubt, that God often places his ministers in circumstances of special trial, among other reasons, in order that they may illustrate their own precepts by their example, and show to their people with what temper and spirit they may and ought to suffer. Ministers often do a great deal more good by their example in suffering than they do in their preaching. It is easy to preach to others; it is not so easy to manifest just the right spirit in time 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. 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.

In afflictions - In all our afflictions; referring to all the afflictions and trials which they were called to bear. The following words, in the manner of a climax, specify more particularly the kinds of trials which they were called to endure.

In necessities - This is a stronger term than afflictions, and denotes the distress which arose from want. He everywhere endured adversity. It denotes unavoidable distress and calamity.

In distresses - The word used here (στενοχωρία stenochōria) denotes properly straitness of place, lack of room; then straits, distress, anguish. It is a stronger word than either of those which he had before used. See it explained in the notes on Romans 2:9. Paul means that in all these circumstances he had evinced patience, and had endeavored to act as became a minister of God.

4. Translate, to mark the true order of the Greek words, "in everything, as God's ministers recommending ourselves," that is, that our hearers may give our message a favorable hearing, through our consistency in every respect, not that they may glorify us. Alluding to 2Co 3:1, he implies, We commend ourselves, not like them by word, but by deed.

patience—(2Co 12:12). Put first. "Pure-minded" follows (2Co 6:6). Three triplets of trials exercising the "patience" (patient endurance) follow: Afflictions (or "tribulations"), necessities, distresses (or "straits"); stripes, imprisonments, tumults; labors, watchings, fastings. The first triplet expresses afflictions generally; the second, those in particular arising from the violence of men; the third, those which he brought on himself directly or indirectly.

But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God: ministers of the gospel are in the first place to be considered as the ministers of God; secondarily, as ministers and servants of the church; which they ought to serve so far, as in serving it they do obey Christ. None can approve or commend themselves for ministers of God that live a scandalous life; God hath not sent them to lay stumblingblocks in, but to remove them out of, the way of men.

In much patience; patience signifies an enduring of evils quietly and cheerfully, at the command of God; or when we see it is the will of God, we should patiently submit to put our necks into the heaviest yokes. The apostle goes on reckoning up several species of those evils:

afflictions is a general term, signifying any evils that wear out our bodies.

Necessities signify any bodily wants of food, or raiment, or whatever is for the use of man’s life.

Distresses signify, properly, a man’s being straitened, or thrust up in a place, so as that he knoweth not how to steer himself; and, metaphorically, a want of counsel, not knowing what to do, or which way to turn ourselves.

But in all things approving ourselves,.... It is not sufficient for a minister of the Gospel to avoid everything that might bring any blot or scandal on his ministry; but he should in all things, and by all ways and means, proper, lawful, and laudable, approve, prove, and show himself to be a true and faithful dispenser of the word. All in such an office ought to make it appear, that they are such by behaving and conducting

as the ministers of God; as becomes such, whom he has chosen, called, and fitted for that service; and particularly in, or

by much patience; by a large, constant, and continued exercise of that grace; and by bearing patiently many things for the sake of Christ, and his Gospel, without murmuring at the hand of God, or being angry with men, and without fainting and sinking in their own spirits:

in afflictions; that is, in patiently bearing, them. This word may be considered as a general word, including all sorts of afflictions whatever, of which the following are particular species:

in necessities; want of food, drink, and raiment, being hungry, thirsty, and naked, as the apostles sometimes were: in distresses; both of bad mind; being in such straits and difficulties they know not where to look, what course to steer, or which way to turn themselves.

But in all things {b} approving ourselves as the ministers of God, {4} in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses,

(b) Declare and indeed show.

(4) He first of all reckons up those things which are neither always in the ministers, nor without exception, unless they are there according to the minister's bodily condition. Patience, however, is an exception, which also is one of the virtues which ought to always be in a good minister.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
2 Corinthians 6:4 f. Συνιστῶντες ἑαυτ.] Here ἑαυτ. is not, as in 2 Corinthians 3:1, 2 Corinthians 4:12, prefixed, because συνιστ. is the leading ide.

ὡς θεοῦ διάκονοι] different in sense from ὡς θ. διακόνους (Vulg.: ministros). This would mean: we commend ourselves as those (accusative), who appear as God’s servants. The former means: we commend ourselves, as God’s servants commend themselves. Comp. Kühner, § 830, 5. The emphasis is on θεοῦ.

ἐν ὑπομονῇ πολλῇ] This is the first thing, the passive bearing, through which that συνιστ. ἑαυτ. ὡς θ. διάκ. takes place, through much patience; the further, active side of the bearing follows in 2 Corinthians 6:6, ἐν ἁγνότητι κ.τ.λ., so that ἐν θλίψεσιννηστείαις is that, in which (ἐν) the much patience, the much endurance is shown.

Bengel aptly classifies ἐν θλίψεσιννηστείαις: “Primus ternarius continet genera, secundus species adversorum, tertius spontanea.” Comp. Theodore.

θλίψ., ἀνάγκ., στενοχ.: climactic designation. On στενοχ., comp. 2 Corinthians 4:8. It is impracticable, and leads to arbitrariness, to find a climax also in the three points that follow, the more especially as the very first point is worse and more disgraceful than the secon.

ἐν πληγαῖς] Comp. 2 Corinthians 11:23-25; Acts 16:23.

ἐν ἀκαταστασίαις] in tumults. Comp. e.g. Acts 13:50; Acts 14:19; Acts 16:19 ff; Acts 19:28 ff. The explanation: instabilities, i.e. banishments from one place to another (Chrysostom, Theophylact, Oecumenius, Beza, Schulz, Flatt, Olshausen), is in itself possible (comp. ἀστατοῦμεν, 1 Corinthians 4:11); but in the whole of the N. T. ἀκαταστ. only means either confusion, disorder (1 Corinthians 14:32; 2 Corinthians 12:20; Jam 3:16), or in a special sense tumult (Luke 21:9; comp. Sir 26:27). See, regarding the latter signification, the profane passages in Wetstein, Schweighäuser, Lex. Polyb. p. 17.

ἐν ἀγρυπν.] in sleeplessnesses, for the sake of working with his hands, teaching, travelling, meditating, praying, through cares, etc. Comp. 2 Corinthians 11:27; Acts 20:31. On the plural, comp. Herod. iii. 129.

ἐν κόποις] is not, with Chrysostom, Theophylact, and others, to be understood only of labour with the hands (1 Corinthians 4:11; 1 Thessalonians 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:8), which limitation is not suggested by the context, but of toilsome labours in general, which the conduct of the apostolic ministry entailed. Comp. 2 Corinthians 11:23; 2 Corinthians 11:27.

ἐν νηστείαις] is generally explained of the endurance of hunger and want (1 Corinthians 4:11; Php 4:12). But since νηστεία is never used of compulsory fasting, and since Paul himself (2 Corinthians 11:27) distinguishes ἐν νηστείαις from ἐν λιμῷ κ. δίψει, we must, with Chrysostom, Theodoret, and Calvin (comp. also Osiander, Hofmann), explain it of voluntary fasting, which Paul, using with free spirit the time-honoured asceticism, imposed on himself. The objections, that this is at variance with the apostle’s spirit, or is here irrelevant, are arbitrary. See Matthew 6:16; Matthew 9:15; Matthew 17:21; Acts 14:23; comp. 2 Corinthians 13:2-3, 2 Corinthians 9:9; also 1 Corinthians 7:5.

In 2 Corinthians 6:6, the series begun with ἐν ὑμομονῇ πολλῇ goes furthe.

ἐν ἁγνότητι] through purity, moral sincerity in general. Comp. ἁγνός, Php 4:8; 1 Timothy 5:22; 1 John 3:3. To understand this as meaning abstinentia a venere (Grotius and others), or contempt for money (Theodoret), is a limitation without ground in the context, and presents too low a moral standard for a servant of Go.

ἐν γνώσει] Of the high degree of his evangelical knowledge, in particular of the moral will of God in the gospel, there is evidence in every one of his Epistles and in every one of his speeches in the Book of Acts. Calvin and Moras arbitrarily think that what is meant is recte, et scienter agendi peritia, or (comp. also Rückert and Osiander) true practical prudence.

ἐν μακροθυμίᾳ] amid offence.

ἐν χρηστότητι] through kindness (Tittmann, Synon. p. 140 ff.). The two are likewise associated in 1 Corinthians 13:4; Galatians 5:222 Corinthians 6:4-10. THE CONDITIONS AND THE CHARACTERISTICS OF HIS APOSTOLIC MINISTRY. We have in this noble description of his service a characteristic outburst of impassioned eloquence on a topic in which the Apostle felt an intense personal interest. But its fervour has not been permitted to interfere with the careful choice of words: the balanced antitheses, the rhythmical cadences and assonances, which abound throughout, betray the literary training of the writer, and recall at once such passages as Romans 8:31-39, 1 Corinthians 13:1-13. Indeed many of the phrases which follow suggest an acquaintance with the Stoic paradoxes expressive of the αὐτάρκεια of the ideal sage. Compare also chap. 2 Corinthians 11:22-28, where he recounts in more detail the trials of his Apostolic ministry.

4. approving] The word is the same as is translated ‘commend’ in ch. 2 Corinthians 3:1, and there is an obvious reference here to 2 Corinthians 6:1-3 of that chapter.

as the ministers of God] There is an ambiguity in the A. V. here. The Apostle means ‘we, as ministers of God, recommend ourselves to those to whom we minister’ in the way afterwards mentioned, not that the Apostles prove themselves to be ministers of God by their conduct. Tyndale renders let us behave ourselves as the ministers of God.

in much patience] Dean Stanley divides the means by which the Apostle commended himself into four classes: (1) from patience (or rather endurance) to ‘fastings,’ referring to the bodily sufferings of the Apostle; (2) from ‘pureness’ to ‘love unfeigned,’ referring to the virtues, that is, the manifestations of the Divine presence in St Paul; (3) from ‘by the word of truth’ to ‘by evil report and good report,’ referring to the means whereby he was enabled to prove himself to be a true minister of God; and (4) the remainder, relating to the acceptation in which the Apostles were held, and its contrast with the reality. Bengel also would subdivide the first class into three triplets of sufferings. But this is perhaps somewhat fanciful.

in afflictions] The word thus rendered is translated indifferently by tribulations (Wiclif so renders it here) and afflictions in the A. V. See note on ch. 2 Corinthians 4:8.

in distresses] See note on ch. 2 Corinthians 4:8.

2 Corinthians 6:4. Διάκονοι, ministers) This word has greater force, than if it had been written διακόνους.—ὑπομονῇ, in patience) This is put first; ch. 2 Corinthians 12:12 : chastity, etc., follow in 2 Corinthians 6:6. A remarkable gradation.—πολλῇ, in much) Three triplets of trials follow, which must be endured, and in which patience is exercised, afflictions [necessities, distresses]: stripes [imprisonments, tumults]: labours [watchings, fastings]: The first group of three includes the genera; the second, the species of adversities; the third, things voluntarily endured. And the variety of cases of the several classes of trial should be observed, expressed, as it is, by the employment of the plural number.—ἐν θλίψεσιν, ἐν ἀνάγκαις, ἐν στενοχωρίαις, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses) These words are in close relation, and are variously joined with one another and with the others, ch. 2 Corinthians 12:10; 1 Thessalonians 3:7; Romans 2:9; Romans 8:35; Luke 21:23. In afflictions [θλίψεσιν, the pressure of trials] many ways are open, but they are all difficult; in necessities [ἀνάγχαις], one way is open, though difficult; in distresses [straits, στενοχωρίαις], none is open.

Verse 4. - Approving ourselves; rather, commending ourselves, He is again referring to the insinuation, which had evidently caused him deep pain, that he was not authorized to preach, as his Judaic opponents were, by "letters of commendation" (2 Corinthians 3:1-3) from James or from the ciders at Jerusalem. His credentials came from God, who had enabled him to be so faithful. As the ministers of God (1 Corinthians 4:1). The article should be omitted. In much patience. Christ had forewarned his apostles that they would have much to endure, and had strengthened them by the promise that "he that endureth to the end shall be saved" (Matthew 10:22). In afflictions. This word, as we have seen, is one of the haunting words in 2 Corinthians 1:4-11. In necessities. St, Paul was poor, and was often in want (Acts 20:34). In distresses. The same word which occurs in 2 Corinthians 4:8. It means "extreme pressure" (literally, narrowness of space), and is a climax of the other words. 2 Corinthians 6:4Necessities (ἀνάγκαις)

See on 1 Corinthians 7:26.

Distresses (στενοχωρίαις)

See on Romans 2:9.

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