INTRODUCTION: The members of the Godhead have perfect knowledge, love and communication, therefore we would expect that the creatures made in the image of our triune God to have as their greatest longing to be loved and known and to love and know others. Thus we could expect loneliness to be painful, and the desire for lasting, meaningful relationships of trust, respect, security and love to be strong.
Think about what triggers our anxiety; often it is concern over rejection, disrelatedness; we hate that feeling of being forgotten and feeling like we don’t matter. We’re attracted to people who value us.
We try to put our best foot forward, make a good impression, have a recognizable contribution in our relationships. We can’t stand to live without security (of love and favor) and significance (that we matter).
It’s super uncomfortable to live with a diminished sense of security and significance, so we utilize a host of defense mechanisms to protect ourselves from emotional pain. (You can’t just walk up to another person and say, “Please love and accept me for who I am!” “Tell me I am significant!” Yet those God-created needs are there.)
The issue is where will you take those needs? The Bible is so clear; our relationship with God is the foundation for all other relationships. The Lord has made you with needs only He can meet. The more we take those needs elsewhere, the deeper our idolatry. There is a God-shaped vacuum in every person’s heart. Only God can fill it, not another person, not things.
What does it look like when God fills that vacuum in the Person of Christ? 1.) You will KNOW that you are loved by God unconditionally. 2.) You will KNOW that you are right with God (have His full favor and acceptance in Christ. 3.) You will KNOW that you are forgiven and that your conscience has been washed clean by Christ’s blood. 4.) You will KNOW that you are in the center of God’s purpose (knowing why you were put on earth and knowing your identity and significance as His beloved child).
Only when those “core needs” are met by Christ are you equipped to have relationships as God intended. All of our venturing out in forming relationships must spring from the fact that we are right with the God we were created to know. Only Christ can meet these core needs of ours.
Without this vacuum filled by Christ and His redeeming love, we are liable to take our core needs to people and things. Can you imagine what kind of problems that creates? Oh how blessed to know the Lord, then we can venture out from that secure continent of rock to form God-glorifying relationships. We can operate from a secure position of love, forgiveness, and purpose. My identity is secure in Christ! People and performances don’t carry my value or identity (1 Cor 4:3-5).
What incredible joy to be aligned and identified with God’s purpose to glorify Himself by bringing hell-deserving sinners to Christ and adopting them as sons and daughters of God through the Savior.
2 Corinthians 5:18-21
I. The Meaning of Reconciliation
- “To Reconcile” --is to remove the enmity between parties that are at variance (at odds) – the restoration of friendly relations after a period of enmity and estrangement.
- Reconciliation answers our alienation and estrangement from God by reason of sin.Reconciliation is distinctly Paul’s word. He uses it to describe the relational benefits of justification (Justification results in friendship with God).
- Sin drove a massive wedge between us and God. We ought to take notice of the scripturalwords describing our “disrelatedness” to God: enemies (Rom 5:10); children of wrath, sons of disobedience (Eph 2:2, 3); alienated and hostile in mind (Col 1:21); hostile toward God (Rom 8:7; James 4:4); enmity (Eph 2:15, 16); haters of God (Jn 7:7; 15:18, 23-25).
- What is the cause of our quarrel with God? James 4:4; Rom 8:7; Jn 7:7; 1 Cor 1:23, 24) provide enough of a clue. God has an absolute claim on His creatures – He has the right to tell us how to live. While slaves of sin, how can we love His holiness (His holy response to sin is wrath). How can we love His righteousness when He justly condemns sinners to death? Thequarrel also arises from the fact that we hate God’s justice against our sin.
II. The Ministry of Reconciliation (v. 18).
- “All these things” – refers to the new creation of which Paul has been speaking vv. 14-17, (God is the sovereign Author of these life-transforming realities).
- “Reconciled us to Himself” – This is God’s act; He does this, not us. We cannot put away our own hostility and enmity toward God. He accomplished reconciliation when, in the death of Christ, He put away everything that on His side meant estrangement!
- God’s reconciliation to us must precede our reconciliation to Him. WHY? As long as we are under God’s wrath and the curse (due to our sin), we cannot be anything but aliens and enemies, cut off from God’s favor and fellowship. Only when God’s wrath and the curse are removed, can be holiness, life, and love – that is the order; we must have divine favor beforewe can be holy. “While we were yet enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son” (Rom 5:10). Application “melts” the heart of the sinner.)
- “[He] gave us the ministry of reconciliation” – God has called believers to proclaim the gospel of reconciliation, to preach peace – we’ve been given a ministry of reconciliation – God is ready to receive sinners into favor and manifest His love.
- A ministry of reconciliation is needed because man’s reconciliation to God is not complete without a human response. Men can only become right with God when they consent to God’s terms of peace. The gospel comes bringing the power to fulfill its condition for salvation(the effectual call, the gift of faith – “turn Thou me, and I shall be turned” Mt 11:25-30; Jer 31:18 KJV).
III. The Mediator of Reconciliation (v. 19).
- God in Christ was making atonement for the sins of the world; He was reconciling the world to Himself.
- The two personal pronouns, “their” and “them” emphasize that reconciliation is applied to personal relationships. Through sinfulness they have become estranged and hostile (Rom 5), reconciliation in Christ removes this barrier to friendly relations with Almighty God.
- “Not counting” explains how God was reconciling the world to Himself. (The sins of believers are not reckoned, or imputed to them – to not impute sin is to forgive it.) “AND” joins a second activity to this “not counting” clause. God was “putting in us the word of reconciliation.” He has sent His ambassadors. Not imputing sin, and committing to us the word of reconciliation are both involved in God’s saving activity (“how shall they hear without a preacher” Rom 10:14).
- The “word of reconciliation” -- God has willed that it be announced to all men: Because of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection on behalf of sinners (1Cor 2:1, 2), God is reconciled and ready to forgive – turn to Him and live, be received into favor. (The death of Christ proves that God is kindly disposed toward sinners; His disposition is that of willing their reconciliation.)
IV. The Message of Reconciliation (v. 20).
- “Ambassador” -- title of Emperor’s Representative. Paul, and every believer, is a representative of Christ the Reconciler (and behind Christ is God – redemption is as much the work of the Father as the Son). Paul speaks with authority granted by the Lord. Ambassadors watch for opportunities with hearers (Paul a “debtor” to all men – Rom 1:14KJV).
- “Seeing that God is urging, asking, pleading, entreating by us” – the divine command, “be reconciled to God”! (It is not reconcile yourselves to God, for it was God in Christ bearing the enmity, therefore become reconciled, embrace the offer of reconciliation.) Do not think that it is we who are asking, it is Christ who is asking you, it is the Father who entreats through us! (This is the basis of our pleading with sinners to be converted, we are authorized to do so.)
- of our pleading with sinners, We are the heralds of this amazing love, God gave His Son so that we could have no penalty. Enraged sinners put to death God’s Son and they slew many of the messengers of reconciliation, yet God continues to send more ambassadors to proclaim the word of reconciliation.
- Paul repeats that our message is on behalf of Another (huper). (By the authority of Another.) The intensity, passion, and urgency of the plea show that man is not merely a passive recipient in an automatic process, No, God is calling for a response from the unconverted.
- Application: The believer needs daily to remember the reason why he is reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. Treasure the infinite provision for ongoing forgiveness. Preach the Gospel to yourself each day.
V. The Means of Reconciliation (v. 21).
- Here Paul summarizes the heart of the Gospel. How can sinners be reconciled to an immutable, unchanging God? How is the non-reckoning of sins consistent with the attributes of God?
- God’s answer: “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin” – this is how the non-reckoning of sin was made possible; the sins of all who would believe were imputed to Another. Christ suffered what the greatest sinners ought to suffer. God allowed Christ to be condemned and die as One who was cursed – He was treated as sin personified (note Gal 3:13 and language of the LXX).
- “He was made sin” -- Though the Son of God was sinless, He became officially guilty of our sin and guilt. Christ’s satisfaction as Substitute guarantees the reality of our reconciliation. He suffered the penalty we deserved. He made a full and perfect satisfaction of the Law’s demands of justice to the lawbreaker (Rom 8:3). As Hodge states, “His death was a true substitution; what was done by One was in place of another. It avails as though that other had done it. The victim was the substitute of the offerer – its death took the place of his death. If both died, there was no substitution.”
- Because of Christ’s finished work as Substitute, there is nothing in the perfection of God’s character, nor His holy law, nor in His moral government that stands in the way of your pardon. (This is huge! – it’s the basis of both legal pardon, and joy and peace in the conscience.)
- In His voluntary death, Christ experienced not merely the death penalty, but the consequences of sin within His Person: He was plunged into alienation from God, dereliction, isolation, disrelatedness, radical estrangement, and divine wrath.
- Christ’s willing identification with the sinner’s guilt, sinner’s penalty, and also the consequences of sin in the soul (alienation) was for the purpose of exchange – He became identified with sinful humanity that we might become identified with His righteousness.Because He is God, because it was voluntary, God’s law is upheld in this exchange. Our sins are imputed to Christ and His righteousness is imputed to us.
- Here the meaning of justification is disclosed: through their relationship with Christ, men and women may exchange their sinful condition for a status before God of “God’s righteousness.” The removal of guilt (alienation), joined to the reckoning of righteouness equals a positive relationship of friendship with God! Not only is there a cessation of enmity, but the bestowal
of a righteous status of favor. We become the righteousness of
God by union with Christ.
- Believers are not merely beneficiaries of Christ’s work, they are partakers of Christ’s righteousness. We are identified with Him and His righteousness to such an extent that it forms our new identity – “sons of God.”
CONCLUSION: How difficult it is for Adam’s race to understand how propitious God is (He is both the God who atones, and the atoned-for God). It is impossible to make Him any more propitious than He is! You cannot soften Him up or make Him more kindly disposed toward you.
One cannot conceive of an act that would appease Him. (EX. If you gave a man a rowboat and a thimble – transfer all the beach sand of the Atlantic to the Pacific. That assignment would be easier than pacifying God.) The only protection from God’s wrath is the hiding place He provides. As soon as man attempts to do the work of propitiation, he winds up being an enemy of what God has done at Calvary.
According to Gardner Spring, the great stumbling block of the cross is fact that the cross is a monument to what sinners deserve. Here is where the unbeliever resists – he protests that he does not deserve to die, be separated from God and be eternally miserable. Therefore he has a quarrel with God over what his sin deserves.
In resisting God’s verdict, you know the weapons sinners use: A good God would not allow suffering and evil, it’s not fair that God should judge those who’ve never heard, God will not judge a person who is moral, sincere, and religious, man has probably falsified whatever Scriptures were given, so many Christians are hypocrites, religion has done more harm than good.
Here is where you come in as a minister of reconciliation.
You must show the sinner that his weapons and excuses are groundless. Here is the reason why,in the work of reconciliation, God has satisfied His own wrath and justice against sin.
It’s only pride and the love of sin that keeps the sinner from responding to God’s plea to be reconciled.
You must show the unbeliever that he is the only one holding the weapons, God has satisfied His own justice and now holds out open arms.
God has put away His own wrath -- He pleads with you to be reconciled, will you prefer to die an enemy? God has paid an infinite price to make peace with you, will you hold fast to your weapons and retain your enmity against God? Do you find the terms of peace too stringent? Does “come and be forgiven offend you?”