The Two-Fold Ministry (Sept 2012)

By Matt Dabbs

By Keith Brenton

Very few, I think, would argue with the premise that Paul’s emphasis in this passage is on a ministry of reconciliation between man and God through Jesus Christ, and the privilege of being ministers of it. But let me argue that this is a primary emphasis.

I believe Paul has a secondary emphasis: a ministry of reconciliation among believers. Remember Corinth’s history of rivalry and division that he has dealt with in what we know as his first epistle to them. He has begun this one expressing that he has delayed visiting them until he is not so ticked off at their behavior that his visit would be more punitive than instructive and loving (chapter 1). Then he reminds them to be loving toward one another, to express love for those who have not heard the gospel by sharing it with them (chapter 2). He has defended his own ministry against detractors among them, the glory of the pure gospel and the excellence of its ministry (chapter 3). He has observed that faith in this gospel compels sharing it, and whatever troubles result are insignificant compared to eternal glory (chapter 4).

Now in chapter 5, he concludes that this ministry is our very purpose, sealed with the Holy Spirit.

Therefore we see no one from a worldly point of view. The implications?

We don’t criticize evangelists who have suffered much to share this gospel, as some were doing.

We all share this ministry; no one is “better” than anyone else.

We can’t be reconciled to God if we are not reconciled to each other, because we are God’s co-workers in this ministry.

Those who do not share in that ministry must not be permitted to disrupt it (chapter 6).

This ministry may be marked by loving correction of one another, but always by support of each other (chapter 7).

If I’m reading too much into these chapters, feel free to reprove me in the comments. (Lovingly, please!) But Paul seems to be making a twofold case for the ministry of reconciliation: it is between ourselves individually and God … and it is among ourselves as a group of believers.

So far this year, the writers of New Wineskins have been on a trajectory of trying to emphasize denial of self toward maintaining the unity we must have in Christ in order to be effective ministers of reconciliation between God and man through Him. Honestly, I didn’t recognize this trajectory until writing this article. I have to wonder if the Spirit we share had a hand in directing it.

But I also realize that it is one of the major underlying themes of scripture itself. We are to be like Christ, who gave Himself for all. We are to love as He loved, giving ourselves for each other. This is the message we share not only by speaking it, but by living it.

You’ll find it in the inevitable encounter of Jacob and the brother he had wronged, Esau (Genesis 33).

You’ll find it in the inclusion of the older brother in Jesus’ story of the prodigal son … his very phrasing of “this son of yours” and “this brother of yours” (Luke 15:11-32).

You’ll find it in the profusion of “one another” encouragements throughout the epistles.

We are God’s family, adopted through the agency of His only Son. He created us for this purpose: to effectively grow that family through the gospel of that Son.

We must get along with and show love for each other, or our verbal message is contradicted by the message we live.

In this edition of New Wineskins, our writers continue to explore this trajectory at the core of our identity as believers: the ministry of reconciliation.

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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1579 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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