The Reconciled World (3)
Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation… 2 Corinthians 5.18
The ministry of reconciliation
So far in this study, we have been laying a groundwork for what Paul intended when he wrote that God “has given us the ministry of reconciliation”. We who are called to the Kingdom and glory of God are charged with carrying on the work Jesus began to do, by working to restore the reconciled world to its proper life and telos, or end. Restoration is the particular work of reconciliation which God has assigned to us. For many believers, this will be a new way of thinking about what it means to be a Christian. We’d better make sure we understand just what God “has given us”.
The place to begin in understanding the ministry of reconciliation that has been given to us – the work of restoration – is by looking to the great Reconciler Himself, our Lord Jesus Christ. The work of reconciliation was appointed to Jesus from eternity past, when, in the counsel of the divine Trinity, the plan for the creation, redemption, reconciliation, and restoration of the world was outlined before the world began.
It makes sense that the work of reconciliation Jesus accomplished should provide a template for us in pursuing our part of the work of reconciliation. Jesus’ work of reconciliation entailed five specific stages, all of which began with His becoming incarnate in the world. Jesus performed His work of reconciliation in a human body, at a particular time in history, and among a peculiar people and culture. This will be the same for us as well; so let’s take a closer look at the five specific stages of Jesus’ work of reconciliation, and consider what they mean for us.
The binding of Satan
The work of the incarnate Christ in reconciling the world to God began in the Judean wilderness, as Jesus confronted and overcame the devil. He bound Satan from being able to further impede the work God had sent Him to do (Matt. 4.1-11). When Jesus said, later in His ministry, that He had “bound” the strong man, He was referring to the defeat and routing of the devil in the wilderness. And it was against that backdrop, He explained, that the plundering of Satan’s domain was now proceeding apace.
Binding the devil is part of our work of reconciliation. We must be able to recognize his wiles and temptations, submit to God and resist the devil, and find the way of escape, lest we fall into sin (Prov. 1.17; Jms. 4.7; 1 Cor. 10.13). Just as Jesus confronted and sent demons packing, and overcame all subsequent temptations, so we must expect that our work of reconciliation will be an ongoing struggle of spiritual warfare to keep the devil at bay, grow through every temptation, and continue bringing our work of restoration to everything in our lives that the devil would prefer to keep in ruins (Eph. 6.10-20; 1 Pet. 5.8-10).
Blazing the reconciliation trail
By fulfilling all the Law of God (Matt. 5.17-19), Jesus provided the righteousness (holiness) without which no one will see the Lord, and no work of restoration can be accomplished (Heb. 13.5). We must learn Jesus (Eph. 4.17-24), put on Jesus (Rom. 13.14), walk the path Jesus walked (1 Jn. 2.1-6), and be transformed into the very likeness of Jesus and His righteousness (2 Cor. 3.12-18). Jesus blazed the trail of righteousness, and He commands us to seek His Kingdom and righteousness as the defining priority and motif of our lives (Matt. 6.33).
At the very least, this requires regular reading, study, and meditation in God’s Law, and all His Word (Ps. 1; Matt. 5.17-19; 2 Tim. 3.15-17). Only as we are steeped in the Word of God will we hear and obey the Spirit as He teaches us God’s Law, convicts us of sin and righteousness, and empowers us to will and do the righteousness that pleases God (Ezek. 36.26, 27; Jn. 16.8-11; Phil. 2.13). The more we find God’s Word to be joyous spiritual nutrition for every aspect of our lives (Jer. 15.16), the better equipped we will be for those good works of righteousness, imitating our Lord Jesus, by which the reconciled world becomes restored in goodness and glory.
Cancellation of sin
On the cross, Jesus took away the sins of the world. He has freed us from the consequences of our sin, and He calls us to increase in His power over it. We must always be about the business of being cleansed from sin. The law of sin still operates in our not-yet-fully-sanctified souls. We expect to sin, but must not be content to languish there, like some upside-down turtle, struggling to be righted. We must nurture a sincere and constant hatred of all sin (Ps. 97.10). If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us (1 Jn. 1.8). If we do not confess our sins, the weight of them will grind us down (Ps. 38.1-8), God will not hear our prayers (Ps. 66.18), and we won’t care about the work of restoration, or about anything that does not immediately gratify some personal want.
Further, we must take up our own cross daily, denying our selfish desires, setting our mind on the things that are above where Christ is seated in heavenly places, and giving ourselves in loving service to others (Matt. 10.38; Col. 3.1-3; Jn. 13.1-15). The best way to keep sin cancelled in our lives is to follow Jesus, according to God’s Word, in serving others for His glory (Rom. 12.1-3; Phil. 2.1-11).
The resurrection life
By His resurrection from the dead and ascent into heaven, Jesus gained the eternal Kingdom of God – the power for righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Dan. 7.13, 14; 1 Cor. 4.20; Rom. 14.17, 18). He inaugurated an entirely new domain and dispensation – the divine economy of grace and truth. And He has given that to His saints in the Person of the Holy Spirit (Dan. 7.18; Acts 2).
By growing in Kingdom life – righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit – we realize the power that is making all things new (Rev. 22.5), and that enables us to take up that part of the ministry of reconciliation which has been given to us, the work of restoring the reconciled world.
The world to come
Finally, in the world that is to come, Jesus is preparing an eternal dwelling-place for His people; and He will come again to take us there. He calls us to seek the city which is to come (Heb. 11.8-16), meditate on its beauty, rejoice that our names are written in the ledger of that city (Lk. 10.20), and live in the here and now as though we expected the there and then to evidence itself in everything we do (Matt. 6.10).
Jesus has shown us the work of reconciliation that has been given to us. He has established the foundation, and He has secured the end of the reconciliation of all things. And He is at work within us, willing and doing of His own pleasure, by the exceedingly abundant power of His Word and Spirit, to move the work of restoration and reconciliation forward in each of our lives and over all the earth.
May we receive this work that has been given to us, and resolve energetically to apply ourselves to it every day.
1. What did Paul mean when he wrote that God has given us the work of reconciliation?
2. Why must we look to Jesus to understand this work? How do we look to Jesus?
3. How should we expect looking to Jesus as the template of our work to affect our daily lives?
Next steps – Transformation: In prayer, examine the state of the work of restoration as it is proceeding in your life, according to each of the five stages discussed here.
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.