Reconciliation. Reconciliation means that there used to be a problem. Reconciliation means that there was a ruptured relationship. There was alienation and separation. Reconciliation is the establishment of harmony and peace between enemies. Reconciliation bridges the chasm that existed between two people. Reconciliation means that the hostility has ended and the two are no longer enemies. Listen to these three verses in 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 and how frequently Paul says something about reconciliation.
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 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. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:18–20 ESV)
Five times Paul says some form of the word “reconciliation.” Now we might wonder what the problem was such that we need reconciliation. God repeatedly teaches the world that there is a problem because of our sins. “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. (Romans 1:18 ESV)
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. (John 3:17–19 ESV)
Sin is what has ruptured our relationship with God. The very first picture of the scriptures teaches us this. Adam and Eve are in paradise, in the presence of the Lord. But when they broke God’s decree, they had to be removed from his presence and removed from the Garden of Eden. Sin created hostility and severed the relationship with God. Separation from God is the loss of life. Thus, the wages of sin is death.
Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear. For your hands are defiled with blood and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies; your tongue mutters wickedness. (Isaiah 59:1–3 ESV)
We cannot understand the gospel message until we first recognize our condition before God. We cannot come to God. Our sins have made a separation between us and him. Now we are prepared to understand God’s message through his apostle Paul.
God Reconciling The World (5:18)
“All this is from God.” What is Paul referring to? Remember in our last lesson that we saw the new creation that exists in Christ. We are transformed people. The way we look at life has completely changed. The order and arrangement by which we live has changed. The old has passed away and the new has come. All of this is from God. We are a new creation because God reconciled the world to himself through Christ. Something had to be done to restore this broken relationship. But please consider how amazing it is that God is the one who acts. We broke the relationship. We are the ones who caused the hostility yet it is God who acted to reconcile us to him. God is the reconciler. The text makes this point very clear. In fact, verse 19 says it again. “In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself.”
God so loved the world that he made a way for reconciliation. I do not know that we can appreciate this enough. When someone does something against you and hurts you, how much do you want to be the one making reconciliation possible? We usually are not the ones desiring to make reconciliation. We want them to reconcile with us! We want them to make a way back to us and then we will consider receiving them back. But, friends, there was no way for us to come back to God. What could we do to correct and erase the multitude of sins we have committed against our God? There is nothing we could do. Yet God pursued us. God was reconciling the world to himself. God desired to reconcile sinners to himself, making them his children. God wanted to rescue his people so they would not receive the judgment of wrath that they deserve. The amazing grace of God has been revealed when he himself took the initiative in Christ to reconcile us to him.
This is the heart of God. God does not want us condemned. God does not want us to experience the judgment that we deserve for our sins. But more than this, God does not want his relationship with us to be severed. God does not want this relationship to be broken. We must be stunned by this. God is the offended party and yet he does not want this relationship to be ruined. God desires a relationship with you.
I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice. (Ezekiel 34:16 ESV)
Therefore, God would reconcile us to him through Christ and gave the apostles this ministry of reconciliation to proclaim that God has made reconciliation possible. Paul summarized the gravity of this situation and the amazing work of God in Romans 5.
Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:9–11 ESV)
Not Counting Trespasses Against Them (5:19)
How can this reconciliation happen? Listen to verse 19: “Not counting their trespasses against them.” We are able to be reconciled to God because God in Christ is not counting our sins against us. Please think about that amazing concept for a moment. God is not counting your sins against you. This is what we need. This is the only way for us to not be enemies of God. The message of reconciliation that Paul and his companions are proclaiming to the world is that we have separated ourselves from God by our sins but God has acted to reconcile us to himself. The means of reconciliation is forgiveness. There is not a more blessed thought than to think that our sins are not counted against us. But even more staggering is how much it cost God to reconcile us to him! This is why the cross is the greatest display of God’s love. Through Christ God does not have to count our sins against us.
Ambassadors For Christ (5:20)
Paul establishes his authority throughout this paragraph. Paul says that he and the apostles are counted as ambassadors for Christ. An ambassador speaks authoritatively for the ruler, as if the ruler were there in person. The ambassadors of the United States speak authoritatively for the president and the nation in their meetings in other places. This was the role of the apostles. They are able to speak on Christ’s behalf. This has been an important message that Paul is communicating to these Christians. The apostles have been given this ministry of reconciliation. Paul needed to defend the message he proclaimed to them. He and his fellow apostles “are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:17 ESV). They should not need to commend themselves to these Christians again (3:1) because they are their letters of recommendation. So the apostles are proclaiming a glorious message with the authority of Christ, functioning as ambassadors for him. God makes his appeal to the world through the gospel message given to the apostles which they wrote down and we have in our hands. God is not making his appeal to the world another way. This is the means of his appeal: through the apostles’ message.
Be Reconciled To God (5:20)
God has done his work of reconciliation through Christ. But the work of Christ does not automatically reconcile every human to God. You must want to be reconciled. What will be your response? Through the gospel God is inviting people to be reconciled. But reconciliation requires both parties to desire it. There cannot be reconciliation of a relationship if only one person wants to reconcile. God has shown that he desires reconciliation with us. But do we desire to be reconciled to him? Therefore, the call is made, imploring us on Christ’s behalf to be reconciled to God.
The thing seems so silly that it is sad. Here is what I mean: we are doomed because of our sins. Our sins have separated us from God. We are deserving of judgment and wrath for our sins. Rather than bringing the judgment we deserve, God makes a way for us to avoid the coming wrath. God does not want us to be separated from him. God wants to be with us and have a relationship with us. So at great cost to himself he sacrifices his only Son, Jesus, so that we could be reconciled. Yet, God has to make his appeal to us, begging us and imploring us to be reconciled to God. We should be running in to the arms of God because of the salvation he has brought. Yet people do not want a relationship with God so that the apostles must implore us to be reconciled.
And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. (John 3:19 ESV)
Do not love the darkness. Please turn to the light and enjoy a relationship with your God who loves and gave his Son for you so that you would not have suffer in eternity. God will not count a single sin against you if you will be reconciled to him. Respond to his loving call by believing in him and following him in faith with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.