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Ministry of Reconciliation

2Corinthians: Paul Most Underappreciated Epistle

Mar 31, 2019


by: Jack Lash Series: 2Corinthians: Paul Most Underappreciated Epistle | Category: NT books | Scripture: 2 Corinthians 5:18–5:19

I. Introduction
 A. 2Corinthians 5:18–20 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 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. V.19 is one of the few verses in the Bible which summarizes the Christian gospel in one verse.
  2. “In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.”
  3. And really v.18 says the same thing; it just doesn’t put it in such a stand-alone way.
 B.  So Paul says two things here, and he says it twice.
  1. God reconciled us to himself through Christ. 
  2. God gave us the ministry of reconciliation.
II. God reconciled us to himself through Christ.
 A. Jesus did many wonderful things. He healed sick people, He reached out to those who were lowly and forgotten, He rebuked the proud and self-righteous, He taught many good and powerful things. But the main thing Jesus came to do was to reconcile the world to God.
 B. This implies that humans like us had a need for reconciliation.
  1. Reconciliation is the solution to alienation, estrangement, maybe even warfare. If God and man were not alienated from one another, reconciliation would be meaningless.
  2. The fact is that the sweet harmony which God and man enjoyed with each other at first was quickly broken when Adam fell into sin, turning against God and setting himself at enmity with his Maker, the fountain of every blessing.
  3. Romans 1:18–32 explains his further. It says people knew about God but instead of honoring Him as God or giving thanks to Him, they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and instead of worshiping the Creator, they sought after created things.
 C. You see, at the heart, man’s problem is not moral, it’s relational. The moral side of man’s problem is the fruit of the problem, not the root of the problem.
  1. The root of the problem lies in man’s alienation from God, lies in man’s rebellion toward God.
  2. Rebellion is a relational issue. You don’t rebel against a chair. You don’t rebel against an event. You don’t rebel against a force. You rebel against a person.
  3. It is this alienation that Jesus came to rectify.
 D. How did God reconcile the world to Himself? Paul tells us two specifics here in v.18-19.
  1. First, he tells us God did it through Christ: "God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself."
   a. God did it. It was not done by man. And it wasn’t a joint venture. He did it.
   b. And He did it through Christ
  2. Second, he tells us that God did it in Christ by "not counting their trespasses against them." 
  3. Did God just decide to let them off? Did God just decide to overlook their sin? Not at all. He is a just God and He cannot let the guilty go free.
   a. Rather, Christ died on the cross, and in doing so He took our place, suffering the wrath of God for our sin. This is how God did not count men’s trespasses against them on account of Christ.
   b. First and foremost, this is what Christ came to do. He was born to die.
   c. "While we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son." (Rom.5:10)
   d. Notice also how this is worded: “not counting their trespasses against them.”
    (1) It doesn’t say, He saved the good people. It doesn’t say, He made them good and saved them because they no longer had trespasses.
    (2) It says that through Christ He did not count their trespasses against them, implying that they still had trespasses, but that their trespasses were no longer held against them.
  4. "Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account." (Rom.4:8) God doesn’t take our sin into account against us because He’s taken our sin into account against Christ.
  5. We do not get received by God on account of our not having trespasses but rather because — through what Christ has done — our trespasses are not counted against us!
III. God gave us the ministry of reconciliation
 A. Jesus came to reconcile men to God. And the tool He has chosen for bringing this to pass is us.
  1. First He reconciles us, then He uses us to reconcile others. Every believer in Christ is a part of the ministry of reconciliation.
 B. God could have done this Himself. He could have done it through angels. But He didn’t. He chose to do it through us.
 C. (Some argue against this. Some argue that it’s only the leaders who have been given the ministry of reconciliation. And they claim that in this passage Paul is saying, “Through Christ reconciled us all to himself and gave us apostles the ministry of reconciliation.” They say the “us” changes in the course of a few words. Plus, we have the example of the believers driven out of Jerusalem by persecution in Acts 8:1, 4; 11:19-21.)
 D. What is the ministry of reconciliation? It seems to me that there are three parts:
  1. Communicating the truth of the gospel (“entrusting to us the message of reconciliation”).
  2. Reflecting Christ in the way you live around others.
  3. Praying for God’s power to transform others.
  4. The last two are not generally controversial. If there is a reluctance, it is usually in the first part: communicating the truth.
   a. The problem with this one is that when you tell others about Christ, there is a greater chance that they’ll be offended than that they’ll be receptive, or so it seems.
  5. Many people won’t accept God’s reconciling work through Christ because they are refuse to accept that they stand guilty before the God of justice, worthy of His righteous wrath.
   a. And that’s just further confirmation of his sin – that he refuses to acknowledge it and wants to blame everyone else but himself.
   b. This is the way it was for Paul. He didn’t think he needed to be reconciled to God. He thought he was fine. He thought everybody else was the problem.
   c. But then he met Jesus.
   d. When God speaks to you out of heaven, what do you say? Who are you, Lord?
   e. If you’re not willing to get poked by some thorns, you can never collect roses.
 E. It is surprising that there is so little urging and command in terms of this ministry in the NT.
  1. I think it’s because the issue is not that we’re failing in our duty to be agents of reconciliation. The issue is that we are missing out on the privilege of being an agent of reconciliation.
IV. Conclusion
 A. The thing that’s wrong with the world isn’t so much moral as it is relational. Mankind has turned his back on God. And God is righteously indignant.
  1. Like a nation of zombies, America is rushing down the path of immorality. But immorality is not our real problem. Politics isn’t our real problem. Our real problem is with our relationship to God.
  2. The thing which is wrong with you and me is not ultimately moral, but relational.
   a. It’s so sad to see people absorbed in fixing some area of their lives — their singleness, their diet, their finances, their parenting skills — when their real problem is with God.
  3. I went to two funerals yesterday, so I spent the day thinking about life and about death.
   a. Finding a good career, being successful, following your dreams, even having a good marriage: these are all overshadowed in importance by the truly big things.
   b. And you know what are the important things in life? The things that matter on your last day. 
 B. You know, there are only a few reasons why we are alive today.
  1. And being reconciled to God and helping others to be reconciled to God are at the top of the list.
 C. Many think evangelical Christians are missing the point. Why not work to get rid of our real problems, like war and corruption and injustice and abuse and poverty and disease? The problem with that thinking is that those things are just symptoms. As long as mankind lives in rebellion against God, those things will all continue. Until you deal with the root of the problem, you can’t deal with the fruit of the problem.
  1. Mason class: all but my son and one other said eventually there will no more wars.
  2. One day, all those things will be done away with, but it won’t happen by human evolution; it will happen by the power of God.
  3. You want to prove Jesus false? Solve poverty. Jesus said we will always have poor people with us (John 12:8). So, if you can eliminate poverty, you will have proven Jesus to be a liar.
  4. How long do we have to work on fixing something before we accept the fact that the problem is bigger than us? that the problem isn’t out there, it’s in here?
  5. But thankfully, God in Christ is reconciling people to Himself.
 D. This week I read Psalm 30:9 “What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness?”
  1. What earthly good can I do if I am dead?
  2. Will the dust praise you (before people of this world)?
  3. David saw himself as a person whose life was lived for God's good in the world, such that the world would be worse off if he were taken away. Specifically, he saw himself as useful as an example to others of praising God and telling of His faithfulness.
   a. Like a potentially-dying father of young children praying, "Lord, I want to be able to tell me children about Jesus! How can I tell my children about how good You are if I am dead?"
  4. This is the reason we should want to live.
   a. If we want to live because we’re having fun and we don’t want it to end, we are fools. We are so satisfied with picking food out of the dumpster that we don’t accept and invitation to go to a feast.
   b. We are so preoccupied with our friends that we aren’t interested in the friendship of the God who is love and in whose love we were made to live. 
   c. This is the reason Paul wanted to live (Phil.1:21-26): to help others come to know what a wonderful God He is and all He has done for them.
 E. Non-believers often criticize Christians for diminishing the importance of this world’s problems.
  1. Well, the problems of the world – wars, famines, oppression, unrest, disease – are terrible things. And we do care about them & are burdened by them, and often we pray for them – even in church. And we should do more about them.
  2. But even though these things are a big deal, there are not the biggest deal. Ultimately, they’re the fruit of the problem, not the root of the problem. The root is man’s alienation from God, and the eternal justice which hangs over him like a sentence of death.
  3. Often you hear someone use hell as a description of human suffering: “I went through hell!”
  4. But what if the worst human suffering on earth is mild in comparison to the agonies of eternal damnation, both in intensity and in duration – as the Bible teaches? 
  5. What if those who spend their lives outraged at God for allowing human suffering on earth will spend eternity experiencing the far greater suffering that all men deserve?
  6. And that’s why helping folks avoid eternal suffering is even more important than helping them avoid earthly suffering. 
  7. This is no excuse for being unconcerned/uninvolved in helping the poor, the weak, the needy. God commanded it. But the most important aspect of doing this is being agents of reconciliation.
  8. If we feed the world but don’t give them the Bread of Life, it doesn’t really help them much.
  9. It’s good to help people live longer. It’s even better to help people live forever.
V. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 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.