Wednesday, 27 August 2015
…by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love,
2 Corinthians 6:6
Paul’s list of what the apostles held fast to for the sake of the gospel continues to grow in this verse. His next characteristic is “by purity.” The idea he is certainly conveying is more than just a general concept of pure living which is free from sensual sin, but the purity of morals and of mind which are behind his actions. The apostles endeavored to be pure in all ways to the exclusion of even any impure thoughts. They had their thoughts, as it were, “fixed on Jesus.”
Next he includes “by knowledge.” Scholars disagree on what Paul is referring to with the Greek word gnosis. Is he speaking of a knowledge of the law, of prudent living, or something else? Based on his constant emphasis on the gospel of Christ, the simplest explanation of what he is speaking about is referred to in Ephesians 3:4 where he notes “my knowledge in the mystery of Christ.”
Although Paul was given specific knowledge of the gentile-led church that the other apostles apparently weren’t given, they were all endowed with understanding the things which had been revealed. In 2 Peter 3:15, Peter speaks of Paul’s wisdom on spiritual matters and he elevates Paul’s writings to the level of the rest of Scripture. Therefore, the “knowledge” he is referring to here for all of the apostles is certainly a gospel-based one.
His next category is “by longsuffering.” In the previous verse he mentioned “patience.” Now he brings in longsuffering. This isn’t just patience in the sense of waiting for others to learn, but rather it is the patience of enduring external attacks and fierce trials which attempted to thwart their effectiveness. Instead, they endured through these things, looking forward to a greater reward.
From this he moves to “kindness.” Despite the trials and external attacks, it was their goal to return kindness to those who persecuted them. This is in line with Jesus’ admonition to “turn the other cheek.” The apostles knew that argumentation and a defiant attitude would never change the hearts of their hearers.
“By the Holy Spirit” shows their grand reliance on God to conduct them and to lead the way for them. Instead of succumbing to the pressures and difficulties they faced, they relied on the strength of God which indwelt them. And with the fellowship of the Spirit, they were able to evince joy and contentment, even in the most difficult of circumstances.
Finally in this verse, he mentions, “by sincere love.” Of all of the fruits of the Spirit, this is the one most highlighted in Paul’s writings. Instead of loving through pretense, they truly relied on the Spirit to fill them with the highest form of love. It is the love described in 1 Corinthians 13 and which allowed them to tend to those who otherwise would be rejected. But the love of God which filled the apostles was there because they had the example of Christ Jesus who went before them. He died for a world full of miserable wretches, and so He became that purest example for the apostles to emulate.
Life application: As the apostles lived, we too can live. If we simply rely on God and are in line with His word, we should be able to conduct ourselves in the same manner in which they did.
Lord Jesus, You came and lived among a rebellious race. You are so far above Your creatures that we cannot even compare to Your glory. And yet, You not only came to us in our rebellion, but You had compassion on us, You cared for us, You lived for us, and You died for us. What an example of the highest love of all. Now Lord, I ask that You fill me with the same love towards others. Help me to love the unlovable and to care for those who are down and out. Give me a servant’s heart to be a blessing to all. Amen.