Brighton Church of Christ
When Paul spoke of fellowship of men and God in 2 Corinthians 6, it had never been so powerful and intense. The Apostle tells us in that passage how he sensed that he and his fellow-preacher Timothy were working with God. He said in verse 1, “We then, as workers together with Him [God] also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain (emphasis, mine).”
Although this verse introduces a new chapter, it is intricately connected with the latter part of the preceding chapter. Paul had at the end of chapter 5 spoken of reconciliation with God and the nature of it. Five times in three verses the word “reconciliation” or “reconciled” is used. Paul said that God “has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ”, He “has given us the ministry of reconciliation”, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them”, He “has committed to us the word of reconciliation” and, finally, “be reconciled to God” – this was a direct appeal to the Corinthians.
A man or woman can step up their relationship with the Lord from a phase of becoming a child of God to that of being a servant of God. This consists in moving from turning in penitence away from a world of sin, through baptism, to actively doing God’s work faithfully and diligently.
This labour, Paul explained, was about calling on people to reconcile with God. The means by which the calling was done was the gospel of Christ as we learn in 2 Thessalonians 2:14. Paul told the Christians in Thessalonica, “He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Note that reconciliation means two parties, whether friends or spouses or whoever else, becoming friends again after a quarrel or disagreement. In the case under consideration, it's men who have quarrelled with God. They’ve done that by disobeying God’s commands. The first human act of violation of divine limitation occurred when Adam and Eve ate of a tree in the garden of Eden that God had forbidden them to.
Adam and Eve’s act resulted in sin and caused the relationship the couple had been enjoying with their Creator to be severed. The reason was that they had died spiritually as God promised they would in the event they consumed the forbidden fruit (Genesis 2:17). The first male and female ever created were thereon at enmity with God on their own volition as anyone is today who does “wicked works” (Colossians 1:21).
The calling also consisted in administering the truth that God, the offended One, “made Him [Christ] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21). The Apostle’s role was just to proclaim what heaven had declared concerning Christ’s work of atonement (Isaiah 53:5, 1 John 2:2).
Simply put, the efforts involved in the call to reconciliation to God amount to conveying the gospel message of salvation from death to others (Romans 1:16).
Paul states that he and his young companion were doing this great work in partnership with God (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:9). What an honour it is for a man to do the same thing which God does. This must be the highest of all honours.
The Apostle was conscious of the facts that this work he was engaged in with his associate was God’s and that God was using them to accomplish it. In a sense, they were with God in the business of saving souls using the very means God had provided to this effect, which is the gospel. Ephesians chapter 6 verse 17 informs us that God, too, makes use of the gospel in conversion.
These two ministers understood that, to this end, the message was indispensable just as the proclamation of it was. Furthermore, they appreciated the fact that people in need of reconciliation with God are alienated from God (Isaiah 59:1-2). Worse, they are in danger of being eternally separated from God. The Bible teaches that when Christ returns, those who have not come under the influence of His gospel would have lost for good all chances to come in the presence of God the Father (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9).
Such individuals would thus be lost as Jesus said that “the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). The Lord was there talking about being lost spiritually as opposed to being lost physically. For, a person may have a biological existence and yet be physically dead. Paul told this truth when he said, concerning the brethren at Ephesus, “you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1).
We learn from the words of the prophet in Isaiah 53:6-7 that when someone is lost or separated from God, they are separated from the purpose of their existence. The purpose of human existence is communion with God (Genesis 1:26-27). Relationship with God constitutes man’s natural habitat, not the world of sin from which all men and women must be rescued.
Perhaps, the Apostle Paul’s personal sense of cooperation with God was so deep that he could endure so much difficulty and hardship in life and never give up preaching. In this respect, the second epistle of Paul to the Corinthians is a type of spiritual autobiography. Preachers in need of motivation to go on when the going in ministry gets tough can find encouragement in this book.