What is the connection between the end of 2 Corinthians 5 and the beginning of the next chapter?
Paul’s words, “if one died for all, then were all dead” (v 14), express the truth of headship. As a representative head, Christ died. The result of that one act is “all died.” This is developed in Romans 5, verses 12 though 21. All who are thus linked with Christ in death are alive with Him as well (Rom 6:5). In this context (2Co 5:14), “all” refers to all who are in Christ. The love that brought Paul into such a blessing constrained him to live “unto” the One Who died for him. As in Romans, this link with Christ ends our association with the old (all that we were in Adam) and brings us into a totally new spiritual creation (2Co 5:17).
In verse 18, Paul points to two blessings he received: he was reconciled and he was entrusted with a “ministry of reconciliation.” Constrained by love to live “unto” Christ, Paul devoted his every energy to beseeching men to be reconciled to God. But all who have been brought into Christ should live “unto Him.” Thus Paul addresses the Corinthians at the beginning of chapter six so they will likewise respond to God’s grace to them.
Why does the apostle use “also” in the first verse of chapter six?
“We then… beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.” The word “beseech” here is the same word used two verses earlier. In that verse (5:20), both occurrences of “you” are supplied by the translators: they are in italics and can be omitted. God’s work of reconciliation had the world in view (v 19) and so Paul’s urgent message addresses the world. When Paul “prayed” men, “Be ye reconciled to God,” it was as though God Himself were beseeching them. But in verse one of chapter six, Paul addresses the Corinthians. Again, the word “you” is added by the translators, but this insertion is consistent with the context. The Corinthians were “in Christ” and had been reconciled to God. Unlike the apostle (see 1Co 15:10 for the same words), though, they were not responding appropriately to that grace which they had received. As God had a deep concern for the world in beseeching them through Paul, so Paul had a deep concern for the Corinthians. “Also” expresses this parallelism. Both God and Paul are beseeching; the one message addresses the world, but this addresses the Corinthians.
In what sense is the world reconciled to God (5:19)?
Reconciliation involves a change of disposition, from enmity to a right relationship. The change is based on the death of our Lord Jesus Christ. “When we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son” (Romans 5:10). Believers “now have received the reconciliation” (v 11, JND). God is righteous and therefore angry because of the offense resulting from man’s enmity against Him. God is gracious and therefore desirous to bring man into a right relationship with Himself. Through the cross, God in Christ has a righteous way to extend this grace to the world. Apart from the prospect of the cross, righteousness demanded that God hold mankind immediately accountable for each sin. If God immediately imputed every person’s trespasses to him, judgment would have fallen when each one committed his first sin. On the basis of Christ’s death, God holds back the wrath, while righteously offering to the world a right relationship with Himself.
God has not changed because of the cross. He remains both righteous and gracious. He has a righteous basis for extending His gracious offer to the world. Potentially, every person in the world can be brought into a right relationship with God; all can be reconciled to God. Effectively, only those who receive the word of reconciliation receive the reconciliation.
No wonder Paul was urgent with the message (v 20), and so should we be urgent! Those who reject the message and remain enemies of God will eternally endure His righteous wrath. We must “pray” them “in Christ’s stead, ‘Be ye reconciled to God.’”
To whom does “we” refer in verse 20: “We are ambassadors . . .”?
Paul uses the first person singular pronoun (I, me, my, mine: see v 11, for example) because he is the writer, but he includes at least Timothy (1:1) and Silvanus (1:19) with himself.
Before this verse (5:20), Paul uses the first person plural pronoun (we, us, our) about 120 times. About one fourth of those uses could include the Corinthians, but the context indicates that all but one refer to Paul and his associates. That one time, Paul includes the Corinthians by using the word “all”: “We all with open face . . .” (3:18).
In a unique sense, the Lord had directly entrusted to Paul (“He hath given unto us”) – and Paul graciously includes his associates – a “ministry of reconciliation” (5:18). That makes it likely, then, that in verse 20 Paul means that he – and those with him – were ambassadors for (on behalf of) Christ.
Some will point to the next verse and ask if being “made the righteousness of God in Him” is exclusive to Paul. In the context, Paul is referring to “us,” meaning himself and his associates. He is emphasizing the blessings that constrained them in their labors. All will have to agree, though, that we have received the same blessings that Paul received through the work of Christ. Further, we have a responsibility to declare “the word of reconciliation” to sinners. More than that, in our declaration, we should be no less conscious than Paul was that we are speaking on behalf of God or Christ (1Pe 4:11).
We have a work to do and we do not need “ambassador status” to do it. For us, failing to do this work would be what Paul calls (6:1) receiving “the grace of God in vain.”