The Ministry of Reconciliation

Rev. David Bast Uncategorized

READ : 2 Corinthians 5:18-21

The apostle Paul thought of himself as an ambassador for Jesus Christ, and he described his primary work as a “ministry of reconciliation.” God calls us to the very same task today.

Of all the churches with which he was associated, the apostle Paul had more trouble with one than all the rest put together. That one was the church in Corinth. But what made for all sorts of pain and difficulty for the apostle has proved to be a blessing for us, because his thorny relationship with this problem-riddled church caused Paul to write more letters to Corinth than any other place. And this Corinthian correspondence has provided guidance and counsel, not to mention personal information about Paul, to Christians ever since.

THE MINISTRY OF RECONCILIATION

One of the things Paul had to do in writing to the Corinthians was to defend himself. Even though he was the founding pastor of the church, Paul eventually became the object of much criticism in Corinth. The Corinthian Christians went in for powerful pastors. They liked their preaching eloquent, not to say flamboyant, and preferably accompanied by miracle working. After Paul left Corinth he was succeeded by other leaders who seemed more gifted, even more spiritual, and who played to the Corinthian taste for drama. So Paul, in attempting to set this church straight when it went wrong, also had to justify his own more simple and plain approach to ministry. “Since we know what it is to fear the Lord,” he wrote them, “we try to persuade men” (2 Corinthians 5:11). Paul was neither flashy nor tricky in his approach. He simply tried to tell the truth in plain language that everyone could understand, and appeal to people’s minds and hearts to accept the truth. “We have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways; we refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God” (2 Corinthians 4:2).

Paul goes on to say this about his work.

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

2 Corinthians 5:18-19

Paul’s calling, given from God, was to carry out “the ministry of reconciliation,” whose principal task was the proclamation of “the message of reconciliation.” What was this message? That “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ” (v.19). There is as concise a statement of the gospel as you can find. It is all about reconciliation, that is, repairing the breach, closing the gap, healing the estrangement between God and us, and between us and our neighbors. So important is this work that Paul can summarize his whole ministry with that one word “reconciliation.” Paul’s preaching focused on on the agent of reconciliation – God himself, in the person of his Son Jesus Christ. Reconciliation is first of all God’s work on our behalf, before it is anything we attempt on our own. Paul also proclaimed as the heart of the gospel the great act of reconciliation, which was Christ paying the penalty of sin on the cross. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Thus our guilt is removed and the way cleared for us to be restored to fellowship with God. And finally this life-transforming truth: if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation (v.17). For new men and women living in God’s new society the church, living out reconciliation becomes a new possibility.

CHRIST’S AMBASSADOR

This was the message Paul spent his whole life communicating to the world, and he uses a compelling analogy to illustrate his work.

We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.

2 Corinthians 5:20

“Christ’s ambassadors.” An ambassador is a representative. He doesn’t speak for himself, but on behalf of the one who sent him. An ambassador is a diplomat. He knows how to speak carefully and appealingly. And this is God’s appeal to you through us, through Paul and me and every other authorized ambassador of Jesus Christ: We implore you: Be reconciled to God through faith in Jesus Christ today!