Series: 2 Corinthians
2 Corinthians 5:18-19 ESV
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
One of the great ideas of God’s Word, the Bible, is that people were made in God’s image and likeness to have fellowship or friendship with the true and living God. However, that happy condition ended when Adam rebelled against God. Since then all people everywhere share in his rebellion; we reject God’s rightful place in our lives, and we refuse to love him. This rebellion, refusal, and rejection are what sin is. We are alienated from his friendship, and this puts humanity on a search for significance, a religious quest, or an all-absorbing pursuit of pleasure. And since God is holy and righteous, he responds to our sin with wrath and justice. But that is not the end of the story, or the Bible would be a very short book, with no people to read it.
God also tells us in the Bible of his love, mercy, grace and compassion in the Lord Jesus Christ. He lets us know that instead of the alienation and condemnation we deserve, he invites us back to fellowship or friendship with him. The great word communicating this message of restoration is reconciliation. God says that we are welcome back to him through what Christ accomplished on the cross.
So, let’s investigate this good news.
I. The meaning of reconciliation
The word group used by Paul in his writings was used in a literal sense of an exchange, “especially of money or merchandise” (Harris). Metaphorically, it came to communicate a “transformation of relations, not in the sense that original friendly relations are restored… but in the sense that friendly relations now replace former hostility… Reconciliation comes about ‘by making peace’” (Harris, cf. Col 1:20; Eph 2:15)
A. An incorrect view
1. Reconciliation has only to do with our alienation from God and our hostility against God. This view says that reconciliation involves a change in human attitude, not God’s attitude.
2. Certainly, sinful people are opposed to God. Simply let a sinful person start to suffer, and he or she is quick to blame God. The story of Job shows how Satan expected to get that kind of reaction out of Job. But a consideration of the correct view will show how inadequate this perspective is.
B. The correct view
1. Definition: “Reconciliation is a work of God in Christ whereby he removes the ground of his holy alienation from the sinner and thus does not impute their trespasses against them” (Horne). “Reconciliation is that sovereign work of God the Father in which His alienation from sinners is removed through the propitiatory sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Reconciliation flows out of and is based on propitiation” (Morey).
2. Defense: Reconciliation was accomplished in the past in Christ before we had any change of attitude. Consider Rm 5:6-11 and what is said of the human attitude there! And reconciliation is something we receive not give (Rm 5:11).
3. Illustrations of this view:
a. When Jesus tells a person to go and to be reconciled to his brother, he is not telling that person to change his attitude, because that could be done at the altar. But he commands the person to seek an attitude change in him (Mt 5:23-24).
b. Consider Paul’s command to the separated woman (1 Cor 7:11).”It is obvious that the command ‘to be reconciled to her husband’ cannot consist in putting away her subjective enmity or hostility. That would not bring the exhortation into effect. The reconciliation contemplates, rather, the termination of the separation and re-entrance upon proper and harmonious matrimonial relations” (Murray, p. 37).
c. Think also of the reconciliation of the nations (the Gentiles) spoken of in Rm 11:13-15. Their acceptance is not caused by a change in their attitude, but in God’s attitude toward them (cf. Murray, pp. 37-38).
II. Four basic ideas about reconciliation
A. God (meaning the Father) both takes the initiative in and is the goal of reconciliation: “God, who reconciled us to himself…” and “God was reconciling the world to himself….”
1. Everything about the new creation comes from God. He acted to reconcile sinful people to him. The great problem was his holy wrath against sinners, and he decided to do something to remove that wrath. God knew he could not wait for people to do something; he himself acted in grace to change the situation (cf. Col 1:20, 22).
Illustration: When parenting you often have to take the initiative. You may have told your children “a million times” to pick up their toys, but they’re not doing it again. So you take the initiative and join them in putting their toys away.
2. God reconciled people to himself (cf. Rm 5:10; Eph 2:16). God wanted people back in a peaceful relationship or friendship with him. Clearly, this truth has immense practical significance. God wants to share life and in fact glory with those reconciled to him. In other words, God wants you around. He wants you in a friendly and even more, a family relationship with him.
Illustration: Perhaps this happened to you when you were young. You were at a neighbor’s house playing with your friend, but supper time came, and your friend’s parents “suggested” that it was time for you to go home. In other words, they no longer wanted you in their house. You weren’t part of their family. But the living God wants you in his family!
B. God achieved reconciliation in Jesus Christ: “through Christ… in Christ….”
1. God’s plan is structured on what Christ, the Son of God, would accomplish in the gospel (Rm 5:10; Col 1:20, 22; Eph 2:16). If you come into one of our gatherings, whether large or small, you will hear much about Christ and the gospel. We want you to know the supremacy of the Lord Jesus Christ in God’s plan of salvation. We want you to know that your only hope is in Christ.
Apply: Is Jesus Christ your hope, your confidence, and the One in whom you delight in the presence of God?
2. This also is a very practical matter. Some people try to get to God apart from Christ and his sacrifice of himself on the cross. They concoct some sort of religious scheme to try to get God to like them. But this is actually an insult to God, who freely offers to have us in a friendly relationship through what his Son accomplished. It is as if God says, “Put all your efforts aside; I want to take you back, and I’ve made the way back.” But then the sinner insults God by saying, “Your way is not to my liking; I have a better idea than all this talk about a cross and sacrifice and blood and death.”
Apply: Is Christ and his death and resurrection your ground of acceptance before God? Do you know that God accepts you, because you are accepted in Christ?
C. God has a wide vision in reconciliation: “us… the world….”
1. Part of what Paul is doing in these verses is talking about his new covenant ministry. So it is natural for him to speak of God reconciling us. Paul puts himself and his co-workers and by implication all Christians in this group (as we have seen throughout the letter).
2. But Paul clarifies that this reconciliation is not for some little group, but is for all people, whether Jews of Gentiles (Eph 2:11-16). At the cross, God not only removed the alienation between himself and sinful people; he also removed the alienation caused by the law covenant that had divided Jews and Gentiles. Christ made a new humanity in the new creation. This is also very practical, for it removes any ethnic barriers in the body of Christ. It also sends us out to make disciples of all nations.
Apply: This is a basic idea of this gathering of believers. It does not matter what you are or have been from a worldly point of view. What matters is your relationship with Christ. Here, we accept one another for Christ’s sake.
D. Reconciliation is accomplished on God’s side, yet it must be personally embraced on the human side: “and gave us the ministry of reconciliation… he has committed to us the message of reconciliation….”
1. Reconciliation is what God did in the past in Christ by his sacrificial death on the cross. It is finished; it is done. Peace is made (Col 1:20). Nothing needs to be added to it. Clearly, this shows the glory of Christ in his saving work. Practically, this means that God is not holding some grudge against you. When he welcomes you back to himself, you are all the way back. This means you can praise with joy, because everything is done. This means that you can also relax—you can rest on Christ’s finished work.
2. Though all is finished, people must receive it. And in God’s plan this happens when believers in Jesus like you and me tell others the good news.
Apply: What are you doing to tell others the good news? Who are you praying for? Are your friends and you inviting others into your lives in order to make Christ known to them?
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://christmycovenant.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/frampton-dave.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Pastor Dave Frampton: When push comes to shove there is usually nothing more satisfying than for a saint of God to have at his or her disposal a source of biblically sound instruction in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The faithful and spiritually profitable labors of Dave Frampton are here at CMC to be a blessing. Bible teacher and student alike will profit much from his labor in the God’s Word. Visit Newtown Square Baptist Church[/author_info] [/author] [button link=”http://www.newtownsquarebaptist.org/” color=”red” newwindow=”yes”] Visit Newtown Square Baptist Church[/button]