God’s fellow workers: The Greek word for “fellow worker,” sy·ner·gosʹ, appears more than ten times in the Christian Greek Scriptures, most often in Paul’s letters. The expression is used regarding those who shared together in spreading the good news. (Ro 16:9, 21; 2Co 1:24; 8:23; Php 2:25; 4:3; Col 4:11; Phm 1, 24) Here Paul calls attention to the great privilege that Christian ministers have of being “God’s fellow workers.” (See study note on 1Co 3:6.) Paul expresses a similar thought at 2Co 6:1, where he speaks about “working together with him,” that is, with God.—2Co 5:20; see study note on Ro 16:3.
Working together with him: That is, with God, as shown by the context of 2Co 5:20, where Paul’s work is described “as though God were making an appeal through us.” The Greek verb rendered “making an appeal” (pa·ra·ka·leʹo) in that verse is used in the context of humans working with God. The same verb appears here at 2Co 6:1 in the phrase “we . . . urge [or, “appeal to; entreat”] you.” This further supports the idea that God is a fellow worker of true Christian ministers, including Paul and his companions.—See study note on 1Co 3:9.
undeserved kindness: See Glossary.
and miss its purpose: The Greek expression rendered “and miss its purpose” includes a word that literally means “empty.” That word has also been rendered “in vain; for nothing.” The context shows that anointed Christians received God’s undeserved kindness and were privileged to carry out “the ministry of the reconciliation,” serving as “ambassadors substituting for Christ.” (2Co 5:18-20) If those Christians failed to fulfill that ministry and to keep seeking God’s favor during the “acceptable time” and “the day of salvation,” they would miss the purpose of God’s undeserved kindness.—2Co 6:2.
Jehovah’s acceptable year: Or “the year of Jehovah’s favor.” Here Jesus quotes from Isa 61:1, 2. Luke’s Greek text uses “acceptable year,” which follows the Septuagint rendering of the Hebrew expression “year of . . . goodwill [or, “favor,” ftn.].” Jesus applied this verse to himself, indicating that his ministry of salvation marked the beginning of this “year” that was “acceptable” to Jehovah for showing his goodwill and accepting people. Jesus’ reading stopped short of Isaiah’s next words concerning God’s relatively short “day of vengeance,” apparently to keep the focus on that longer “acceptable year,” during which God would show favor to those turning to him for salvation.—Lu 19:9, 10; Joh 12:47.
For he says: “In an acceptable time I heard you”: Paul is quoting from the prophecy at Isa 49:8. This statement was apparently made to Isaiah, who represented the nation of Israel and personified that nation as a “servant.” (Isa 49:3) This was a restoration prophecy that had its first fulfillment when Israel was liberated from Babylon. However, Isaiah says that this “servant” of Jehovah would be given as “a covenant for the people” (Isa 49:8) and as “a light of nations, so that [God’s] salvation may reach the ends of the earth” (Isa 49:6). This marks the prophecy as Messianic, applying also to Christ Jesus as God’s “servant.” (Compare Isa 42:1-4, 6, 7 with Mt 12:18-21.) The “time of favor” was when Jehovah would answer and help his servant. Accordingly, during Jesus’ earthly life, he “offered up supplications and also petitions . . . to the One who was able to save him out of death, and he was favorably heard for his godly fear.” (Heb 5:7-9; compare Lu 22:41-44; 23:46; Joh 12:27, 28; 17:1-5.) It was, therefore, “a day of salvation” and “an acceptable time [or, “a time of favor”]” for God’s own Son, the foretold “servant.”—Compare study note on Lu 4:19.
Look! Now is the especially acceptable time. Look! Now is the day of salvation: The prophecy at Isa 49:8 that Paul quotes is both a restoration prophecy and a Messianic prophecy. While the fulfillment of this prophecy initially involved Jesus Christ, Paul quoted from this prophecy to indicate that it also applied to Christians. Paul urged them “not to accept the undeserved kindness of God and miss its purpose.” (2Co 6:1) Those Christians had become the spiritual “Israel of God” from Pentecost 33 C.E. onward. (Ga 6:16) However, they needed to prove worthy of God’s undeserved kindness so that the “acceptable time,” or time of favor, might be “the day of salvation” for them.
Ministers: Or “Servants.” The Bible often uses the Greek word di·aʹko·nos to refer to one who does not let up in humbly rendering service in behalf of others. (See study note on Mt 20:26.) At Ro 15:8, the term is used to describe Jesus. (See study note.) In this verse (1Co 3:5), Paul describes himself and Apollos as ministers, or servants, who helped the Corinthians to become believers. Their ministry, like the ministry of all baptized Christians, involved filling the spiritual needs of other humans.—Lu 4:16-21.
ministers: Or “servants.” The Bible often uses the Greek word di·aʹko·nos to refer to one who does not let up in humbly rendering service in behalf of others. (See study note on Mt 20:26.) Here Paul speaks of himself, Timothy, and all spirit-anointed Christians as “ministers of a new covenant.” (2Co 1:1) This means that among other things, they were serving its interests by preaching and teaching the good news in order to help others to come into the new covenant or to receive its benefits.—See study note on Ro 11:13.
we recommend ourselves as God’s ministers: In his letters to the Christians in Corinth, Paul has already referred to himself and his fellow workers as “ministers.” (See study notes on 1Co 3:5; 2Co 3:6.) In this context, the Greek verb rendered “we recommend ourselves” conveys the idea “we prove (show) ourselves to be.” Some men associated with the congregation in Corinth were not proving worthy of God’s undeserved kindness. (2Co 6:1, 3) So Paul and his associates recommended, or defended, themselves as God’s ministers “in every way.”
in the right hand and in the left: It seems likely that Paul here employs imagery based on the way that a soldier used his weapons. A soldier usually held his sword, a weapon of offense, in his right hand and carried his shield, for his defense, in his left. Paul used these weapons of righteousness, including God’s word, to advance the cause of truth and to defend pure worship from attack. (2Co 10:4, 5; Eph 6:16, 17; Heb 4:12) Unlike his enemies, Paul did not resort to abuse of power, deception, slander, or trickery to further his aims. (2Co 1:24; 10:9; 11:3, 13-15; 12:16, 17) Rather, he endeavored to use only means that were righteous, or just, in God’s eyes. (See Glossary, “Righteousness.”) Paul wanted all Christian ministers to be fully equipped for their vital work.
dying: Or “considered worthy of death.” During their ministry, Paul and his coworkers faced many trials that constantly brought them close to death. (Ac 14:19; 1Co 15:30, 31; 2Co 1:8; 4:11; 11:23-27) Still, they could exclaim yet look! we live. Despite all the tribulations and persecution they experienced, they were preserved alive.
We have opened our mouth to speak to you: Or “we have spoken openly to you.” The Greek phrase “our mouth has been open to you” is an idiom meaning “to speak frankly.”
We are not restricted in our affections for you: Or “You are not cramped for room within us.” The Greek word ste·no·kho·reʹo·mai, used twice in this verse, literally means “to put in a narrow place.” One lexicon explains the meaning of this phrase regarding the Corinthian Christians: “They are not boxed off in a narrow area of Paul’s affection.” Paul is, in effect, saying that there are no limits to the affection that he feels for the Corinthian Christians.
tender affections: The Greek term used here, splagkhʹnon, refers in a literal sense to the inward parts of the body. At Ac 1:18, it is rendered “insides [intestines].” In this context (2Co 6:12), the word refers to deeply felt, intense emotions. It is one of the strongest words in Greek for the feeling of compassion.
you too open your hearts wide: Or “you too widen out.” The Greek verb used here literally means “to make broad; to enlarge.” (Mt 23:5) Paul is using the word figuratively with regard to showing warm affection. One reference work comments that the expression describes showing “generous, expansive love.”
Do not become unevenly yoked: This illustration is based on a principle of agricultural life. A farmer does not yoke together, or join together, two animals that are very different in size or strength to work in the fields. If he did, the weaker animal would have to struggle to keep up the pace, and the stronger animal would have a greater burden to bear. Paul likely had in mind De 22:10, where the Mosaic Law forbade the Israelites to plow with a bull and a donkey yoked together. He used this principle of farming to illustrate how spiritually detrimental it would be for Christians to form alliances with individuals who were no part of the Christian congregation. For example, if a Christian married an unbeliever, the two would be unevenly yoked. In spiritual matters, they would not be united in thought and action.
unevenly yoked: The Greek word rendered “unevenly yoked” (he·te·ro·zy·geʹo), used only here in the Christian Greek Scriptures, literally means “to be differently yoked (joined together).” The related verb syn·zeuʹgny·mi is used at Mt 19:6 and Mr 10:9 in the phrase “what God has yoked [or, “joined”] together.” Both these verbs are related to the Greek word for “yoke,” zy·gosʹ.
harmony: Or “agreement.” The Greek word used here, sym·phoʹne·sis, literally means “a sounding together.” In a literal sense, it may have reference to the harmony produced by musical instruments. One lexicon defines this word as “a state of shared interests.” The intended answer to the first rhetorical question posed in this verse is: “There is, of course, absolutely no harmony, or agreement, between Christ and Satan.”
Belial: This term, found only here in the Christian Greek Scriptures, is used as a designation for Satan. Greek manuscripts use the spelling Be·liʹar, which is reflected in some translations. However, the Greek term corresponds to a Hebrew term, beli·yaʹʽal, which means “good-for-nothing; worthless.” It is applied to ideas, words, and counsel (De 15:9, where the expression is rendered “evil”; Ps 101:3; Na 1:11) and to “dreadful” circumstances (Ps 41:8). It is most frequently applied to worthless men of the lowest sort—for example, those who would induce Jehovah’s people to worship other gods. (De 13:13) This expression is also used in a number of other verses to describe wicked men. (Jg 19:22-27; 20:13; 1Sa 25:17, 25; 2Sa 20:1; 22:5; 1Ki 21:10, 13) In the first century C.E., Belial was used as a descriptive name for Satan. The Syriac Peshitta reads “Satan” here at 2Co 6:15. Paul usually calls the adversary of God by the name Satan (Ro 16:20; 2Co 2:11) but also uses the designations “the Devil” (Eph 6:11; 1Ti 3:6), “the wicked one” (2Th 3:3), and “the god of this system of things” (2Co 4:4).
what does a believer share in common with an unbeliever?: Or “what share does a believer have with an unbeliever?” The Greek word me·risʹ, meaning “share; portion,” is used in a similar sense at Ac 8:21, where it is rendered “part.”
a believer: Or “a faithful person.” The Greek word pi·stosʹ can describe someone who shows trust, or faith, in someone or something, that is, a believing person. On the other hand, the same word can also describe a person whom others find to be trustworthy, faithful, dependable. In some cases, as in this verse, both meanings are possible.
just as God said: By quoting from or alluding to several texts in the Hebrew Scriptures, Paul shows that God’s attitude toward spiritual cleanness has always been the same. Here in verse 16, Paul is referring to Le 26:11, 12 and Eze 37:27.
Therefore, get out from among them: In this context (2Co 6:14–7:1), Paul admonishes the Corinthian Christians not to become unevenly yoked with unbelievers and to remain clean. Here in verse 17, he quotes Isa 52:11, a prophetic command to the Jews who returned to Jerusalem from Babylon in 537 B.C.E. Those Jews were carrying with them the sacred utensils that King Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple in Jerusalem. Not only did they have to keep themselves clean in an outward ceremonial way but they also had to have clean hearts and rid themselves of all false worship. Likewise, the Corinthian Christians had to avoid the unclean temples of false religion and separate themselves from all unclean acts of idolatry. They had to “cleanse [themselves] of every defilement of flesh and spirit.”—2Co 7:1.
says Jehovah: In this verse, Paul quotes several phrases from Isa 52:11, where the context makes it clear that Jehovah God is the Source of the message. (Isa 52:4, 5) Paul links the quotes together by using a phrase that occurs hundreds of times in the Septuagint to translate Hebrew phrases for “declares Jehovah,” “says Jehovah,” and “this is what Jehovah says.” Some examples can be found at Isa 1:11; 48:17; 49:18 (quoted at Ro 14:11); 52:4, 5.—See App. C3 introduction; 2Co 6:17.
says Jehovah, the Almighty: The statements Paul quotes in this verse are apparently taken from 2Sa 7:14 and Isa 43:6. The phrase “says Jehovah, the Almighty,” seems to be quoted from the Septuagint version of 2Sa 7:8, where the original Hebrew text reads: “This is what Jehovah of armies says.” With quotes from the Hebrew Scriptures, Paul urges Christians to avoid false worship and the use of lifeless, powerless idols. By doing so, they can qualify as “sons and daughters” of “Jehovah, the Almighty.”—See App. C1 and C2.
the Almighty: The Greek word Pan·to·kraʹtor, here rendered “the Almighty,” could also be translated “the Ruler Over All; the One Who Has All Power.” In this context, Paul urges Christians to avoid false worship and the use of lifeless, powerless idols (2Co 6:16) in order to qualify as children of “the Almighty.” In the Christian Greek Scriptures, this is the first of ten occurrences of the term rendered “the Almighty.” The other nine are found in the book of Revelation.—Re 1:8; 4:8; 11:17; 15:3; 16:7, 14; 19:6, 15; 21:22.
This illustration shows a bull and a donkey yoked together for work. The Mosaic Law did not allow such a practice. Bulls were far stronger than donkeys, so the animals would cause each other discomfort when they pulled a plow or hauled a load. (De 22:10; Pr 12:10) Paul used this practice as a word picture when he wrote that Christians should “not become unevenly yoked with unbelievers.”—2Co 6:14.