The Message and Ministry of Reconciliation - 2 Corinthians 5:18-6:2
There are few things in life more beautiful than true reconciliation. All of us experience small reconciliations on a regular basis, but to experience a sincere reconciliation after a long or severe separation is very sweet.
As Christians we know that every person is born in with an incredible need to reconciled. We are all born separated from God and with rebellion against Him in our hearts. And yet, even though we caused the separation, God has initiated reconciliation. God did what was necessary to see our relationship with Him restored; and He did so at great cost to Himself.
But while those who believe have experienced this incredible reconciliation, many of us take it for granted. We forget how great a chasm existed and what lengths God went to in order to bring us back into relationship. And not only has He reconciled us, but He has also made us stewards of His great message of reconciliation. We have been called to help those who are still living at odds with their creator, to share with them the hope of reconciliation.
The Message of Reconciliation
- Our Need for Reconciliation – While each of us are born separated from God, most people live without much awareness of this great schism. Most are unaware (or choose to ignore) the great need for restoration that exists. Yet the Bible is clear, our sin separates us from God and unless we come into right relationship with Him we will experience His judgment (Isaiah 59:2; 2 Thessalonians 1:7b–9).
- God as the Initiator of Reconciliation (5:18-19) – While many believe that they can somehow earn right standing with God or at least meet Him halfway, the Scriptures are clear that God is one who does the work of reconciliation. Paul says it is all from God; He is the one who reconciles us to Himself.
- Jesus as the Agent of Reconciliation (5:18-19) – While God the Father is the initiator of reconciliation, Jesus is the one through whom reconciliation is accomplished. It is only through the sinless life, sacrificial death and victorious resurrection of Jesus that we can be brought near to God (Colossians 1:19-22). Even while we were at enmity with God, Jesus died to accomplish reconciliation (Romans 5:8-11).
- Imputation as the Means Reconciliation (5:19b, 21) – Imputation is a word that is used to describe Jesus’s taking of our sin on Himself. In His death Jesus took on our sin and bore the wrath of God on our behalf. Now, as we trust in His death on our behalf we are granted the righteousness of His perfect life. This is known as “the great exchange;” He took our sins and we gained His righteousness (1 Corinthians 11:24; 15:4; Galatians 3:13; Isaiah 53:5–6; Philippians 3:8b–9).
The Ministry of Reconciliation
While this passage offers great insight into God’s work of reconciliation, Paul’s main reason for writing is to defend his own ministry to the Corinthians. He has been reconciled to God through Christ and now God has called him to be a steward (ambassador) of the message of reconciliation. This is the message he has brought to the Corinthians and that he continues to proclaim with great urgency.
While the context of this passage is of Paul’s apostleship, all believers share in the call of God to take the message of reconciliation to others. In this sense the passage serves as an example to be followed.
- Entrusted with the Message of Reconciliation (5:18-19) – A main theme throughout this letter is God’s entrusting Paul with message and ministry of the Gospel. Paul has been reconciled and now has been entrusted with the message of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 4:1, 5-6).
- An Ambassador for Christ (5:20) - An ambassador is a representative and messenger of the one who sends him; in the same way Christians are representatives and messengers of God to the world; He makes His appeal through us (2 Corinthians 2:17; Romans 10:14-17).
- The Appeal for Reconciliation (5:20b, 6:1-2) - It’s clear that Paul loved the Corinthians and was committed to seeing them understand the hope of the Gospel. He also understands the message of reconciliation and the need for it to be received through faith. Paul appeals to the Corinthians to not neglect the grace of God that is being offered them in Christ – be reconciled to God!
Summary – Through the grace of God and the sacrifice of Jesus those who believe can experience the incredible gift of being reconciled to God. This is something we cannot earn; it is made possible by God through Christ alone. As those who have been reconciled we should plead with those around us to believe. God has entrusted us with His message, and we, like Paul, should implore others to be reconciled to God. To not dismiss the grace of God that’s available to them.