2 Corinthians 5:18-21
And all things are of God, who has reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and has given to us the ministry of reconciliation;
We owe the word "reconciliation" and the conception of the gospel as a reconciliation to the Apostle Paul. Whether it was that the circumstances of his own conversion so coloured all his thought that henceforth there was nothing more wonderful in the gospel than the new relation it created between God and man, and between man and God, we cannot, perhaps, tell. In this chapter, for example, five times over he dwells on the word, as if it were some sweet memory from which he was loth to part. Nor is this conception of the gospel confined to the earlier period of St. Paul's ministry. In the two great Epistles written when he had reached the fullest revelation of the glory of Christ, the Epistles to the Ephesians and the Colossians, he still loves to dwell on the reconciling work of Christ. "For He is our peace who made both one, and brake down the middle wall of partition, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances, that He might create in Himself of the twain one new man, so making peace."
I. THE WORD OF RECONCILIATION. It has been maintained by some theologians that "the word of reconciliation" concerns only man in his relation to God, and has no meaning for God in His relation to man. The blew Testament — it is said — never once speaks of God as being reconciled to man, or as needing to be reconciled: it does speak of man being reconciled to God, and the reason is clear. On the side of God there was no enmity, no alienation: these were all on our side; we were "enemies by reason of wicked works," and "the word of reconciliation" is therefore a message to man. On the other hand, it is said — and in this many of the profoundest Evangelical theologians are agreed — that this purely subjective view of reconciliation unduly narrows the message we have to bear; that the sin of man not only affected his relation to God, but necessarily altered God's relation to man; that the death of Christ has a Divine significance as well as a human meaning; that it has made peace between God and man, as well as between man and God: God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself — And how? By that great objective reconciliation involved in the forgiveness of sins, "not imputing their trespasses unto them." There are four great positions underlying the message in "the word of reconciliation," on which all men who believe in the gospel of Christ will be agreed.
1. It is a word, first, concerning God. In the address delivered by Dr. Dale, at the opening of the International Council, he said, "In Christ God is the Father of all men. This is the glorious discovery of the Christian gospel, and although he went on to warn us that the universal Fatherhood of God did not involve the universal sonship of man, he did not hesitate to say it was "the very foundation of the order of the world and of human life." And to those words of Dr. Dale let me add one word more, that this eternal Fatherhood of God is not only the foundation of the order of the world and of human life, but it is the foundation of the gospel of Christ: the first word in the message of reconciliation we are sent to proclaim. The Fatherhood of God is a greater thing than even His sovereignty, for it contains in it all that sovereignty means. The Father must be a ruler, but the ruler need not be a father; and the eternal fatherhood is as awful in its justice as it is tender in its pity; as infinite in the wonder of its holiness as it is in the wonder of its love. And yet Love is its chief word, its all-embracing word. The Love of God for all men, even for the worst, is the first word in the message we have to proclaim. It is even before the Cross of Christ; for if there had been no love there would have been no Cross.
2. It is a word about Christ. And that word is contained in the chapter from which I take my text, "He died for all."
3. The word of reconciliation is a word concerning the Holy Spirit. There is a gospel of the Spirit as well as of the Cross. Pentecost had a meaning for the world as well as for the Church.
4. It is a word concerning man: "Be ye reconciled to God." And this word is as sad as the former words were glorious. His alienation from God, that alienation that is at once the result of sin and the punishment of sin, his guilty fear of God, his inward hostility to God — all are here, or men would not need to be "reconciled to God." It is the human side of our message, the word of reconciliation so far as it concerns man; but I ask you to remember all the power of this appeal to man depends on our first uttering the word concerning God. One word about God has more power over the human heart than all the words one can speak concerning man. The tides which swept around the shores of this earth are all moved by attraction far up in the heavens, and the great tides of emotion which carry the soul back to God are all lifted by the Cross of Christ. "I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me."
II. THE GREATNESS OF THE TRUST COMMITTED TO US. All work that is the service of man is honourable work, and all true service of man is work for God. The artist who fixes on canvas the dream of beauty; the scientific man who spells out letter by letter the secrets of nature; the philosopher who discovers to us the mysteries of our own minds — nay, the humblest toiler at the bench or in the shop — all of them just so far as they make the will of God the law of their life are "fellow-labourers with God"; and all may share the honours of a Divine reward. But this is not all the truth. There are degrees of glory even in Divine work, there is some work that lies nearer the heart of God, that touches Christ more than any other work; and of all work done for God on this earth there is none so dear to God, none that confers such unspeakable honour on the servant who does it, none that will receive so glorious a reward at last as the work of saving men. And our responsibility is as great as the honour laid upon us.
1. We must be faithful to the word "committed to us." We have a message from God to deliver, not a science of religion to discover.
2. And, finally, it is not enough for us to be ourselves faithful to the word of reconciliation; we are responsible also for speaking that word to others.
(G. S. Barrett, B. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;