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The Gospel Story: Reconciliation

“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 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 5:18-21)

One word seems to be constantly emphasized by the apostle Paul as he was writing this passage. In these four verses, he stresses five times a single word that wraps up for us the gospel story: reconciliation. This is not referring to reconciliation with just anybody; this is about our reconciliation with God. Reconciliation is a common word in Christian vocabulary. But what does it really mean for the believer and why is it so important if we are to make sense of salvation?

To understand reconciliation, we first need to understand that estrangement precedes reconciliation. That is, that the need for two parties to be reconciled assumes that the two parties are at enmity with one another. In short, they are not on friendly terms. And in our case with God, we were on the worst of terms - because God, in His perfect holiness and righteousness cannot stand even an ounce of our sinfulness. And note this, it was not just that we were sinful, but that we were dead in our transgressions and sins - this is the extent of sin’s dominion over our lives: it has made us spiritually dead and enemies of God.

Since we are spiritually dead and enemies of God, how then could we be reconciled to a holy Lord? We have proven in our spiritual deadness and sinfulness that we have failed to meet God’s perfect standards, that we are rightly deserving of God’s judgment for our sins, and that we are incapable of reversing our standing before God because we are sinful by nature and sinful by choice.

Herein lies the beauty of the gospel: in Christ, God reconciled the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them. Christ, who knew no sin, was offered before God to bear our sins. The penalty for our sins, which is death, was paid in full by Christ through His sacrificial death on the cross for sinners who would come to trust in His name and His finished work. And because Christ suffered once and for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, He has brought us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit (1 Peter 3:18).

Dear believer, God has not only made this message of reconciliation true to you. He has also entrusted this message of reconciliation to you - so that being an ambassador of Christ, God can make His appeal to be reconciled to Him through us. So let us implore others, on behalf of Christ, to be reconciled to God, for God Himself made a way for us to be reconciled to Him through His Son, Jesus Christ. As Christ’s death on the cross offered atonement for our sins, we see a great exchange: our sins were laid on Christ, while Christ’s righteousness was laid on us.

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