2 Corinthians 5:20 Reconciled to God

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It is always difficult when a relationship breaks down.  In place of warmth and affection there maybe alienation and hostility.  There is then a need for reconciliation – the restoration of the relationship.  The Bible uses the language of reconciliation to describe a vital aspect of salvation.  Sinners are alienated from God and need a means of having that relationship restored.  Consider 2 Corinthians 5:20  Reconciled to God.

1. The need for reconciliation

(i). Our sins make us God’s enemies.  Note Romans 8:7 ‘hostile to God’.  Sinners are in rebellion against our Creator and his laws.  Sin infects every aspect of life, as Romans 1:21 reminds us.  We are naturally God’s enemies and that enmity needs to be dealt with.

(ii). God’s holiness makes him our enemy.  This is the heart of our predicament.  A holy God must respond to sin with righteous wrath (see Romans 1:18).  God would not be holy if he were indifferent to sin.  His wrath is not an irrational outburst but a settled, proportionate opposition to the sin of man.  We are naturally ‘children of wrath’ (Ephesians 2:3).  This holy God is our enemy.

2. The provision of reconciliation

We are ‘dead in…transgressions and sins’ (Ephesians 2:1) and so reconciliation must be God’s work.  Note v18 ‘God who reconciled us to himself’.  The wrath of God must be dealt with first, and in a way that upholds his holiness.  Reconciliation has been provided by God on the basis of the work of Christ on behalf of his people.  Paul gets to the heart of the matter in v21.  Christ’s life of perfect obedience to God’s law culminated at the cross where he took the sin and wrath that separate us from God and bore them in the place of all who put their trust in him – ‘one died for all’ (v15).  Christ’s satisfying God’s wrath is termed ‘propitiation’ (1 John 4:10).  God’s holy wrath is fully satisfied, and it is accomplished by God himself in Christ.  Thus God’s alienation is removed.

3. The enjoyment of reconciliation

Reconciliation is received by faith (John 3:16) so we will ‘be reconciled to God’.  Note:

(i). Sin forgiven.  The full penalty has been paid (v19).  The entire sentence has been served.  As a result, ‘there is now no condemnation’ for believers (Romans 8:1).

(ii). Sin forgiven.  The full penalty has been paid (v19).  The entire sentence has been served.  As a result, ‘there is now no condemnation’ for believers (Romans 8:1).

(iii). Sin forgiven.  The full penalty has been paid (v19).  The entire sentence has been served.  As a result, ‘there is now no condemnation’ for believers (Romans 8:1).

9. Do you look forward to glory?

When a time of hardship or trial is experienced, what above all keeps us going is hope.  Some of the hopes that people cling to are illusions and often in a crisis such hopes fail.  Christians are people of hope, one that is not fragile or based in anything in them, but is based on the Lord.  Completing our Spiritual Check-up we ask: 9. Do you look forward to glory?

1. The sure purpose

When we think of the ‘last things’ (‘eschatology’) our chief focus must be on God.  Our concern is above all with what he has purposed to do.  The biblical descriptions of God’s purpose emphasise its certainty (Ephesians 1:11).  He is sovereign and his will cannot change or be frustrated.  Note Daniel 4:35 ‘he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth and none can stay his hand (ESV).  This applies equally to believers’ salvation.  Paul is full of confidence that the Lord will preserve believers by his grace (Philippians 1:6).  He will not let his people fall finally from grace. We can look forward to glory because of who God is – that is the ground of our hope.

2. The glorious prospects

The hope of believers is centred on the Lord and all we look forward to relates to him.  At the heart of our hope is the person of the Lord and our being with him.  This has two elements:

            (i) In heaven.  Immediately upon death the believer enters the presence of the Lord.  Note Jesus’ words in Luke 23:43 ‘Today you will be with me in paradise’.  Paul’s expectation was that he would ‘depart and be with Christ’ (Philippians 1:23) – to depart is to be with Christ, which is ‘better by far’.  Much about heaven is beyond our understanding, but we know we will be with ‘the spirits of righteous men made perfect’ (Hebrews 12:23).  Such fellowship will be a wonderful part of our blessing.  Above all we will enjoy unbroken fellowship with the Lord, with no sin to spoil it.  According to 2 Corinthians 5:8 we will be ‘away from the body and at home with the Lord’.  That is the prospect for every believer.

            (ii) In the new creation.  Our hope embraces body and soul, and so Christian hope is for a glorious resurrection (Philippians 3:21).  When the Lord returns, he will transform the entire creation – it will be brought into ‘the glorious freedom of the children of God’ (Romans 8:21).  The creation itself will undergo transformation to provide a suitable home for the Lord’s people.  The ‘new heaven and the new earth’ (2 Peter 2:13) will fully reflect the glory of the Creator, surpassing Eden.  That is the ultimate goal of Christian hope.

3. The transformed present

These great prospects are to have 2 practical effects, as seen in 2 Peter 3:14:

            ‘looking forward to this’ – to final glory and also to the immediate glory of heaven.  This should stir hope and anticipation, giving strength for present trials.

            ‘make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him’ – a powerful stimulus to live ‘holy and godly lives’ (v11), giving faithful service here on earth.

8. Do you grieve over sin?

Christians are painfully aware of the prevalence of sin in the world.  Everywhere we look we see ample evidence of the sinful heart of man.  Worse is the awareness of sin in our own hearts.  The danger is that we become accustomed to sin and do not grieve over it as we should.  Continuing our Spiritual Check-up we ask: 8. Do you grieve over sin?

1. The holiness of God

Fundamental to God’s self-revelation in Scripture is his holiness.  The call of the seraphim in Isaiah 6:3 is ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty’ – the 3-fold repetition indicates the perfection of that holiness.  ‘Holy’ in the Bible has the root meaning of ‘separation’.  As Creator, God is separate from all created things.  This involves his moral separation from all that is contrary to his holy nature (Habakkuk 1:13).  That holiness has been made visible in Christ (1 Peter 1:19).  As image-bearers of God we are to be holy people.  The goal of salvation is the restoration of the image of God lost in Adam.  Holiness is crucial for us.

2. The process of sanctification

Notice the goal of Christ’s redeeming work according to Titus 2:14.  Thus holiness is central for Christians.  We speak of ‘sanctification’, which in Scripture has 2 dimensions:

            (i) Definitive sanctification.  When we are born again by the power of the Holy Spirit, the dominion of sin is broken for ever.  That is the significance of ‘you were sanctified’ (1 Corinthians 6:11), and Romans 6:14 gives a great promise – ‘sin shall not be your master’.

            (ii) Progressive sanctification.  Building on the victory of definitive sanctification, the Spirit gradually remakes us in heart and life in the likeness of the Saviour (2 Corinthians 3:18).  We are called to be active in this work – ‘be holy in all you do’ (1 Peter 1:15).  As we use the means of grace, the Spirit blesses them to us and we grow in holiness.  The secret is always ‘it is God who works in you’ (Philippians 2:13).

3. The seriousness of sin

We must not allow the attitudes of the world to blunt our perception of the seriousness of sin.  We must see it as God sees it.  A mark of grace is a holy hatred of sin, reflecting God’s attitude (Habakkuk 1:13).  The psalmist’s words should be ours – Psalm 97:10, 119:104.  We should grieve over the sin we see in the world (Psalm 119:136) and in fellow believers Chiefly we are to grieve over our own sin, but not in despair.  We need the ‘godly sorrow’ of 2 Corinthians 7:10) which leads to repentance and forgiveness.  The solution to our grief over sin is always ready to hand.

4. The prospect of perfection

We long for freedom from sin and that longing for perfection will be satisfied at the last day when sanctification will be complete (Philippians 1:6).  We ‘shall be like him’ (1 John 3:2).