Wednesday, 19 August 2015
…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. 2 Corinthians 5:19
The words “that is” are used to further clarify what was just written concerning the “ministry of reconciliation.” This ministry involved a process which comes directly from the eternal and infinite mind of God. It is “that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.” Concerning the words “was” and “reconciling,” Vincent’s Word Studies notes that –
“These words are to be construed together; the participle with the finite verb marking the process of reconciliation. The emphasis is on the fact that God was reconciling, not on the fact that God was in Christ. God was all through and behind the process of reconciliation. The primary reference of the statement is, no doubt, to God’s reconciling manifestation in the incarnation and death of Christ; yet, as a fact, it includes much more. God was engaged in reconciling the world from the very beginning, and that in Christ.”
What Vincent says here shows the immense love of God for the objects of His affection. Despite His wrath at our sin, God looked beyond that and has worked since the very beginning of time to restore us to Himself. This is why all of the stories of the Bible are included. Each shows another step in the process of leading the world to Jesus. God has been reconciling us to Himself each step of the way.
Further, Paul explains that in this process, God has arranged these things for His people in a way that He is “not imputing their trespasses to them.” For those who have received His offering of peace, we are not to be punished as we justly deserve. Instead, God united with flesh in the Person of Jesus and took the punishment that we deserve upon Himself. Therefore, by this act, there is no longer an expectation of punishment and condemnation, but rather one of divine favor and reconciliation.
This also shows, quite clearly, why Jesus can claim that there is only one path to God and it is through Him (see John 14:6). If the vicarious offering is not accepted, then only an expectation of wrath and condemnation remains. “The world” in this verse is speaking of humanity, but more specifically those who have received Jesus. For this reason, Charles Ellicott gives the translation as, “How that it was God who was reconciling in Christ a world unto Himself.”
In other words, what God has done is for a group in this world who will become “a world unto Himself.” Those who are not in this group will not receive of this benefit. This is why there needs to be apostles, preachers, and teachers of this word. If all people were being reconciled to God, then there would be no need for “the word of reconciliation.” It would be a forgone conclusion that all were saved. But because there is a need for the word of reconciliation to be communicated, it shows that the communication of that word is a necessary part of the process. As Paul says in Romans 10:17, “…faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
It is the transmission of this message which God committed to the apostles that is now contained in the pages of the Bible. For those faithful preachers and teachers who follow after them, there is the burden of properly passing this message of hope on to the world.
Life application: If you are feeling weighed down by the troubles of the world, just take time to contemplate the message found in today’s verse. God has been working on a plan since the very beginning of time in order to reconcile you to Himself. That plan included the ministry, suffering, and death of Christ. If God went through all of that for you, then your time of trial has a purpose in that plan, and it will have an end as well. Be of good cheer and stand strong in your faith in Christ.
Heavenly Father, there are times when I feel completely overwhelmed by the troubles I face. But in those times, I can look to the truth that You have been in the world, reconciling us to Yourself from the very beginning. And that plan included the suffering and death of Christ Jesus. If You were willing to give Your Son for me, then whatever I am facing must be a part of that plan. And even more, I know that it is a temporary part of it. The day is coming when these things will be behind me… all because of Jesus! Thank You for what You have done, O God! Amen.