“In the time of my favor I will answer you, and in the day of salvation I will help you; I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people to restore the land.”
Isaiah 49:8; 2 Corinthians 6:2, NIV
Isaiah foresees a time when the Lord's favor will completely restore the people from captivity and bring them into a land of freedom. In 2 Corinthians 6, Paul draws upon Isaiah to explain that in Christ, we are experiencing the time of God's favor. Through Christ, God has reconciled the world to himself. The sacrifice of Christ on the cross-the time when God “made” Jesus, who had no sin to be sin for us-accomplished this reconciliation. We are now the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:20-21), the people of God who are fully and completely his.
Paul urges the Corinthians to not receive this indescribably gift “in vain,” or to no effect. Paul mentions three things that will keep us from receiving God's grace in vain.
The first is to remember that God's grace is for everyone who will believe. We are not to put stumbling blocks in the way of others in the church so that they are discouraged from living out the gospel message.
The second is remember that we are called to “endure.” External circumstances do not determine the power of grace. We all know there will be hardships, trouble, and sorrow, but also times of joy. The point is how we respond to these circumstances. For example, to receive God's grace productively is to realize that even when we feel our selves to be “poor,” the truth is that, in Christ, we have “everything.” We may encounter very difficult times, yet we live on. By grace, in sorrow, we find joy (2 Corinthians 6:4-10).
Finally, Paul encourages the Corinthians to “open their hears wide.” Often times difficult times will cause us to want to recoil and self-isolate, perhaps even to become bitter towards others. But these are not the times to withhold our love from one another. Rather these are the times, by grace, to open wide our hearts and allow other to walk beside us in encouragement.
Let us mature in grace, not receiving it in vain.