The Great Ministry of Reconciliation
“Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Corinthians 5:18-21
“Reconciliation” may be defined as: “To reestablish friendship between,” that is, to restore a broken relationship. The great conflicts in our world today may be described as conflict between the forces for alienation versus the forces for reconciliation. The kinds of alienation we personally experience are 1) alienation from God, 2) alienation from our true self (our “better nature,” “best impulses”, “conscience”), and 3) our alienation from our fellow man. As long as we live we will struggle with these forces and their consequences in our lives. An early example of these opposing forces is in Eden, where Satan successfully caused Adam and Eve to become alienated from God by persuading them to eat of the forbidden fruit. This alienation from God resulted in guilt and fear (alienation from their “true” or “better” selves) which made them hide their nakedness by making coverings and hiding among the trees of the garden.
God’s method of dealing with the alienation caused by sin is encompassed in one wonderful word: Reconciliation.
In the passage quoted at the beginning of this article we have revealed to us: 1) God’s reconciler – Jesus Christ, and 2) the transfer of His work to Christians for the duration of the gospel age. Paul wrote to the Christians at Corinth that God “reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ” (verse 18a). Jesus was able to accomplish this great act of providing reconciliation because He was God in the flesh – Colossians 2:9 – “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” He brought to human flesh God’s love, majesty, power, holiness, and concern. He is fully God!
Jesus was able to make our reconciliation to God possible because He fully identified with every human being who struggles with sin: “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” V.21. The writer of Hebrews describes this identification with us: “though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him,” Hebrews 5:8,9. May I remind my readers that this same writer referred to Jesus as the one “made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death”…”that He might taste death for every man.” His identification even reaches the point that He is “not ashamed to call them brethren” – Hebrews 2:9,11. He was fully Man!
From the role of God’s “Man on earth” Jesus has now become our “Man in Heaven” by His constant mediation with God for us. “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus,” 1 Timothy 2:5. Reconciliation’s grand appeal comes to us in 2 Corinthians 5:20: “ Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.” This appeal is universal. It is an overwhelming thought that God has designed a plan for reconciling the world unto Himself, and that His plan involves you and me and every Christian! How shall we perform such an awesome task? I suggest that we should follow our Elder Brother’s example in two ways. Individual Christians and congregations should seek to identify with those needing reconciliation to God. How shall we, as a church of Christ in Madison, Alabama, identify with those needing God? There are ways and attitudes that certainly will not work! A snobbish and unfriendly church has little appeal to those alienated from God. A factious and divided church cannot persuade others regarding the “peace of God, which surpasses all understanding.” A church where there is a “better than thou” attitude will not be effective in bringing people to Christ. Our identification with those needing the Lord must be genuine, accepting, and loving.
As Jesus became our Mediator, so we must be willing to mediate – to actually help the person who inquires to find an answer to his inquiry. To help others must be the central concern of our service for Christ. In the song “Lead Me to Some Soul Today” Will H. Houghten expresses a prayer that we should include in our daily routines: “Lead me to some soul today; O teach me, Lord, just what to say: friends of mine are lost in sin, and cannot find their way.” It is this writer’s conviction that God will answer our earnest prayer and will help us to reconcile men to God.
The mother of James and John came to Jesus (Matthew 20:20-23) requesting places of prominence for her sons in the coming kingdom. Jesus revealed to her the misunderstanding she (and the disciples) had regarding the nature of God’s kingdom. However Jesus did not miss the opportunity to teach them the truth about the coming kingdom. It would be a place where they would “drink the cup” and “be baptized” with the suffering and sacrifice of their Lord! They affirmed: “We are able” and Jesus confirmed that they indeed would be able. With the help of God we, too, are able and can be God’s ministers of reconciliation.