2 Corinthians chapter 6 - The Proving of the Servant of God - J Stewart Gillespie 

2 Corinthians chapter 6 in some ways is Pauls Mt Carmel experience – the proving of the servant of God! 

Criticism abounded of the apostle 

Some looked at a life, lived wholly to the Glory of God; a life of sacrifice, a life which put into practice the ministry of Romans 12:1; ‘I beseech you therefore brethren by the mercies of God that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God which is your logical service...’ 

This was the teaching of Paul 

This was the practice of Paul 

His life was lived on the altar – chapter 11 

The Corinthians had a far better solution to the problems of the Christian life. 

Why pay the price of COMMITMENT 

when you can reap the wages of COMPROMISE 

And so 1 Corinthians has been a litany of one compromise after another: 

Moral compromise chp 5 
Material compromise chp 6 
Marital compromise chp 7 
Meat offered to idols compromise chp 8 – 10 
Social (chp8) and Spiritual compromise (chp 10) 

What do you make of the life of a man like Paul? 

Madness? (5:13; 11:1; 11:16) 

If Paul is really speaking for God and doing the work of God then surely circumstances should be more favourable, results more obviously fruitful? 

Paul cuts a lonely figure not only against the pagan world, but against Judaism and even in the Christian world too! 

Let us be careful not to fall into the same error as the Corinthians! 

1 man standing alone with God is a formidable force! 

Paul is ‘sunergeo’: worker together with Him (6:1) 

Paul is ‘sunhistemi’ : standing together with Him (6:4) - ‘approving’ 

If you ever find yourself standing against a man standing with God – change sides: 

Noah stood alone with God against the world 
Moses stood alone with God against an Empire 
Lot stood alone with God against a city 
Elijah stood alone with God against 850 priests 


Noah was left standing and the world perished 
Moses delivered his people and Pharoah and his armies perished 
Lot was rescued and Sodom destroyed 
Elijah stood victorious and the priests perished 

One man and God is a majority 

2 Corinthians chp 6 is Pauls Mount Carmel: 

‘How long halt ye between 2 opinions, if the Lord be God, follow Him, but if Baal, then follow Him, and the people answered him not a word.’ (2 Kings 18:21) 

Verses 1 to 3 begins with a warning: 

‘receive not the grace of God in vain’ 

The Grace of God in fitting us for service 

Over the generations many have been gifted and called and given open doors and opportunities and yet from the human perspective that grace has been in vain: 

Balaam became corrupted by financial gain 
Samson lost his way through unequal yolk and illegitimate relationships 
Gehazi marred his service for clothes and wealth 
Saul – Grace of Kingship marred, always seemed to lean on the wrong crutch – on Samuel, on a sacrifice, on Satan and the witch of Endor, on public opinion! Never leaned wholly on the Lord! 1  Samuel 9:21; 10:21 ff. 
Demas forsook Paul having ‘loved this present world’ 
Parable of the talents (Matthew 25:15ff) – 5, 2 and 1 talent. Whenever we hear of the parable of the talents we generally think of the unproductive result of the servant given 1 talent. This is of course where the warning lies. Yet there is something more than this in the parable of the talent. There is an insight into, a lesson on how to not use your talent! The servant with one talent didn’t just not use his talent! The servant knew he had a talent, he knew he was meant to use that talent, he had a conscience and a ‘fear’ of God. He needed an excuse to salve his conscience for not using his gift! The best excuse I can have for not using my gift is not to have a gift I need an excuse not to use! So he hid his talent! We hide our talents! We hide our talent beneath: 

False modesty 
Past offense 
Another gift we don’t have 
Paid clergy 

verse 2 – A further exhortation and warning 

Perhaps one of the most misunderstood verses of 2 Corinthians? 

The later half of the verse often quoted in the context of the gospel 

Quoted as an ultimatum to those who are not saved: 

‘behold now is the accepted time behold now is the day of salvation’ 

Whilst this is true; if the Lord does begin to speak, if we begin to be troubled in our soul with respect to sin, think deep thoughts of eternal matters, if the fear of God grips us and we see our need of Christ then don’t miss it! 

‘boast not yourself of tomorrow...’ 

‘My Spirit shall not always strive with man...’ 

Yet this is not really what the verse is saying, it is a valid application of the verse no doubt but contextually this verse is preceeded in verse 1 with the context of Christian service. It is followed in verse 3 with the context of Christian service. 

The first half of the verse: ‘I have heard thee in a time accepted...’ 

The verse is addressed to those who have already, ‘called on the name of the Lord.’ If they have called on the name of the Lord then the people to whom this verse is addressed are saved (Romans 10:13). 

This verse is not an ultimatum to the unsaved 

This verse is a challenge to those who are saved 

This is a challenge to serve, to live out our service whilst there is opportunity to so do. 

Gods offer of Gospel Grace is time limited and ‘now is the day of salvation,’ so grasp it to preach the gospel. 

This is not so much a call to salvation 

This is a call to service in the Day of Salvation 

Not so much here is the opportunity – believer 


Here is the opportunity – preach and serve 

In these verses we learn that God does not have lower standards than men. 

Anything and everything will not do for God 

God proves and approves His servants 

Consistent with the theme of 2 Corinthians this proving is partly through the experiences through which He brings us 

Gods servants are transformed (3:18) by: 

Spirit of the Lord (3:18) 
Scriptures of Truth (3:14ff) 
Suffering circumstances of Life (4:18) 

Whilst we may look at the problems of life as a hindrance to our progress in service, an inconvenience, an irritation, a barrier to service they can be an integral part of that service for God! 


We often look at the task to be done and consider that the only issue is to get that task done ASAP 

Anything which does not go to our plan is but a: 

Unwelcome distraction 
To be avoided or get frustrated about 

The reality is that I learned more about my car over the years through it breaking down than when it runs to plan. 

We need to think about those problems in a different way than perhaps we normally would!! 

Illust: Middle age definition of an exciting holiday involves: 

sitting at the pool with a good book 
added excitement – to actually get into the pool! 

Teenagers have a different perspective on excitement! 

Hence one of our last holidays I found myself in a cable car ascending a mountain on the Costa del Sol! 

I have a real issue with heights 

The excitement consisted of: 

Going up the cable car 
Added excitement: the terror in their fathers face at going up the cable car 
added added excitement – making the cable car swing from side to side whilst their father ascended the mountain in the cable car 

In those kind of circumstances we pray! 

A silent prayer! 

A more intelligent prayer than perhaps I am in the habit of praying! 

Here is what I didn't pray for : 

That the trial would STOP 
That I would GET OUT of the trial 
That the cable car would LET ME GO 

The most dangerous place is out of the cable car 

The safest place to be is to move within the purposes of God, even when they are difficult and even where the surrounding circumstances seem far more appealing! 

You may find it easier elsewhere 
You may find it more comfortable elsewhere 
The cable car of life may sway less elsewhere 
The income may be better elsewhere 
The winds may blow less against you elsewhere 
The road may be smoother elsewhere 
The grass may be greener elsewhere 
The sky may be bluer elsewhere 
The sun may be brighter elsewhere 
The prospects may be better elsewhere 

But if the Lord hasn’t called you elsewhere then elsewhere is nowhere. 

What I prayed was that that cable car would take us safely to the summit of the mountain! 

When we go through the trials of service sometimes we pray amiss because we think of that trial in the wrong frame of reference. 

We consider that trial as: 

A tunnel to get through 
A bridge to get over 
An obstruction to get around 

Actually it is more akin to the cable car: 

A mountain to ascend 
A project to undertake 
A trial to strength 
A mine dug deep to treasures hidden below the surface of life 

In verse 4 Paul speaks of ‘approving’ the servant of God 

‘συνίστημι’: stand with, but with the figurative meaning of approval 

This figurative meaning of approval is taken by the: 

ASV: ‘But in everything commending ourselves as the ministers of God.’ 

Darby: ‘But in everything commending ourselves as Gods ministers.’ 

ESV: ‘But as servants of God we commend ourselves’ 

HCSB: ‘But as Gods ministers we commend ourselves in everything’ 

As we consider the approval of Gods servants (6:4) we might consider the cable car suspended from 5 wires: 

Patience Group (v4) 
Punishment Group (v5) 
Pureness Group (v6) 
Power Group (v7) 
Poverty and Prosperity Group (v8-10) 

Patience Group (v4) 

The nails of Calvary left their mark on the resurrected Christ! 

Patience : ‘ὑπομονή’ : bearing up under 

Afflictions: ‘θλίψις’ : to crush, press 

Necessities: ‘ἀναγκή’: compelling force 

Distresses: ‘στενοχωρία’: distresses from within 

These experiences do not leave me unmoved / unaltered 

They mould me / shape me! 

They affect me! 

“And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” (Luk 22:44) 

“Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.” (Mat 26:38) 

“For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” (Heb 4:15) 

We may not be able to overcome the circumstances through which we pass but those circumstances bring about an inner struggle / state of conflict and it is this subjective experience over which we must triumph, over the fears, terror, unbelief, the weakness of the flesh, the ‘slow speech and slow tongue’ (Moses, Ex 4:9); being the ‘least in my fathers household’ (Gideon); standing before the giant ‘a man of war from his youth’as but a ‘youth’, taking on an army with the jaw bone of an ass, taking courage to flee from Pharoah covered but by the blood of a lamb! This is victory! This is courage! 

Nebuchadnezzar intended to set fire to Shadrach, Meshach and Abednigo by throwing them into the firey furnace actually under the sovereign hand of God he set them on fire for God! Consider their boldness and their victory in Daniel chapter 3. 

The believers view of suffering is very different from that ungodly’s view of suffering. 

Trial and suffering is not simply to be endured until it passes, or simply passively accepted but rather it is an integral past of Christian service itself! 

‘Not till the loom is silent 

And the shuttles cease to fly 

Shall God unroll the canvas 

And explain the reason why 

The dark threads are as needful 

In the weavers skill full hand 

As the threads of gold and silver 

In the pattern He has planned’ 

Punishment Group (v5) 

The worlds response to the believer 

tumults – commotion, tumult, unstable 

labours – beating, waling, grief 

watchings – abstinence from sleep 

fastings – fasting, fast, abstinence from eating 

If we follow Christ then we can expect similar treatment to Him! 

Pureness Group (v6) 

Love applied by the Spirit sanctified! 

Our character must reflect the character of the God we serve! 

Our character will reflect the character of the God we serve! 

God is Love 

God is Light 

God is Spirit 

God is True 

Out ministry must reflect His character 

Not simply 

Clinical accuracy 
Factual correctness 

Pureness: Love applied to morality 

Love is the fulfillment of the law. 

Love the Lord your God – fulfillment of the first table of the law 

Love our neighbours as ourself – fulfill the second table of the law 

Love is the motive for the dedication to fulfil the law. 

Knowledge: Love applied to the intellect 

The motive to not not ‘walk in the counsel of the ungodly’? The ultimate source of all ignorance – separation from an omniscient God? ‘His delight is in the law of the Lord and in His law doth he meditate day and night’(Psalm 1:1-2). It is the psalmists ‘delight’ in the law of the Lord that stears him from ignotance and brings a man to not walk in the counsel of the ungodly. 

‘I love thy law’ (Psalm 119:97, 113, 163) 

Longsuffering: Love applied to character 

Kindness: Love applied to action 

Power Group (v7) 

Power in service: 

Not by might 
not by eloquence (2 Co 10:10) 
not by emotionalism 
not by appeal 
not by music 

The power is in the ‘Word of Truth’ 

Our messages must be more than emotion, more than entertainment and more than stories 

The Gospel is the ‘Power of God unto Salvation.’ 

Poverty and Prosperity Group (v8-10) 

Out of our poverty and suffering the blessings flow to others!! 

Lets not look for praise nor for glory – unlikely to get them in this world! 

A section of couplets: 

subjective vs objective 
temporal vs eternal 
relative vs absolute 

We live our lives in 2 spheres 

We need to be constantly reminded of this and assess our life in terms of those 2 spheres and not just the one! 

We can very easily assess our progress, make our decisions on the basis of assessing but the one sphere: 

what most prospers 
where lies the pleasure 
where is the promotion 

If we think of this only in the sphere of the temporal we may indeed choose what prospers, promotes and pleases but only for the briefest of moments and miss the true purpose and calling of our brief life. 

‘For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?’ (Mar 8:36) 

One act of Christian service which helps another believer on their journey 

One word of ministry which encourages a disheartened Christian 

One word of ministry which corrects a faltering believer 

One Word from the Lord which guides His people into the paths of truth for His names sake 

One act of worship which glorifies Christ 

One intercessory prayer heard and answered 

One Gospel testimony which impacts the lifes of the ungodly 

One Gospel message which convicts a sinner 

One soul pointed to Christ 

just one of these has more ultimate and absolute value than all all the prosperity, wealth, pleasure and prospects which this world can furnish us with! 


What this world can give is temporal and passing! 

What is done for Christ is eternal and enduring! 

‘by honour’ : ‘δόξα’ : glory 

Consider Christs absolute place and position: 

1 Peter 1:11; John 17:5; Heb 1:3; Heb 2:9; Rev 4:11; 5:12 

‘by dishonour’ : ‘ἀτιμία’ 

The place given to Christ by men: the cross, the curse, the spittle 

Gazing on the Lord in glory, 

While our hearts in worship bow, 

There we read the wondrous story 

Of the cross—its shame and woe. 

Every mark of dark dishonour 

Heaped upon the thorn-crowned brow 

All the depths of Thy heart’s sorrow 

Told in answ’ring glory now. 

In the temporal sphere men treated Christ with dishonour: 

At His birth gave Him a manger 
In His death they gave Him a cross 
As a King they gave Him a crown of thorns 
As a prophet they mocked Him 
As a Jew they called Him a ‘samaritan’ 
As God they claimed He had a ‘Devil’ 

‘by evil report’ : ‘δυσφημία’ 

Blasphemer : ‘βλασφημία’ (Matt 26:65; Mark2:7; Mark 14:64; John 10:33) 
Born of fornication 
Claimed He desired to destroy the temple 
Usurper of the throne – make Himself king 
Casting out Devils by the power of Satan 


‘good report’ : ‘εὐφημία’ : 

God has spoken well of His Son: Phil 2:9 

Matt 3:17 ‘This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased’ 

Sometimes we can be very concerned with what men think / say about us 

The structure of modern society gives itself over to this: Facebook and Social Media 

But our concern ought to be: ‘well done though good and faithful servant’ (Matt 25:21,23) 

This is the source of much error in the church; ‘preachers having itching ears.’ 

‘deceiver’ : ‘πλάνος’ 

Here perhaps more than anywhere else in the list we perceive the prejudice of the world against the Lord and His disciples: ‘Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again.’ (Mat 27:63). Christ is branded a liar for not yet  fulfilling a prophecy before the time set for its fulfilment! 

The branding of Christ as deceiver was on the basis of the prejudice of His accusers that He could not possibly ever hop to fulfil such a promise! 

Christ is branded a deceiver on the presupposition that He is a deceiver! 

‘yet true’ : John 14:6 

‘unknown’ - John 1:10 ‘the world knew Him not’ 

As unknown yet well known 

As unknown : ‘agnoeo’: not to recognise or know 

Cf. Acts 13:27: ‘they knew Him not nor yet the voices of the prophets. ‘ 
Cf John 1:10 : ‘He was in the world and the world was made by Him and the world knew Him not. ‘ 

Unknown by the world 

In the sphere of the temporal and the relative Paul and the believer is unknown 

So far as the power houses of the world was concerned he was unknown 

So far as Herod was concerned He was unknown 

So far as the inn keeper was concerned He was unknown 

So far as the religious hierarchy was concerned He was unknown 

In the place of religion - the temple He was Unknown 

In the place of politics - Jerusalem He was unknown 

In the synagogue of Nazareth He was unknown 

In the law courts of the land He was unknown before Pontius Pilate 

Matt 27:11 ‘Art thou the King of the Jews? ‘ 

Matt 15:2 ‘and pilate asked Him, Art thou the king of the Jews?’ 

John 7:15 

Yet in the sphere of the absolute and the eternal : 

‘well known ‘ : epiginosko 

Known by all who believe Phil 3:10, Rev 5:9, 7:9 

‘well known’ - Rev 5:9; 7:9 

‘dying and behold we live’ - Rev 1:8 

‘He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.’ (Mat 10:39) 

‘For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.’ (Mat 16:25) 

cf Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24; John 12:25 

‘That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death. If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.’ (Php 3:10-11) 

‘Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.’ (Rom 6:6) 

‘I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.’ (Gal 2:20) 

‘chastened and not killed’- John 10:17 

‘As sorrowful’ - Isa 53:3 

‘Rejoicing’ - John 15:11 

‘poor yet making many rich’ - 2 Co 8:9 

‘having nothing’ - Luke 20:24 

‘possessing all things’ - Col 1:16ff 

Interesting section tucked in at the end of a passage dealing with Paul's service 

6:1-10 The loneliness of service 

We move onto the Holiness of service 

This is more than a call and a challenge to holiness 

Within this section is the mindset of a life committed to holiness 

It is easy to regard holiness in the Christian life as an essentially negative issue 

In this section on holiness it is spoken of in primarily a positive way 

Holiness is founded in the principle of laying hold of the promises of God (7:1) 

The angle Paul has on this is; I know that you can have: 

compromised morals (1 Co 5) 
Social relationships (1 Co 8) 
Spiritual syncreticism (1 Co 10) 

But I’m not here trying to restrict your joy, limit your potential or restrict your horizons, narrow your outlook, rather have you considered the truth that – compromise os not the bets of both worlds, it is the limbo of neither! 

You choose either the sinking ship of Corinth or the lifeboat of Christ. 

The middle ground of compromise is deep, dark and deathly sea. 

In the first world war there were 2 very dangerous places to be: 

Allied trenches 
German trenches 

The highest casualty rates were seen in men serving in neither of these 2 area, for there was a 3rd and even more dangerous place to serve. 

The highest casualty rates were amongst men tasked or volunteered as stretcher bearers. They lived out their service in no man’s land. In no man’s land you did not have the protection of both trenches, you had the protection of neither! 

In this passage, regrettably often only part quoted: ‘what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,’ - the apostle gives not only a challenge of separation but presents the cost of failure in separation! 

Compromise has consequences! 

The consequences are impairment of our relationship with God! 


Presence in us: ‘I will dwell in them’ 
Presence through us: ‘walk in them’ 
Possessed by Him: ‘I will be their God’ 
People of God: ‘they shall be my people’ 

v17 – Received by Him 

v18 – Relationship with God 

It is only in the strength of that relationship with God that we are able to relinquish compromise with the world of the ungodly. 

Presence in us: ‘I will dwell in them’ 
Presence through us: ‘walk in them’ 

Does this mean that the life of God is being lived out amongst His people? 

He walks in our life as we walk through life? 

As I walk He wlaks 

As I move He moves 

As I speak He speaks 

An echo of Eden 

God returns to this world in His pepole 

cf Ezek 11:19: ‘ And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh:’ 

cf Ezek 11:20: ‘That they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.’ 

A people saved and regenerate with a new heart (Ezek 11:19) are a people empowered to ‘walk in my statutes’ (Ezek 11:20) and ‘keep my ordinances’ 

In so altering the walk of His people the Lord not only dwells in His people but walks in them (cf Lev 26:12) 

Is that what we see in the movements of the people of God through the world, through history 

Is this the purpose of the pilgrim walking through the world? 

These types of Christ  in the OT are not only deliberate types of Christ for the encouragement of His people, the worship of our hearts, the confidence of faith but in a sense they are at least in part inevitable, as God walks amongst His people and they walk out His presence  in their lifes. 

As Abraham worshipped at the altars – God walked 

As Isaac prayed and meditated at his wells – God walked 

As David sang his songs – God spoke 

As David faced Goliath – God walked 

As Daniel prayed n the lions den – God walked 

As Moses brought down Egypt – God walked 

As Isaiah prophesied – God walked 

As Elijah sacrificed on Mount Carmel – God walked 

As Elisha raised the boy to life – God walked 

As Noah preached – God walked 

As Shadrach, Meshech and Abednigo escaped from the fiery furnace – God walked! 

Does this not explain the ‘over reaction’ of God? 

When Abraham compromises with Egypt – God ceased to walk 

When Moses struck the rock twice – God ceased to walk 

When David numbered the people – God ceased to speak 

Is this the ‘big deal’ it is not really about Abraham, Moses, David or me or my assembly as all it is about God! 

Here is a different way to look at the types; as I look back into the OT scriptures and catch a glimpse of Christ; it is the inevitable result of a person possessed of God, of walking out what God is walking in! 

A ‘woe is me if I preach not...’ 

The essential out working of the deep desire of God begotten in us to live out the life of God in the world! 

As God walks amongst us it is inevitable that His footprints are left in the sands of time! 

Those footprints as Christ shaped! 

For the Spirit you anointed those men and women of old was the Spirit of Christ! 

The Spirit operative in Abraham must bring obedience 

The Spirit operative in Isaac must bring submission 

The Spirit of God operative in David in the valley of Elah must brig courage in the face of the enemy 

The Spirit of God operative in the life of Joseph must bring: 

obedience to his father 
care for his brothers 
Integrity in the house of Potiphar 
Insight into the mind of God 
Honesty in the prison cell 
Compassion to his brothers 

‘God can only dwell in the midst by dwelling in each one’ (John Calvin) – quoted in RP Martin, Word Biblical, p202 

Possessed by Him: ‘I will be their God’ 
People of God: ‘they shall be my people’




2 Corinthians chapter 6 - Paul on Mt Carmel - Commitment Amidst Compromise - JS Gillespie