Summary: Each one reconciled by Christ is to be involved in reconciling the world to God. But not all those in the church are. They have missed their ministry. According to our text, they have received the grace of God in vain.
2 CORINTHIANS [5:17-] 6: 1-2 [GAINING PERSPECTIVE Series]
THAT THE GRACE OF GOD BE NOT IN VAIN
The first two verses in the sixth chapter carry on the instruction from chapter 5 concerning our calling and task as ambassadors. God has just finished a passionate plea that each person who is a new creation in Christ Jesus participate in the ministry of reconciliation. Each one reconciled by Christ is to be involved in reconciling the world to God (CIT). But not all those in the church are. They have missed their ministry. According to our text, they have received the grace of God in vain.
When one receives the grace of God, the life should vindicate itself by being God's steward or workman (Eph 2: 8-10). God expects those who have received grace to be involved in the ministry of reconciliation. For not only are we saved by grace, the grace of God sanctifies us as we join Him in the ministry of reconciliation. The grace of God penetrates and changes us as we carry out the stewardship which has been entrusted to us.
I. GRACE'S OUT WORKING, 6: 1-2.
[II. HOLDING UP THE MINISTRY, 3-4.
III. IN DIFFICULTY, 4b-5.
IV. IN INTEGRITY, 6-7.
V. IN DIFFICULTY AND VICTORY, 8-10.]
The following thought is based upon the teaching in 5:17–21 where we are exhorted to be ministers of the word or message of reconciliation. Here God emphasizes His exhortation to us. Because we have received the grace of God we are to work together in this ministry of reconciliation to win others to Christ as verse one urges. “And working together with Him, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain.
This verse is intimately connected with the preceding chapter (dè kaì -but also). Paul is describing the new creation's discharging of duty. God has blessed us by saving us by His grace so that we might be co-workers with Him. One of the highest compliments ever bestowed upon believers is calling us co-laborers with the Almighty God. He who scattered the stars in space, set the world upon its axis, created night and day and all forms of life has allowed us to join Him in His creative work. God is busy making sinners into new creations (2 Cor. 5:17), and He has called us to be His ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:20). Wow! We are Christ’s ambassadors of reconciliation to earth.
As partners with Jesus we go out and offer God's reconciliation to people. As His ambassadors we experience His empowering grace flowing in us as He works through us and situations to bring about reconciliation with Him. God here is entreating us who have received His grace to work together with Him and become His laborers.
How could one "receive. . . the grace of God in vain?" A Christian’s salvation is forever secure, but some of us choose to spend our lives on ourselves rather than on the purposes to which God has called us. Those who do not join together with God in this ministry of reconciliation have received the grace of God in vain. Justification is not grace's end result. The justifying grace of God seeks to bring us into fuller sanctification. "You can not accept pardon and refuse sanctification" [Hodge, Charles. The Geneva Series of Commentaries. I & II Corinthians. 1859, 1974. Banner of Truth. Edinburgh. p. 529]. This grace given to sanctify us is in vain unless we join with God in what He would have us do, so that we may become what he would have us be (1 Pet 1:22; 2:9).
Grace refers to the unmerited favor God demonstrated in the sacrificial death of Christ (5:14–19). Christ’s death is the reason why people can freely enter into a relationship with God. This grace received in salvation must not be received in vain [kenon] meaning “without content, empty, without result, or useless,” but is to be taken as a stewardship. [There is no indication that the salvation of the Corinthian believers is in jeopardy, but the salvation of others is.]
God has called us to be ambassadors for Christ and given us the ministry of reconciling the world unto Him, not to do so is to receive the grace which saved us in vain, or to no avail for all the lost souls around us. Ephesians 2:8, 9 & 10 indicates that we were created to be His workman. Receiving the grace of God in vain means that their practice did not measure up to their profession as Christians, that their inconsistent lives constitute a denial of the logical implications of the Gospel, namely that Christ died for them so that they might no longer live to themselves, but to His glory (5:15).
For all those who accept His grace, God has supplied a challenging and worthy purpose for living, giving eternal meaning to all our days. Acting in faith on His plan rather than on less significant personal preferences is putting the grace of God to worthy use.