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During this four-week period, Epistle readings from the Revised Common Lectionary are from a section of the Second Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians sometimes referred to as the “great digression”. In chapter 2 verse 14, the Apostle digressed from travel plans to praise God for calling him to preach the Lord Jesus Christ. His Epistle returns to addressing his travel plans in chapter 7 verse 5.
Second Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians 6: 1-13 (NIV)
1 As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. 2 For he says,
“In the time of my favour I heard you,
and in the day of salvation I helped you.”
I tell you, now is the time of God’s favour, now is the day of salvation.
3 We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. 4 Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; 5 in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; 6 in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; 7 in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; 8 through glory and dishonour, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; 9 known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; 10 sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
11 We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. 12 We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. 13 As a fair exchange – I speak as to my children – open wide your hearts also.
Of what was the Apostle Paul speaking when he said, “now is the day of salvation” (verse 2b)?
He was not referring to the day of the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth, “The King of the Jews” (John 19: 19). He was not referring to the first day of the following week when our Lord rose from the dead. He was not referring to the Lord Jesus Christ’s ascension several weeks later to be with the Father in glory.
Paul urged the church in Corinth “not to receive God’s grace in vain” (verse 1). They had received God’s grace when he first preached the gospel of Jesus Christ among them. If they were to ignore that gospel, if they were foolishly to pursue salvation by some other means (we have already learned from the preaching of Peter in Jerusalem [Acts 4: 12] “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”), then they would have received in vain the grace that God extended to them through Paul’s preaching and teaching.
The day of salvation is the day of receiving the gospel of Jesus Christ. Salvation is there, freely offered, requiring nothing more than to receive it, believe it and embrace it as a promise already fulfilled.
Paul was determined never to put a “stumbling block in anyone’s path” (verse 3). There was no garnish on the message he preached. There was no embellishment, there was no additional clause to the contract, no fine print. He wanted members of the church in Corinth to open their hearts to him because he wanted them to receive his unencumbered message of salvation.
That same message applies to us. It requires no embellishment for twenty-first century hearers. Simply “believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” (Acts 16: 31).