2 Corinthians 6

Right and Wrong Relating

Useless Effort

We urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain (2 Corinthians 6:1).

The word “vain” refers to something that is devoid of value, being without purpose or result. The massive obelisk shown here was never completed, likely because it developed a crack (visible toward the top) that made it unusable. Having been rejected, it was abandoned in the quarry. The unfinished obelisk is nearly a third larger than any ancient Egyptian obelisk ever erected. If finished, it would have measured around 138 feet (42 m) in height.

Combat Equipment

By the weapons of righteousness, for the right hand and for the left (2 Corinthians 6:7).

The word “weapon” could refer to military equipment used either offensively or defensively. The typical Roman soldier carried an offensive weapon, such as a sword or spear, in one hand, and a defensive weapon, such as a shield, in the other. This relief found at Pisidian Antioch depicts both a spear and a shield.

A Just Trade

Now as a fair trade—I speak to you as children—open your hearts wide to us (2 Corinthians 6:13).

The idea of a fair trade is illustrated here by a balance scale. Much of the business conducted in Paul’s day was by volume or weight. Merchants used balance scales like the ones shown here to assure their customers that they were receiving the merchandise they had agreed upon. Unless they had been purposefully altered by an unscrupulous merchant, scales like this told the truth. This display was photographed at the British Museum.

Unequal Yoking

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14).

The term “unequally yoked” means literally to yoke together two different kinds of draft animals. An unequal yoking like this was naturally difficult, as two different species had different height, speed or pace, and different pulling abilities. While it could be done, it was far from ideal. Deuteronomy 22:10 explicitly prohibited plowing with an ox and a donkey yoked together. This photochrom image from the Holy Land was taken in the 1890s.

Temple Idols

For we are the temple of the living God (2 Corinthians 6:16).

Pagan temples housed a statue of the god they were built to venerate, creating a visible connection with that world. Paul adopts this imagery to describe the relationship between God and the believer. Inside a full-scale replica of the Parthenon in Nashville, Tennessee, sculptor Alan LeQuire created a statue of Athena Parthenos. This provides a striking visual of the way that the Corinthians would have imagined a deity residing in a pagan temple.

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