"And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation." (2 Corinthians 5:18)
The great work of reconciling lost men to a holy God has been accomplished by the Lord Jesus Christ, yet He "hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation," through which we, as His ministers (i.e., "servants") urge men, "be ye reconciled to God" (vv. 19, 20).
This wonderful "ministry of reconciliation" is outlined in 6:1-10, under three subcategories, totaling 28 characteristics. First, there is a ten-fold ministry of suffering. "In all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in watchings, in fastings" (vv. 4, 5). On the other hand, it also encompasses a nine-fold ministry of godliness: "By pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, By the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left" (vv. 6, 7).
These attributes of suffering, combined with the characteristics of godliness, produce what might be called the nine-fold paradox of the ministry. "By honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report: as deceivers, and yet true; As unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things" (vv. 8-10).
The central paradox of these nine is the great central theme of the Christian life, centered in Christ: "As dying, and, behold, we live!" This is the ministry of reconciliation, for "they which live should . . . henceforth live . . . unto him which died for them, and rose again" (5:15). HMM