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2 Corinthians 5:17-21
We continue our study of Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. In this letter the Apostle Paul presents the glory of the Gospel and the Gospel ministry in contrast to the weakness of those called to proclaim the Gospel. This Reformation month, Paul reminds us of the essence of the Gospel Ministry entrusted to us. God through Martin Luther restored the Gospel truth of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. The sedes doctrina of the universal Gospel of reconciliation is revealed in this section of Paul’s second letter to the saints in Corinth.
In This Year of Jubilee We Are Reminded that the Ministry of Reconciliation Is That
“In Christ God Was Reconciling the World To Himself”
The message of the Gospel is what God has done for the entire world. This reconciliation is not something we did or agreed to. God in one act of grace unilaterally reconciled the entire world to Himself. This reconciliation took place solely through Jesus Christ. For God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself.
God did not simply ignore our sins or like a benevolent grandfather say that our sins are all right because we are His grandchildren. The Lord God is a holy and just God. Every sin under the law has to be punished. God did something greater because God so loved the world that He gave His only Son. We are controlled and changed by the love of Christ. We are convinced by the Gospel that one died for all. Jesus, God’s holy Son, became man so that He could take the place of every person who lived and died under the law. Jesus perfectly kept the law of God in the place of every person. Jesus then died to bear the punishment of hell deserved by every person. These are the facts: Jesus died for all and was raised again in triumph.
This changes God’s perspective or view of us. He no longer regards us as sinners deserving of His just punishment. God views us as new creations in Christ. Old things have passed, beyond all things are new. If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come. And so we look at ourselves and at each other in a different way. The Gospel ministry regards no one from an earthly perspective or a worldly point of view.
And how did God do this? God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing or counting men’s sins against them. This is the heart of the Gospel. God, in Christ, does not charge to your account the sins you have committed. You have been declared righteous in God’ sight. The cost of this reconciliation is beyond belief. God charged the sins of the world to His sinless Son, Jesus. Consider the Gospel message of the last verse of our text. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
The message of the Gospel is that God was in Christ reconciling world unto themselves not imputing their trespasses unto them. However, this is not the end of the story. It does not follow that the entire world having been reconciled to God will be saved. This message has to be proclaimed so that people will believe the Gospel of Christ and be saved. The sad fact is that through unbelief people reject God’s act of reconciliation and forgiveness which was accomplished though Jesus Christ.
For that purpose God has committed unto us the preaching or message of reconciliation as God pleads through us, “Be reconciled to God.” We have been made God’s ambassadors as though God Himself were directly making His appeal through us. The preaching of the Gospel, this message of God’s reconciliation through Jesus’ life and death for us brings people to faith in the Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit. The Gospel creates faith in the hearts of those who hear the preaching of the Gospel and keeps them in that faith until their end. The Gospel ministry is the link between the universal act of reconciliation and the individual appropriation of that reconciliation through faith in Jesus. The Gospel is all about Jesus and the power of God.
Think back to that familiar Gospel passage of John 3:16, “God so loved the world (universal reconciliation) that He gave His only Son that whoever believe in Him (individual reconciliation) should not perish but have everlasting life.” This is the glory of the Gospel ministry of reconciliation which has been entrusted to us as we plead to people everywhere “Be reconciled unto God who has reconciled the world unto Himself through Christ Jesus.”
This message of reconciliation changed Martin Luther and set in motion a true reformation of the organized church. The Reformation began with one man and his need to find oneness with God. When Luther could not find peace through his works in the Catholic Church, the Holy Spirit through the Scriptures revealed the simple fact of salvation by grace. It is an unbelievable message that God made His holy Son totally sinful so that He could declare sinners like us totally righteous.
If there is to be a reformation today, we as pastors in the CLC need to continue proclaiming this message of reconciliation which has been entrusted to us through those who began the CLC fifty years ago. In Luther’s day the Law predominated. People were inculcated with the preaching of an angry God who had to be appeased. The problem was that method of reconciliation (works of the law) only produced a self-righteous Pharisee or a guilt driven sinner. Today the culture of the world and the organized church does not recognize the existence of a Creator-God Who will call all people to answer for their behavior. The law has been watered down to a pablum of “do-your-own-thing” relativism. There is no consciousness of sin or its consequences. So we need to preach the Law in all its condemnatory force. However, we need to realize that the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation. We need to proclaim the life-giving message of reconciliation that in Christ God was reconciling the world unto Himself.
May God bless your Reformation/Reconciliation celebrations,