Through the New Testament in a Year

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2 Corinthians 6:1-13 – Fellow workers with God

God has heard the groans of his dying world. He has sent his Son as Saviour of the world, sent him to give life and hope and a future.

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In speaking of the nature of his ministry, Paul describes himself and his colleagues as “God’s fellow workers” (2 Corinthians 6:1). God has a plan and purpose for his world. That purpose is displayed in Jesus Christ. In Jesus’ character we see all that God purposes that we shall be. In his death we see God’s judgment upon this present world. In his resurrection from the dead we see the hope of a new creation. By his outpoured Spirit the power of the new creation is already at work in this dying world. God’s plan is to make all things new. And Paul has been enlisted by God; he has a role to play in the implementation of God’s great plan; he is a fellow worker with God.

Jesus taught us to pray to our heavenly Father, “May your kingdom come; may your will be done on earth as it is done in heaven.” Whenever we give legs to our prayers and work for the establishment of God’s kingdom we are fellow workers with God. Here is work from which we shall never be made redundant until Jesus returns.

But the work of the kingdom is demanding and costly. It cost Jesus his life and he calls us to follow him in the way of the cross for the sake of the kingdom. In 2 Corinthians 6:4-10 Paul describes his paradoxical life as God’s fellow worker: “As servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonour, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.”

There are some in Corinth who are seeking to gain pre-eminence in the church by commending themselves to others – by boasting of their great spiritual experiences. Paul is also ready to commend himself – by faithful and tireless kingdom work in the face of all manner of opposition. He is content to be deprived of many of the things which this world values if only others may be enriched with the treasures of God in Christ. And, he adds, it’s not as if we are really deprived of anything, for in Christ we possess all things.

So Paul pleads with his much loved children in Corinth, “we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain” (6:1). God has heard the groans of his dying world. He has sent his Son as Saviour of the world, sent him to give life and hope and a future. God has shown us his favour in the Lord Jesus Christ. The doors of salvation have been opened wide and God calls everyone to enter into the blessings freely given in Christ; “now is the day of salvation.”

We can hear both the passion and frustration of Paul in this letter. He is hurt and saddened that some in Corinth now seem to despise his ministry. But his greatest concern is not for himself and his own reputation but for the Christians in Corinth to whom he has ministered. He is anxious that they do not turn away from the grace of God in a crucified Messiah for the empty show of self-promoting preachers.

Lord, give us the spirit that animated Paul in the work of the kingdom.

Teach us, good Lord, to serve you as you deserve;
to give and not to count the cost;
to fight and not to heed the wounds;
to toil and not to seek for rest;
to labour and not to ask for any reward,
save that of knowing that we do your will.


Peter Misselbrook