Text: 2 Corinthians 6:1-10
“We appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain…Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” Thus, St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians in his second letter. In his first letter to them, he was very direct in addressing the issues they faced. He spoke very clearly and authoritatively concerning the sins that were being openly committed among the congregation. The Corinthians received Paul’s word, repented of their sins, and received forgiveness. Through faith in Christ they were restored to a right relationship with God and each other, and they were renewed to live the life of faith, to live in the good works produced by the Holy Spirit within them. Still, the temptation remained among them to be idle in the faith.
To be idle in the faith is what St. Paul meant by receiving the grace of God in vain. To receive God’s grace in vain is to hear the Good News of Christ, believe in the Gospel, and then to live as if nothing has changed. To receive the Gospel in vain is to hear and believe the Gospel, but then act the complete opposite – or to do nothing. The Corinthians struggled here, and we do, too. St. Paul said to them that now is the favorable time and day of salvation. The time promised so long ago through the prophets has come. The kingdom of God has been brought in by Christ’s incarnation, and we live now in the forgiveness of sins. Now is the time for the Word to spread to all the world so that many believe. For night will soon come, when no one can work. Since we live now in the time of God’s grace, let us use this time in fruitful ways: by a faithful witness to Christ and endurance together as His body.
As St. Paul said, “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” What Paul means is that the time that God had promised, where salvation would be accomplished, and sins forgiven, has now come. Beginning with the promise made to Adam and Eve in the Garden, then with the promises made to the Patriarchs, and continuing through the prophets, God’s people lived in faith in the Messiah and longed for His arrival. Then, in the fullness of time, God sent forth His Son to be born of the Virgin Mary – to be born under the Law – to redeem us who were held captive beneath it. Through in Jesus, we receive the forgiveness of our sins and eternal life. Our past and continuing transgressions are not counted against us by God’s grace in Christ Jesus.
So that all might hear and believe His saving Word, Christ commissioned the Apostles, St. Paul and the others to spread His Word. And, they did so, “by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech.” They devoted themselves to the spread of the Word because they knew that, by the Word, all things are made new. When the Word is preached, the Holy Spirit works through that Word to create faith in those who hear it. When faith is created – at that moment – an individual receives salvation. The salvation that Christ long ago accomplished on the cross is applied to them. By faith, dead sinners are made alive saints. For those who hear the Word of God and receive the gift of faith, it is the day of salvation. And now is the favorable time, in which the Word of God is spreading to all the world. It has even spread to us, we who have heard the Word and believed, who have been and are continually renewed by the Word and Sacrament.
Since now is the favorable time and the day of salvation – the time in which the Gospel of Christ is spreading to all the world – let us use this time to be faithful and fruitful stewards of God’s grace. To receive God’s grace in vain, as St. Paul said, is to hear the Gospel and act as if we haven’t. As St. Paul would say to the Romans, it would be to use God’s grace as a cover-up while we continue to sin. To the contrary, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” By faith in Christ our sins are forgiven, and we are raised to new life. We become new creations and receive new and right desires by the working of the Holy Spirit within us. Two of these desires, good desires produced in us by the Spirit, come to mind.
The first is this, as St. Paul said, now is the day of salvation in which the Good News of Christ is given to the world and where sins are forgiven by grace through faith – but how are people to believe unless they hear, and how are they to hear unless someone shares with them the saving Gospel? Believe it or not, there are people who haven’t heard of Jesus. And, moreover, there are many who have heard of Jesus – but not the true Gospel. The true Gospel is that Jesus Christ suffered and died to accomplish that is necessary. We receive salvation not through some moral perfection on our part, but by God’s grace as a gift. St. Paul and the Apostles endured many things and traveled far so that more would hear this Good News. We are called to share it with those in our daily lives.
The second holy desire produced in us by the Spirit was actually brought up last week as well: steadfastness and endurance in God’s Word. In our reading we heard of all things St. Paul endured for the sake of the Word. We, likewise, have been called to suffer with Christ. In fact, you cannot have Christ without bearing the cross. But, we do not bear the cross alone. The Holy Spirit produces in us endurance in the face of the world, but this endurance is lived out together as the body of Christ. We have all been called by the one Spirit, we all have partaken of the one body of Christ; we are united with Him and each other by Baptism. When we are together, encouraging, supporting, teaching and forgiving each other, we become hardened against the assaults of the devil and the world.
“Behold, now is the day of salvation,” St. Paul said. Now is the time in which the kingdom of God is among us. Now is the time in which the Gospel is being spread to all the world, and soon the time will come when all work will cease. Since we have heard and believed the Gospel of Christ, by the work of the Holy Spirit, let us use this time in fruitful ways – by faithful witness to Christ in our lives and by enduring together as His body on earth. Amen.
 2 Corinthians 6:1-2. English Standard Version.
 2 Cor. 6:4-7.
 2 Cor. 5:17.