Paul, Prepositions, and the Ministry of Reconciliation

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.  (2 Corinthians 5:17-20 ESV)

First, take note of the somewhat confusing use of prepositions, especially those in bold.  Second, determine to whom the prepositions refer.  From the final sentence, we must infer that “we” and “you” are separate entities; that’s language for toddlers and absolutely incontestable.  Likewise, the “us” and the “we” are synonymous, referring to the same party.  “Who,” it must be posed, “is the ‘we’/’us’ group?”  Well, what do we know pertaining to this question?

  • Paul, the author, is in the group.
  • This group was commissioned by God. (2:17)
  • Timothy is included via the greeting.
  • Paul writes as having authority.
  • Paul & Timothy are both apostles. (1 Th 2:6)

There’s more that could be said, but I don’t really think even those five points were absolutely necessary.  It is plain that Paul uses “we”/”us” to denote either all or a subgroup of apostles.  (Further evidence exists in that the word “presbaia,” translated as “ambassadors,” is from the Greek word family of “presbyteros.”–It so happens that “priest” is derived from that word.)

Who is the “you” being implored?  The short answer: the members of the Church present in Corinth (1:1).  So far:

  1. “us” & “we” are synonymous, and “we” & “you” are disparate
  2. “we” denotes a few or all apostles
  3. “you” denotes Christians in Corinth


  • Original: “We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”
  • Extrapolated: “Apostles implore Christians…be reconciled to God.”

Well, I guess, if you thought that being a Christian meant that you had a certain status imputed to you that nothing and nobody, yourself included, could change, and that status meant that you were reconciled to God, then you now know that was a bad thought, a false belief.

My suggestion to you consists of nothing more than the content of the passage itself: Be reconciled to God through the “ministry of reconciliation” that God gave to his apostles, and through those apostles to their successors, the Episcopate, the Bishops of the Catholic Church.  (Nobody but Catholics and Orthodox Christians even acknowledge the existence of this ministry.)

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