2 Corinthians


4. The character of Paul's ministry, 3:1-6:13

viii] A work of reconciliation


Continuing to explain the nature of his ministry, Paul defines his main role as an apostle to the Gentiles, namely that he exercises a "ministry of reconciliation." Paul has been reconciled to God in Christ and appointed an "ambassador of Christ" to work for the reconciliation of others.


i] Context: See 3:1-6.


ii] Background: See 1:1-7.


iii] Structure: A work of reconciliation:

The new creation changes a person's perspective, v16-17;

The new creation impels a desire to reconcile the lost, v18-20;

The new creation rests on a reconciliation realized through the atonement, v21.


iv] Interpretation:

Intertwined in Paul's apologia are some very profound pieces of theological writing. The passage before us, concerning the apostolic ministry of reconciliation, is one such.

"The apostle is remarkably candid, telling the Corinthians that his attitude to the historic Jesus of Nazareth had been transformed and in consequence his estimation of fellow-believers. He has come to appreciate that Jesus is the divine Messiah and that Christians constitute the renewed humanity which our Lord is creating. Building on this foundation, Paul outlines the kernel of the gospel message he presents to an unbelieving world and concentrates briefly, but in a spectacular fashion, upon what actually happened to Jesus at Calvary", Naylor.

The "ministry of reconciliation" is the ministry of bringing the lost into a restored relationship with God; it is, in simple terms, a ministry of evangelism. Such a ministry strives to reconcile the lost to God that they might become "the righteousness of God." Such was Paul's ministry, and it was his desire that the Corinthians recognize this fact. Paul, like all the apostles, was reconciled to God through Christ, and like all the apostles, as Christ's ambassador, has the responsibility of making known the message of reconciliation.


v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 5:16

The work of reconciliation, v16-21: i] A new creation, v16-17. In continuing to address the issue of his apostolic ministry, Paul asserts that a person in Christ is a new creation, v17, a fact which is well illustrated in his ministry. As a minister of the gospel, Paul and his colleagues no longer evaluate people by merely human standards, v16.

w{ste "so" - therefore. Here inferential, drawing a logical conclusion. "The consequence of all this is that ....", Barclay.

apo tou nun "from now on" - from now, henceforth. Temporal, such that "now" is God's divine moment played out in the death and resurrection of Christ, although a consequential sense is also possible, "therefore, consequently, we regard ..."

hJmeiV pro. "we" - Emphatic by use and position; "therefore we on our part among those who are living unto Christ, in consequence / henceforth, know no one ....", cf., Lenski.

oidamen (oida) perf. "regard" - know, consider [no one]. A believer's standing in Christ changes their perception; "we evaluate no man on purely human standards", Barclay.

kata + acc. "[a worldly] point of view" - according to [flesh]. Expressing a standard, "corresponding to"; "from a worldly standpoint", Zerwick.

ei kai ..... alla "though" - even if [we have known christ according to the flesh] but / then [we know him this way no longer]. The syntax is unclear. It presents more as a counterpoint construction than conditional, so Long. Harris, Barnett and Thrall ("an admitted fact of the past") argue for conditional; "if, as is the case, ....., but now ....."; Bultmann suggests it is a hypothetical unreal condition; "supposing if we had known ...". The kai could be emphatic, added for emphasis, but more likely concessive, "if even" = "although". So, although Paul previously regarding Christ from a worldly point of view (as a prophet maybe, or even worse, a fraud), now (alla introducing the counterpoint) he views him no longer this way. The issue does not concern Christ's pre or post resurrection manifestation, but rather the state of Paul's perception.


In Christ, Paul has become part of a new order of reality. As part of the new order of things he is becoming a new creature. The "old has gone" (a single past event), "the new has come" (an ongoing continuous). This is all God's doing and it is by means of reconciliation, v18. God took rebellious humanity and restored the broken relationship that exists between himself and his creation, and this he did through Christ's cross and empty tomb.

w{ste "therefore" - Drawing a logical conclusion.

ei + ind (ass.). "if" - Introducing a 1st. class conditional clause where the proposed condition is assumed to be true; "if, as is the case, ..... then ...."

tiV pro. "anyone is" - any, a certain. "Any person." Note that the first conditional clause is elliptical; there are no verbs. Harris lists the following suggestions:

"So, if anyone comes to be in Christ, there is a new creation", cf. Moffatt;

"Therefore if any man be in Christ, let him be a new creation", KJV mg.;

"So, if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation", Furnish, Barnett;

"Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is (they are) a new creation", RSV, NIV.

en + dat. "in" - in [christ]. Local, expressing sphere - incorporative union. Thrall understands the phrase this way, arguing that a person becomes this corporate identity through baptism into Christ. This sense puts the stress on our relationship with Christ, a union similar to the one flesh union of a man and woman in marriage. Barnett, opting for a more prosaic path, argues that the phrase expresses that a person "has responded in faith to the gospel of Jesus Christ crucified and risen." He also notes, given the context, that it can mean much the same as en swmati Cristou, "belonging to a community of the baptized that confesses Christ", and en pneumati, "within the sphere of the Spirit's activity." So Barclay's paraphrase; "when a man (person) becomes a Christian", but better "if anyone is united to Christ", Cassirer, ie., is "in personal union with the risen Christ", Harris.

kainh ktisiV "he is a new creation / the new creation has come" - a new creation. Predicate nominative of an assumed verb to-be. A person ("anyone", someone) who is in a relationship with Christ, has, by means of that relationship, moved from the Adamic creation, which is subject to condemnation, into a new eon where there is no condemnation. Such a person naturally sees things differently. Their perception has changed because their state has changed. "He has in fact been created anew", Cassirer.

parhlqen (parercomai) aor. "has gone" - [the old things] passed away. What has passed away? Sin and death are often added to the list, along with the flesh, although most would agree that sin, death and the flesh are having a field day, certainly while we are in the flesh. Note the context, through Christ we are reconciled to God, we are forgiven. In Christ there is now no condemnation, yesterday, today and tomorrow. Being bound under the judgment of God is what has passed away.

gegonen (ginomai) perf. "has come / is here" - [behold] he has become [new]. "The new time, the eschatological hour of the world's destiny and deliverance when in Christ all has become new", Martin. Those in that hour have a changed attitude toward Christ, and similarly a changed attitude toward other people. Their life becomes Christ-pleasing rather than self-pleasing.


ii] The ministry of reconciliation, v18-20. Paul goes on to explain the function of his apostolic ministry in the terms of reconciliation. He, as with the other apostles, was reconciled to God through Christ and given the task of communicating the message of reconciliation (the gospel), and so by this means advance the reconciliation of mankind with God.

de "-" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the argument / introducing a new literary unit / paragraph.

ta .. panta "all this" - all things. Nominative subject of an assumed verb to-be. Possibly the creation, but better, all that entails the new creation, v17. It is "things" plural. "It is all the doing of God", Moffatt.

ek "is from [God]" - are from, out of [god]. Expressing source / origin.

tou katallaxantoV (katallassw) part. "who reconciled" - the one having reconciled [us]. The participle serves as a substantive, standing in apposition to "God", as does "[the one] having given". A very powerful relationship concept.

eJautw/ dat. ref. pro. "to himself" - Dative of indirect object.

dia + gen. "through" - through, by means of [christ]. Expressing agency; through the saving work of Christ - the cross and empty tomb.

hJmin dat. pro. "[gave] us" - [and having given] to us. Dative of indirect object.

thn diakonian (a) "the ministry" - the ministry, service. Accusative direct object of the verb "to give." "Paul's office as herald of the cross and resurrection", Martin.

thV katallaghV (h) gen. "of reconciliation" - of reconciliation. The genitive is usually treated as verbal, objective; "the ministry expedited in the preaching of the gospel that produces reconciliation." Yet, it could also be classified as adjectival, attributive, "a ministry which is characterized by reconciliation", or epexegetic, "a ministry which consists in announcing reconciliation." The ministry of reconciliation is the work of proclaiming the gospel for the reconciliation of the lost to God. Presumably reconciliation is by means of justification, so Fung, with its end the adoption of the lost as sons and daughters of God.


So Paul, as one of God's reconciled believers, one of the new creatures, was entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation. Paul now goes on to explain the substance of that reconciliation. Reconciliation is God's work of drawing to himself those who are far off, and this by means of their identification with the sin-bearing work of Christ. Christ's work on the cross enables God to no longer exact the penalty for an individual's sin. Since the penalty was paid by Christ, God no longer has to count "man's sins against them."

wJV oJti "that" - as that. This construction may be construed in four ways:

a) Epexegetic, "namely that"; "that is", RSV and NRSV;

b) Introducing a dependent statement, or direct quote. The NIV follows the view that the two particles are best combined to form a simple "that" serving to express the content of Paul's ministry message;

c) Comparative, "as is certain that / as is the case";

d) Causal, "because this is from God."

The first option seems best; "Christ has given us the ministry of reconciliation; which is: God was in Christ reconciling the world .....", Berkeley.

h\n .... katallasswn (katallassw) pres. part. "[God] was reconciling" - [god] was [in christ] reconciling [the world]. A periphrastic imperfect construction serving to emphasize aspect. As for what was reconciled, namely, "the world", in this context, it probably means representative mankind, ie., those who believe in Jesus. That which is reconciled could also include the cosmic order and even nature - all that "groans and travails" awaiting its renewal.

eJautw/ dat. pro. "to himself" - to himself. Dative of indirect object.

en Cristw/ "in Christ" - Most commentators opt for "God was reconciling the world through Christ (lit. "in Christ", but taken as instrumental, "through / by means of", rather than locative "in")." "Through" is used in the sense of "through the sacrificial work of Christ."

mh logizomenoV (logizomai) pres. part. "not counting" - not reckoning. Possibly just an attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the main verb "reconciling", as with qemenoV, "having put". Possibly both participles are modal, expressing the manner in which reconciliation is progressed, so Plummer, even possibly instrumental, the means by which it is progressed, even consecutive, expressing the result of reconciliation, so Harris. The phrase "not counting men's sins against them" at least serves to explain the workings of reconciliation. When God does not reckon, count, calculate our sin against us, then, as a natural consequence, we find our relationship with God renewed; we are at peace with God. Where there is a "reckoning" of sin, condemnation follows, Rom.1:16-18. It is Christ's substitutionary work which turns aside condemnation and so achieves our reconciliation.

autoiV dat. pro. " them" - to them [the trespasses of them]. Dative of interest, disadvantage. The plural pronoun is used to express a collective sense of "the world".

kai "and" - but/and. Transitional, probably slightly adversative here. "He was not holding men's sins against them, but rather, he placed upon us the privilege of taking to men who are hostile to him this offer of his friendship", Barclay (adjusted).

en + dat. "to" - [having put] in [us]. Possibly local, expressing space, "he has established among us", Furnish, even instrumental / agency, although more likely standing in for a simple dative of indirect object, as NIV.

thV katallaghV (h) gen. "of reconciliation" - [the message] of reconciliation. The genitive options are similar to "ministry of reconciliation", v18. Obviously this ministry entails proclaiming the gospel, and again it is worth noting how the positive spin is underlined. The focus of the gospel is not the atonement, but its consequence.


The ministry of reconciliation, committed to the apostles (in fact committed to all disciples), is a ministry of the word. It is a "message of reconciliation" that is committed to Paul; he is an "ambassador" with a message. Paul is a representative who is to speak accurately and authoritatively on behalf of his sovereign. As such, in v20b, Paul presents a short-hand version of the gospel: "be reconciled to God".

oun "therefore" - Drawing a logical conclusion / inferential.

uJper + gen. "-" - for. Possibly expressing reference / respect, "with respect to which" = "with respect to the message of reconciliation", but also possibly expressing representation / advantage, benefaction, "on behalf / for the sake of"; "we are therefore ambassadors for Christ", Harris.

presbeuomen (presbeuw) "we are [therefore] ambassadors" - [therefore] we are ambassadors. We don't speak for ourselves; we speak for Christ, on behalf of Christ, even in Christ's place.

wJV "as though" - as [of god]. This preposition with the genitive absolute participial construction tou qeou parakalountoV, "God entreating" = "as if God were making his appeal", expresses either a supposition, "as though God were making his appeal through us", or a fact, "since / in the conviction that God was making his appeal through us", cf., BDF#425[3]. "With the confidence that God himself makes his appeal through us", Harris, Martin.

di (dia) + gen. "through" - [were entreating] through [us]. Expressing agency. God appeals to humanity through the preacher.

deomeqa (deomai) imp. "we implore" - beg, pray. "Ask" is not strong enough, although possible.

uper + gen. "on [Christ's] behalf" - on behalf [of christ]. Possibly again reference / respect, "with respect to, concerning, with reference to", ie., instead of peri, but representative, advantage / benefaction is more likely; "on Christ's behalf we make this entreaty", Harris.

katallaghte (katallassw) aor. pas. imp. "be reconciled" - The passive voice is important, indicating that God is doing the reconciling, not us. We simply accept what God offers us in Christ, here his reconciling grace.

tw/ qew/ (oV) dat. "to God" - The passive must be noted, so forming a dative of indirect object, "you be reconciled to God"; "become reconciled to God", Cassirer.


iii] The means of reconciliation, v21. In summary form, Paul explains the doctrine of the atonement - the means by which reconciliation proceeds. The God of love does the unexpected; he identifies himself with his enemies in order that they may become his friends. This, "great paradox of redemptive love", Tasker, achieves for humanity a permanent right relationship with God.

epoihsen (poiew) aor. "[God] made" - he made [sin on behalf of us]. The action is punctiliar, completed. "God caused Christ to be identified in some way ..... with human sin", Harris. "Weighed him down with the curse of human sinfulness", God "made him share our sin [on the cross]", TEV.

ton mh gnonta (ginwskw) aor. part. "him who had no [sin]" - the one not knowing. The participle serves as a substantive. The "knowing " here reflects the Hebrew "have personal experience with." Obviously referring to Jesus sinless life; Christ "a stranger to sin", Cassirer.

aJmartian (a) "[to be] sin" - sin, a sin offering. Accusative complement of the accusative direct object "the one not knowing sin", standing in a double accusative construction. Possibly "suffered as though he himself was a sinner", or "brought under the judgment of sin on behalf of sinners", Martin, but certainly under the curse of sin, "Christ ...... became a curse for us", Gal.3:13. Possibly, "made him to be a sin offering", "a sacrifice for sin", "sin bearer", Harris. cf., Isaiah 53:10, "an offering for sin." Barnett disputes the sacrificial interpretation.

uJper + gen. "for"- on behalf of. Expressing advantage / benefaction; "on our behalf"; "for our sake", Cassirer.

iJna + subj. "so that" - that. Forming an adverbial clause expressing purpose, "in order that", or result, "with the result that."

genwmeqa (ginomai) aor. subj. "might become" - [we] we might become. The aorist again expresses punctiliar action implying that a believer has already become the righteousness of God. The use of the pronoun hJmeiV, "we", is emphatic.

dikaiosunh qeou "the righteousness of God" - righteousness of god. Predicate nominative. The pietistic idea that the genitive is adjectival, possessive, is not widely accepted, ie., of "God's righteousness", as a divine morality, to be lived out by faith. The genitive "of God" may be partitive, "that status of being right with God which comes as his gift", O'Brien; or subjective, "the saving activity of God", Talbert, "God's dynamic fidelity to his covenant promises", Dumbrell. See The righteousness of God.

en + dat. "in [him]" - Is this preposition expressing space / sphere, or is it instrumental / agent? Possibly a local means; "by being in him."


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