Therefore knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, but we are made manifest to God; and I hope that we are made manifest also in your consciences. We are not again commending ourselves to you but are giving you an occasion to be proud of us, that you may have an answer for those who take pride in appearance, and not in heart. For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are of sound mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, that they who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf. Therefore from now on, we recognize no man according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the minstry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed us to the word of reconciliation.I'll have to admit right away that some of this isn't clear to me: in particular, the part where Paul writes that if "we" (I assume this means Paul and Timothy, who was also named in the greetings in the first verse of this epistle) are beside ourselves, it is for God; while if they are sound mind, it is for the Corinthians. I think maybe what this is getting at is the idea that Paul's relationship with the Corinthiam believers is essentially rational, based on persuasive reasoning; while his relationship with God transcends human reason and thus might resemble, to human eyes, madness. But I may well be entirely off-track here.
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
What's clearer, though, is another exposition of the Christian principle of vicariousness, whereby God says to us, I'll become you so that you can (sort of) become Me. Jesus became, Paul says, sin, even though sin is entirely foreign to His nature, so that we can become righteousness, even though righteousness is entirely foreign to our nature. It can't happen otherwise. Our reconciliation to God is, from our side of the transaction, completely passive. Paul doesn't tell us to reconcile ourselves to God; instead, he says, be reconciled to God. It's not something we do. It's something we permit Him to do -- or that we don't permit Him to do. Ultimately, He has made us entirely free, and He doesn't take that freedom away.
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