2 Corinthians 5:18-21
The Ministry of Reconciliation
Paul is now reaching forward to a crescendo. He has announced that we are new creations in Christ Jesus inhabiting a new world in which the invisible Spirit rules our lives so that we care not for the things that pass away but for eternal things, the real things. And how has this wonderful change of events come about? How has the world been so changed? Because man so desired it? Because God finally answered our desperate pleas? No. We made no prayer. We called not upon God. We were happy going on our sinful ways. And so Paul says emphatically, “All this is from God who through Christ reconciled us to himself.” That is, it was God who planned to reconcile us unto Himself, who then acted, who then brought it all to pass, without any input or suggestions from us. Under no obligation but to His own word, He saved those who fell away of their own free will, and restored them to fellowship with Himself.
And so now, Paul writes, we who are thus reconciled unto Him are His ambassadors of reconciliation. In God’s grace, He has “not counted the trespasses” against sinners against them; that is, has been thus merciful in withholding the coming judgment on the last day. So in this window of grace, which we call today, Paul makes the gospel plea, “Be reconciled to God.” And this is our plea to sinners aboard the Titanic, for the present world is a fast sinking ship. It only knows the moment, the visible, the temporal. Please, be reconciled to God!
But how? And here in 5:21, Paul lays out the gospel as well as any other place in the Bible one will ever find. I will write it but will also fill in the pronouns with the proper nouns which the pronouns serve: “For our sake, God the Father made Christ Jesus the Son to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Christ Jesus the Son we might become the righteousness of God the Father.” And that is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Through the Son’s work on the cross, God the Father makes a trade: His Son’s righteousness (we may just as well say, sinlessness) for our sins. Martin Luther called it the gracious exchange. And this is the way God effects our reconciliation with Him. And there could be no other way. Reconciliation had to come from God’s side, and it had to come through one who is God (as only God can save) but who is also sinless man (as only a sinless man can take our place). The sinless for the sinner, the spotless for the spotted, the God-man for the sinful man. This is how we are reconciled to God, and no mortal could ever have dreamed up such a beautiful plan as this.