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2 Corinthians 6:2

"For he says,'In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.' Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation." ESV. My emphasis.

Is this "favorable time" different from any other time?

If it is different, how is it different?

Why did God listen in "a favorable time"?

With God, "with whom there is no variation" [James 1:17], how can one time be any different from another?

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I agree with Barnes’ commentary on 2 Cor 6:2 that a “favorable time” refers to the time of the Messiah. It is favorable because it is a time marked by God’s favor, His mercy and grace, upon men. In my opinion, the time that is ushered in by Christ is also favorable because, within the course of human history and development, it is a time deemed favorable by God for the bestowing of the gospel and the salvation of men.

For he saith - see Isaiah 49:8. In that passage the declaration refers to the Messiah, and the design is there to show that God would be favorable to him; that he would hear him when he prayed, and would make him the medium of establishing a covenant with his own people, and of spreading the true religion around the earth…

Under the Messiah, it is said by Isaiah, God would be willing to show mercy. That would be an acceptable time. That time says Paul, has arrived. The Messiah has come, and now God is willing to pardon and save. And the doctrine in this verse is, that under the Messiah, or in the time of Christ, God is willing to show mercy to people. In him alone is the throne of grace accessible, and now that he has come, God is willing to pardon, and people should avail themselves of the offers of mercy. – Barnes commentary, biblehub.com

“With God, ‘with whom there is no variation’ [James 1:17], how can one time be any different from another?” Regarding the OP’s last question, I can only offer my personal point of view. The nature of the world and of human life is flux and change, and the notion of time itself is inextricably linked to that reality (“What is Time?” sciencealert.com). While God, who is the Creator of it all, is not bound by time, He may appear so to us whose existence is in many ways defined by our experience of time.

That said, if we look at the verbs in 2 Cor 6:2, both the present and aorist tenses present a complex picture of how God acts and works within human history to fulfill his unchanging purposes and plans, plans that can be considered as already completed (cf Is 14:24).

For he says (present), 'In a favorable time I listened (aorist) to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped (aorist) you.'

The present tense of “says” reflects the unchanging nature of God’s words such that what he says in Isaiah, he says to each successive generation (cf Is 40:8). The aorist tense on the other hand gives us a sense of God’s perspective from a vantage point outside of time. According to Bill Mounce, the aorist is much more than past time:

“I like Con Campbell’s word picture of the aorist. You are in a helicopter over the parade, looking at the parade as a whole. Buist Fanning talks about seeing the action from the outside as a whole rather than from inside the action – “The Aorist is so much more than a past tense,” billmounce.com

Because God sees the whole arc of human history from beginning to end (cf Is 46:10), both that of humanity in general and of each person in particular, He alone can choose a favorable time to suit His purposes and our needs. In that favorable time, what God has spoken He will unveil and what God has promised He will fulfill.

But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. 15 Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. – 2 Cor 3:14-15

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    Your saying "it is a time marked by God's favour" rings with "and from him all things" Ro 11:36.
    – C. Stroud
    Jul 9, 2023 at 7:57
  • I think I see the connection you are making. Ro 11:36, actually the whole chapter, captures much of what I was trying to say about Christ, and about how God's plan of salvation is beyond our grasp, given our innate limitations and subjection to time.
    – Nhi
    Jul 9, 2023 at 16:59
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The 'For he says...' bit is a quote from Isaiah 49:8. Previously, Jesus had quoted a related phrase from Isaiah 61:2, as recorded in Luke 4:19. Checking out the connection with Isaiah helps answer the questions about 2 Corinthians 6:2.

In Isaiah chapter 49 God is addressing his people, who feel forsaken by God, to assure them that he has not abandoned them, for they are graven on the palms of his hands, and that those who wait for him will not be ashamed. The relevant part is:

"In an acceptable time I have heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee: and I will preserve thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages" Isaiah 49:8 A.V.

As this was said centuries before Paul quoted it, the 'acceptable time' - 'the day of salvation' - had started back then and was continuing. He was telling his readers that that "favourable time" was still in force.

This is confirmed by Jesus applying the prophecy in Isaiah 61:1-2 to his newly started ministry on Earth. This shows us that that "favourable time" had continued. Jesus ended his quote at, "To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord." He stopped short of the bit following, about proclaiming "the day of vengeance of our God". This shows that in Jesus' day that "favourable time" was continuing.

What was the significance of that quote in 2 Corinthians 6:2? Paul was urging his fellow-workers to exercise the ministry of reconciliation (ch. 5 vss. 18-21). They were to continue preaching the day of the Lord's salvation, urging people to be reconciled to God, through Christ. They all knew that "the day of vengeance of our God" lay ahead.

"The great day of God's wrath" is still in the future. From Christ's proclamation of salvation until he returns, that day of salvation remains open. But when the dreadful day of resurrection and judgment comes, it will be too late for anyone to then respond to the gospel (Jude vs. 6-7). Suddenly, the awful switch will take place, though there will be nothing awful about it for all who have heeded the gospel of salvation while that 'day' of salvation was in operation (Jude vs. 24).

We remain in that "favourable time" now. God remains unchanging, but he has long warned that there is to come a time when he will render judgement at the close of that "favourable time - the day of salvation", when the great day of his wrath begins. It is described in the book of the Revelation, for example, in chapter 6 verses 12 to 17. That day has not yet started.

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The OP's question is based on the tacit assumption that "favorable time" is the time favorable to God and that the "day of salvation" is the day chosen by God.

Paul, in 2 Cor 6:2, is emphasizing what Isaiah said in Isa 49:8, that the "favorable time" is that favorable to the people and the "day of salvation" is the present day.

The problem that both verses address is that sinful people have a tendency to procrastinate and the prophet Isaiah is telling the people not to wait for a favorable time. But, when they do find a favorable time, God will still be waiting and ready to save.

Paul says the same thing in the last part of 2 Cor 6:2 -

Behold, now is the time of favor; now is the day of salvation!

That is, do not wait for a more favorable time - act now to accept the Lord and His salvation!

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  • For the person bent on procrastinating, his or her "favorable time" never arrives, repentance is always put off until a "better" time. God knows when our "best time" is and it behooves us to act when that time comes. If we delay, the window remains open but getting through it gets harder the longer we wait.
    – moron
    Jun 17, 2023 at 20:12
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Did you know that, in the ubiquitous and gold standard KJV, 2 COR 6:2 is in parentheses? That's because the text of papyrus P46 (c. 175-224 CE) at 2 COR 6:2 has the words ΚΑΙΡΩΓΑΡΛΕΓΕΙ (καιρω γαρ λεγει, kairō gar legei,; e.g., for in a time he is saying) in word positions 3, 4, and 5, and positions 1 and 2 are blank.

But codices 𝘚𝘪𝘯𝘢𝘪𝘵𝘪𝘤𝘶𝘴, 𝘝𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘤𝘢𝘯𝘶𝘴, and 𝘌𝘱𝘩𝘳𝘢𝘦𝘮𝘪 𝘙𝘦𝘴𝘤𝘳𝘪𝘱𝘵𝘶𝘴 reverse the order of those three (3) Greek words and read ΛΕΓΕΙΓΑΡΚΑΙΡΩ (λεγει gar καιρω, legei gar kairō; e.g., for he is saying in a time) in word positions 1, 2, and 3. So, in the KJV, parentheses were added this verse to make it easier to read. But this is a minor textual variant.

More importantly, 2 COR 6:2, AFAIK, is neither mentioned in ante-Nicene (AN, or pre-325 CE) patristic speculations, nor is it supported by other AN documentary evidence. Accordingly, 6:2 can be skipped over when reading, and the passage 6:1, 3-10 should still make sense to a reader.

This answer doesn't directly answer the OP, but it should be recalled whenever a KJV reader sees a verse or passage enclosed within parentheses.

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  • I'm unsure about upvote for a nondirect answer. But I do acknowledge a thorough contribution.
    – C. Stroud
    Jun 12, 2023 at 9:56

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