2 Corinthians 6:1
"Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain."
What does Paul mean by "We appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain"? How is it possible to receive the grace of God in vain?
At the end of chapter five, Paul described the role of believers as ambassadors of Christ Jesus. Just as God was reconciling the world to Himself through Christ, we are to be proclaiming the same message. We are to implore people "be reconciled to God." A concern of Paul's is the possibility to receive God's grace in vain.
Ezekiel 20 provides an example of receiving the grace of God in vain. Notice what the LORD did for the Israelites, the "I" statements, in Ezekiel 20:5-6: "I chose," "I swore," "I would bring," and "I had searched." This reminds me of Exodus 6:6-8 where The Lord says, "Say therefore to the people of Israel, 'I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the LORD.'"
Stop, and consider the grace with which the LORD uniquely blessed the nation of Israel. All God asked in return was an acknowledgment of who He was and what He had done for them. They are to worship nothing and no one besides Him. He is their God; there is no other. But they rebelled against Him and continued to worship idols.
Additionally, God gave the Sabbath day of rest as a reminder of all He had done for them. It was the day to remember the "I" statements the LORD had promised and fulfilled. The Israelites were to rest in the fact that He did everything for them. But the Israelites treated the Sabbath as if it were any other day; just as they treated Him as any other god.
What was the effect of God's abundant grace to the nation of Israel? In Ezekiel 20, God accuses Israel three separate times of such rebellion against Him that they deserved His wrath and anger. Each time God withheld his hand. His reason for withholding His anger was not because they did not deserve punishment but because of His name. He knew the nations who saw all He did for Israel would think He was incapable of fulfilling His commitment. Israel mistakenly thought they received His grace based solely on who they were, not who He is.
As we see in the rest of the chapter, God's patience with rebellious Israel does end. He judges and punishes man's rejection of His grace. The nation of Israel received the grace of God in vain. His goodness and blessing did not lead to reconciliation.
Paul is begging those in the church at Corinth not to take God's grace for granted, as the Israelites did. In 2 Corinthians 6:2, using a quote from Isaiah 49:8, Paul reminds them now is the day of salvation. Don't think you can benefit from the grace of God forever without acknowledging Him for who He is and giving Him thanksgiving and praise. Be reconciled to God.
Sovereign LORD, You alone are the dispenser of grace and mercy. Forgive me for thinking Your grace is because of my goodness. I miss the fact that Your provision of grace is for Your glory. As a follower of Jesus Christ, may I be an ambassador worthy of the name of my LORD. Teach me the urgency of today—the day of salvation. Be gracious to us, bless us, and make Your face to shine upon us that Your way may be known on the earth and Your saving power among the nations.