Lesson Four – The Ministry of Reconciliation

The Ministry of Reconciliation

Lesson Text:  II Cor. 2:12-17; 5:11-21


Parts I and II of this series of lessons was dedicated to historical and literary analysis for properly reading the Corinthian letters.  The aim in those two parts was to understand what was going on with the recipients and what Paul said to correct their divisional problem.  This is called an exegetical approach applied to the study of the Corinthian letters in an effort to find out what the letters meant.  Parts III, IV and V of this series have been dedicated to hermeneutics – what the letters mean to us.  Our interest is in what he said to them to strengthen their faith and bring about their repentance.  These are the principles with which we can solve or avoid the same problems in the church today.  One principle that culminates all that is said in the first seven chapters of II Corinthians is how “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regrets, but worldly sorrow brings death.”  II Cor. 7:10.

Happily, some of the church members in Achaia humbled themselves to “godly sorrow repentance.”  They accepted the Apostle Paul as “one sent” to them by Jesus Christ.  In the two previous lessons, we understood how the character of the evangelist must be in line with the message he or she presents.  Paul said his conscience testified that he was not a “Yes, yes” and “No, no” Christian (II Cor. 1:12-24).  His ministry was without dissimulation or self-seeking and his behavior was transparently moral and ethically pure.  The character of the person who presents the gospel of Jesus Christ is important because of the nature of the gospel:

For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by me and Silas and Timothy, was not “Yes” and “No,” but in Him it has always been “Yes.”  For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ.  And so through Him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.  Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ.  He anointed us, set His seal of ownership on us, and put His Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.  II Cor. 1:19-22

“Amen” means it is the truth; therefore, trustworthy, so faithful Christians can say “so be it” because we do it.   If the gospel is presented to the church, or the world for the glory of God, the Christians who preach and teach God’s word must be trustworthy.  Paul’s character was being questioned by someone because he changed his itinerary.  This may sound trivial by the wisdom of the world, but not to Christians.  Nothing is trivial when God’s promises and the Holy Spirit are a part of the scenario.  In Part V, Lesson One, we understood all Christians are included in the “suffering and comforting” program in these last days of time (II Cor. 1:7).

The commission Jesus gave to the apostles was inclusive for all believers; “and teaching them (the church) to obey everything I have commanded you (apostles).”  Matt. 28:20.  Paul said, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”  I Cor. 11:1.  And also, “Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”  I Cor. 15:58.  The church as
a whole has received the kingdom of God; consequently, we are expected to be the fruit God desires. Jesus’ expectation is that the spiritual fruit in Christians’ lives will serve as “salt and light” for everyone who is not developing as children of God (Matt. 5:13-15; 21:43).  Peter encouraged us not to be fearful to share our hope (I Pet. 3:13-16).

In the broader text of the first seven chapters of II Corinthians we have been enlightened about the “ministry of reconciliation.”  This has been chosen for the title of this lesson.  The specific text for this lesson is bound up in the drama that developed by Paul’s declaration that his conscience testifies he did the right thing – even though it was not what he said he would do.  Please review Part II, Lesson Five.  It is the context for this study of God’s evangelism through Jesus Christ.

Although Titus brought the good news about the churches accepting Paul as an apostle of Jesus, other problems still existed with the potential for causing division (II Cor. 7:5-7).  The great messages we receive in II Corinthians, Chapters 3-6, were intended to solve some of the other problems.  They are also a part of the gospel we teach and preach as ambassadors for Christ.


Christ’s love compels faithful Christians to take the gospel to people who are “dead in sin.”  II Cor. 5:14.  A mature person’s sin “in Adam” has become their “sting of death.”  Christians attain victory over both physical and spiritual death “through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  I Cor. 15:55, 56.  Jesus’ suffering provides faithful Christians with our Father’s compassion and comfort so that we can “suffer for” and comfort others (II Cor. 1:3-7).  Evangelism is the eternal life developing exercise in the body of Christ for the members to develop love.  Christians do enjoy fellowship and worship as the church assembled; however, the mission of Christians is to “to seek and save the lost” under the leadership of our Lord, Jesus Christ (Luke 19:10).

Paul referred to the members of the church as “God’s fellow workers.”  II Cor. 6:1.  He made this appeal after he said, “And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again.”  II Cor. 5:15.  Christians are on the mission team of Jesus Christ.

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him.  For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.  To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life.  And who is equal to such a task?  II Cor. 2:14-16

Evangelism and mission work of the church is often thought about in the context of having a gospel meeting or raising funds for a missionary to go overseas.  Paul paints a different picture in the foregoing scripture.  Looking at these terms from our king’s point of view, He “leads us in triumphal procession” on the front line of offense in His battle with Satan over the souls of mankind.  Deity provides the church with a line of defense as well.  “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
II Cor. 10:5.  Paul was referring to his ministry in this statement, but then he said, “And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete.”  II Cor. 10:6.  This was referring to the discipline of the church.  The point is God’s will, which in some sense is synonymous with His kingdom, cannot be implemented unless church members’ spiritual growth allows it to happen (Matt. 6:10; Luke 17:20, 21).

Paul spoke of boasting about taking the gospel to the Corinthians, but he said, “Our hope is that, as your faith continues to grow, our area of activity among you will greatly expand, so that we can preach the gospel in the regions beyond you.”  II Cor. 10:14-16.  Evangelism is a team effort with Jesus, our king, but Christians must have love (agape) in our hearts before God can move His evangelism program forward to save those who have become His enemies (Matt. 5:43-48).  We are the front line.  Everyone may not be the speaker on the platform but we are all in God’s “triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him.”  By the graceful compassion of God and His comfort, Christians “purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.”  II Cor. 7:1.

In this way, “we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.  To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life.”  II Cor. 2:15, 16.  We are equal to this because we teach a positive “Yes” gospel from a “Yes” character.  All forms of legalism and ritualism veils the hearts of people, “But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.  Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”  II Cor. 3:16-18.

Christians are “competent ministers of a new covenant – not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”  II Cor. 3:6.  Being competent means we are students of the word of God and disciples of Christ (II Cor. 3:5).  When biblical competence and Christian character are present in a Christian we have wisdom from God.  We become the “peacemakers who sow in peace (to) raise a harvest of righteousness.” Jas. 3:18.  The result is, “I (God) will put my (His) laws in their minds and write them on their hearts.” Heb. 8:10.  Those who receive this gospel “show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” II Cor. 3:3.

Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.  Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God.  On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.  II Cor. 4:1, 2 

We do not peddle the gospel for profit (II Cor. 2:17).  Many were doing it in the first century and many are still in the religious business.  The “rallying around men” or “preacher myth” was responsible for dividing the Corinthian church members (I Cor. 1:10).  It has continued to work for Satan and his preachers and teachers today (II Cor. 11:13-15; II Tim. 4:1-5; II Pet. 2:1-3).  Much of what is called preaching is being done according to what was condemned in Heb. 6:1-3 and II Tim. 3:1-5.   

Some people simply decide they do not want to work for their living according to the routine demands of life (I Cor. 9:6; I Thess. 4:11, 12; II Thess. 3:7-15).  They may decide to go to a Bible school, college or university with the goal of finishing with a certificate in hand.  They present themselves to a church based on “Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn.” (KJV)  Deut. 25:4.  See Part IV, Lesson Three.  Churches put them on the payroll so they don’t need to work for a living.  They get the job based on their certificate rather than having “treadeth out the corn.”  The Corinthian church may have been supporting people who did not qualify “not to work for a living” according to “Moses’ Ox.”  I Cor. 9:12; II Cor. 11:18-21.  Paul set the example for all Christians who desire to function in the body of Christ as a preacher and teacher or any of the other choices we may make to serve as a member of the church of God (I Cor. 12:27-31; Rom. 12:4-8).

Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men.  What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience.  We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than what is in the heart  II Cor. 5:11, 12

He went on to say, “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view.”  II Cor. 5:16.  Please read the second text for this lesson – II Cor. 5:11-21.  There are seven billion people living on planet earth at the time of the writing of this lesson.  Tomorrow thousands more will come forth from their mother’s womb.  The spirit of every one of these people came from God and are made like God in respect to the nature of our inner person (II Cor. 4:16-18).  Because God created mankind to be His sons and daughters on earth he gave us a covenant of choice (II Cor. 6:16-18; Gen. 2:7-9, 15-17).  Adam and Eve broke the covenant.  They obtained the knowledge of good and evil and sin and death came upon mankind (Gen 3:22; Rom. 5:12).  The spirits of all mankind are housed in a body like Adam’s.   God, Himself, has subjected all of His creation to decay and suffering because we cannot choose good every time while in our Adam type bodies (Rom. 8:18-25).

However, God wants the spirit that has become our present “self,” reconciled to Him through Jesus Christ.  This suggests we were at some point with God but, because of sin, we got separated – this is one meaning of spiritual death.  Children are with God in their spirits (Luke 18:15-17).  God’s reconciliation program has only been fully implemented in Christ in these last days.  The part that was lacking is this:  “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”  II Cor. 5:21.  See Rom. 5:15-21.  Jesus came into this world in a body of the Adam type (Luke 3:38).  He had the knowledge of good and evil just like Adam attained, but He never broke covenant.  He revealed the righteousness of God (Rom. 1:16, 17).  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old has gone, the new has come!”  II Cor. 5:17.

By the love and wisdom of God sinners can be born again (I Cor. 1:30; 6:11).  This is the grace of God that gives us peace (Rom. 5:1).  It does not give us a passage into heaven.  It is not the program; it is the grace that lets God’s purpose in creation get reconciled to Him for every person.  Christians become slaves to God’s righteousness and the benefit is holiness. The result is eternal life (Rom. 6:22).  Salvation from sin is necessary so that Christians can become the new self – the new creation (Gal. 6:15).  Reconciliation means a change of relationship with God.  Mature people in Adam are sinners and sinners are slaves to their sin (Rom. 6:20).  This is a status of soul life called death (John 5:24; Rom. 5:21).  This same person, when reconciled to God, has the status of a son or daughter of God with full rights (II Cor. 6:18; Gal. 4:3-7).  This is what God had in mind before He created us and it is happening in Christ.

We, who have been reconciled to God, join the ranks of Christ’s ambassadors to reconcile the billions who still are slaves to their sins.  Our offensive tool for evangelism is the word of God which becomes the “sword of the Spirit.”  Eph. 6:17.  Our defensive tool is the remainder of the spiritual armor set forth in Eph. 6:10-18.  Christians say “Amen” to the gospel of truth and then we give glory to God as His ambassadors for the world people.

Questions for Discussion  

  1. What is the difference in the result of “godly sorrow” and “worldly sorrow?”
  2. Why is good character vital for teaching and preaching God’s word?
  3. What is the meaning of “Amen?”
  4. In what sense is every faithful Christian an evangelist all our awakening hours?
  5. How is the lack of spiritual growth of a church a deterrent to both discipline and evangelism?
  6. Explain II Cor. 2:15, 16.
  7. What is the result of a competent teacher or preacher who has Christian character?
  8. Did Paul become negative in II Cor. 2:17?
  9. How does the principle, “Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn,” define how a church makes their decisions about which member they support to teach and preach?
  10. How did the Apostle Paul properly role model the function of a Christian teacher and preacher?
  11. Define reconciliation, as the word is used in II Cor. 5:18.
  12. What was needed for the ministry of reconciliation to be implemented before the beginning of the last days in Acts chapter two?

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply