The Enlarged Heart is Essential For Ministry

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“O ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged. Ye are not straitened in us, but ye are straitened in your own bowels. Now for a recompense in the same, (I speak as unto my children,) be ye also enlarged” (KJV, 2 Cor. 6:11-13).

“O ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you”

Paul loved the Corinthian believers, although it was not easy. His ministry toward them was one of much heartache. The believers in Corinth were gifted. However, based on 1 and 2 Corinthians, it is clear that spiritual giftedness does not necessarily equate with godliness. Nevertheless, the deep emotion of Paul is felt when he states, “O ye Corinthians.”

Paul rarely named the recipients of his letter in the middle of his writing. Only two other places can be seen of this practice other than 2 Corinthians 6:11. The first is in the book of Galatians.

The Galatian church had begun to turn toward a different Gospel, so Paul sharply rebuked them in his letter and also stated them by name.

The second is in the book of Philippians. Paul sincerely appreciated the Philippian’s involvement with him in ministry and called them by name when expressing his gratitude. Yet again, in 2 Corinthians 6:11, the deep emotion of Paul shines through.

Paul starts this passage by speaking of his mouth being opened to the Corinthians. But surely the question will arise, “What does that mean?” Paul was stating that he was speaking frankly with the believers.

Thus, Paul was speaking clearly with them to avoid misunderstanding. Earlier, Paul had said, “Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech” (2 Cor. 3:12). Paul used plain speech with the Corinthians, wanting to be heard and understood.

“our heart is enlarged”

Paul spoke of his heart being enlarged toward the people. In saying this, Paul spoke of his heart being opened and widened toward them. As a result, Paul was sympathetic and understanding. He was pastoral and merciful. He did not want to turn them away but sought to be approachable.

He was for the Corinthians as God was also for the Corinthians. The differences between them were not powerful enough to separate them from the love of Christ or to separate them from Paul’s love.

If it were just plain speech that Paul brought to the table, the outcome would likely be fruitless. However, Paul coupled his plain speech with love. Paul had already told the Corinthians, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal” (1 Cor. 13:1).

Simply speaking, the right words would not have been enough. Instead, Paul knew that love must be foundational for ministry.

In speaking to the believers in the Philippian church, Paul said, “Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace” (Phil. 1:7).

Paul held the believers in Philippi in his heart, and surely the Corinthians were there too.

“Ye are not straitened in us”

Paul moves from having an enlarged heart to the Corinthians not being straitened in Paul. Yet again, the wording is somewhat confusing and could use some explanation. Simply put, when Paul states, “Ye are not straitened in us,” he contrasts his earlier statement of his enlarged heart.

In other words, Paul’s heart being enlarged is the opposite of the statement, “Ye are not straitened in us.”

Paul wanted the believers of Corinth to know that Paul did not restrain them. Nothing on Paul’s end was getting in the way of their relationship. Instead, he was like the father in the prodigal son, who often looked out into the fields and waited for the son to return.

Upon seeing the son who had departed, he ran swiftly to meet him and rejoiced at his return. He threw a great feast and slaughtered the fattened calf. He put his robe over his son’s shoulders and his ring on his finger. Paul would have responded similarly to a sweeping repentance over the church in Corinth.

“but ye are straitened in your own bowels”

The problem did not lie with Paul. The problem was with the Corinthians. They did not want to receive Paul as they should. Thus, they were restrained based on their affections. The selfish nature of the Corinthian believers was getting in the way.

Selfishness and a self-focused approach to living the Christian life wage war against God’s plan and desire for the Christian. Nevertheless, to live without self, disrupting God’s intent is unique rather than the Christian norm.

Paul has said, “But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state. For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for state. For all seek their own, not the things which are of Jesus Christ’s” (Phil. 2:19-21).

The claim of Paul carries much weight. The natural bent for even the Christian is to be self-focused in his approach to life. The problem is significant and must be seen as such. Unless there is conviction, the status quo will not improve.

“Now for a recompense in the same, (I speak as unto my children,)”

Here Paul asks for a response. However, he does so by addressing the Corinthians as children.

Possibly they would have remembered Paul’s words he had written to them in his previous letter, for he stated, “I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you. For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel” (1 Cor. 4:14-15).

Paul did not want to shame the Corinthians. On the contrary, he desired to minister to them as his children and to warn them of the path they were on.

By speaking of the Corinthian believers as his children, he also affirmed his care for them. Indeed they had sat under the teaching of many instructors, but only Paul would exercise the care of a father. Thus, Paul affirmed his love for them again and challenged them to respond to Paul as their faithful father.

“be ye also enlarged”

Paul ended this passage with a clear command. In essence, he told the Corinthians to look upon his conduct toward them and emulate it. Paul had told the Corinthians in his first letter, “Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me” (1 Cor. 4:16) .

Later he said, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). In 2 Corinthians 6:13, he states, “be ye also enlarged”(2 Cor. 6:13). The point is clear. The Corinthians were to follow Paul’s example.

He was not telling them to do something he was not already doing. Instead, Paul led the way and desired the Corinthians to follow. He was a true leader in all respects. He lead by being in the front.

He had just spoken of the ministry of reconciliation in 2 Corinthians 5. Then he moved to the disunity between himself and the Corinthians. The strategy and the contrast are evident.

He said, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:17-18).

If the Corinthians were truly believers, they would also be new creations and have entered into the ministry of reconciliation.

Final prayer

Father, I thank You for the ministry and words of Paul. He is a wonderful example for me, and I pray that You will help me to be like him. Teach me to be selfless and to have a heart of love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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