2 Corinthians 5:18-21 – THE RECONCILIATION OF GOD
Reconciliation takes place when two parties that had been estranged or separated are brought back together. Some form of the word “reconcile” is used five times in the last four verses of 2 Corinthians 5, where Paul describes man’s reconciliation with God. Here is how that text reads [all emphasis mine, rdc]:
(18) Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, (19) that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. (20) Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. (21) For he made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in him.
Let us break down this passage and take a closer look. What does it show us about reconciliation?
The Need for Reconciliation – Why do humans stand in need of reconciliation to God? Our “sin” (5:21) or “trespasses” (5:19) separated us from Him, resulting in spiritual “death” (Isaiah 59:1,2; Ephesians 2:1). Be assured, if man’s relationship with God was damaged, it was 100% our fault and not God’s.
The Provider of Reconciliation – That would be God the Father, of course. He is the one “who has reconciled us to himself through Jesus Christ” (5:18). To think of God as the Reconciler should not sound strange to us, as other verses identify Him as “the justifier” of believers (Romans 3:26) and “our Savior” (1 Timothy 2:3). If God had not taken the initiative to reconcile sinners, then all of us would still be left in a helpless, hopeless, lost condition.
The Reconciled Ones – There is a sense in which God reconciled “the world” (5:19), in the same way that He “sent the Son as Savior of the world” (1 John 4:14). The salvation or reconciliation of God is available to the whole world, that is, it is possible for every human to obtain it. The reality, though, is that the Lord’s reconciliation is found only in one place. The Bible refers to that special place as “in Christ.” In the context of 2 Corinthians 5, we learn that anyone that is a new creature is “in Christ” (5:17). Again, in 5:19 we read that the Father reconciled the world to Himself “in Christ.” In the Christ, and in Him alone, does God make available all spiritual blessings, including reconciliation.
The One to Whom Sinners Are Reconciled – Twice in our text we read that God reconciled people “to Himself” (5:18,19). Again, in the next verse the appeal is, “. . . be reconciled to God” (5:20). It is obvious that the reconciliation about which Paul writes is both a reconciliation that God provides and a reconciliation that brings sinners back together with Him.
The Sacrifice of Reconciliation – Is there any doubt about the means by which God provides reconciliation? What is the clear message of verse 18? “. . . God, who has reconciled us to himself through Jesus Christ . . .” It is through-the-Son reconciliation. What was the role of Jesus in providing reconciliation? The Father “made him who knew no sin to be sin for us” (5:21). Jesus never committed a sin (1 Peter 2:22), and He did not become a sinner for us. What He did do was bare our sins in His body on the cross (1 Peter 2:24); by God’s grace Jesus tasted of death for every man (Hebrews 2:9). He became, as it were, a sin offering for us – the blameless, spotless Lamb of God laying down His life for lost sheep (1 Peter 1:18,19). If we are grateful for what the Lord did for us, should we not be telling that great message to others?!
The Ministry of Reconciliation – This is a service – trying to help others be reconciled to God (5:18). It is the work of telling others how to be reconciled to Him, encouraging them to take the necessary action, and then instructing and exhorting them to continue walking with God in order to remain in a saved state.
The Word of Reconciliation (5:19) – What word or message does the Lord use to reconcile sinners to Himself? It is the gospel. By the gospel He calls men to Himself (2 Thessalonians 2:14), people are born again via the gospel (1 Peter 1:23-25), and men are saved by the gospel (Romans 1:15,16). Thank God for the revelation of reconciliation, the great news that through and in the Christ we can be redeemed. Without that revelation we would be lost in ignorance.
The Ambassadors of Reconciliation (5:20) – The apostles were witnesses of and for the Christ. We are not. In the same way, the apostles were special, qualified, Holy Spirit-empowered ambassadors of the Christ. You and I are not. It was to and via the apostles and 1st-century prophets that the Spirit miraculously revealed the way of salvation (Ephesians 3:5).
The Active Participants in Reconciliation – “All things” of the reconciliation were planned by the Father (5:18), the Son gave Himself as the sacrifice of reconciliation (5:21), and the Spirit revealed the way of reconciliation. But, what about humans? Are we active, or passive, in the process or reconciliation? Active. True, the Bible says that God “reconciled us to himself,” but lost people still must respond properly to God’s offer of reconciliation. How? By obeying the gospel from the hear (Romans 6:3-5,17,18).
— Roger D. Campbell
TRUTH is published monthly by the Klang church of Christ in order to help educate, edify, encourage, and equip the saints of God.