The Ministry of Reconciliation

  1. 2Cor. 5:16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer.
    1. Within the advent of the era of salvation in Christ, Paul, in light of his own conversion, rejects superficial, mechanical judgments based on outward appearances – national origin, social status, intellectual capability, and physical attributes.
    2. Regard one another from a spiritual perspective. No longer estimate each other “according to the flesh.”
    3. Gaze/regard others through the lens of the revealed gospel.
    4. A new attitude toward Jesus Christ prompts a new outlook on those for whom Christ died.
  2. 2Cor. 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
    1. Parallel text: John 3:3-7. A spiritual rebirth.
    2. “in Christ”: personal, mystical union with the risen Christ.
    3. “The central idea is that the believer is a component of the new order to which redemption leads, ‘new’ in ‘new creation’ signifying fulfillment. (Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments)
    4. “anyone”: points to eradication of any distinction between Jew and Gentile in regard to salvation. Background and status are irrelevant. Truth for the Jew and the Gentile.
    5. “has passed away” (parhvlqen): signifies the replacement of something that is exhausted and redundant by that which retains its freshness and usefulness. Again, as in verse 16, “old” perspectives and criteria have passed, and “new” preferences, criteria, and covenant have come into being, never to fade away.
    6. Paul, former persecutor turned believer, gets this!
  3. 2Cor. 5:18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;
    1. the words “reconciled” (katallassw) and “reconciliation” (katallagh)v appear for the first time in Paul’s writings, and he is the only NT author to employ them.
    2. Of the 10 occurrences of this word-family, 5 appear in 5:18-20.
    3. Just as sin produces a twofold alienation – from God and from others – so does reconciliation restore a twofold relationship – to God and to others.
    4. “All this is from God”: Reconciliation resides in the person and activity of God. He is both the initiator and the goal of reconciliation.
    5. “Through Christ” God reconciles us to himself. Christ was God’s agent in achieving reconciliation. We are the offenders, yet God initiates reconciliation with us.
    6. “us” includes who? (v. 14-15) The death of Christ is sufficient for all people but efficient for all believers.
    7. “the ministry of reconciliation” (th\n diakoni÷an thvß katallaghvß): there are definite articles before each noun, indicating that both the ministry and the reconciliation originate with God.
  4. 2Cor. 5:19 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.
    1. God reconciles the world to himself. (The object of reconciliation)
    2. God’s act of reconciliation is summed up in his canceling the debt of sin. (see also Col 2:13-14)
    3. “the message of reconciliation” (to\n lo/gon thvß katallaghvß): Paul repeats the phrase with a slight change to convey the idea of good news. The P46 and the Western text feature the reading the gospel.
  5. 2Cor. 5:20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
    1. “Ambassadors”: in Jewish circles, this person was called a saliah, one who would speak the exact words of his sender. Therefore,  “we are ambassadors for Christ” expresses that “God is speaking to you through us.”
    2. “on behalf of Christ”: this divine appeal comes to all people, on the basis of Christ’s redeeming work, on behalf of Christ himself.
    3. The imperative “be reconciled to God” is directed to both the Corinthians (v. 18) and to the world (v. 19). Interestingly, the verb katalla¿ssw is used twice (v. 18 & 19) in the active voice with God as the subject; here (v. 20), it is used in the passive voice, and we are the subject.
    4. If God has reconciled the world to himself, and if he effects conversion and repentance, then why does he urge us to be reconciled? God provides reconciliation, but we have to accept it. (Isa. 55:7, Jer. 18:11, Ezek. 18:23, Luke 24:47, Acts 2:38, 17:30, Titus 2:11-12)
  6. 2Cor. 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
    1. The contrasts: sinlessness/sinfulness; sin/righteousness; substitution/source
    2. “who knew no sin” is implied throughout the NT but is supported by Jesus’ testimony to the Jews (John 8:46), Hebrews’ author (Heb. 4:15, 7:26, 9:14), John (1 John 3:5), and Peter (Isa. 53:9, 1 Peter 2:22, 3:18).
    3. The effect: “so that in him we might become the righteousness of God”
    4. The options for dikaiosu/nh qeouv
      1. subjective genitive – righteousness that belongs to God
      2. objective genitive – righteousness that he receives from us (improbable)
      3. genitive of origin – righteousness originated with God and granted to us
    5. Jesus was the individual personification and representation (ambassador) of the sinners for whom he died. Not a ‘sin offering’ because hamartia is always in the genitive when used for ‘sin offering.’ This is not the case for 5:21.
    6. “become” and “made” are aorists, denoting point action, a single occurrence.  The meaning is that we have entered into a status that is irreversible (Peter Naylor).
    7. Jesus was made sin so that sinners might be constituted the ‘righteousness of God’ in him. We are regarded as righteous, even though we are not; Jesus was regarded as sin, even though he was not sinful. Our righteousness remains as filthy rags.
    8. It is not inappropriate to perceive in this verse a double imputation: sin was reckoned to Christ’s account so that righteousness is reckoned to our account.
    9. As a result of God’s imputing to Christ something that was extrinsic to him, namely sin, believers have something imputed to them that was extrinsic to them, namely righteousness.

A few opinions

  1. No doctrine is more important to evangelical theology today than the doctrine of justification by faith alone – the Reformation principle of sola fide. (John Piper)
  2. It is the article that determines whether the church is standing or falling. (Martin Luther on justification)
  3. It would not be far from the truth to define evangelicals as those who believe in justification by faith alone. (John MacArthur)

For further thought

  1. Is it a real imputation of real righteousness of a real Christ? (RC Sproul)
  2. Is it the inherent righteousness of Christ, not the inherent righteousness of the believer (works), that is the ground of our justification?
  3. When did the identification of Christ with sin take place? Two options: the incarnation or the crucifixion.
  4. Christ became sinner, or sin bearer, or sin?

2 thoughts on “The Ministry of Reconciliation

  1. heatherbland says:

    i really think reconciliation should be your next tattoo.
    nothing says jilly b to me like it.
    ❤ you. and all the lessons you teach me.

  2. hmm. maybe so!
    and I really want “Hosanna!” for its depth in meaning.
    He has done great things.
    so thankful for your encouragement. ❤

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