Updated: Feb 4
As we work together with Christ, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says,
“At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you.”
See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see– we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
We have spoken frankly to you Corinthians; our heart is wide open to you. There is no restriction in our affections, but only in yours. In return– I speak as to children– open wide your hearts also.
This is the Epistle selection from the Episcopal Lectionary for the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B 2018. In the numbering system that lists each Sunday in an ordinal fashion, this Sunday is referred to as Proper 7. This will next be read aloud in church by a reader on Sunday, June 24, 2018. This is important because Paul stated salvation comes when one has been filled with the Holy Spirit of God, becoming one with Christ.
When Paul begins this sixth chapter of his second epistle to the Christians of Corinth by stating, “not to accept the grace of God in vain,” this is after he concluded chapter five by saying Christians were the “ambassadors of God, through Christ.” This means the word “kenon,” translated as “vain,” means not to be Christian in “empty, foolish, false, pretentious, and hollow” ways. That means Paul was telling the Christians of Corinth that they were not graced by the presence of God, through Christ, for self-promotional reasons. The word “kenon,” therefore, means not to be fruitless. An Apostle of Christ, as Jesus Christ reborn, is a continuation of the living vine, for the purpose of bringing forth new fruit for God, through Christ.
As a way of supporting that urgent message, Paul then quoted the prophet Isaiah, who said, “In the time of my favor I will answer you, and in the day of salvation I will help you.” (Isaiah 49:8, NIV) This different translation makes it more readily seen that “At an acceptable time” is when God finds one’s actions are “favorable” to Him. It should not be thought that this means when one is ready for God’s help, such that “at that acceptable time” all one needs to do is snap one’s fingers and God is there to serve, like some genie in a magic lamp. It is when God find favor in a servant, such as what makes one a prophet or saint. Thus, “I have listened to you” says one has said “favorable” things to the LORD in prayer.
The part of Isaiah’s prophetic verse that says, “on a day of salvation I have helped you,” then led Paul to proclaim, “now is the acceptable time” and “now is the day of salvation!” Both of those declarations were led by Paul saying, “idou” (form of “horaó”), or “Behold!” One cannot “see” the “time” or the “day of salvation,” but one has to be able to “discern” it and “perceive” it spiritually. One is capable of seeing in that manner when one has received the Christ Mind.
It is also to read “in a day” (“ū-ḇə-yō-wm”), where the article identifies “a day,” in the singular number. This singularity, as “a day” differs from “the day,” as that singularity implies only one day of all days. Because salvation is relevant at all times, not just some nebulous day somewhere in the future, “a day” represents many days when individuals are saved. That become “a day” when God has “helped you,” where the individuality becomes specific of all Christians, but more importantly to the individual “you,” the reader.
One must realize this “day of salvation” is that time when one switches from being a human with a soul carrying the guilt of sin through life to being an Apostle or Saint, whose soul has been cleansed by God’s Holy Spirit. This is how salvation occurs. It occurs “in a day” when life gains new meaning and not when one has reached the darkness of death (night). One cannot be saved without God’s breath of life (a soul) sacrificing the self (ego) for the Mind of Christ (Jesus Christ reborn). This can only be done during one’s human life, not after death.
This is then a reference to the seventh day of Creation, which God deemed holy and created the first priest to be sent to mankind, His Son of Man (Hebrew adam). The soul breathed into that bodily form was the same that would be within the Son of God (His only Son soul), Jesus Christ.
The seventh day of Creation was not followed by any other numbered says.
Because the first six days of Creation lasted the equivalent of billions of years (or more … however many human years science guestimates and more), the human sense of time means we are still in the seventh day of Creation at this moment. We are in the day that God sent religion to the world, which was quickly mutated into a multitude of false religions, which do nothing to lead one to a personal day of salvation. The seventh day represented the day religion was born into the world. However, only the One God (YWHW), the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Father of Jesus Christ, can offer mankind redemption. Salvation is then when one receives the Holy Spirit and transforms into the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
In respect to this arrival of one’s soul “in the day” made holy by God (not Sunday or some 24-hour period), one becomes the servant of God for the remainder of one’s life. This is not an easy road to travel without the presence of God and Christ. When Paul wrote, “We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry,” a Saint does not ever try to block the sunlight of God from shining on His servants. The truth will always enlighten and enhance one’s commitment to God, with no Apostles ever casting shadows of doubt onto the faith of all.
The role of an Apostle, which has to be realized by all who have the reward of salvation, is then described by Paul. Here he wrote, “as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute.” All of these rays of light shone forth to the people of Creation, those still lurking in the sixth day without salvation, will be drawn to the goodness a Saint shows. Still, none of these accomplishments listed by Paul can be achieved by self-will or ego-driven desire to proclaim righteousness. One must be saved to display these characteristics of commitment, married to serve God.
For all that goodness shown, the world mostly rejects light exposing the sins of darkness. Thus, Paul wrote, “We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see– we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.”
This level of persecution will break human will, making one grovel under the tortures and punishments of being righteous in an evil world. Being righteous is not for one to be rewarded with material comforts in this temporal life, but to receive everlasting life beyond this world. To reach that goal, again, shows the need for the Holy Spirit within one, so one can accept the punishment or escape, as God sees fit for one’s soul.
When we read that Paul wrote, “We have spoken frankly to you Corinthians; our heart is wide open to you,” this translation misses a double statement of “opening.” The literal Greek says, “The mouth of us has been opened to you, Corinthians; the heart of us has been expanded (or “opened wider”). This more clearly states that Paul and his companions did not visit Corinth and begin speaking from a big fleshy brain inside their skulls. The opening of the mouths, just as the opening of their hearts, means God spoke through them, sending God’s love from Saints to seekers. More than the power of words spoken by humans, the Corinthian Jews and Gentiles had their hearts and minds opened to receive holy words of explanation to questions posed.
When Paul then stated, “There is no restriction in our affections, but only in yours,” this says the individuals do not always feel the need to have their day of salvation and reject deep feelings unfamiliar. Some will not desire salvation because the lack expectation. Paul, as all Apostles of Christ, can only answer the questions of seekers. They can only open their hearts and emit the truth and love of God. It is then up to the individual as to whether or not they will receive that Spirit of Christ.
To conclude this selected reading, Paul wrote, “In return– I speak as to children– open wide your hearts also.” This says Paul spoke (“mouth opened”) as the Father. All humanity represents the children of God; but, like Cain, all have the right to be the prodigal son and go his or her own way. An Apostle does not condemn rejection, but instead leaves the door to one’s heart open, for when the world has driven a lost soul back, in search of the seventh day. A seeker needs to desire to be made holy by the presence of God within one, because that soul-changing experience will last forevermore.
As an epistle selection for the fifth Sunday after Pentecost, when one’s personal ministry should be underway, Paul offers us a view of how the day of salvation was “now” then and is “now” today. It will be the seventh day of Creation for all times now and onward. Those who fall in love with God and become His brides, will be those whose lamps are faithfully kept lit, even the darkest hour of night.
Paul and his companions in Christ urged the Corinthians just as all readers subsequent, “[that] you also not to accept the grace of God in vain.” There were Jews in Corinth who knew God promised a Messiah, through the prophets, but they were wary to accept one, due to a preponderance of humans claiming to be the Savior. Paul urged them not to believe in Jesus as the Messiah vainly, as a false pretense of lip service belief.
The same urgent message applies today, where the religion of Christianity is in vain when led by false shepherds. Christianity today has become a mirror image of Israel, who sought not to be a nation of priests, led by God, but a nation of self-motivated souls hungering for the freedom to be like the slaves they were when in Egypt. American Christians want to be a nation of human souls likewise free to be slaves to sin, under leaders to say what the people want to hear. America is not a nation of priest who serve God, whose king is the rebirth of Jesus Christ within.
Christianity leads the same false life whenever it is not completely a collection of Saints, all in the name of Jesus Christ. A Church is whenever two or more gather in his name, because whenever that gathering takes place he will be there. Christians do not need fancy buildings, intricate organizations, or political agendas to serve God as His Son. Jesus Christ makes one a Christian because he becomes one’s Savior on one’s personal day of salvation.
The lesson today says true Christians cannot offer the day of salvation to anyone. They could only do the work that proved to God the deepest sincerity from within one’s heart and mind, to want to know God personally. That level of commitment, as shown in the work of Jacob for his true love Rachel, must be repeated so that God will respond like Laban to us, seeing the seeker’s work is acceptable and worthy of being given one’s day of salvation. As such, all Apostles must do the continued work that becomes fruitful, and produces new growth. This is how one speaks to seekers as children, opening one’s mouth by an expanded heart so others can receive the nutrients of righteousness that spurs their own personal shoot of growth.
Ministry to the LORD is all about placing one’s being as an example of goodness before others. Goodness will attract those who are seeking to be good, just as it will cause those who reject goodness (evil ones) to attack and persecute. These acts of persecution are what frighten away seekers, so a Saint has to depend on God and Christ to open one’s mouth so the truth will expose the evildoers for what they are. Even evildoers can discern the truth and feel an open heart can melt their anger away. A “fence-sitter” looks to the righteous to win battles of logic against those who boast how wayward Christianity has become. One cannot have that effect by pointing a finger of condemnation back as an evildoer, because that is a reflection of evil in oneself.
In ministry it is important to find those who have also entered in the day of salvation, just as Paul wrote letters to fellow Christians in cities he had visited. A Church has to be a gathering of Saints to support one another. It cannot be a clandestine effort, where one believes no one in the world is filled with the Holy Spirit. A Christian is not a spy sent out by God. There is not reason to keep the truth secret. By entering into ministry, God will lead one to other Saints and make one find the external support one needs to continue in service to God. If one ministers to one’s family, then the Church is that unit of faith.