The Expectation Of Grace: Paul On Benefaction And The Corinthians’ Ingratitude (2 Corinthians 6:1) -- By: B. J. Oropeza

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 24:2 (NA 2014)
Article: The Expectation Of Grace: Paul On Benefaction And The Corinthians’ Ingratitude (2 Corinthians 6:1)
Author: B. J. Oropeza


The Expectation Of Grace:
Paul On Benefaction And The Corinthians’ Ingratitude (2 Corinthians 6:1)

B. J. Oropeza

Azusa Pacific University

This article contributes to discussions on ancient patron-client relationships with a view to God as a benefactor who bestows favors on the early followers of Christ. The perspective sheds light on Paul’s word to the Corinthians that they should not receive God’s grace in vain (2 Cor 6:1), a warning that creates tensions for interpreters who assume that divine grace is freely given without expecting anything in return. This study shows that the system of gift giving and reciprocity, especially in conversation with Seneca, helps alleviate the tensions. It elaborates on gratitude as the proper human response to divine gift giving and undesirable reprisals as the appropriate consequence for ingratitude.

Key Words: grace, benefaction, reciprocity, gratitude, ingratitude, Seneca, 2 Corinthians

Introduction

Paul’s letters are typically known for affirming that salvation is an act of grace and that grace and righteousness are God’s gifts through Jesus Christ (e.g., Rom 5:16-17; cf. 3:24-28; 4:2-6; 5:1-2; 8:29-32; Eph 2:8-9; 3:7). Paul repeats similar affirmations in 2 Corinthians. Christ’s love is demonstrated to humanity through his atoning death (2 Cor 5:14), and God has graciously taken the initiative to reconcile humans to God’s self in Christ (5:18-19). The Savior was “made sin” so that humans might become “the righteousness of God” (5:21).1 The apostle also thanks God for God’s indescribable “gift” of the Christ event (9:15).2 While these passages support the idea that saving grace is unmerited, it is frequently assumed that this grace, if it is truly God’s gift, expects nothing in return. It is entirely void of self-regard.3

The Tension Of 2 Corinthians 6:1

Scholars with this assumption, however, face a paradox when reading in

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