The Ministry of Reconciliation
“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the ministry of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:18-21) A.W. Tozer stated that, "The cross of Christ is the most revolutionary thing to ever appear among men." I find that as we grow in Christ our understanding of the cross continues to evolve and we find more and more how revolutionary the cross truly is. I am confident that my knowledge of what Christ has accomplished through the cross is incomplete, true but limited, correct, but not grasping the fullness of the truth. The cross of Christ is simple but complex. It is simple enough for a child to understand, yet complex enough for the greatest theological minds to “swim” in the depth of its meaning. I have “swam” in various theological streams as my understanding of the cross has grown and evolved. As I have come more and more to see the agape love of the Father demonstrated through the cross, I have begun to see how revolutionary the cross truly is. Paul tells us that through the cross, “God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them.” Does this not mean that we can declare to the vilest sinner that “God is not holding your sins against you?” Is Jesus, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29)? Has a pardon has been issued to all of humanity? Has mercy triumphed over judgment (James 2:13)? Is Christ the propitiation for the sins of the whole world (I John 2:2)? Paul tells that the ministry of reconciliation that has been given to us, as believers, is the proclamation of this message of God’s grace and mercy. God has, through Christ, reconciled the world to Himself. This is not universalism, but rather it is a declaration of the Father embracing all of fallen humanity. It is not inclusivism, which is the view that “all paths lead to God,” but rather it proclaims Christ, as the exclusive mediator, that reconciles fallen humanity to the Father. The cross of Christ is therefore, embracing, but exclusive. The gospel is not about moralism. Sin and moral behavior is not the issue, God’s grace is. There is nobody in heaven but forgiven sinners, because there was nobody available to go to heaven except forgiven sinners, and there is nobody in hell except forgiven sinners. The difference is that in heaven they accept the forgiveness, in hell they reject it. That's it. Another important text in this regard is found in Colossians 1:19-20, where Paul says: “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” What does it mean to "reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven" through the cross? Some have interpreted it to mean that all be saved. This is the universalist interpretation. But because of the way Jesus spoke specifically about judgment, and because of the way the Bible generally treats the subject this interpretation would be in conflict with the whole of Scripture. But what is the text saying? The implications of what Paul says here in Colossians go beyond fallen humanity, but it undoubtedly must include it. Oswald Chambers had a great deal to say in his writings on the cross. The following quote of his helped me to understand what Paul must be saying here: “There is nothing more certain in Time or Eternity than what Jesus Christ did on the Cross. He switched the whole human race back into right relationship to God and made the basis of human life Redemptive; consequently any member of the human race can get into touch with God now. It means not simply that men are saved from hell and put right for heaven, but that they are freed from the wrong disposition and can have imparted to them the very disposition of the Son of God, viz., Holy Spirit. . . .On that basis I can be forgiven, and through the forgiveness I can be turned into another man” (Biblical Ethics, 109). Regarding Colossians 1:19-20, Oswald Chambers states, "We do not worship an austere, remote God; He is here in the thick of it. The Cross is a Reality, not a symbol--at the wall of the world stands God with His arms outstretched" (Biblical Ethics, 109). I believe that Chambers phrase, "he switched the whole human race back into right relationship with God" gets very close to the point Paul making. It means there is a proper “universalism” in the New Testament even though judgment of faith in Christ is a fearful reality. If we viewed ourselves, and others, as living in a world in which the human race has been "switched" I wonder what this would mean in our dealings with others? How does this effect the way I view my fellow human beings? What does this do to the “us against them” mentality that permeates much of present-day evangelical Christianity. Of this I am certain - any kind of Christianity that roots its doctrine of Christ and the cross in the condemnation of people and the world is not the Christianity of the New Testament. Ask yourself: Do I believe Jesus came into this world to save it or to condemn it (John 3:17)?