A couple of weeks ago, I preached a message entitled “Working Together with God.” I have long enjoyed meditating on 2 Corinthians 5, but unfortunately, my reading typically ended with 2 Cor. 5:21. It is the next verse that has arrested my thinking of late, and as you probably know, there were no chapter divisions originally in the biblical text. The following verse reads:
Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain (2 Cor. 6:1).
Is it not an awesome thing to think about–that God would somehow allow us to partner with him in working out his purposes of redemption as His ambassadors?! I have had the privilege of working with some amazing people in my life, but everything changes in perspective when I realize that I have been called to join the one who works out all things according to the counsel of His will (Eph. 1:11) and perfectly completes every good work He begins (Phil. 1:6).
As Christians, this unique lifetime privilege is sealed with the unfailing promise already fulfilled and purchased by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Because of that, Jesus does not simply leave us with a plan of salvation, but he provides us the power of salvation in the gospel (Rom. 1:16) which, when spoken, calls forth dead people to new life. We have been given the protection and provision that God is with us always, even to the end of the age (Matt. 28:20). We have before us the perspective that Christ will build His church (Matt. 16:18), and nothing, absolutely nothing, can thwart the omnipotent voice of our Shepherd who calls out His own by name (John 10:27-28).
We are working with God in the most important, eternally significant thing in the whole world, and this work warrants not only the sweat of our brow but the sacrifice of our lives. Apparently, it was a concern for Paul that the Corinthian believers would receive the grace of God in vain, and context leads us to believe that a principle way of determining this is through their participation (or lack thereof) in working with God as those entrusted with the message and ministry of reconciliation. Paul was a great example that the grace he received was not useless:
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me (1 Cor. 15:10).
Unlike anything else, the gospel of God’s grace produces laborers who endure and persevere, not because of inner will-power or self-determination, but because they have operating within them the same power that raised Jesus from the dead bringing renewal and abiding hope.
In my message a couple of weeks ago, I discovered four evangelistic motivations in 2 Cor. 5 that help us not to receive the grace of God in vain but rather spur us onward in our “working together with God”. In the coming days, I hope to share them with you as an encouragement in your efforts to make Christ known as one entrusted with the one message capable to raise the dead, change the world, and satisfy the deepest longings of the human heart.