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Being RECONCILED To God

By William R. Cunningham
for Sunday August 1, 2004

 

INTRODUCTION

What are you connected to? What fuels your life and gives it purpose? Many will say that their purpose is found in whatever they do for a living. Some will declare that their purpose is found in this or that thing. However, true purpose can only be found by discovering what the giver of that purpose intended for you. Our purpose is found in God and we should be connected to him to both discover that purpose and implement that purpose.

We are going to investigate the affect of being connected or not connected to God. What does it mean to be connected to God and what are the consequences if we are not connected to God? We will begin our discussion from 2 Corinthians 5:18-21.

2 Corinthians 5:18-21 (NKJV) "{18} Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, {19} 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. {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. {21} For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."

Let’s interpret these verses of scripture to determine the message that it relays to us.

First Paul wrote that “all things are of God.” In this context, that refers to the statements that he previously made. The NIV for example renders that phrase in this manner, “All this is from God”. The New Century version of the Bible uses the same phrase. What things is Paul talking about here? Paul previously said the following.

2 Corinthians 5:15-17 (NKJV) "{15} and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. {16} Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. {17} Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new."

Paul makes the following points.

  1. We do not belong to ourselves
  2. We do not live for ourselves
  3. Those who are in Christ are new

In Christ

Note the phrase, “in Christ.” What does this mean? Let’s first look at the word “in” and analyze it.

The word “in” has many meanings depending on the context. A look at any dictionary will quickly show you this. I have selected those definitions that appear to be relevant to this context. Here are some definitions of the word “in.”

  1. Contained or enclosed by, inside; within; as in the room, in the envelope.
  2. Being a worker or member at (ex: He is in business)
  3. Affected by; having (he is in trouble)
  4. Engaged or occupied by (Ex: in search for the truth)
  5. By way of (Ex: do this in my defense)
  6. As a part of the capacity or function of; belonging to (Ex: he didn’t have it in him)
  7. Into (Ex: come in the house. Into is preferred in this sense)

“The IVP Dictionary of the New Testament” makes the point that Paul’s use of the term, “in Christ” refers to an understanding of the sphere of God’s saving work. Consider the following scriptures.

John 15:7 (NKJV) "{7} If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you."

This gives us a great clue as to what is meant by “in Christ.” Here the phrase “abide in” is used. This of course is a metaphor of being united with Christ and having all of the consequences of that union. Consider the following scripture references.

  • John 15:4-6
  • 1 John 2:6; 3:6
  • 2 John 2:9

We can confidently say that the term, “in Christ” refers to the sphere of activity of God with regards to salvation, though it could mean other things at other times in Paul’s epistles. Here God works exclusively through Jesus Christ to effect salvation (reconciliation in this case) on earth. Consider yet another verse of scripture that seems to highlight that.

John 14:6 (NKJV) "{6} Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me."

How do we get to God? We get to God through Jesus Christ. How can we be reconciled to God? We can be reconciled, that is to be made at peace with, God through Jesus Christ. However, there is nothing that we can do to effect this reconciliation. Reconciliation is something that God is doing and he is doing it through Jesus Christ. So “in Christ” means to be a part of the unity of believers where Jesus Christ is the head. “In Christ” denotes a unity with Christ and all consequences of that union.

So we can see that really being joined with Christ, i.e., in Christ, will effect change in a person from the inside out. Because we are in Christ we have a new spirit. The old things are gone because we are new inside, which effects change on the outside (behavior, perspective, worldview, etc.).

Reconciliation

Now back to 2 Corinthians 5:18. The “these things” refer to those things involved in salvation and that which brings the newness of life through Christ Jesus. Paul goes on to say that those who are in Christ were reconciled to God through Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:18 (NKJV) "{18} Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation,"

Note the statements here.

  1. The things pertaining to the newness of life through Jesus Christ are from God
  2. God has reconciled the new creations to himself through Jesus Christ
  3. Those who have been reconciled has also been given the ministry of reconciliation

First let’s make sure we understand what reconciliation means. Consider the following definition from the “Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary.”

RECONCILIATION—the process by which God and people are brought together again. The Bible teaches that they are alienated from one another because of God’s holiness and human sinfulness. Although God loves the sinner ( Rom. 5:8), it is impossible for Him not to judge sin (Hebrews 10:27). Therefore, in biblical reconciliation, both parties are affected. Through the sacrifice of Christ, people’s sins are atoned for and God’s wrath is appeased. Thus, a relationship of hostility and alienation is changed into one of peace and fellowship.

The initiative of reconciliation was taken by God—while we were still sinners and “enemies,” Christ died for us (Romans 5:8, 10; Col. 1:21). Reconciliation is thus God’s own completed act, something that takes place before human actions such as confession, repentance, and restitution. God Himself “has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ” (2 Cor 5:18).

So reconciliation means that we are brought into relationship with God or more precisely, fellowship. This is only possible because of Jesus Christ. God reconciled us through Jesus Christ.

The Ministry of Reconciliation

Not only are we reconciled to God, but we are also given the ministry of reconciliation. What is a ministry? A ministry is basically a service. Therefore a minister is one who serves. All those who have been reconciled have also been given the service of reconciliation. We provide a service on the earth to promote the reconciliation to God to others. That is, we are all given the task or service to be a part of the call of God on all humanity to be reconciled to Him. We are all part of ministry.

This is a very important statement because ministers are not those who are particularly called by God in all cases. If you are a Christian then you are also a minister. You have been given this ministry from God to minister salvation to the lost. Unfortunately we think of ministry as it pertains to a religious organization, i.e., a local church. Ministry is simply to serve. We don’t have to be sanctioned by a local congregation, pastor, bishop, or whomever. We only need to be called by God to do what we are supposed to do or what we were wired to do. Of course many of us will be a part of an organization for organizational purposes and effectiveness. However, your calling or approval does not come from the organization, but from God.

I must reiterate that our ministry is not a “church” thing or organizational thing. It simply comes out of our fellowship with God. If the Spirit of God calls people to God then the Spirit of God in you will do the same thing through you. So having the ministry of reconciliation as Paul said he had, does not mean that you will be a preacher or evangelist according to the titles of the religious institutions. It simply means that the Spirit that called you will call others through you.

WHY RECONCILIATION?

What is the purpose of our reconciliation? Why does God want us to be reconciled to Him? Is there another greater purpose? What’s very interesting here is that the Bible simply reveals that God wants to have a relationship with us. The entire Bible is filled from beginning to end how God intervened in human history for the purpose of relationship. The key and focus here is relationship. God wants a relationship with you. God created humans for relationship. Of course true relationship involves free will and we all have that. The Bible doesn’t talk about God’s relationship with animals and other aspects of creation except for the fact that he maintains it all.

So consider that God, the creator of all that exists, simply wants to have a relationship and fellowship with you. We cannot in our sinful state because God’s holiness cannot unite with sinfulness or sin. Therefore, God initiated what I call the master plan. Adam and Eve’s sin was not a surprise to God. I believe that all of human history is part of the overall process of brining God’s human creation into relationship and fellowship with Him.

We do know that God created all things for his pleasure (Revelations 4:11).

Revelation 4:11 (NKJV) "{11} “You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created.”"

The word pleasure here actually comes from the Greek word, thelema (thel-ay-mah) and it means a determination, choice, will, purpose). So God created everything for his own purpose. The fact that he wants us to be in fellowship with him means that we could participate in the will and purpose of God by being reconciled to Him. Merely by being friends of God we fulfill his purpose! Imagine that!

The entire Bible focuses on one point, namely to reconcile humans to God. Jesus Christ came to save us from our sins so that we would be reconciled to God since sin cannot cohabitate or yoke with God. So be reconciled to God and fulfill his purpose for you, namely fellowship.

 

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