2 Corinthians, Lesson 9: God Opens the Heart

open heart (610x351)Paul and Timothy just appealed to the Corinthian congregation, quoting Isaiah 49:8. They then say, “Now is a [not “the”] favorable time, now is a [not “the”] day of salvation.” Every time God’s grace comes to someone, that day, that time, is one of salvation. This shows the continuing nature of God coming to us in His grace. Every Divine Service is a day of salvation.


Paul and Timothy’s Ministry

Read 2 Corinthians 6:3-4a

“no obstacle in anyone’s way”: Here, Paul and Timothy use a double negative: “nothing in no way.” This emphasizes their concern not to have anything that they might do compromise their ministry.

  • What is this “ministry” that Paul and Timothy strive to carry out, so “a day of salvation” is always being delivered through them? (Hint: They earlier mentioned “ministry” in 2 Corinthians 3:7-11)


  • To whom do Paul and Timothy commend (entrust) themselves?


  • What do they commend/entrust?


Pastor’s translation: “…but in every way, entrusting ourselves as God’s slaves…”

Here we see the contrast of letting “nothing in no way” get in the way of their ministry. But when it came to enduring suffering for their ministry, “in every way,” they entrusted themselves to God.


Their List of Sufferings

Read 2 Corinthians 6:4b-7a

This list of sufferings presupposes their earlier list of sufferings in 2 Corinthians 4:8-10, but it also adds to it. Both lists begin with thlipsis, “affliction” and refer to “God’s power” (6:6, alluded to 4:7-12).


Lesson 9, What's in the List of Sufferings


Read 2 Corinthians 6:7b

Having just mentioned “the Holy Spirit, in genuine love; a word of truth, God’s power,” Paul and Timothy continue down that line of thought. The Holy Spirit and a word of truth are the weapons they figuratively wield, one in each hand. This carries with it the idea that the Holy Spirit and a word of truth [which, in this case, is God’s word of truth] work in concert with each other to do God’s work for the Christian. Apart from the Holy Spirit, God’s word of truth is simply information. Without God’s Word of truth, the Holy Spirit is unattached from where He promises to work. But with them both comes “God’s power of salvation” (Romans 1:16), “reconciling the world to Himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19).

Read 2 Corinthians 6:8a

  • With the Holy Spirit and a word of truth, in what situations can Paul and Timothy endure?


How the False Teachers in Corinth Viewed Paul and Timothy

Read 2 Corinthians 6:8b-10

Paul and Timothy now tackle seven accusations leveled against them at Corinth. After each accusation, they list a contrasting fact. Those outsiders at Corinth, with letters of recommendation, only see their outward afflictions, but know nothing of the spiritual motives and joys hidden behind their suffering.


Lesson 9, Appearances vs. Reality


A Further Appeal

Paul and Timothy now say that they have been an open book to the Corinthians. However, they say that in a way that shows the connection between the heart and the mouth.

Read 2 Corinthians 6:11

“We have spoken freely to you”: Literally, “Our mouth is open to you.”

  • Why is Paul and Timothy’s “mouth” open to the Corinthians?


Excursus: The Connection between the Heart and the Mouth

2 Corinthians 6:11 literally reads: “Our mouth is open to you, Corinthians; our heart is opened.” Paul and Timothy’s heart being opened is in the passive voice: “is opened.” This is something that was done to them; the implication is that God has opened their heart to the Corinthians.

What follows, then, is the condition of their mouth—it is open. The reason their mouth is open is because God has opened their heart. They can only say what they say because God has opened their heart, for where the heart is, the mouth follows.

In Romans 10:9-10, writing to the Christians [note the “you,” not “they”] in Rome, Paul said:

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved [on the Last Day, when God will raise you from the dead]. For one believes with his heart and is justified and confesses with his mouth and is saved.

In the Greek, “confess” means “to say the same thing.” Thus, the mouth can only confess what already exists somewhere else, in this case, the heart. Confessing with your mouth and believing in your heart are not two, separate independent actions, but one action taking place in two locations. The “and” functions to connect the mouth and heart into one, not separate them.

When Paul says, “One believes with his heart and is justified” and then says, “…confesses with his mouth and is saved,” he was using parallelism, saying the same thing through different words or imagery. Belief and confessing are “two sides of the same coin,” just as is justification and salvation.


Lesson 9, The Connections between the Heart and Mouth


Paul and Timothy speak as they do to the Corinthians because their heart has been opened by God.



Read 2 Corinthians 6:12-13

Having just mentioned the heart and mouth, verse 12 now uses splagchnon. Splagchnon does mean “feelings,” but it is also the word for bowels! In effect, the Corinthians are constipated, not because of Paul and Timothy, but because of themselves.

  • What is the solution to the Corinthians’ “constipation”? (Okay, Pastor is getting a touch freewheeling here!)


“widen your hearts”: The Greek has an imperative, passive verb: “be opened.” This is a command—but it’s in the passive voice. The Corinthians don’t have the power within them to do what Paul and Timothy command of them! Only God can open their heart. So, they need to be where God does that.


Excursus: Reconciliation, Putting It All Together from the Last Two Lessons

Last’s week’s and today’s lesson are all about reconciliation. They’re about the Corinthians being reconciled to God and, from there, to Paul and Timothy. The noun, reconciliation, means “exchange”; the verb, reconcile, means to “change one thing for another.”

God is the agent and doer of reconciliation. That is why we see so much passive voice used when it comes to reconciliation: “be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20).

The object of God’s reconciling work is mankind, identified as “us” (2 Corinthians 5:18) and as “the world” (2 Corinthians 5:19). “This is how God loved the world [cosmos]…” (John 3:16). In Colossians 1:19-23, Paul and Timothy even delve into God reconciling the entire universe.

The means by which God does His reconciling is through Jesus. “This is how God loved the world [cosmos]: He gave His one-and-only Son…” (John 3:16). God brought this about when Jesus Christ became sin to save us. “God made the One who did not know sin [Jesus] to be sin for us, so that, in Him, we would become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthian5:20).

The delivery of God’s reconciliation in Christ is through His ministers. “We are ambassadoring [the word presbyter, “elder,” a term referring pastors] you: Be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20). A pastor’s ambassadorial task is to deliver God’s reconciliation of the world to Himself through Christ through the preached Word and Sacraments.

Our Lutheran Confessions also speak this way. Article 4 of our Augsburg Confession covers the topic of justification, where God regards and counts someone’s “faith as righteousness in His sight.” The Augsburg Confession than goes on to cover how we get such faith. “So that we may obtain this faith, God instituted the Office of Preaching, providing the Gospel and the Sacraments” (AC, V, para 1).

Objectively, God’s reconciliation in Christ is an-already accomplished fact and reality. Jesus “has died for all, therefore all have died” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). As an objective reality, everyone has already “died with Christ.” However, that objective reality needs to become a subjective reality, so “those who might live…” (2 Corinthians 5:15). Notice the switch from “all” (objective reality) to “those” (subjective reality).


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