The Ministry of Reconciliation – 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 (Part 1)

 

One of the great doctrines of our faith is the doctrine of reconciliation. The term ‘reconciliation’ comes from the Greek word ‘katallage’ (kat-al-lag-ay), which means to restore. It gives the sense of changing position. In relation to God it is changing from being an enemy of God to being a friend of God. When it comes to our relationships with people, ‘reconciliation’ involves a mutual change. It requires repentance and forgiveness on both parties involved.

Before one comes to faith in Christ he or she is an enemy of God. This is caused by the fact that we have a sin nature. Sin separates us from God. Because of God’s great love for us, He made the first move toward reconciliation. He sent His son, Jesus, to atone for our sin so that we may be reconciled unto Himself. By way of introduction, the New American Commentary says, “This unit contains three key assertions. (1) God is the driving force behind the redemption of humankind. Reconciliation comes solely at God’s initiative. (2) God acted through Christ’s death, and Christ alone is the means of reconciliation. (3) God continues to act through those who have been reconciled. They have the privilege and responsibility to share in this great divine enterprise and are to call others to be reconciled to God.”[1] Later, we will discover how that we cannot partake in God’s work of reconciling the world unto Himself unless we ourselves are reconciled. The church at Corinth was a divided church and they needed to be reconciled in order to participate in the ministry of reconciliation. As we examine this passage, we see several results of our reconciliation with God.

A new life. As a result of God reconciling us to Himself through the death of Christ on the cross, all who believe on the Lord Jesus by faith and accept God’s gift of salvation are given a new life. Notice what verse 17 tells us, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” [2] Jesus came to change the world. He came to make all things new. Those who come to faith in Christ are brand new creations. The old life that was bound to the penalty and power of sin is gone and a new life of freedom has begun in Christ. Perhaps you have never come to faith in Christ. Maybe you are still enslaved to sin. My friend, you do not have to go on living this way. You can start over. You can have a new life. Jesus came to save you from the sin that has you bound. Trust in Him today and He will set you free and give you a new life.

A new position. Not only are we given a new life when we are reconciled to God, but we are also given a new position. Verses 18-21 speaks of this position. “And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. 20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. 21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. [3] The new position that we have is as ambassadors of Jesus Christ. In other words, we are representatives of Jesus to this world. Warren Weirsbe writes, “In the Roman Empire, there were two kinds of provinces: senatorial provinces and imperial provinces. The senatorial provinces were made up of people who were peaceful and not at war with Rome. They had surrendered and submitted. But the imperial provinces were not peaceful; they were dangerous because they would rebel against Rome if they could. It was necessary for Rome to send ambassadors to the imperial provinces to make sure that rebellion did not break out. Since Christians in this world are the ambassadors of Christ, this means that the world is in rebellion against God. This world is an “imperial province” as far as God is concerned. He has sent His ambassadors into the world to declare peace, not war. “Be ye reconciled to God!” We represent Jesus Christ (John 20:21; 2 Cor. 4:5). If sinners reject us and our message, it is Jesus Christ who is actually rejected. What a great privilege it is to be heaven’s ambassadors to the rebellious sinners of this world!”[4] The question that we must consider is, ‘how is it that we can have such a high and important position?’ There are several things we see here that answers this question. (1) God is the initiator. In verse 18, Paul says that ‘all things are of God.’ When it comes to reconciliation which leads us to having a new life and a new position, it must be understood that the work is all of God. Man does not naturally seek after God, because of His sin nature. Therefore, God came down to man. God has done the work of reconciliation. It is the responsibility of man to respond to God’s work in faith and receive what God as done through Jesus Christ. (2) God is the imputer. In verse 19 it mentions that God does not impute the trespasses and sins upon those who come to Him by faith. The term ‘imputing’ comes from the Greek word ‘logizomai’ (log-id-zom-ahee), which means to take inventory or to place upon. In other words, God does not take inventory of our sin. Once we come to Him by faith, He does not hold our sins against us. Instead, we are imputed with the righteousness of God. Through Jesus, the righteousness of God is placed upon us. Therefore, when God sees us, He does not see our sin (since there is no inventory of our sin), He sees His own righteousness, therefore, we are not condemned. (3) God is the employer. As we are reconciled to God, He employs us into His work of reconciling the world. This is the new position that we have. We are ambassadors of Jesus Christ.

A new responsibility. The responsibility that comes with being one who is reconciled to God is found in verses 18 -20.  “And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. 20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.”[5] There are two basic responsibilities that we see here. (1) The ministry of reconciliation. As ambassadors of Jesus Christ, our responsibility is to bring as many people to faith in Christ as we possibly can. This is why the church must be outward focused. Our first and foremost concern should be the saving of lost souls. After all, when all is said done, it is the only thing that will matter. Since Jesus is not physically on this earth during this age, it is the church’s responsibility to bring the Gospel to the world. We are Jesus to the world. We must show people Jesus through our words and through the way we live. (3) Be reconciled. God reconciled us to Himself through Jesus for salvation. We now have the responsibility to reconcile ourselves to God and to each other. The Corinthian church had a lot of problems, they were divided. Paul was encouraging them to deal with their issues and be reconciled. In other words, they need to get right with God, each other, and others in order for God to use them as ambassadors in this world. You and I must also make sure that we are reconciled in order for God to use us.

What a wonderful thing it is to be reconciled to God. What about you? Have you been reconciled to God? Have you placed your faith and trust in the Lord Jesus? If so, are you engaged in the ministry of reconciliation? Are there things in your life that is standing in the way of you performing your responsibility as an ambassador of Jesus?

 

[1] Garland, D. E. (1999). 2 Corinthians (Vol. 29, pp. 288–289). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[2] The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., 2 Co 5:17). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[3] The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., 2 Co 5:18–21). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[4] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 1, pp. 649–650). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[5] The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., 2 Co 5:18–20). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

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