2 Corinthians 6:11-18
O you Corinthians, our mouth is open to you, our heart is enlarged.…
The ruling thought of the chapter is twofold. St. Paul, the ambassador, is a fellow worker with God in Christ, and as such he is deeply concerned that the Church at Corinth should not fail to use its means and opportunity for salvation then within reach. A critical period had come in its history, and he saw it very clearly. What so sagacious as love? what love so abounding as his? "O ye Corinthians," out of the depths of my heart, the heart just described - out of its purity, knowledge, long-suffering; "O ye Corinthians," by my kindness, by the Spirit of God in me, by love unfeigned; "O ye Corinthians," amid my chastenings from God and my afflictions from men; - whom I have besought not to receive the grace of God in vain, once more I pray you hearken. "Our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged." Only a very large and roomy nature could have entertained the thoughts and feelings, could have suffered, could have passed through the experiences which had just been described; but various and multiplied as were that heart's burdens and tribulations, it had ample space for his brethren at Corinth. "Ye are not straitened in us [no narrow place you occupy in our affection], but ye are straitened in your own bowels [narrowness in your love for us]," the word "bowels" being used to express the seat of the feelings. "For a recompense [return of love]... be ye also enlarged," and he asks this as a father seeking affection from his children. A sudden break occurs in the movement of thought. Did the use of the word "children" quicken a feeling akin to parental solicitude? Or did the sorrows he was undergoing in behalf of this Church at Corinth, a moment before so vividly pictured, give him a new insight into the dangers surrounding its members? Or was he recalling the supreme truth in his theology, the atoning death of Christ, and the righteousness that came to us and became a part of us? One in whose mind associations gathered so very rapidly and suggestions arose with such spontaneous vigour would probably feel the sudden return of the ideas and images on which he had been dwelling. A peculiarity with him is this partial development of a thought on its first appearance in his intellect. A similar law is traceable in his emotional nature. There is a second production, and this "aftermath" is very valuable. The subject under consideration (vers. 14-18) had engaged attention in the First Epistle, and he now reverts to it under the apprehension that these Corinthians, who were particularly exposed to the "evil communications" that "corrupt good manners," might receive the grace of God in vain. If there had been a strong reaction against the Judaizing party in the Corinthian Church, that may have introduced unusual hazards as to Gentilism. Reactions, no matter how wise and truthful in themselves, always involve more or less danger. Facts are distorted, truths are mixed with prejudices, and the victory is our victory. Generally, indeed, only when time has befriended our infirmities and given us an opportunity to recover from reactions are we put in an attitude to see and judge with entire fairness. But, whatever the impulse at the moment on St. Paul's mind, his words are surcharged with energy. Question hastens after question. "Unequally yoked together with unbelievers" is the trumpet note of alarm. What the union was he does not specify. It may have been promiscuous intercourse with heathens, or participation in idol festivals, or mixed marriages. Whichever it was, it was unequal yoking, a very ill-devised union; and under how many aspects did it deserve condemnation? The heart of the evil is exposed; could righteousness have fellowship with unrighteousness, light commune with darkness, Christ have concord with Satan, believers have part with infidels, the temple of God agree with idols? Metaphors multiply, as they commonly do with him when excited. By their profession of Christ they were pledged to depart from all iniquity, especially all associations that might revive their former Gentile tastes and habits, most especially those social usages which identified them with idolatry. Quoting twice from the Old Testament (Leviticus and Isaiah), he shows what the true religion demanded of its subjects in its earlier stage under Moses and its later under the prophets, in both cases separation from a world given over to heathenism. Only by means of this line of demarcation between them and the corruptions of society would God acknowledge them as his people, walk in their midst, and be a Father unto them. "Touch not the unclean thing." It was the language of Judaism from her tabernacle in the wilderness, from her temple in Jerusalem, and now reaffirmed and emphasized anew and with most solemn intensity by Christianity. St. Paul saw that history repeats itself. Not otherwise were it history. The peril of the gospel was precisely that which had wrecked Judaism. From this point of view it is profitable to re-read this earnest chapter. Chrysostom and others have spoken of its lofty eloquence. Stanley, Robertson, Webster, and Wilkinson have taught us to appreciate the breadth of its ideas and the classical force of its diction. It is a chapter of warning from the memorials of the past, as that past demonstrates most signally the jealousy of God's rule over men. On the one hand, we have the terrible fascinations of that spirit of idolatry which in some form or other is the besetting sin of the human race, the innate disposition to supplant Jehovah, the fatal surrender to "the god of this world," never so blinding as when he makes men as gods unto themselves. On the other hand, we have the visible symbols of God's presence among his people in the temple and its institutions, and further, the proof of the Spirit's power in their hearts, his actual indwelling and sanctifying agency. Yet this grace may be received in vain. The higher the gift, the more freedom in its use. No sooner has the apostle set forth the fact that God was in Christ recovering the world unto himself, than the magnitude of the risk presses on his attention. The risk was altogether in man. It was a risk, moreover, in the Christian man who had received grace and might lose its influence. Law had been violated, but Christ, as the eternal Son of God, had expiated the guilt, and by faith we accepted him as the Divine Reconciler. Man's responsibility had utterly failed under Law; would it fail under grace? If it did, there was an end of hope, since there remaineth no other sacrifice for sin. St. Paul was aware of the local circumstances that enhanced the dangers of the Corinthians. The style of the appeal recognizes this fact. Let it not be forgotten, however, that, while men as men have these local surroundings, Christianity deals with man as man, and, accordingly, the warning is addressed to us not to receive the grace of God in vain. Our probation goes on in the midst of contingencies; temptation and trial are things most completely shut out from ordinary modes of calculation, and no prophetic eye reads our future. Yet this very sense of uncertainty is the most merciful of all providential arrangements. It is a source of great power. Except for its keen sensitiveness, our liability to evil would be far greater. Apprehension acts in two ways - it constantly reduces the amount of evil existing; and again, it fortifies us to resist the evil that remains. Now, Christianity operates in both these modes. With the latter only have we now to do. The problem forevery individual Christian is the efficiency of grace in his resistance to Satanic influence. So far as the Scriptures teach us on this subject, Jesus Christ had no temptations save those which Satan offered; and, while we have no warrant to say this of believers, we may safely affirm that it is the reconciled man in Christ, "made the righteousness of God in him," who is the object of Satan's sharpest assaults. To destroy the power of grace in the child of God is his unceasing effort. Now, this grace is received through two great channels - the conscience and the affections. St. Paul is referring continually to these organs of spiritual activity, and hence, we infer, that he would have his converts most earnest at these points. Conscience must be enlightened by the gospel and directed by the Spirit. It must be a conscience of that righteousness we have in Christ and through Christ, external to us as the ground of justification, internal to us as the regenerating and sanctifying work of the Holy Ghost. "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death." But this sense of righteousness in the conscience must act likewise in the affections, or it cannot be "the law of the Spirit of life." If, then, St. Paul commended the gospel "to every man's conscience in the sight of God," was he content to rest here? "O ye Corinthians,... our heart is enlarged." Open your hearts, open them freely, open them as mine is opened unto you. If they would thus realize the righteousness of Christ, they could not receive the grace of God in vain. It is here, while speaking of the enlarged heart, that he appeals to them as his children. "Be ye also enlarged." Here we see how grace is lost; the heart, instead of expanding, is narrowed and cramped. Ministers must preach the gospel of love; and, to do this, they must be lovely in spirit and conduct. Christians must accept the grace of the gospel in hearts that enlarge, so that growth in loveliness may develop strength of character in its most enduring form. Just at this point backsliding sets in. No man's conscience begins to be blinded till his heart begins to be narrowed. Sympathy is checked; openness of feeling arrested; giving to charitable objects abated; cordiality of intercourse with ministers and members of the Church supplanted by fault finding, prejudice, and censoriousness; and then conscience becomes careless, then inert, then callous, and grace dies in the soul. The enlarging heart is the secret of growth. Nor is there any growth so beautiful as this in itself and so inspiriting as an example to others. Its fellowship is with souls that are its kindred in Christ; its communion with that wisdom and purity symbolized by light; its concord with him who took upon himself our nature that we might bear his image; its part or share is in the possession of holiness; and its capacity is a temple, or habitation, of which "God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them." - L.
Parallel VersesKJV: O ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged.