THE MINISTRY OF RECONCILIATION
2 CORINTHIANS 5:11-21
Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, but we are made manifest to God; and I hope that we are made manifest also in your conscience. We are not again commending ourselves to you but are giving you an occasion to be proud of us, so that you will have an answer for those who take pride in appearance and not in heart.
for if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are of sound mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.
Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer. Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (NASB).
In an interview with Will Norton Jr., best-selling novelist John Gresham recalls:
“One of my best friends in college died when he was 25, just a few years after we had finished Mississippi State University. I was in law school, and he called me one day and wanted to get together. So we had lunch, and he told me he had terminal cancer.”
I couldn’t believe it. I asked him, ?What do you do when you realize that you are about to die?? He said, ?It’s real simple. You get things right with God, and you spend, as much time with those you love as you can. Then you settle up with everybody else.? Then he said, ?You know, really, you ought to live every day like you have only a few more days to live.? That left an impression on me.
Few things impart more wisdom than to face up to the fact that we will all die sooner or later. I would like to share with you on the topic: The Ministry of Reconciliation.
I. THE FEAR OF THE LORD VV. 11-13
?Knowing, therefore, the fear of the Lord? (v. 11). This kind of attitude is often lacking in Christian ministry. Too often, there is a sad absence of reverence in public meetings of the church, so that it is no surprise that the younger generation is not taking the things of God seriously. Yes, God is our Father but at the same time, He is holy and majestic. Therefore, when we come before His presence we must give Him the reverence that is due Him. In the previous verses, the Apostle Paul has spoken about the judgment seat of Christ. The fact that there will be a Day of Judgment ought to motivate us to persuade people to give their lives to Christ. If God judges His own people, then what will happen to the lost? ?And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? (1 Pet. 4:18)?
How can you and I who claim to be Christians prepare for the Judgment Seat of Christ? First, we have to maintain a clear conscience (v. 11). On that day, the truth about each one of us shall be revealed and Jesus Christ will commend us for those things that have pleased Him.
Second, we must take care not to depend on the praise of men (v. 12). If you live only for the applause of men, you will not win the applause of God at the Judgment Seat of Christ. To live for the praise of men is to exalt reputation over character, but it is character that will count when you see Jesus Christ in His exalted state. Character is what you are when no one is looking. David Robinson knows this. Speaking of someone who God made good, this seven-foot-tall basketball player for the San Antonio Spurs was good. For fourteen seasons, he dominated the league: MVP, All-Star, two championship rings, and two Olympic gold medals. But it was his character that caught the attention of the public. These words appeared in the Washington Times the day after Robinson’s departing championship victory.
Robinson showed that a player did not have to be cheap or dirty to be effective. He did not have to clutter his body with tattoos or litter the NBA cities with illegitimate children. Robinson never felt a need to bring attention to himself, to shimmy after a good play or point to the crowd, as if to say, ?Look at me. Aren’t I something special?? The good guys won. Robinson won. Decency won. We all won.
The Corinthian believers were ?promoting? the Judaizers who gloried in appearance (2 Cor.11:18), but they were unspiritual.
Finally, you must ignore the criticism of men (v. 13). There are some people who think that criticism is their gift. Such people sit on the sidelines and do not attempt anything for Christ, but they have the audacity to criticize those who are serving Christ with the gifts He has given them. The Apostle Paul’s enemies said that he was crazy. Paul admitted that he was ?mad? when he was persecuting the church (Acts 26:11), but his enemies said he was ?mad? since he had become a believer himself (Acts 26:24). There are some of you that your friends who are not Christians think that you are crazy to believe in Jesus Christ. Remember that people said that our Lord Jesus Christ was mad therefore you are in good company (Mk. 3:21). The Apostle Paul says, ?If I am mad, it is for your good and the glory of God?so that makes it worthwhile!?
When D. L. Moody was ministering at his large Sunday school and church in Chicago, people often called him ?Crazy Moody.? In the eyes of the unsaved world, Moody was ?crazy? to have given up a successful business career to become a Sunday school worker and evangelist; but time has proven his decision to be a wise one. Today, we do not know the names of the people who made mockery of him, but we do know and honor the name of Dwight L. Moody. It is imperative that you examine your Christian life regularly to see if you are ready for the Judgment Seat of Christ. Wanting to give a good account before Christ is a worthy motive for Christian service. Remember that Christ saved you to live for Him and not for yourself.
II. THE LOVE OF CHRIST VV. 14-17
How do we reconcile the fear of God and the love of Christ? Many Christians today emphasize the love of God to a fault. In our lives as believers, we must balance the love of God with the fear of God. The fear of God goes hand in hand with the wrath of God because of sin. Ladies and Gentlemen, I want to remind you that all those who are outside of Christ are under the wrath of God (Rom. 1:18-32). Fear and love are found in the hearts of children who love and respect their parents for their authority.
The phrase ?the love of Christ? means His love for us as seen in His sacrificial death. ?We love Him because He first loved us? (1 John 4:19). He loved us when we were unlovely; in fact, He loved us when we were ungodly, sinners, and enemies (Rom. 5:6-10). When Jesus died on the cross, He proved His love for the world (John 3:16), the church (Eph. 5:25), and individual sinners (Gal. 2:20). The love of Christ was the primary motivation for the apostolic preaching of the gospel. If we are not willing to witness and preach the gospel that is an indication that we do not understand the love of Christ for sinners. When you consider the reasons why Christ died, you cannot help but love Him.
Christ died that we might die (v. 14). When Christ died, we died in Him and with Him. Therefore, the old life should have no hold on us today, because like the Apostle Paul, ?We are crucified with Christ? (Gal 2:20).
Christ died that we might live (v. 15). This is the positive aspect of our identification with Christ: we not only died with Him, but we also were raised with Him that we might ?walk in newness of life? (Rom. 6:4). Because we have died with Christ, we can overcome sin; and because we live with Christ, we can bear fruit for God’s glory (Rom. 7:4). Jesus died so that we might live through Him (1 John 4:9). This is our experience of salvation, eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ. He also died so that we might live for Him, and not live for ourselves (v. 15). This is our experience of service. Christ died our death for us that we might live His life for Him. Martin Luther said, ?He paid the debt He did not owe; we owed a debt we could not pay.? Jesus died in our stead; He did not belong to the cross; the cross was meant for you and me, but Christ took our place. If a lost sinner has been to the Cross and been saved, how could you spend the rest of your life in selfishness?
Christ died that we might live through Him and for Him, and that we might live with Him. Because of Calvary, believers are going to heaven to live with Christ forever!
The biggest problem on earth is how a sinful person can face a holy God. However, this problem has been solved for us in Jesus Christ. The sacrifice has been made, the Lamb of God has been slain, the price has been paid, and the blood has been shed for our redemption. Our sins are forgiven, and our future is secure. Thanks to the saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the ticket to Heaven is already in our pocket. Jesus died that we might die; He died that we might live; but He also died that we might ?share in the new creation? (vv. 16-17). Our new relationship to Christ has brought about a new relationship to the world and the people around us. We no longer look at life the way we used to; we now look at life from new perspective, God’s perspective. To know Christ ?after the flesh? means to evaluate Him from a human point of view. That is the problem of people who espouse other religions. However, ?the days of His flesh? are ended (Heb. 5:7), because Jesus Christ has ascended to heaven and is now glorified and seated at the Father’s right hand.
Adam was the head of the old creation, and Christ (the last Adam, 1 Cor. 15:45) is the head of the new creation. The old creation was plunged into sin and condemnation because of the disobedience of Adam. The new creation means righteousness and salvation because of the obedience of Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:12-21). Now, because we are a part of the new creation, everything has become new. We now have a new view of Christ. We know that His life did not begin at the manger in Bethlehem, because He said, before Abraham ?I am.? “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” Therefore, do not interpret the life of Jesus by the manger but by the throne. We do not worship a baby in a manger; we worship a glorified Savior on the throne.
Because ?all things have become new,? we also have a new view of people around us. We see them as sinners for whom Christ died. We no longer see them as friends or enemies, customers or coworkers; we see them the way Christ sees them, as lost sheep who need a shepherd. When you are constrained by the love of Christ, you want to share His love with others. You do not want the people you know to die without Christ. The question is what are you doing about it? The judgment of God is imminent what are you doing for the people around you who do not know Jesus Christ?
III. THE COMMISSION OF CHRIST VV. 18-21
The key idea in this paragraph is reconciliation. Because of rebellion, we were the enemies of God (Eph 2:1) and out of fellowship with Him. Through the work of Christ on the cross, He has brought us to God again. God has been reconciled and has turned His face in love toward the lost world. The basic meaning of the word ?reconcile” is ?to change thoroughly.? It refers to a changed relationship between God and the lost world. It is not the sinner who reconciles to God, because we do not have the capacity to do that. Rather, it is God who has reconciled us to Himself through the atoning work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Reconciliation means that the hostility between God and man is over and we are at peace with God. Since Christ has paid our sin debt, it is sinful man who must be reconciled to God. You see religion is man’s feeble effort to be reconciled to God; however, such efforts are bound to fail. Religion says I am doing my best; but Christ says it is done; religion says try hard; Jesus says trust Me and be saved. The Person who reconciles us to God is Jesus Christ, and the place where He reconciles is His cross.
Another key idea in this section is imputation. This is a word borrowed from banking; it simply means, ?to put to one’s account.? When you deposit money in the bank, the computer (or clerk) puts that amount to your account, or to your credit. When Jesus died on the cross, all our sins were imputed to Him?put to His account. Jesus was treated by God as if He had actually committed those sins. ?He who knew no sin became sin that we might become the righteousness of God.? I call this the exchanged life. You and I deserved to die on the cross but Jesus took our place on the cross; He changed place with us. Reconciliation is based on imputation: because the demands of God’s holy law has been fully met on the cross, God can be reconciled to sinners. Therefore, those of us who have believed on Jesus Christ share the righteousness of Christ. Paul exhorted his friend Philemon to charge the sin of Onesimus to his account
Finally, not only have we been reconciled to God due to the imputation, but also we are ambassadors of Christ. Ambassador represents his/her country in a foreign land. Whether you like it or not you are an ambassador of Christ, if you have been saved. The question is what kind of ambassador are you? Are you a good ambassador or a bad one? When people come close to you, do they see a reflection of Christ in your life? Are you a true ambassador in your business, work place, school, marketplace, or your neighborhood?
When the announcement of the conception and birth of Christ was made, God sent an angel to Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds. However, God has given to us the ministry of reconciliation; Jesus said, ?As the Father has sent Me so do I send you.? We see this fulfilled in the early church as they took the gospel all the way from Jerusalem to Rome as recorded in the Book of Acts. Please let us not fail God, because God does not have any alternative. We must take the message of reconciliation to the lost world around us. This is a challenge to everyone who has been redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ.
Source: Kennedy Adarkwa.