II Corinthians 6:1-13 is the end of the Apostle Paul's defense of his ministry, which began back in chapter 2. Now Paul is listing what he has in mind when he says that "as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way." Indeed, every way is listed! This text requires some finesse from the preacher because it can be conceived of as a text of self-commendation. That, clearly, would not be an option for a preaching strategy! Rather, when we hear Paul's pleading, we hear it as a call to obedience from our Lord.
(The following questions are not meant to be exhaustive, but are best used with other fine sets of questions available to exegetes. These questions facilitate discovery of the function of the Word in a text, a central concern of Law and Gospel preachers. For more on this method and on Law and Gospel preaching in general, see my brief guide, Afflicting the Comfortable, Comforting the Afflicted, available from wipfandstock.com and amazon.)
1. How does the Word function in the text? The opening verse and the closing verse show us clearly how the Word functions here: as a call to obedience. In verse 1, Paul says, in effect, "Do not be recipients of God's grace in vain." In verse 13, he says, "Open wide your hearts [to us, as we have to you]." Paul is lifting up his own life, to be sure, but only to say, "Be as Christ."
2. How is the Word not functioning in the text? A word of Gospel, where the Word proclaims what God has done in Christ, immediately precedes this text: "For our sake [God] made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (5:21). A word of Law, where the Word functions to lift up our need for Christ is also not present here, except in the idea that we can receive the grace of God in vain. Even that is far from a call to repentance.
3. With whom are you identifying in the text? We are clearly those whom Paul is addressing. Our hearts are not open wide. Our propensity to neglect the day of deliverance is ongoing. Our need to live out the grace given to us in Christ is ever before us.
4. What Law/Gospel couplet is suggested by this text? We can employ some of the vocabulary in this text to create couplets: closed/open; restricted/free; vain reception of God's grace/fruitful faith.
5. Exegetical work: Ernest Best, in his commentary, notes the presence of four specific sections in Paul's strategy of self-defense: 1) (vs. 4b-5) "through great endurance"; 2) (vs.6-7a) "inward motivations"; 3) (vs. 7b-8a) "weapons"; and 4) (vs. 8b-10) "contrasts". (Interpretation series, Second Corinthians, p. 60-63). Best also notes that this list fills out Paul's definition of being a good ambassador for Christ (5:20). Paul is concerned that the Corinthians understand that he has rigorously eliminated any stumbling blocks to their faith. "The whole intent of the passage is to demonstrate that any supposed obstacles are unreal. The good ambassador smooths away obstacles. If they are still there, then Paul has failed in his ministry of reconciliation and has not brought his coverts to God." (Ibid., p. 60). Fourth century bishop, John Chrysostom, in preaching on this text highlighted the love Paul has for the Corinthians: "[Paul] holds nothing back and suppresses nothing. Nothing is wider than Paul's heart, which loved all the believers with all the passion which one might have toward the object of one's affection." (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, NT, Vol. VII, p. 260).
6. Consider the insights of the pioneers of the New Homiletic? As usual, this non-narrative text will offer challenges to the preacher. Fred Craddock would ask, "What is the experience of the text?" The preacher seeks to capture that.
Blessings on your proclamation!