Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. 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.
We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.” (2 Corinthians 5:17 – 6:10)
One of my teachers said that the early translation of the scriptures was done as circuit riders were ministering around the countryside. Every time the horse hit a bump it caused a chapter break. That is why sometimes there are chapter breaks in the midst of the writer’s thought. (…joking…)
Actually, with Paul, all chapter breaks are in the midst of his stream of conscious thought.
This passage in Second Corinthians begins with the affirmation that believers are new creations. It introduces the concept that all believers are ministers. Paul continues, pointing out that Christ works alongside us. He prepares us for the hardships of the work. Paul lists the characteristics of the minister of Christ, and then concludes with the glories of the ministry.
Has God come into your life? Has he disrupted your worldly ideas and plans, and inserted His own as replacements? If so, you are a new creature. You have been born again to a lively hope in the resurrection to eternal life.
You have been separated from the world and its ungodly desires. Unhappily, that does not mean you can’t go back. Like a washed pig that immediately wallows in the mire, all believers can return to fleshly, worldly and satanic pleasures.
One of the many benefits of salvation is that our selves are renewed. In actuality, we are new creatures. All that was before is obsolescent. It is passing away and as a new creation in Christ, the fullness of what that means will become manifest in due time.
Paul throughout his letter points out that B.C., before Christ, we were enemies of God. Because He is Sovereign, our lives of worldliness were in rebellion to His sovereignty. We were at war with God.
For the mind of the flesh is death; but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace: because the mind of the flesh is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be: and they that are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:6-8)
But God was in Christ reconciling the world (and us) to Him. Jesus is our bridge between man and God and between man and man.
Much more then, being now justified by his blood, shall we be saved from the wrath of God through him. For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved by his life; and not only so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. (Romans 5:8-11)
Christ is our reconcil-er. The initiative is His, not ours. He took on our sins, cancelling our debt to Almighty God. Jesus reconciled us to the Father.
In so doing, Jesus, promotes us from needing to be reconciled to being reconcil-ers. We are sent forth into the world to testify to the truth that all, women, men and children are at war with God, but “that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not reckoning unto them their trespasses…” What a glorious message and what a privilege is ours.
Paul says the message of reconciliation is “committed” to us. In Greek it is τιθημι (tith-ay-mee) = “to place, make, ordain, purpose”. Thus God has placed the ministry of reconciliation in believers’ hands. He has made us responsible for being the reconciling force in a fragmenting society. We are responsible to bring people to God and to bring them together in unity.
When a new President takes office, he appoints a new staff, including Ambassadors to all the nations in diplomatic relationship with America. The role of an ambassador is to speak the policies of the nation and the President. He is a functionary of the nation and the administration. He or she may take the heat in a controversy, but the Ambassador never acts on his or her own.
We are ambassadors on behalf of Christ. We are not given the title to hang on a vanity wall as a bragging right. We are Ambassadors to go about our King’s business. We proclaim the message He gives us. We “rightly divide the Word of God”. We do not exceed our charge by our Lord. We do not go into the world to see the sights, but we go under direction to communicate the message delivered to us by our God.
We speak for God, but God must ratify what we say. His message is an earnest plea to cease their resistance to God’s will and to surrender to His authority.
We are Ambassadors for God seeking peace with the worldly.
But contrary to worldly ambassadors we are not alone. Paul says of himself in his concern for the Corinthians,
“working together with him we entreat also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.” (2 Corinthians 6:1)
For us that message is a two-edged sword.
We are “Working together” – Christ Jesus shares His work with us. He is in our hearts and at our elbow with guiding words as we minister in His name.
One part of the message is for us. We must not have received the marvelous gifts in vain., i.e. gifts of salvation, of cleansing from sin, of being clothed in Christ’s righteousness and of eternal life in the Presence of our loving Father.
Far too many Christians take salvation for granted and live as if it is a retirement plan. We don’t mess with it until we die. Then we cash in our retirement policy and collect eternal life in blessedness. In the meantime, we live according to the dictates of our own hearts – “God doesn’t mess with me and I try not to sin against Him.” That is receiving the grace of God in vain.
God’s purpose in our salvation is two-fold. The first purpose is to benefit us. The second purpose: we are saved and called to minister to others and to benefit the world.
While Christianity has been around for 2 millennia, and while God is not bound by time, our lives are short. We are bound to time. All we get in this life is “three score and ten and if by manner of strength, four score.” For us and all humans, “time’s a-wasten”! Paul warns us,
“… behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2)
There was a story that went around when I was at the University of Washington: A visionary student came on campus. He had his life all planed. He was going to become his class leader. Achieve the student body presidency. Clerk for local judge, be elected to Congress, then elected as a senator serve several terms and run for and be elected President of the United States. He was intelligent, good looking, charismatic, had a pleasing voice. Once in the office of the President, he would change the nation and as a result change the world. His life was going exactly as he planned and then he stepped off a curb, and was run over by a beer truck.
Our time is not in our hands. God tells us to redeem the time. We do not know how long we have to tell God’s truths to others. We do not know how long the other person has to hear God’s truths. “Now is the acceptable time!” “Now is the day of salvation!”
Next, Paul instructed the Corinthians, and us, in how to behave as believers, as ambassadors, as ministers of the gospel.
Giving no occasion of stumbling in anything – We must conform our lives to Christ.
And be not fashioned according to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:2)
We must demonstrate to the world, what a Christian life is. Paul lays out the proper results of the believer’s life.
… for the perfecting of the saints, unto the work of ministering, unto the building up of the body of Christ: till we all attain unto the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a full-grown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: that we may be no longer children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error; (Ephesians 4:12-14)
To reflect Christ to the world, we must emulate Him, so that when others look at us, they see Christ shining through. Our attempts to conform to Jesus give us a personal advantage. We are built up in the faith, so many of the worldly concerns are sloughed off. We know the reality of our faith and become comfortable in its doctrines, so that we are not dissuaded or confused by others’ erroneous ideas of Christianity. We can stand firm in Christ when assailed for our “old fashioned ideas” or “politically incorrect views of life”.
Let me step aside: it is never too late to learn the basics. It is never too late to grow in understanding God. It is never too late to be reminded of what our lives in Christ should be. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to teach us all things and bring to our remembrance all that Jesus taught us. So now “is the acceptable time” to show yourself…
“approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, handling aright the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
The first characteristic Paul calls for, as a minister of Christ, is Patience. It is a Fruit of the Spirit, i.e. it develops naturally from being rooted in Christ.
Paul calls for pureness, i.e. moral uprightness, conforming to the standards of life that God has established. Obeying to the best of our abilities, recognizing when we sin. Then when we do, we confess and receive God’s and other people’s forgiveness.
He calls for long suffering, meaning suffering for your faith without changing in your belief. Paul entreats kindness, treating others with brotherly or sisterly affection, being sensitive to their needs and providing what is within your capability. He challenges us to live in the Holy Spirit, who convinces the world of sin, of righteousness and of judgment. He calls us to love simply, honestly and open-handedly.
From his own life the Apostle knew that the life Christ calls us to is no easy life. It is not for wimps. There will be severe testings. But for each of these God has glorious compensation.
The world will
The Holy Spirit is in this place. He is residing in each of you. His is the Spirit of Truth. He will guide you into all truth. He has gifts, manifestations of the Holy Spirit to give to you. He causes the Fruit of the Spirit to develop in your lives. He is your guide along the path of Jesus. He is your Counselor when you are perplexed and don’t know what to do.
There is not a one of us believers who has to be doubtful, or un-directed or without godly work to do. God has made all the provisions for you to minister in His name. He will not leave you hanging out on your own, but will provide everything you need to serve Him and to minister to other people.
God loves people. He is not willing for any to perish, but to come to the knowledge of Jesus the Christ. He has you as His ambassador to the world. He has given you the message of life to the people in the world. Jesus will accompany you every step of the way.
Therefore, be on the lookout for appointments. Sometimes you will get a question that will be an opportunity you can drive a truck through. Sometimes in the midst of a crisis, you will be able to fill a void with words of hope. Sometimes a long-term relationship will mature into an opportunity to say words in season that will become a turning point.
Never forget you are ministers of reconciliation to the worldly people. You are ambassadors to the alienated. You are God’s people placed where you are for such a time as this!
Our Lord and our God. You have touched the heart of each one of us. You have removed the stony heart and transplanted a heart of flesh. Give us in addition a desire to serve You each day. Give us a voice of courage to proclaim the bad news to the unbelieving and the good news to believers that are cast down.
You, Father have adopted as your children and made us to be joint heirs with Christ. Give us confidence that we have the resources of Almighty God available to us, as we need them. Give us the boldness to step out into untraveled lands and claim it as Yours. Give us the heart to make friends with the friendless, to help the helpless and to throw a Jesus life Savior to the drowning.
Father, again we give our lives to you to be Yours for eternity.
To the glory of God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit.
God grant “that ye may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, to walk worthily of the Lord unto all pleasing, bearing fruit in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to the might of his glory, unto all patience and long-suffering with joy; giving thanks unto the Father, who made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light;” (Colossians 1:9-12)