Our primary ministry as Christians is the natural extension of God’s ministry to us.
Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:18–21)
Five times in those verses, we see the word “reconcile” in some form, and the repetition is no mistake. The message of the gospel is the message of reconciliation. The alienated sinner can be reconciled to God. That’s what we pray for, what we teach, and it’s why we live. Some even die for it. It is the unparalleled message of reconciliation with God through the work of Christ. We have been given the ministry of reconciliation. In a sense, it’s simply another way to describe the Great Commission—going into all the world, preaching the gospel to every creature, making disciples, baptizing, and teaching them to observe all the things that Christ has commanded (Matthew 28:18–20). The ministry of the gospel is the good news that sinners can be reconciled to God.
Left to himself, man cannot bring about such a reconciliation. To begin with, reconciliation has to be initiated by the offended party. David’s tragic spiritual collapse included his affair with Bathsheba and the vicious murder of her husband, Uriah. But when he finally faced the totality of his wickedness, he understood his sin was ultimately an offense against God. In Psalm 51, he cries out in confession, “Against You, You only, I have sinned” (Psalm 51:4). Although we frequently sin against and offend one another, sin’s primary characteristic is that in the end, it is an offense to God. And reconciliation for our lives of sin is available only if God, as the offended party, makes it possible.
From the human side, hell is inevitable. Damnation will occur. As hopeless sinners, we are dead—unable to awaken ourselves, shed our blindness, or bend the knee to God. There’s nothing we can do to shift the affections of the heart away from sin and toward the Lord. As sinners, our destination is eternal punishment. We have no powers within us, morally or spiritually, to devise a way of reconciliation. If there is ever going to be a change in the relationship, it has to come from God.
The good news—the greatest news—is that God has mercifully chosen to reconcile sinners to Himself. He has graciously made a way of redemption and restoration available to us through the sacrifice of His Son. Moreover, He has made those who are reconciled the agents of His redeeming work to a world in desperate need of it.
In 2 Corinthians 5:20, Paul calls us “ambassadors for Christ”—the Greek word is presbeuomen (related to presbuteros, a bishop or elder), and refers to representatives who bear responsibility. We are God’s ambassadors, tasked with the solemn responsibility of bringing the word of reconciliation to sinners. And if we are going to effectively carry out this responsibility, we must understand the features of the message.
One of my consistent disappointments in ministry is to see how few people who profess to know and love the Lord can give a detailed, coherent presentation of the gospel. It should not be so difficult for Christians to explain and exalt the work of Christ in their lives. After all, it is the only reason we’re still here.
The only reason God has kept us in the world is for the work of evangelism. Yes, we’re saved to worship, but God tolerates our imperfect worship on this side of eternity for the sake of adding to His kingdom. We’re also saved to be sanctified, but God tolerates our inadequate, incomplete sanctification to keep us here to evangelize. He endures all our consistent errors and failures because He has work for us here that we cannot accomplish in heaven. The only thing we can do better in this life than in the life to come is evangelism. And as we consider Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 5:18-21, we see four essential aspects of God’s reconciling work and the glorious gospel we proclaim.
Come back next Monday for the first of those aspects as we consider “Reconciliation by the Will of God.”
As you may be aware, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into full effect on 25th May 2018. GDPR is the new European privacy regulation, which will replace the Data Protection Act 1998 in the UK and the equivalent legislation across the EU Member States.
Here at Grace to You Europe we take our data protection responsibilities very seriously and, as you would expect, have undertaken a significant programme of work to ensure that we are ready for this important legislative change.