August 17, 2019 Afternoon Verse Of The Day

Reconciliation Is by the Will of God

Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, (5:18)

The phrase all these things points back to the immediately preceding section of this epistle, which described the total transformation taking place at conversion (vv. 14–17). In that passage Paul described believers’ death and resurrection in Christ as being transformed into new creatures. All these things, that is, those related to the transformation, come from God (cf. 1 Cor. 8:6; 11:12; James 1:17); sinners cannot be reconciled to Him on their own terms. Unregenerate people have no ability to appease God’s anger against sin, satisfy His holy justice, or conform to His standard of righteousness. They are guilty of fatally violating God’s law and face eternal banishment from His presence. The deadly, deceptive premise of all false religion is that sinners, based on their own moral and religious efforts and achievements, can reconcile themselves to God. But God alone designed the way of reconciliation, and only He can initiate the reconciliation of sinners; that God … reconciled us to Himself is precisely the good news of the gospel.

God so loved the world that He made the way of reconciliation. He desired to reconcile sinners to Himself—to make them His children. Such a desire is not foreign to God’s holy character but consistent with it. One of the glorious realities of God’s person is that He is a Savior by nature.

From before the foundation of the world, God freely and apart from outside influence determined to save sinners in order to eternally display the glory of His grace. He chose those He would rescue from His own wrath on sin and wrote their names in the Book of Life. He is no reluctant Savior; in fact, Scripture frequently gives Him that title (Ps. 106:21; Isa. 43:3, 11; 45:15, 21; 49:26; 60:16; 63:8; Hos. 13:4; Luke 1:47; 1 Tim. 1:1; 2:3; 4:10; Titus 1:3, 4; 2:10, 13; 3:4, 6; Jude 25).

From Genesis 3:8–9 where God said, “Where are you?” He has been seeking to save sinners. Ezekiel 34:16 says, “I will seek the lost, bring back the scattered, bind up the broken and strengthen the sick.” He Himself is the eager reconciler, as Paul wrote to the Romans:

Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. (Rom. 5:9–11)

It is to God’s plan through Jesus Christ that we owe the gratitude for our reconciliation.

Both the verb katallassō (reconciled) and the noun katallagē (reconciliation) appear in the New Testament only in Paul’s writings. The terms always portray God as the reconciler and sinners as the ones reconciled, since it was human sin that ruptured the relationship between God and man (cf. Isa. 59:2). In Romans 5:11 Paul declares, “We also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.” To the Ephesians Paul wrote,

But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. (Eph. 2:13–16)

Colossians 1:20–22 affirms that God chose

through [Christ] to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach.

Thus, reconciliation is not something man does but what he receives; it is not what he accomplishes but what he embraces. Reconciliation does not happen when man decides to stop rejecting God but when God decides to stop rejecting man. It is a divine provision by which God’s holy displeasure against alienated sinners is appeased, His hostility against them removed, and a harmonious relationship between Him and them established. Reconciliation occurs because God was graciously willing to design a way to have all the sins of those who are His removed from them “as far as the east is from the west” (Ps. 103:12), “cast all their sins into the depths of the sea” (Mic. 7:19), and “cast all [their] sins behind [His] back” (Isa. 38:17).

In the most magnanimous expression of sacrificial love the universe will ever know, God reconciled believers to Himself through Christ; that is, at His expense. God the Son’s perfect sacrifice is the only one that could satisfy the demands of God the Father’s holy justice. Jesus Christ is the only Mediator between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5; cf. Heb. 8:6; 9:15; 12:24), and “there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). God, for His own purpose and by His own will, designed the sacrificial death of His Son to reconcile believers to Himself:

But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. (Eph. 2:13–16)

“[Christ] has now reconciled [them] in His fleshly body through death,” making them “holy and blameless and beyond reproach” in the sight of God (Col. 1:22). “Now once at the consummation of the ages [Jesus Christ] has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Heb. 9:26); “He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God” (Heb. 10:12). His sacrifice propitiated God’s holy wrath (Rom. 3:25; Heb. 2:17; 1 John 2:2; 4:10), making reconciliation possible.

It is to all reconciled people that God gives the ministry of reconciliation. This is equal to the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19–20) and all calls to proclaim the gospel. Diakonia (ministry) denotes humble service, such as serving meals (cf. Luke 10:40; Acts 6:1). But though the messengers may be humble (see the discussion of 4:7 in chapter 10 of this volume), the message they proclaim to the lost world is the most exalted one ever proclaimed.[1]


18. All things are of God. He means, all things that belong to Christ’s kingdom. “If we would be Christ’s, we must be regenerated by God. Now that is no ordinary gift.” He does not, therefore, speak here of creation generally, but of the grace of regeneration, which God confers peculiarly upon his elect, and he affirms that it is of God—not on the ground of his being the Creator and Artificer of heaven and earth, but inasmuch as he is the new Creator of the Church, by fashioning his people anew, according to his own image. Thus all flesh is abased, and believers are admonished that they must now live to God, inasmuch as they are a new creature. (verse 17.) This they cannot do, unless they forget the world, as they are also no longer of the world, (John 17:16,) because they are of God.

Who hath reconciled us. Here there are two leading points—the one relating to the reconciliation of men with God; and the other, to the way in which we may enjoy the benefit of this reconciliation. Now these things correspond admirably with what goes before, for as the Apostle had given the preference to a good conscience above every kind of distinction, (verse 11,) he now shows that the whole of the gospel tends to this. He shows, however, at the same time, the dignity of the Apostolical office, that the Corinthians may be instructed as to what they ought to seek in him, whereas they could not distinguish between true and false ministers, for this reason, that nothing but show delighted them. Accordingly, by making mention of this, he stirs them up to make greater proficiency in the doctrine of the gospel. For an absurd admiration of profane persons, who serve their own ambition rather than Christ, originates in our not knowing, what the office of the preaching of the gospel includes, or imports.

I now return to those two leading points that are here touched upon. The first is—that God hath reconciled us to himself by Christ. This is immediately followed by the declaration—Because God was in Christ, and has in his person accomplished reconciliation. The manner is subjoined—By not imputing unto men their trespasses. Again, there is annexed a second declaration—Because Christ having been made a sin-offering for our sins, has procured righteousness for us. The second part of the statement is—that the grace of reconciliation is applied to us by the gospel, that we may become partakers of it. Here we have a remarkable passage, if there be any such in any part of Paul’s writings. Hence it is proper, that we should carefully examine the words one by one.

The ministry of reconciliation. Here we have an illustrious designation of the gospel, as being an embassy for reconciling men to God. It is also a singular dignity of ministers—that they are sent to us by God with this commission, so as to be messengers, and in a manner sureties. This, however, is not said so much for the purpose of commending ministers, as with a view to the consolation of the pious, that as often as they hear the gospel, they may know that God treats with them, and, as it were, stipulates with them as to a return to his grace. Than this blessing what could be more desirable? Let us therefore bear in mind, that this is the main design of the gospel—that whereas we are by nature children of wrath, (Eph. 2:3,) we may, by the breaking up of the quarrel between God and us, be received by him into favour. Ministers are furnished with this commission, that they may bring us intelligence of so great a benefit, nay more, may assure us of God’s fatherly love towards us. Any other person, it is true, might also be a witness to us of the grace of God, but Paul teaches, that this office is specially intrusted to ministers. When, therefore, a duly ordained minister proclaims in the gospel, that God has been made propitious to us, he is to be listened to just as an ambassador of God, and sustaining, as they speak, a public character, and furnished with rightful authority for assuring us of this.[2]


18 The unemphatic particle (de) at the head of this sentence marks a further development in the writer’s line of thought. Paul begins by affirming that God is the source of all things (“All things [are] from God”). He then declares God to be the subject of two acts:5 (1) his action by which he “reconciled us to himself through Christ,” and (2) his gift to “us” of “the ministry of reconciliation.”

But all things are from

 

God,

 

   
  who reconciled

 

us to himself

 

 
      through Christ

 

  and gave

 

us the ministry of

 

      reconciliation.

 

Whereas verses 14–17 were christocentric, v. 18, with v. 19, is theocentric. God is the subject of the verbs in these verses, most strikingly of the verb “reconcile,” which has “the world” as its object in v. 19. The assertion “All things [are] from God” (cf. 1 Cor 8:6; 11:12b) appears to apply particularly to God’s action in reconciling “the world” to himself. “All things” also picks up the “all” for whom Christ died in vv. 14, and 15, as well as the cosmological “new creation” of v. 17.

Christ, however, is the agent of the reconciling work that emanates from God. In vv. 14–17 are clustered universal (“all”—vv. 14, 15) and cosmological (“new creation”—v. 17) categories in consequence of the eschatological action (“no longer … now”—vv. 15–17) in which Christ died and was raised (vv. 14–15). In 5:18–6:2 Paul declares that cosmological reconciliation (“of the world”—v. 19) has been achieved “through Christ” (v. 18), signaling a new eschatological and soteriological moment (“now is the day of salvation”). Nothing could be clearer than that Christ—crucified and risen (vv. 14–15)—is the locus and the means of fulfilling God’s purposes for history, humanity, and the world and creation.

Since “all things” flow “from God” and are brought to pass “though Christ,” it follows that God and Christ are in perfect agreement, sharing the same mind as to the needs of humanity and the world, and what should be done to meet those needs.

The phrase “through Christ” is explained by the wider context as “through Christ’s death” (vv. 14, 15, 21; cf. “we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son”—Rom 5:10). This is supported by the parallel phrase in the next verse, namely, “not counting their sins against them.” It is through Christ’s death, by which he does not count sins against people, that God has reconciled the world to himself. This is made clear in the climactic text, v. 21, where, on account of the sinless one being “made … sin, we become the righteousness of God.” The relational blessing (“reconciliation with God”) rests on forensic forgiveness (“righteousness”), as in the parallel passage in Romans where “being reconciled to God” (5:10) depends on “being justified” (5:1, 9). Here the aorist tense, “reconciled,” is significant, pointing to the completed character of the divine action. God has effected reconciliation objectively, prior to and independent of subsequent human response, and, indeed, in the face of human hostility (see Rom 5:8, 10). By his initiative God has dealt with the trespasses that alienated humankind from him, removing from his side the obstacle to peace with him, his settled displeasure (“wrath”) aroused by human sin.

With v. 18 is introduced into this letter—and indeed into Paul’s epistolary corpus—the theme of “reconciliation,” whose most extensive treatment occurs here (but see also Rom 5:10–11; cf. Rom 11:15; Eph 2:16; Col 1:20, 22). In vv. 18–21 the verb “reconcile” or the noun “reconciliation” occurs no less than five times.

Reconciliation, one of the blessings of the end time, is, like all the eschatological blessings of God, “realized” in Christ “now.” This cosmic restoration (cf. Rom 11:15), while pointing ultimately to the reordering of all that is chaotic and distorted in the created world alienated from God and hostile to him, here applies specifically to human alienation from God. It is “their trespasses” that are “not reckoned to them.” Reconciliation with God, however, implies reconciliation among God’s people (cf. Eph 2:16), something Paul later calls “your mending” or restoration (13:9, 11). There is a close connection between “new creation” (v. 17) and “reconciliation”; both are cosmic and end-time blessings, and both impact humans, to be accepted and given expression “now.” Astonishingly, this cosmic reconciliation arises from a death, the death of that One (vv. 14–15) who, although without sin, was “made sin” by God to impute the “righteousness of God” to all who believe (5:21). The “righteousness of God,” too, appears to be a blessing of God belonging to the end time, which, however, has “now” been brought into the present “in Christ.”

Who, then, is the “us” whom God has reconciled to himself and to whom he has given the ministry of reconciliation? Is the second “us” to be, or not to be, identified with the first? Here there is no consensus among commentators. It is widely held that both references to “us” are to the community of believers. Some hold that the first “us” refers to Paul, with the second referring to believers.14 But most who do not equate the two references see the first pointing to the believing community, with the second pointing to the apostles.

In our view both references to “us” apply in the first instance to Paul, with the first reference also inclusive of all believers (as in 3:18; 4:14, 16–5:10). This verse belongs to a wider passage (5:11–6:13), that is implicitly or explicitly autobiographical and that brings to a climax Paul’s extended apologia for his apostolic office (2:14–7:4). As the passage moves on to its conclusion, the “we”/“us” references are unambiguously apostolic and personal (5:20–6:13). Paul the writer (“we”/“us”), who is defending himself to the Corinthians, also appeals directly to the Corinthians (“you”—5:20; 6:1, 11; cf. 5:12–13). The Corinthians are not those to whom the ministry and word of reconciliation have been given. Rather, they are to submit to that ministry and word, given to God’s minister, Paul (6:3–4), which is directed to them.

In short, Paul is here saying, autobiographically, “God reconciled me … gave to me the ministry of reconciliation.” But his words “reconciling the world” in the next verse immediately indicate that his words “reconciling us” are not narrowly autobiographical; he is speaking representatively for all believers (as also in vv. 14–17) and for “the world.” However, the clause, “and entrusted to us the word of reconciliation” (v. 19), balancing “and gave us the ministry of reconciliation,” suggests that this ministry/word is to be understood rather more narrowly, that is, as relating to Paul in his apostolic office. Paul, to whom God has given this ministry and word, will immediately address the Corinthians, calling directly on them to be reconciled to God and to his apostle (5:20–6:2, 11–13).

Consistent with the profoundly eschatological character of the passage 5:14–6:2 (“no longer … now”), God’s gift of this “ministry” (diakonia) must likewise be seen as eschatological. By means of the “one” who died for “all,” Christ, through whom God reconciled his enemies, God established his eschatological midpoint, his moment of “new creation” (v. 17). At that point he also established the ministry of reconciliation, which Paul earlier referred to as the ministry of a “new covenant” (3:6), a ministry of “the Spirit” and of “righteousness” (3:8, 9). As an apostle, Paul is “minister” in “this ministry” (4:1; cf. 6:3).[3]


5:18 / The new world order in Christ is from God in the sense that God took the initiative in providing it in accordance with his divine plan. Apocalyptic literature of the ot and early Judaism consistently emphasizes that in the last days God himself will intervene in world affairs to establish his kingdom. Ultimately, joint effort plays no part in this process; God is at work from start to finish.

God is described by means of two, parallel participial clauses that emphasize his reconciliatory deed, on the one hand, and the consequent reconciliatory word, on the other. About the deed, the first clause makes clear that participation in the new creation presupposes that God reconciled Paul to himself through the substitutionary death of Christ. Here again the apostle portrays his experience as prototypical of that of all believers (cf. 5:1, 16–17), although it is not impossible that the first person plural actually includes all believers at this point. As we have seen, Paul’s use of the first person plural can shift quite suddenly in any given context (cf. 1:3–11). But in verse 20, which draws an inference from the previous context, the first plural clearly refers to the apostle. Furthermore, the second participial clause almost certainly refers to Paul’s own ministry of reconciliation.

The verb reconciled is used in the sense of making peace between enemies (cf. Rom. 5:10–11; 1 Cor. 7:11). In Hellenistic-Jewish texts, it is hoped and prayed that God will turn away his wrath and reconcile himself either with individual people or with Israel as a whole (cf. 2 Macc. 1:4; 7:33; 8:29; Philo, On the Life of Moses 2.166; Josephus, Ant. 3.315). Ephesians 1:14–18 gives us an encompassing picture of the reconciliation that Christ, in his body, has accomplished between former enemies—between Jews and Gentiles, on the one hand, and between God and humanity, on the other—creating “one new man” and making “peace.” Likewise, according to Isaiah 53:5, the Suffering Servant of the Lord was expected to be “wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that brought us peace, and by his bruises we are healed” (O. Hofius). The “peace” of Isaiah 53:5 is the same as the “reconciliation” of which Paul speaks in 2 Corinthians 5:18–21. The atoning, substitutionary death of Christ for sinners effects “peace with God” and “reconciliation” (Rom. 5:1–10). Hence, Paul begins his letters with the formulaic greeting that refers to this peace: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (e.g., 2 Cor. 1:2).

The second participial clause, about the reconciliatory word, shows the apostle’s involvement in proclaiming God’s reconciliatory deed: Paul has already used the word ministry (diakonia) and “minister” (diakonos) in the previous context to refer to his own ministry of the new covenant in contradistinction to Moses’ “ministry” of the old covenant (cf. 3:6, 7, 8, 9; 4:1). Here, too, he implies a typological comparison to Moses. Both Philo (On the Life of Moses 2.166; Questions and Answers on Exodus 2.49) and Josephus (Ant. 3.315) portray Moses as “reconciler” (katallaktēs, diallaktēs), in the sense that he intervened before God on behalf of the people after the golden calf incident (Exod. 32:11–13; cf. Exod. Rab. 43:2; Deut. Rab. 3:15). Paul sees himself as being commissioned with a similar ministry of reconciliation and mediation, although, as we shall see, Paul’s ministry is greater since it encompasses the whole world and comes solely from divine initiative. Paul’s role is primarily one of preaching the gospel and of persuading people (cf. 2 Cor. 5:11). On the way to Damascus, God himself revealed his Son to Paul and gave Paul the commission to preach the gospel of the Son of God among the nations (Gal. 1:16). When Paul states that God gave him the ministry of reconciliation, this is another way of saying that he has an apostolic office directly from God.[4]


18. allGreek, “the.”

things—all our privileges in this new creation (2 Co 5:14, 15).

reconciled us—that is, restored us (“the world,” 2 Co 5:19) to His favor by satisfying the claims of justice against us. Our position judicially considered in the eye of the law is altered, not as though the mediation of Christ had made a change in God’s character, nor as if the love of God was produced by the mediation of Christ; nay, the mediation and sacrifice of Christ was the provision of God’s love, not its moving cause (Ro 8:32). Christ’s blood was the price paid at the expense of God Himself, and was required to reconcile the exercise of mercy with justice, not as separate, but as the eternally harmonious attributes in the one and the same God (Ro 3:25, 26). The Greek “reconcile” is reciprocally used as in the Hebrew Hithpahel conjugation, appease, obtain the favor of. Mt 5:24, “Be reconciled to thy brother”; that is, take measures that he be reconciled to thee, as well as thou to him, as the context proves. Diallagethi, however (Mt 5:24), implying mutual reconciliation, is distinct from Katallagethi here, the latter referring to the change of status wrought in one of the two parties. The manner of God reconciling the world to Himself is implied (2 Co 5:19), namely, by His “not imputing their trespasses to them.” God not merely, as subsequently, reconciles the world by inducing them to lay aside their enmity, but in the first instance, does so by satisfying His own justice and righteous enmity against sin (Ps 7:11). Compare 1 Sa 29:4, “Reconcile himself unto his master”; not remove his own anger against his master, but his master’s against him [Archbishop Magee, Atonement]. The reconciling of men to God by their laying aside their enmity is the consequence of God laying aside His just enmity against their sin, and follows at 2 Co 5:20.

to us—ministers (2 Co 5:19, 20).[5]


18. And all things are from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.

  • “And all things are from God.” No one can ever say that renewal has its origin in human beings, for Paul clearly teaches that God is the originator and source of renewal. God created all things through Christ Jesus (John 1:3; Col. 1:15–18; Heb. 1:2) and recreates all things for his children. They are in Christ Jesus, for God is the cause of their membership in the body of Christ (refer to 1 Cor. 1:30).
  • “Who reconciled us to himself through Christ.” This astounding statement reveals God’s infinite love. We offended God by breaking his commands and sinning against him. Therefore, the initiative for reconciliation should have come from us, for we are the offending party. Instead we read that God, as the offended party, reached out to us to achieve restoration of relationships. God took the initiative and completed the work of reconciliation before we, as sinners, began to respond to God’s gracious invitation to be reconciled to him (Rom. 5:10–11). In brief, God restored the relationship between himself and us, so that his new creation for us could be fully realized.

In apostolic times, the Jews believed that man had to initiate reconciliation with God, chiefly by prayer and confession of sin. For instance, the writer of II Maccabees uses the verb to reconcile four times, but all of them are in the passive voice. They disclose that human beings petition God to be reconciled to them.

By contrast, the New Testament teaches that God restores us to himself by “putting us in right relations with himself.” God is the subject and we are the object whenever the verb to reconcile is in the active voice. But when in the same context this verb is in the passive voice, we are the subject (see v. 20). God did not cause alienation between himself and us and, therefore, did not have to reconcile himself to us. Yet in love God reconciles us to himself through the atoning work of his Son Jesus Christ. For this reason, Paul says that God brings about restoration through Christ, that is, through Jesus’ redemptive work. The phrase through Christ alludes to his death and resurrection (vv. 14–15), which bring about both a new creation (v. 17) and a reconciliation (vv. 18–20).

  • “[God] has given us the ministry of reconciliation.” God himself commissioned Paul and his co-workers to acquaint the readers of this epistle with his work. God wants his servants to be engaged in a restorative ministry by preaching, teaching, and applying the gospel. For Paul, this is ministry of the Spirit of the living God (3:3, 8), and is glorious in bringing forth righteousness (3:9). Also, this ministry secures peace between God and human beings (Rom. 5:1, 10; Col. 1:20; see Acts 20:24). Peace is the result of restoring personal relations that were broken and is “a denotation of the all-embracing gift of salvation.”[6]

[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2003). 2 Corinthians (pp. 199–201). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[2] Calvin, J., & Pringle, J. (2010). Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians (Vol. 2, pp. 234–236). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[3] Barnett, P. (1997). The Second Epistle to the Corinthians (pp. 301–305). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[4] Scott, J. M. (2011). 2 Corinthians (pp. 136–138). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[5] Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 309). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[6] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians (Vol. 19, pp. 194–195). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

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