Summary: The need for reconciliation arises because of our estrangement from God on account of our sin. The mediator of reconciliation is God. The cost of reconciliation is the death of Christ. The result of reconciliation is a new relationship with God.
THE MINISTRY OF RECONCILIATION
This passage directly confronts us with the subject of reconciliation. It requires spiritual thinking: no longer regarding people from a worldly point of view - “according to the flesh” - and certainly not regarding Christ from a worldly point of view - “according to the flesh” (2 Corinthians 5:16).
A. The need for reconciliation arises because of our estrangement from God on account of our sin (2 Corinthians 5:21). Sin manifests itself in two ways: in a failure to do what God commands, and in a propensity to do what God forbids. Ever since our first parents ate the forbidden fruit, sin has held mankind in its thrall, with death as its consequence (Romans 5:12). We would be totally unable to escape its clutches, except that the Lord stepped in!
B. The offended party is God. He reconciled us “to Himself” (2 Corinthians 5:18), and in Christ He was reconciling the world “to Himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19). We couldn’t come up with any answer to the problem of our alienation from God: but the Lord already had the matter in hand. From all eternity He had planned a way whereby He might remain true to Himself as Just, judging Sin in the Person of His Son whilst mercifully justifying the sinner who has faith in our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 3:26).
C. The mediator of reconciliation is God (2 Corinthians 5:18-19). He is always the initiator: “All things are of God” (2 Corinthians 5:18). Even when we were ‘dead in trespasses and sins’ - even then, He made us alive ‘with Christ’ (Ephesians 2:5). This demonstrates the extent of the love wherewith God has loved us (John 3:16).
D. The instrument of reconciliation is Christ. Reconciliation was brought into effect “through Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:18); and was something that God was accomplishing “in Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:19). The Cross was no accident, or last resort: it was for this that Jesus came into the world, and steadfastly set His face toward His awful destiny (Luke 9:51). IF there had been any other way, the cup of His suffering would have passed from Him (Matthew 26:39).
E. The cost of reconciliation is the death of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:14-15; 2 Corinthians 5:21). The Cross stands as a monument to the seriousness, and dire consequences, of sin. God, who is ‘of purer eyes than to be behold evil’ (Habakkuk 1:13) cannot look upon sin, and literally turned His face away from His own only begotten Son (Psalm 22:1).
F. The method of reconciliation is the sacrifice of Christ as our representative and substitute. He died as our representative (2 Corinthians 5:14-15), doing battle with the devil through His death and resurrection, and coming out triumphant on our behalf. He died as our substitute, taking upon Himself that which made us offensive to God, becoming the very embodiment of Sin for us: that sin might no longer be imputed to us (2 Corinthians 5:19); and that we might receive in its place the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21), through faith in Him (Romans 3:22).
G. The result of reconciliation is a new relationship with God. The old has passed away, and we are initiated into a new life in our Lord Jesus Christ. The “new creation” evidently has a cosmic dimension, but it is our privilege personally and individually to enter into its newness in the here and now (2 Corinthians 5:17). Our severed relationship with God has been repaired, and we find ourselves no longer slaves to sin, but have a new desire within our hearts to live for the One who has brought us back to life (2 Corinthians 5:15).
H. Reconciliation requires a response from those who have offended. As an eastern ambassador, Paul comes with bended knee, pleading, imploring “on Christ’s behalf… be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20). The Lord has already made the way clear to reconcile us to Himself through the vicarious death of His Son, so there is nothing else for us to do but put our trust in Him (Romans 10:9).
I. Those who are reconciled are called to the ministry of reconciliation. He has “given us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18); “committed to us the word of reconciliation” (19): “we are ambassadors for Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:20). Paul uses the first person plural when speaking of his ministry, and is obviously including his apostolic colleagues in the expression. But more than this, ALL who have benefited from the death of Christ are also called to share the gospel with others (1 Peter 3:15).