Online Bible Commentary
2 Corinthians 6:3 We give no offense in anything, that our ministry may not be blamed. 4 But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, 5 in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings; 6 by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love, 7 by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, 8 by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report; as deceivers, and yet true; 9 as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as chastened, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things. (NKJV)
In the preceding passage Paul writes of the day of salvation. The day of salvation is that period of time when salvation is possible. The day of salvation began on Pentecost and ends with the Rapture.
In this passage, Paul writes of the Christian behavior that will best provide for the salvation of people. He uses, as an example, the behavior of himself and his fellow workers in Christ to illustrate his point.
Paul begins with a general description of Christian behavior. He states “We give no offense in anything, that our ministry may not be blamed. But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God:” (vv. 3-4a).
The literal translation of the Greek for “offense” is “cause of stumbling” (v. 3a). This a reference to the term “stumbling block”, which is used in the Bible to identify behavior that keeps others from coming to Christ, or following Christ. It is a behavior to avoid, because this behavior could “be blamed” for others not coming to Christ (v. 3b).
Unbelievers often are looking for an excuse to not follow Christ. Any behavior that they see exhibited by Christians with which they do not agree may be that excuse that they are looking for.
Next, Paul lists ways that we can “commend ourselves as ministers of God” (v. 4a). In other words, we can distinguish ourselves from being seen as phony to being seen as authentic Christians.
Verses 4b-10 can be broken down into three parts, beginning with the prepositions “in”,” through” and “as”. In the text the NKJV begins the phrases in verses 6-7b with the word “by”. However, in the Greek the phrases begin with the word “in”.
The Greek word for “in” is en which is used to begin each phrase in verses 4b-7b. These are examples of passive Christian behavior.
The Greek word for “through” is dia, which is used to begin each phrase in verses 7c-8b. These are examples of active Christian behavior.
The Greek word for “as” is ws, which is used to begin each phrase in verses 8c-10. These are examples of reactive Christian behavior.
Examples of passive Christian behavior that Paul cites are: “patience” (waiting on God), “tribulations” (troubles), “needs” (emergencies), “distresses” (stressful difficulties), “stripes” (floggings, physical punishment), “imprisonments”, “tumults” (riots, persecution), “labors” (persisting in God’s work), “sleeplessness” (on alert), “fastings” (by choice or necessity), “purity” (holiness), “knowledge” (wisdom) , “longsuffering”, “kindness”, “the Holy Spirit” (choosing to live in), “sincere love”, “the word of truth” (abiding by), and “the power of God” (relying on).
Examples of active Christian behavior are: “the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left” (righteousness through the best offense, a sword, the word of God, in one hand and the best defense, a shield, faith, in the other hand) (Eph. 6:16-17), “honor and dishonor” (honoring God and dishonoring Satan), and “evil report and good report” (exposing evil and declaring good).
Examples of reactive Christian behavior are: “deceivers, and yet true”; “unknown, and yet well known”; “dying, and behold we live”; “chastened, and yet not killed”; “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing”; “poor, yet making many rich”; “having nothing, and yet possessing all things”.
In other words, the world sees us one way, but we react in an opposite way. The world sees us as deceivers, unknown, dying, restrained, sorrowful, poor, and having nothing. And our reaction is to speak truth, to be known by God, to have eternal life, to persevere, to be joyful, to enrich many people with the Gospel, and to possess all the riches of God.
Christian behavior consists of passive, active and reactive behavior. As Christians we are called to exhibit these behaviors. It is through exhibiting Christian behavior that we can draw many to Christ.