Paul’s Message - Page 4 of 6 (series: Lessons on 2 Cor.)
by John Lowe
Through Jesus Christ
Jesus Christ would be both the channel and instrument of reconciliation. He was the One to whom the Father assigned the work of reconciliation. And he was abundantly qualified for this work, and was the only being that who has ever lived in this world who was qualified for it. Because:
1. He was endowed with a divine and human nature—the nature of both of the parties involved in this issue—God and man.
2. He was intimately acquainted with both the parties, and knew what needed to be done. He knew God the Father so well that he could say, “No man knoweth the Father but the Son,” (Matthew 11:27). And he knew man so well that it could be said of Him, He “needed not that any should testify of man, for he knew what was in man” (John 2:25). No one can be a mediator who is not acquainted with the feelings, views, desires, claims, or prejudices of both the parties involved.
3. He was the friend of both parties. He loved God. No man ever doubted this, or had any reason to call it into question, and He always desired to secure all that God claimed, and of vindicating Him, and He never abandoned anything that God had a right to claim. And he loved man. He showed this throughout His life. He sought His welfare in every way possible, and gave Himself for Him. Yet no one is qualified to act the mediator's part who is not the common friend of both the parties at issue, and who will not seek the welfare, the right, or the honor of both.
4. He was willing to suffer anything from either party in order to produce reconciliation. From the hand of God He was willing to endure all that He deemed to be necessary, in order to show His hatred of sin by His substitutionary sufferings, and to make an atonement; and from the hand of man He was willing to endure all the reproach, and torture, and scorn which could possibly be involved in the work of inducing man to be reconciled to God.
5. He has removed all the obstacles which existed to a reconciliation. On the part of God, He has made it consistent for Him to pardon. He has made an atonement, so that God can be just while he justifies the sinner. He has maintained His truth, and justice, and secured the stability of His moral government while He admits offenders to His favor. And on the part of man, He, by the activity of His Spirit, overcomes the unwillingness of the sinner to be reconciled, humbles his pride, shows him his sin, changes his heart, subdues his hostility against God, and secures in fact a harmony of feeling and purpose between God and man, so that they shall be reconciled forever.
And has given us
To us, the apostles and our fellow-laborers.
The ministry of reconciliation
That is, of announcing to people the nature and the conditions of this plan of being reconciled. We have been appointed to make it known, and to implore people to accept it (see v. 20).
19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
This verse was designed by the Holy Spirit to further state the nature of the plan of reconciliation, and of the message with which they were entrusted. It contains a summary of the whole plan; and is one of those emphatic verses in which Paul compresses into a single sentence the substance of the whole plan of redemption.
That God was in Christ
That God was going to accomplish his purpose by Christ, or by means of Christ; by the endeavors, or mediatorship of Christ. Or it may mean that God was united with Christ, and manifested Himself through Him. Christ was the Facilitator by means of whom God planned to accomplish the great work of reconciliation.
Reconciling the world unto himself
“The world” is used here to stand for the human race generally, without regard for nation, age, race or status. The whole world was alienated from Him (for all have sinned), and he desired to have it reconciled. This is one incidental proof that God intended that the plan of salvation should be applicable to all people: “For the love of Christ constrains us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead” (2 Co. 5:14). The phrase “for all,” obviously means for all mankind; for every man. This is an exceedingly important expression in regard to the extent of the atonement which the Lord Jesus made, and while it proves that his death was vicarious, that is, in the place of others, and for their sakes, it demonstrates also that the atonement was general, and had, in itself, no limitation, and no particular reference to any class or condition of people; and no particular applicability to one class more than to another. There was nothing in the nature of the atonement that limited it to any one class or condition; there was nothing in the design of it that made it, in itself, anymore applicable to one portion of mankind than to another; and the merits of that death were sufficient to save all.
It may also be observed that God wanted the world reconciled. Man did not seek it. He had no plan for it, he did not even desire it. He had no way to bring it about. It was the offended party, not the offending party, that sought to be reconciled; and this shows the strength of His love. It was love for enemies and alienated beings, and love shown to them by a most earnest desire to become their friend, and to be in agreement with them. “But God commends his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).
Not imputing their trespasses to them
Not charging them with their transgressions; rather, forgiving them, pardoning them. One definition for “impute” is “to attribute (righteousness, guilt, etc.) to a person or persons vicariously vicariously=suffered in place of another; ascribe as derived from another.” God has decided that the righteousness of Christ is to be imputed to all believers on the basis of His vicarious death. In Romans 4:3, it says “For what does the Scripture say? Abraham believed God, and it was credited imputed to him for righteousness.” The idea here is that God did not charge them with their offences, but graciously provided a plan of pardon, and offered to forgive their sins on the conditions of the Gospel. The plan of reconciliation demonstrated that He was not of a mind to impute their sins to them, as He might have done, and to punish them with absolute severity for their crimes, but was more disposed to pardon and forgive.
Someone might ask this question, “If God was not disposed to charge a person with their own sins, but would prefer to pardon them, can we believe that He is disposed to charge them with the sin of another—that is, with the sin of Adam? In his letter to the Romans, Paul wrote, “For just as through one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so also through the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:19). The teaching here is that Christ’s vicarious death was considered by God as sufficient punishment for all sins and all people, and this includes Adam’s sin. God is not disposed or inclined to charge people with their own transgressions, he has no pleasure in doing it; and therefore he has provided a plan by which they may be pardoned. At the same time it is true that unless their sins are pardoned, justice will charge or impute their sins to them, and will exact punishment to the uttermost.
And has committed to us the word of reconciliation
God has given us an assignment; for his ministers, it is the preaching of the atonement, and for the rest of us it is to witness to others of the benefits of salvation, through the lives we live. But here, he is speaking specifically to ministers, and the meaning is, that the office of making known the nature of this plan, and the conditions on which God was willing to be reconciled to man, had been committed to the ministers of the Gospel.