Paul’s Message - Page 3 of 6 (series: Lessons on 2 Cor.)
by John Lowe
New ordinances are appointed for both the Jew and the Gentile which were never in use before, such as baptism and the Lord's supper; and there is a new way to approach God, opened by the blood of Christ into the holiest place of all, not by the means of slain beasts, which was the old way of the Jews, nor by petty gods, which was the old way of the Gentiles. And there is a new commandment of love for all the followers of the Lamb; and they are given another name by the Lord, a new name, which is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation,
Now all things are of God
“All things,” refers, first of all, to the things he has been talking about; that is, the new creation which is fashioned by the Holy Spirit in those who are born again. And secondly, there are the influences by which Paul had been brought to a state where he was willing to forsake all, and to devote his life to the self-denying labors involved in the ministry of making the Saviour known to lost men. But “all things” makes the statement general and shows that he believes that not only these things were produced by God, but that all things were under His direction, and subject to His control. Nothing that Paul had done could be traced to his own persistence or power, but God was to be given credit for everything. Paul never forgot this great truth; and he never allowed himself to lose sight of it. It was in his view a central and glorious truth; and he kept its inspiration always before his mind and his heart. In the important statement which follows, therefore, about the ministry of reconciliation, he deeply feels that the whole plan, and all the success which it has attained, was to be traced not to his zeal, or faithfulness, or skill, but to the wisdom and power of God. This is the idea behind 1 Corinthians 3:6-7: “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” God caused the seed sown to take root and spring up; and God blessed the irrigation of the tender plants as they sprung up, and caused them to grow. There is no life in the seed, nor is there any inherent power in the earth to make it grow. Only God, the Giver of all life, can quicken the germ in the seed, and make it live. Likewise, truth must be sown in the heart, but there is no power in the Word, unless the heart has been prepared for it by the Holy Spirit—and the Word cannot have an effect unless it is cultivated and watered by the same Spirit. Salvation is “all of God!”
Who has reconciled us to Himself
The word "us,” no doubt, refers to all Christians, both Jews and Gentiles, regardless of their social standing, etc. They had all been brought into a state of reconciliation, or agreement with God through the Lord Jesus Christ. But, before they were for God, they were against God. They had violated His laws. They were his enemies. But by the means of the plan of salvation they had been brought into a state of agreement, or harmony, and were now united with Him in feeling and in purpose. Two people who have been alienated by prejudice, anger, jealousy, etc. are reconciled when the cause of the alienation is removed, on whichever side it may have existed, or on both sides, and when they lay aside their hostility they may once again become friends, and live together without alienation, prejudice, anger, jealousy, and strife. It’s the same way between God and man. There was sin, and then there was alienation.
Man was alienated from God. He had no love for Him. He disliked His rule and laws. He was unwilling to be controlled. He wanted to be left alone to do what he wanted to do. He was proud, vain, and self-confident. He was not pleased with the character of God, or with His claims, or His plans. And likewise, God was displeased with the pride, the sensuality, the rebellion, and the arrogance of man. He was displeased because man violated His Law, and rejected both Him and His regime. Now reconciliation could take place only when these causes of alienation could be laid aside, and when God and man could be brought together in harmony; when man could lay aside his love of sin, and be pardoned, and when, therefore, God could consistently treat him as a friend. We read in Romans 5:10: “We are brought to an agreement; to a state of friendship and union. We became his friends, laid aside our opposition, and embraced him as our friend and portion.” This means that there were obstacles existing on both sides to a reconciliation; and that these have been removed by the death of Christ; and that a reconciliation been affected.
Reconciliation conveys the idea of producing a change so that one who is alienated would be brought to friendship. Of course, all the change which takes place must be on the part of man, for God will not change, and the purpose of the plan of reconciliation is to bring about a change in man which would in fact make him reconciled to God, and in agreement with Him. There were indeed obstacles to reconciliation on the part of God, but they did not arise from any unwillingness to be reconciled; from any reluctance to treat his creature as His friend; but they arose from the fact that man had sinned, and that God was just; that such is the perfection of God that He cannot treat the good and evil alike; and that, therefore, if He is going to treat man as His friend, it was necessary that in some proper way He should maintain the honor of His Law, and show His hatred of sin, while securing the conversion and future obedience of the offender.
The plan of reconciliation is wonderful! By it God proposed to “patch up” his relationship through the atonement made by the Redeemer, making it consistent for Him to exercise the benevolence of His nature, and to pardon the offender. But God is not changed. The plan of reconciliation has made no change in His character. It has not made him a different being from what he was before. Many have a mistaken view of this; and people seem to suppose that God was originally stern, and unmerciful, and unfeeling, and that He has been made mild and forgiving by the atonement. But that is not the case. No change has been made in God; none needed to be made; none could be made. He was always mild, and merciful, and good; and the gift of a Savior and the plan of reconciliation is just an expression of His original willingness to pardon. When a father sees a child struggling in the stream, and in danger of drowning, the peril and the cries of the child make no change in the character of the father, but his love for the child is what causes him to plunge into the stream at the hazard of his own life to save him. So it is with God. His love for man, and his disposition to show mercy, was such that he would submit to any sacrifice, except that of truth and justice, in order to save him. Hence, He sent His only Son to die—not to change His own character; not to make Himself a different being from what He was, but in order to show His love and His readiness to forgive. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).