5:20. For Christ, therefore, we discharge an embassy. As if God were exhorting you through us, we entreat you in Christ’s name be reconciled to God.
For Christ therefore we are ambassadors. That which God the Father once did through Christ made man, He continues now to do through us, the vicars of Christ.—Theophylact from St. Chrysostom. So precious in God’s sight is the race of man, that for us He gave His Son to death, and appointed us His Apostles.—Omnia Propter vos (“all on account of you”), see 2 Cor 4:15. It is not we who exhort you: Christ entreats you: the Father implores and beseeches you.—St. Chrysostom. Wonderful instance of indulgence, kindness, humility! God is the offended party, yet He sends an embassy to
implore pardon, as if He had done wrong to us. We are to forgive God, and enter into His grace.—Theophylact.
5:21. Him, Who knew not sin. He made sin for us, that we might be made the justice of God in Him.
Him Who knew not sin. He who is without sin, is ignorant of its nature, says St. Augustine. Christ was so when from sin that it was as if He could not even understand it. He was justice itself. Yet God made him sin for us; delivered Him to death as a sinner and the worst of men. Punished Him in our place, as if He had been sin itself, guilty of all sin. Himself the universal sin. Probably, however, the words are intended to signify an offering for sin; the Lamb of God Who taketh away the sins of the world. God put upon Him the iniquity of all of us. (Isa 53:6.) That we might be made the justice of God. Just by the grace of God, perfectly just before God, participators in God’s justice. That sinners might be justified with God in Christ.—Ambrose. And, St. Anselm” He is sin, and we are justice; not our own, but God’s; not in us but in Him. Just as He is sin, not His own, but ours, not in Himself, but in us, by the likeness of the flesh of sin, in which He was crucified.
6:1. And in aid of God we exhort you, lest in vain you receive the grace of God.
As ambassadors of God, aiding Him in His work of salvation, we exhort you not to render the gift of God’s grace, conferred upon you by our ministry, useless and ineffectual. The grace of God, says Saint Anselm, is the remission of sins, which is rendered useless to those who do not, after receiving it, persevere in good works. The same writer says elsewhere: The grace of God is the power of doing that which is good, a power depending on God— without Me you can do nothing; and it is received in vain by him who labours not with God’s help, and adds not to it his own endeavours to fulfil God’s will by God’s assistance.
6:2. For He says: In a time accepted I heard thee, and in a day of salvation I succoured thee. Behold now the acceptable time; behold now the day of salvation.
God said to Christ on the cross (Isa 49:8): In an acceptable time I have heard Thee, and in the day of salvation I have helped Thee. That acceptable time is now, for Christ is crucified. Before Christ it was not day but night, says Saint Thomas; all shadows and darkness. Before Christ there was no salvation, for none attained to
saving faith, or to the vision of God. Now is the day of salvation. Day, for the light has shone; salvation, for salvation is obtained in Christ.
Saint Paul implies, in this passage, that his example, and that of his fellow-labourers, in their brave endurance of suffering and persecution, should not be thrown away upon his readers, but nerve them to similar firmness in resisting attacks upon their faith, a quality in which it is evident he feared they were deficient. Secondly, he defends himself and his colleagues against the calumnies of their opponents. And thirdly, he tacitly rebukes the
cowardice, self-indulgence, and other vices of those opponents themselves, by comparison and contrast.
We are careful not to give offence to any, lest blame should fall upon our ministry. The Syriac: lest there be a mole on our ministry. Whose life is despised, says Saint Gregory, his preaching will also be despised. A public sinner sins by preaching, says St. Thomas.