2 Corinthians 5:11-6:10
New American Bible (Revised Edition)
The Ministry of Reconciliation. 11 [a]Therefore, since we know the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade others; but we are clearly apparent to God, and I hope we are also apparent to your consciousness.(A) 12 We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you an opportunity to boast of us, so that you may have something to say to those who boast of external appearance rather than of the heart.(B) 13 For if we are out of our minds,[b] it is for God; if we are rational, it is for you. 14 [c]For the love of Christ impels us, once we have come to the conviction that one died for all; therefore, all have died.(C) 15 He indeed died for all, so that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.(D)
16 Consequently,[d] from now on we regard no one according to the flesh; even if we once knew Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know him so no longer. 17 (E)So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. 18 [e]And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.(F) 20 So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.(G) 21 [f]For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin,(H) so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.
Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. 3 (K)We cause no one to stumble[j] in anything, in order that no fault may be found with our ministry; 4 [k]on the contrary, in everything we commend ourselves as ministers of God, through much endurance,[l] in afflictions, hardships, constraints,(L) 5 beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, vigils, fasts;(M) 6 [m]by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, in a holy spirit, in unfeigned love,(N) 7 in truthful speech, in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness at the right and at the left;(O) 8 through glory and dishonor, insult and praise. We are treated as deceivers and yet are truthful;[n] 9 as unrecognized and yet acknowledged; as dying and behold we live; as chastised and yet not put to death;(P) 10 as sorrowful yet always rejoicing; as poor yet enriching many; as having nothing and yet possessing all things.(Q)
- 5:11–15 This paragraph is transitional. Paul sums up much that has gone before. Still playing on the term “appearance,” he reasserts his transparency before God and the Corinthians, in contrast to the self-commendation, boasting, and preoccupation with externals that characterize some others (cf. 2 Cor 1:12–14; 2:14; 3:1; 3:7–4:6). 2 Cor 5:14 recalls 2 Cor 3:7–4:6, and sums up 2 Cor 4:7–5:10.
- 5:13 Out of our minds: this verse confirms that a concern for ecstasy and charismatic experience may lie behind the discussion about “glory” in 2 Cor 3:7–4:6. Paul also enjoys such experiences but, unlike others, does not make a public display of them or consider them ends in themselves. Rational: the Greek virtue sōphrosynē, to which Paul alludes, implies reasonableness, moderation, good judgment, self-control.
- 5:14–15 These verses echo 2 Cor 4:14 and resume the treatment of “life despite death” from 2 Cor 4:7–5:10.
- 5:16–17 Consequently: the death of Christ described in 2 Cor 5:14–15 produces a whole new order (2 Cor 5:17) and a new mode of perception (2 Cor 5:16). According to the flesh: the natural mode of perception, characterized as “fleshly,” is replaced by a mode of perception proper to the Spirit. Elsewhere Paul contrasts what Christ looks like according to the old criteria (weakness, powerlessness, folly, death) and according to the new (wisdom, power, life); cf. 2 Cor 5:15, 21; 1 Cor 1:17–3:3. Similarly, he describes the paradoxical nature of Christian existence, e.g., in 2 Cor 4:10–11, 14. A new creation: rabbis used this expression to describe the effect of the entrance of a proselyte or convert into Judaism or of the remission of sins on the Day of Atonement. The new order created in Christ is the new covenant (2 Cor 3:6).
- 5:18–21 Paul attempts to explain the meaning of God’s action by a variety of different categories; his attention keeps moving rapidly back and forth from God’s act to his own ministry as well. Who has reconciled us to himself: i.e., he has brought all into oneness. Not counting their trespasses: the reconciliation is described as an act of justification (cf. “righteousness,” 2 Cor 5:21); this contrasts with the covenant that condemned (2 Cor 3:8). The ministry of reconciliation: Paul’s role in the wider picture is described: entrusted with the message of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:19), he is Christ’s ambassador, through whom God appeals (2 Cor 5:20a). In v 20b Paul acts in the capacity just described.
- 5:21 This is a statement of God’s purpose, expressed paradoxically in terms of sharing and exchange of attributes. As Christ became our righteousness (1 Cor 1:30), we become God’s righteousness (cf. 2 Cor 5:14–15).
- 6:1–10 This paragraph is a single long sentence in the Greek, interrupted by the parenthesis of 2 Cor 5:2. The one main verb is “we appeal.” In this paragraph Paul both exercises his ministry of reconciliation (cf. 2 Cor 5:20) and describes how his ministry is exercised: the “message of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:19) is lived existentially in his apostolic experience.
- 6:1 Not to receive…in vain: i.e., conform to the gift of justification and new creation. The context indicates how this can be done concretely: become God’s righteousness (2 Cor 5:21), not live for oneself (2 Cor 5:15) be reconciled with Paul (2 Cor 6:11–13; 7:2–3).
- 6:2 In an acceptable time: Paul cites the Septuagint text of Is 49:8; the Hebrew reads “in a time of favor”; it is parallel to “on the day of salvation.” Now: God is bestowing favor and salvation at this very moment, as Paul is addressing his letter to them.
- 6:3 Cause no one to stumble: the language echoes that of 1 Cor 8–10 as does the expression “no longer live for themselves” in 2 Cor 5:15. That no fault may be found: i.e., at the eschatological judgment (cf. 1 Cor 4:2–5).
- 6:4a This is the central assertion, the topic statement for the catalogue that follows. We commend ourselves: Paul’s self-commendation is ironical (with an eye on the charges mentioned in 2 Cor 3:1–3) and paradoxical (pointing mostly to experiences that would not normally be considered points of pride but are perceived as such by faith). Cf. also the self-commendation in 2 Cor 11:23–29. As ministers of God: the same Greek word, diakonos, means “minister” and “servant”; cf. 2 Cor 11:23, the central assertion in a similar context, and 1 Cor 3:5.
- 6:4b–5 Through much endurance: this phrase functions as a subtitle; it is followed by an enumeration of nine specific types of trials endured.
- 6:6–7a A list of virtuous qualities in two groups of four, the second fuller than the first.
- 6:8b–10 A series of seven rhetorically effective antitheses, contrasting negative external impressions with positive inner reality. Paul perceives his existence as a reflection of Jesus’ own and affirms an inner reversal that escapes outward observation. The final two members illustrate two distinct kinds of paradox or apparent contradiction that are characteristic of apostolic experience.