II Corinthians 6:7
What is the significance of Paul’s expression “on the right hand and on the left” in II Corinthians 6:7?
Briefly put, in view of previous uses of the expression, for example, in Isaiah 54:3 and Zechariah 12:6 I understand the expression to mean ‘in all directions; on all sides; round about; etc.’ In Isaiah 54 the reason redeemed Israel is told to “Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations;….” is “For thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left; and thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and make the desolate cities to be inhabited.”
When Israel breaks forth “on the right hand and on the left” she is going to expand round about, in all directions round about, and hence needs to enlarge the place of her tent and stretch forth the curtains of her habitations to accommodate the expanded inheritance of land, cities, etc. Likewise in Zechariah 12:6 in the Lord’s day of wrath and of avenging His cause with Israel upon their enemies surrounding them, it says “they shall devour all the people round about, on the right hand and on the left: and Jerusalem shall be inhabited again in her own place, even in Jerusalem.” Israel will be surrounded by her enemies in that day, as verse 2 states; but she shall “devour all the people round about, on the right hand and on the left.” She, therefore, will be victorious over all her enemies surrounding her.
I, therefore, take it that when Paul says in II Corinthians 6:7, “by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left,” that he is using the expression in much the same way.
Specifically my understanding is that Paul is referring to what his response is to the issue of being beset on all sides in this present evil world with temptations to participate in its unrighteousness and works of darkness. And his response is one of being vigilant in connection with this, and being on guard against succumbing to any such temptations. He is exceedingly zealous for standing true to who he is “in Christ” in this present evil world, and for putting righteousness on display.
In doing so, Paul is acting in perfect accordance with what he said earlier on in Romans 13:11-14, where he had said, “…: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.”
Paul, therefore, is doing that very thing. He has “put on the armour of light” in contrast to “the works of darkness.” And commensurate with “casting off the works of darkness” in abhorrence of them, he is indeed walking “honestly as in the day” with “the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left.” He is vigilantly standing for who he is “in Christ,” and living righteously in the midst of all the unrighteousness surrounding him.
Now this, (as Paul sets forth in the overall context of II Corinthians 6:3-10), is one of the things that should “approve” him as a minister of God. And in doing this it should give these Corinthian saints “somewhat to answer them which glory in appearance, and not in heart,” as these who did so found fault with Paul and were critical of him, trying to seduce the Corinthians away from him.
– K.R. Blades