2 Corinthians 6 - IVP New Testament Commentaries

A Plea for the Corinthians' Affection

Paul's original appeal not to receive God's grace in vain takes a personal turn at verse 11. Having demonstrated the blameless and sacrificial character of his record as a minister of the gospel, he now makes a personal plea for the church's affection: We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. . . . Open wide your hearts also (vv. 11-13). The text is literally "our moutes are open to you." The perfect tense bears the sense "our moutes stand open" (aneogen). Barrett suggests that we translate verse 11 "I have let my mouth run away with me" in order to make the connection with verses 3-10 more apparent (1973:191). But the idea is that of being completely truthful with someone and not holding anything back (Louw and Nida 1988-1989:33.252; "frankly" [TEV, JB, NEB], "freely" [NIV], "hiding nothing" [Phillips]).

Not only has Paul been candid with them, but he has opened wide his heart to them as well (v. 11). The verb platyno means to "widen" or "extend." The perfect tense depicts a present state of affairs: "our hearts are wide toward you" (peplatyntai). So as a fair exchange Paul asks them to open wide their hearts also (v. 13). The fact that Paul calls them by name (you, Corinthians) bespeaks the intensity of his feelings. He also addresses them as his children (I speak as to my children). Through his preaching of the gospel they had become family; and like any father, Paul desires a place in their heart.

At the moment, however, the Corinthians' affections toward their spiritual father appear to be cramped (v. 12). To be sure, Paul is not witheolding [his] affection (v. 12). His heart is wide open (v. 11). So, if there is any constraint, it is on their part, not his. The Greek verb stenochoreo ("witheold") comes from stenos ("narrow") + choria ("space"), which in the passive means "to be in a narrow place" or "cramped for space." The nuance is not easily captured in English. It is more than a witheolding of affection (NIV) or restraint of feelings (Phillips). Paul used the nominal form earlier of tight corners in the ministry from which there is no apparent way of escape (6:4; compare 4:8). Here the sense is that the Corinthians have become constrained in their feelings for Paul, so that he is finding himself gradually squeezed out of their hearts.

To experience the withdrawal of the affection of someone close to us can be a devastating experience. Psychologists have shown that the human need for intimacy is so great that babies who are fed and diapered but receive no affection from their caregiver can become withdrawn, remote and even autistic.

The Corinthians were not deprived of affection from their spiritual caregiver: We are not witheolding our affection from you, says Paul (v. 12). The noun splanchnon, translated affection in the NIV and "bowels" in the KJV, actually refers to the inward parts (heart, lungs, liver and kidneys). Like the noun heart, it was used metaphorically of the seat of a person's feelings--especially feelings of anger and love. Paul's feelings for the Corinthians are wide open. All he asks from them in return is a fair exchange (v. 13). Antimisthia, a word that has been found only in Christian writings, stresses the reciprocal nature of a transaction. Its meaning is similar to the Latin quid pro quo--something given in fair exchange for something received. What Paul asks for by way of a fair exchange is that the Corinthians open wide their hearts as he has opened wide his own.

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Paul's Ministry Credentials

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Unequal Yoking with Unbelievers

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