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Colossians 1:20-21 & 2 Corinthians 5:18-21 by Robert Dean
Series:Colossians (2011)
Duration:53 mins 51 secs

Reconciliation: The Ambassador's Message. Colossians 1:20-21; 2 Corinthians 5:18-21

 

2 Corinthians 5:18 NASB "Now all {these} things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation." What we observe here is the same thing that we see in Colossians and Ephesians: God is the subject of the act6ion of reconciliation. God the Father is the one who reconciles us; He performs all of the work; He reconciles us to Himself through Jesus Christ. And as a result of that having been accomplished He then has given or delegated to each one of us the ministry of reconciliation. Every believer has been given this ministry—a responsibility of pronouncing or proclaiming the reality of reconciliation.

There is a barrier that exists between man and God. This barrier was not there when God originally created Adam and Eve; it was erected at the instant that Adam disobeyed God—not the woman's disobedience but Adam's because he was the responsible agent, the one God designated as the ultimate authority in the garden, and he was the head of the home and head of the family. The instant that he sinned this barrier was erected between man and God. Man became unrighteous; God who is perfect righteousness and perfect justice could not have relationship with man. We understand this concept of separation, this barrier, even from the Old Testament. Isaiah 59:2 NASB "But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, And your sins have hidden {His} face from you so that He does not hear." One result of that is that God doesn't listen to our prayers. (Psalm 66:18 NASB "If I regard wickedness in my heart, The Lord will not hear.")

If we look at this verse in detail—it is in parallelism; it is poetry—in "your iniquities" the "your" is plural. The word "iniquity here is the Hebrew word avon in the plural. It is rarely found in the plural: only when the speaker is speaking of the collective group and speaking of their sins in a non-collective sense. To explain that, in a number of passages (e.g. Genesis 15:16; 1 Kings 17:18) the word avon is used in a collective sense. In Genesis 15:16 when God had promised the land to Abraham He said: "You're not going to get it yet because the iniquity of the Amorites has not reached its end yet." There avon is used in a collective sense to refer to all of the sin, but when we are talking about a group of individuals it is not just "your iniquity," meaning all of your individual sins, but if we are talking to two or more people then we have to put the "your" in the plural as well as the "iniquity" words in plural. What Isaiah is saying is, "all of you all"—everybody in Israel has iniquities, and because of the idolatry that has permeated their culture that has separated them from their God. Then he expands on that: "your sins"—and it is a different word there, chattath which means you've missed the mark of God's standard—" sins have hidden {His} face from you so that He does not hear." There is a barrier that exists between man and God, and that is made up of sin. 

It is not that simple. It is simple in that we can explain it this way to anyone: sin separates you from God. But as we get into the Scripture what we discover is that sin itself has a complexity of sub-issues and each of those sub-issues is resolved by different aspects of Christ's death on the cross.

1.  We have sin itself that separates man from God. Romans 3:23 NASB "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Isaiah 64:6 NASB "For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment…" 

2.  There is a legal penalty for sin. In  Genesis 2:17 God warned Adam that in the day that he did eat from the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil he would die. There would be a penalty assigned: spiritual death. Romans 5:12 NASB "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned."

3.  Then there is the aspect of the character of God. Romans 8:8 NASB "and those who are in the flesh [living on the sin nature] cannot please God"—because there is a character problem. God's perfect righteousness cannot have fellowship with that which is unrighteous. Psalm 33:5 NASB "He loves righteousness and justice…" Psalm 37:28 NASB "For the LORD loves justice…"  Psalm 7:11 NASB "God is a righteous judge, And a God who has indignation every day." So there is this state of hostility that exists because the perfect justice of God cannot have fellowship, cannot associate with that which is not also perfectly righteous and perfectly just. 

When we look at the first three blocks in the barrier we should notice that they all are God-ward; they all focus on problems related to God's integrity—His justice and His righteousness. The next three bricks that we will see in the barrier do not relate to a God-ward problem but rather a man-ward problem. That is because of the fact that we are born spiritually dead, are under condemnation and we lack righteousness (Isaiah 64:6). We are born spiritually dead and this is different from the penalty, i.e. the legal penalty assigned to Adam; this is the experiential reality that each of us has because when we are born we are born spiritually dead. Romans 5:14, 17, 21. Verse 17 says, "For if by the transgression of the one [Adam], death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ." In Ephesians 2:1 Paul says we were born dead in our trespasses and sin. We are born spiritually dead and that problem has to be resolved.

And last of all our position in Adam. 1 Corinthians 15:22 NASB "For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive." This is talking about the eventual consequences. Because they are born in a state of spiritual death eventually, if there is not regeneration, they will go into eternal condemnation. 

This barrier is removed by the cross, and it does so point by point through different aspects. The first has to do with unlimited atonement. For example, Hebrews 2:9 NASB "But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, {namely,} Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone." 1 Peter 3:18 NASB "For Christ also died for sins once for all, {the} just for {the} unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit." This brings in the whole debate that has gone on for centuries: Did Jesus doe for everyone without exception, or did He die only for the elect? The problem is that there is a misunderstanding of the fact that there are certain aspects of Christ's work on the cross that are for all, without exception, and then there are other aspects that are not for all and that are only applied to those who believe in Him.

Unlimited atonement is emphasized in 2 Corinthians chapter five in the section that deals with reconciliation, vv. 14ff. 2 Corinthians 5:14 NASB "For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died." There is a reality to what Christ did on the cross that is truly and actually applied to everyone. [15] "and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf." Notice: He died for all. That is the big circle that includes every human being. Then the second clause, "that those who live," is a sub-set, a smaller group than "all"—those who believe in Jesus for eternal life. So we have unlimited atonement: Christ died for all. The penalty of sin problem is taken care of by a payment for the sin—redemption. 1 Timothy 2:6; 2 Peter 2:1. Both of these verses use words for redemption. Two different word groups are used for redemption in the New Testament. One is based on lutroo [lutrow] which emphasizes the payment of a price, and one is based on agorazo [a)gorazw] which is the idea of going into the market place to make a purchase.

1 Timothy 2:6 NASB "who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony {given} at the proper time." 2 Peter 2:1 NASB "But false prophets [believers who were false prophets] also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them [agorazo], bringing swift destruction upon themselves [divine discipline]." So redemption is for all; unlimited atonement is for all.

Propitiation has to do with solving the problem of the character of God, and this is also directed to all. Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:27; and 1 John 2:2 NASB "and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for {those of} the whole world." In terms of the sin problem it is solved through Christ's death for all; in terms of the sin penalty problem, the legal problem, it is solved by redemption—He paid the price of sin for all, even those false teachers who deny him. Here we have propitiation which is for all, and that has to do with the character of God. Propitiation means that God's character, His righteousness, is satisfied with the penalty that is paid.

Then there is the problem of the lack of righteousness. This is solved by two things. The imputation of righteousness, the basis for God declaring us to be just—Romans 4:3 NASB "For what does the Scripture say? "ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS." Cf. Galatians 3:6. Jewish believers in the Old Testament and Christians in the New Testament are all saved on one basis: faith in the promise of God that is related to salvation. The specific content of that is broader in the Old Testament because it is just related to the promise of God of the solution to sin. In the New Testament it has been specifically taken care of in the person of Jesus so that there is no salvation, not other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved. Imputation and justification solve the problem of our righteousness.

We are born spiritually dead. That is solved through regeneration; we must be born again. Titus 3:5 NASB "He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit." Colossians 2:13 NASB "… He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions." 2 Corinthians 5:17 NASB "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, {he is} a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come."

The totality of this comes under the category of reconciliation. It is the removal of that barrier: God's work to remove the barrier between God and man; it is His work of reconciliation. So God has reconciled us through the cross, which occurred in AD 33.

2 Corinthians 5:17 NASB "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, {he is} a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come." There we have "all things" again, everything related to the spiritual life of the individual who trusts in Jesus. [18] "Now all {these} things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation." Not just the apostles but all believers have been given this ministry of reconciliation. [19] "namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself…" Notice: God was reconciling not just the church, not just believers, but the world. "… not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation." The "them" clearly refers to the world, not just believers. So sin is not the issue. The problem that everybody has is not the fact that they commit sin—that is paid for by Christ—it is that they are born spiritually dead and can't produce the kind of righteousness God requires to get into heaven.

So what we see here in summary is that God performs the action of reconciliation, the world receives the action, i.e. all human beings on the planet. We see that He did not impute "their" trespasses to them, therefore sins are not imputed to the unbeliever and are not the issue at salvation; they are already paid for by Christ on the cross. This is reinforced by Romans 5:6 NASB "For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly… [8] But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us… [10] For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled [reconciliation is past], we shall be saved [future] by His life." Remember that in Romans Paul never uses the word "salvation" to refer to justification or getting into heaven; he refers to it as the future completion of a process or, in some cases, to the spiritual life. We are reconciled individually when we trust in Jesus and this culminates in our spiritual growth which is based on observing, in this case, and following the pattern of Jesus in terms of this life. [11] "And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation." One the one hand God reconciles us to Him but on the other hand we have to receive that reconciliation. 

2 Corinthians 5:20 NASB "Therefore, we [all believers] are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God." So we have a message of reconciliation. The word "appeal" is the Greek parakalew [parakalew] which means to summon, to exhort, to encourage, to announce. We present a claim; we make an announcement to people. The command for us as believers, our mission, is that we are delegated the responsibility to be ambassadors, to make a proclamation to everyone on earth that they are to be reconciled to God. That only comes by trusting in Jesus Christ as their savior.