LIVING CORAM DEO
Sunday, 18 February, 2018

Reconciliation

2 Corinthians 5: 18

Rembrandt Return_of_the_Prodigal_Son“Who reconciled us to himself through Christ.” This astounding statement reveals God’s infinite love. We offended God by breaking his commands and sinning against him. Therefore, the initiative for reconciliation should have come from us, for we are the offending party. Instead we read that God, as the offended party, reached out to us to achieve restoration of relationships. God took the initiative and completed the work of reconciliation before we, as sinners, began to respond to God’s gracious invitation to be reconciled to him (Rom. 5:10–11). In brief, God restored the relationship between himself and us, so that his new creation for us could be fully realized.

In apostolic times, the Jews believed that man had to initiate reconciliation with God, chiefly by prayer and confession of sin. For instance, the writer of II Maccabees uses the verb to reconcile four times, but all of them are in the passive voice. They disclose that human beings petition God to be reconciled to them.

By contrast, the New Testament teaches that God restores us to himself by “putting us in right relations with himself.” God is the subject and we are the object whenever the verb to reconcile is in the active voice. But when in the same context this verb is in the passive voice, we are the subject (see v. 20). God did not cause alienation between himself and us and, therefore, did not have to reconcile himself to us. Yet in love God reconciles us to himself through the atoning work of his Son Jesus Christ. For this reason, Paul says that God brings about restoration through Christ, that is, through Jesus’ redemptive work. The phrase through Christ alludes to his death and resurrection (vv. 14–15), which bring about both a new creation (v. 17) and a reconciliation (vv. 18–20).

Grace“[God] has given us the ministry of reconciliation.” God himself commissioned Paul and his co-workers to acquaint the readers of this epistle with his work. God wants his servants to be engaged in a restorative ministry by preaching, teaching, and applying the gospel. For Paul, this is ministry of the Spirit of the living God (3:3, 8), and is glorious in bringing forth righteousness (3:9). Also, this ministry secures peace between God and human beings (Rom. 5:1, 10; Col. 1:20; see Acts 20:24). Peace is the result of restoring personal relations that were broken and is “a denotation of the all-embracing gift of salvation.”

Ridderbos, Paul, p. 184; see Frederick W. Danker, “Exegesis of II Corinthians 5:14–21,” in Interpreting II Corinthians 5:14–21: An Exercise in Hermeneutics, ed. Jack P. Lewis, SBEC 17 (Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen, 1989), p. 118.

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