2 Corinthians 6
The very last verse of chapter 5 is one of the most important verses in the Bible: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” When Jesus died on the cross, he took our sin and gave us righteousness. This is the great doctrine of justification. Now, in chapter 6, Paul describes what happens in the Christian after they’ve been justified: they are sanctified, that is, they start growing in holiness. And Paul begins with a warning (vv. 1–2). If anyone thinks they have been saved by Christ, but they go on to live an un-sanctified life, then they haven’t really been saved. Therefore, be all the more diligent about growing in holiness today so that you can be assured of your salvation.
So how do you live a sanctified life? In short, stop living the way the world tells you to live, and start living the way God tells you to live. That’s what Paul is saying in verses 14–18. I’m sure you know the old saying, “If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it’s a duck!” Well, dear Christian, if you look like an unbeliever, swim like an unbeliever, and quack like an unbeliever, then you might be an unbeliever. Everything the Christian does and how the Christian does it must look different than the world. We do not walk in disgraceful or underhanded ways, and we do not practice cunning trickery (see 4:2); we do not slander, disparage, or backbite (as the unbelieving “super-apostles” were doing to Paul; see 1:15–22); and we do not so unite ourselves with unbelievers that they cause us to rebel against Scripture and against God himself (see 6:14–16). Rather, we practice love, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control (see Gal. 5:22–23). Which fruit is your life producing? The fruit of the world, or the fruit of the Holy Spirit?
To back up in the chapter, Paul shows us what kind of effect sanctification has had on his own life and ministry in verses 3–13. Probably the one word we could use to describe Paul’s life and ministry in these verses is ‘humility’. Humility causes Paul to endure and persevere despite being beaten unjustly, imprisoned unjustly, rioted against unjustly, starved unjustly, and slandered unjustly. Humility causes Paul not to revile his enemies when he himself had been reviled (see 1 Pet. 2:23). Humility causes Paul to remember his spiritual life and spiritual riches despite physically being near death and filled with sorrows. Humility causes Paul to strive for purity and honesty and love rather than resort to the slander and trickery that his opponents were doing. We might say that humility is the ultimate fruit of sanctification. I have no qualms about saying that pride is the root of every single sin we commit, because every time we sin we are deciding that we know better than God. Likewise, humility reminds us that we are finite, mortal, not-all-knowing creatures and that God himself is the only sovereign and all-wise God. Humility recognizes that we are all rotten sinners and need someone else to save us. Humility knows that we won’t necessarily have a great life on this earth but that we have something much better waiting for us. And when we are truly humbled before God, we also must be humbled before other people. Paul humbles himself and sacrifices many earthly rights so that there wouldn’t be any obstacles in the way of his audience hearing and believing the gospel (v. 3). Paul and his co-workers live humbly because it helps non-Christians believe the gospel.
Therefore, dear Christian, widen your heart (v. 13). Let your love for God grow in order that you would submit yourself to him and learn how to be more like him. And let your love for other people grow in order that you would grow in humility to the point of sacrificing anything for the sake of them knowing salvation.