Series: 2 Corinthians
II Corinthians 6:11-13 ESV
We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. 12 You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. 13 In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also.
In this section of the second letter to the Corinthians (2:14-7:3), the apostle Paul has been presenting the nature of new covenant life and ministry. At the end of this long section, he applies the truth to their specific problems. Some of those listening needed to be reconciled to God through Christ (5:20-6:2). Now, after explaining the proper evaluation for new covenant ministers, he moves to deal with the way they have been relating to him (6:11-13). After this appeal, he will address a major issue in their lives (6:14-7:1). And then he will conclude the section by a reaffirmation of his love for them. By the way, this is a wise way of confronting issues: affirm your love for the person, present the problem, and then reaffirm your love for the person (cf. Ph 4:1-3).
In true Christian fellowship or partnership or friendship, people must reciprocate or return love and affection to each other; otherwise, you might have a group of people doing some religious thing in the same place, but you don’t have a gathering of Christ followers! It amazes me how some people can pretend that being in the same building at the same time makes them a church. That is nonsense. A church is a gathering of people that share life in the Lord Jesus Christ with each other, which means that there is a fair exchange of love among them.
I. Paul’s openness to the Corinthians (6:11)
A. He spoke freely to them.
1. Literally, this means he had an open mouth. He was not trying to hide anything or to mislead. In everything written so far, it was honest and clear. What follows will come in the same manner. This is what happens between friends, especially close friends. Notice also the perfect tense. This was his constant way of communicating with them. He was not suddenly opening up to them. He continues to speak openly.
2. Notice that he calls them by name. This is rare in his letters (Gal 3:1; Ph 4:15). When someone is talking with you and suddenly uses your name, you know that they want your attention! Here it is in a context of love. People in love directly address each other by name.
B. He opened his heart to them.
1. Knowing the words of Jesus (Mt 12:23; Lk 6:45), this is the expected source. He spoke freely and openly because his heart was open to them. It continually stands open to them (perfect tense). Here is depth of affection.
2. Paul wants them to know that his concern for them was not simply formal and functional. It was a matter of the heart. He cared about them deeply! Some people have a very wrong idea of Paul’s view of the Corinthians. Yes, they probably caused him sleepless nights and he might have felt like pulling his hair out at times. But he loved them and regarded them as the seal of his apostleship in the Lord (1 Cor 9:2).
II. The Corinthians cramped response to Paul (6:12)
A. He points out that the problem is not on his side.
1. He hadn’t given them a reason for withholding affection. Surely Paul was not perfect. But what he asserts is his lack of blameworthiness. He reached out to them, but they coolly refused to respond to him in love.
2. Part of the problem is probably to be traced to the damaging work of false teachers among them, which Paul discusses later. Another source was their wrong evaluation of ministers that he has been discussing. Yet another cause was their unwillingness to break fully with idolatry and sexual immorality. He had spoken and is about to speak boldly to that issue again, and they probably didn’t like what he said. (How many people like to have their pet sin publicly exposed?) But these were not his problem. You can’t blame your doctor for telling you that you’re overweight. You can’t blame your mechanic for showing you that you need new brakes on your car.
B. He puts the blame on them. Ouch!
1. Ah, this is where true fellowship gets tested. Confrontation is not the most popular concept in human relations. Yet it has an essential place in developing, healthy friendships or partnerships in the gospel. In order to move forward, he has to address the problem between them. (Husbands and wives get a lot of practice in this! So do parents and children!) When we speak of a group of followers or learners of Christ, we mean people who share a common new birth and so are members of God the Father’s family. In this spiritual family, there must be open hearts and mouths.
2. They had a problem in their “inward parts”, in their affections. They were cramped or constricted in their affections. The word was used for vital organs like the heart, lungs, spleen, and liver. The Greeks used the word for the seat of the emotions. So then they needed to open up and let the vital juices flow. If you have a constriction in these inward parts, you have a serious problem.
Apply: You will only do this as you invest your time in others. This means to start or to get involved in a small group ministry. It’s one thing to know Christ’s purposes for a church; it’s another to do them with others.
III. Paul’s appeal to the Corinthians (6:13)
A. He asks for a fair exchange of open hearts.
1. He wants a proper reciprocity of fellowship. He has opened his mouth and heart to them. He wants them to reciprocate by opening their inwards parts to him.
2. We have a firm basis for this reciprocity in the gospel. We stand together forgiven for all our hideous sins at the cross; we stand together right with God with God’s righteousness at the empty tomb. Jesus Christ is our all in all; therefore, we can and ought to open up to each other, since we already know the worst and the best about each other.
B. He reinforces this appeal with a reminder that in the gospel he is their spiritual father. In calling them “children”, he is not referring to their immaturity, but to his relationship with them.
1. Paul had the privilege in the gospel ministry to show them the good news of Jesus Christ, and as he preached and taught they had responded by repentance and faith in Christ. So he became their spiritual father (1 Cor 4:14-15; cf. Gal 4:19; 1 Tm 1:2, 18; 2 Tm 1:2; Phm 1:10; 1 Jn 2:1, 28; 3:7, 18; 4:4; 5:21).
2. Paul wants the affection that a parent deserves. For one thing, they should have been honoring him, because of his place as their new covenant minister. But some were resisting him; others were looking down on him; others were not rising to his defense.
Apply: My dear brothers and sisters, since we are joined together in Jesus Christ, we ought to have open hearts with each other! Will you open yours today? The Holy Spirit can anoint you with the oil of God’s love to get the hinges of the door of your heart swinging open again. Trust Christ, and enjoy the breath of fresh air as your heart opens to his people!
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://christmycovenant.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/frampton-dave.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Pastor Dave Frampton: When push comes to shove there is usually nothing more satisfying than for a saint of God to have at his or her disposal a source of biblically sound instruction in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The faithful and spiritually profitable labors of Dave Frampton are here at CMC to be a blessing. Bible teacher and student alike will profit much from his labor in the God’s Word. Visit Newtown Square Baptist Church[/author_info] [/author] [button link=”http://www.newtownsquarebaptist.org/” color=”red” newwindow=”yes”] Visit Newtown Square Baptist Church[/button]