Q: Who is the “we” Paul is referring to? Why is this distinction important for our study?
A: “We” specifically refers to Paul’s ministry team comprised at least of himself and Timothy and probably others such as Silas. It’s important because we need to understand the example Paul is setting that teaches us what it means to be a minister in the body of Christ.
Q: Is the “ministry” Paul refers to in v.1 something specific or just a general reference to Paul’s apostleship?
A: The specific answer is found in 5:18, “Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” “Ministry” can be thought of as 2 different sides of the same coin, one side inward-directed to believers and the church, the other side outward-directed to non-believers. There are aspects of reconciliation to both groups in all the gifts.
Note: The word “ministry” is used 10 times in 2 Corinthians, more than any other NT book. The Greek word for “ministry” is “diakonia” which literally means “service.” Our word “deacon” is derived from this word. The main point is that this is a word that applies to EVERY believer’s service to God through whatever gifts or opportunities are provided so as to assist in the reconciliation of all people to God regardless of their status.
Q: What exactly is Paul “renouncing” in v.2? What does it mean to “renounce” something anyway?
A: To “renounce” is to repudiate or disown something specific. In this case it’s unconfessed sin (“things hidden because of shame”) and trying to justify its hold on one’s life by changing the message we preach (“walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God”).
Q: What has Paul renounced personal sin in favor of in the second part of v.2?
A: Cleansed from the inside out by God’s truth (“the manifestation of truth”) that is not only seen by God Who sees all things hidden, but by men who visibly see the integrity of a life that is BOTH inwardly and outwardly sincere (“commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.”).
Application: So far Paul has taught that as we are being transformed into the image and glory of Christ, the changes becoming not only evident to God who sees us in secret but to men who see our public persona. This is an essential part of our “service” which acts for the reconciliation to God of all those we come in contact with, both believer and non-believer alike.