The Ministry of Reconciliation
II Cor. 5: 14-21
Are you prejudice?
Introd. Of course not – I am a little offended that you even ask the question. That somehow I would judge someone by their outer covering rather than by their heart.
Are you sure? Let’s talk about that.
As Christianity spread from Jerusalem outward, groups of people began to join together to form congregations of like minded believers. As time went by there began to be much discussion about the doctrine and beliefs of these congregations so under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit the Apostle Paul wrote letters to these churches so they could know their purpose as to why form congregations to begin with.
One of those churches was in Corinth. It had a multitude of problems as Paul wrote at least three letters trying to straighten them out. In this section of scripture he presents two main thoughts:
Be reconciled to God
Be a minister of reconciliation to others.
He emphasizes both – this individual need for a person to be reconciled to God and the church’s need to be ministers of reconciliation to their communities.
Reconciliation: English bring two people or groups together –Greek change from an enemy to a friend
II Cor. 5: 14-21
2Co 5:14 For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died;
2Co 5:15 and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.
2Co 5:16 Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer.
2Co 5:17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
2Co 5:18 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation,
2Co 5:19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
2Co 5:20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
2Co 5:21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
I First imperative: be reconciled to God.
Vs.17 When we came into a personal relationship with Christ. became a new creature – old things began to drop off – new attitudes – new habits – new perspectives begin to be developed. Change the way we view things. Vs. 16 says we no longer just view things from a worldly point of view.
Every single person is in need of being reconciled to God. – all of us have sinned against a holy God – Gone on our way – done our own thing without regard to the love of God.
Vs. 18 says all this is from God he took the initiative. To reach out to us with the offer of forgiveness and reconciliation.
vs. 19 says in this process of reconciliation he wants to forgive us and not count our sins against us.
When we recognize that we need help; God steps in and provides a way out of a self serving shallow lifestyle by offering us hope through Jesus Christ. Rom. 7:24 O Wretched man that I am who will rescue me from this body of death? Thank be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
First and foremost and most important decision we can make in life is to be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ as our personal Savior.
Now what? Once that step has been taken – the church – the gathered group of believers; the corporate body of Christ is given a mission – a task – a ministry –
Be reconciled to each other
It’s a group effort – vs. 14 Christ love compels us; vs. gave us the vs. 19 has committed to us. Vs. 20 we are Christ’s ambassadors. This is not something that can be done individual; it must be a group effort.
The people of the first century had a multitude of prejudices to work through.
Jews – Gentiles slaves – free men – women
There was a prayer that a pious Jew would pray every morning – Lord thank you that you did not make me a gentile, a slave or a woman.
Paul uses two phrases -
Vs. 18 ministry of reconciliation
Vs. 19 message of reconciliation
What’s the difference– the message is that of God’s love; our need to be reconciled to him – salvation. The message is God’s story.
The ministry of reconciliation is getting God’s message out to people. We tell them our story – how we have been reconciled to God. We cannot influence people to be reconciled to God if at the same time we are not showing with our lifestyle that the message of reconciliation is real to us and affects the way we live our lives. The ministry of reconciliation is not about bringing people together – it is about bringing people to Christ.
There are times the Church of Jesus Christ needs to repent because we have not done a good job of representing Christ to our community. I want to talk to you about three barriers that keep us from being effective in getting God’s message to people.
Be reconciled to the racial issue
We have made great strides in this area but it still exists in certain pockets of the Christian community. Not at Bayside. At Bayside we need to make extra efforts to include, invite, and incorporate people of color in the fabric of our congregation.
I know that part of this is cultural – people of different ethnicities worship differently than we do but we want to make sure that we as a body of Christ are on the forefront of racial reconciliation. Black, Hispanic, and Asian people need to be a part of our family.
Amy Biehl died a violent death in 1993. She was a 26-year-old Fulbright scholar who had gone to South Africa to help register black voters for their first free election. But even though she was seeking to help the people of South Africa, as she was driving one day, she was dragged out of her car, stabbed and beaten to death by a mob which was committed to violence in the struggle to overthrow the apartheid government. Soon afterward, Amy’s parents, Linda and Peter Biehl, quit their jobs and moved from their Orange County, California home to South Africa — not to seek revenge, but to start a ministry in Amy’s name. Today, two of her killers work for the foundation. She says, “Forgiving is looking at ourselves and saying, ‘I don’t want to go through life feeling hateful and revengeful, because that’s not going to do me any good.’ We took Amy’s lead. We did what we felt she would want.” That is the picture of racial reconciliation. It is following the heart and character of God.
This is not an attempt at uniformity. We will still have our preferences, traditions, and uniqueness but It is a reconciliation of understanding and inclusion for all people.
Be reconciled to the sin issue
As Christians there are times when the particular sins of people keep us from sharing the message of love with them. Obviously this doesn’t mean we should embrace sinful behaviors but as ministers of reconciliation we have to be grace givers not finger pointers. Our quickness to point out the obvious sins of others has hampered God’s message of reconciliation.
The Bible talks about many types of sinful behavior but as Christians we try to isolate those that are not a problem for us and focus on condemning them yet remain non- chalant about other sins.
You all know my stand on homosexuality. You have heard me preach it on Nov. 28th. I believe the Bible specifically and directly speaks to this issue. I also believe the Bible specifically and directly speaks to the issue that all sex outside of marriage is wrong. We cannot single out pet sins that we don’t practice and pretend that our disobedience of God’s word is less serious.
Reconciliation does not ignore our value system but it recognizes all of our need for grace.
The Bible in many places also condemns lying, drunkeness, gossip, deceit, disobeying parents, strife, greed, arrogance. Our concern for those issues should be just as important as sexual misconduct. Ah do you see why we need grace? Reconcilers are stretcher bearers – bearing with one another – A true understanding of scripture keeps us from being proud of our righteousness and causes us to fall on our knees in humility before the Lord and say I need your grace.
Be reconciled to the gender issue
Throughout the history of the world there has always been exploitation of the weakest in our society. Those who have less physical strength, less education, less power, less finances. It was the same in the first century. Then Christ came along and turned the whole system upside down. He befriended the weak, ill, gentiles, the children, the women and the infirm.
What does it say about our efforts to stamp our prejudice when we deny 50% of our family the right to teach or lead because of the way they were born as females.
It would be considered a highly prejudiced view if we were to say that you can’t teach or lead because of the way you were born – color of your skin – what about gender – I had no control over being born a man.
In CHOG we have always proclaimed equality recognizing God’s giftedness to all people.
Many individuals in the evangelical faith including many in this congregation grew up with the concept that there were certain roles women were prohibited from having.
First ran into this in Vero – story of a man on the EE team. I always thought giftedness, dedication and commitment were the ingredients of leadership but I discovered how you born is the deciding factor.
You are free to develop your interpretation but when believers divide themselves over non Salvation issues – the body of Christ suffers. The mission of reconciliation to God gets sidetracked.
Reconciliation requires us to consider the full counsel of scripture not just isolated verses.
The Bible contains many paradoxes, perplexities and problem but not outright contradictions. Therefore when we find difficult passages, we have to remember some rules of Biblical interpretation. Interpretation starts with the big picture and then moves down to the minute issues not the other way around.
What about I Tim. 2:8-15 Paul is giving instruction on worship to a congregation in the midst of a first century worldview. Is it a timeless decree of universal prohibition or a corrective to a congregation. It is interesting that we emphasize only certain parts of this section.
throughout much of the Bible we find multiple examples of women in leadership where they did teach men: Deborah was a judge over Israel; Hulda was a prophet; Priscilla instructed Apollos; Miriam was sent to lead people. In Acts 21:9 we discovered that the evangelist Philip had 4 daughters who prophesied. Acts 2:17 “I will pour out my spirit on all people and your sons and daughters will prophesy”
In I cor. 11: in another section on worship; women who pray or prophesy are to keep their heads covered.
In Christianity we are one in Christ Jesus. He breaks down the manmade divisions and says if you come to believe in Jesus as your Savior, we are all in the same family. Gal. 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Greek; slave nor free, male nor female for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
We need to rediscover our unity and spiritual equality in Christ to present a unified message to a hurting world.
Be reconciled to God and one another
Jim and Kitty Fasel storyLooks just like his father – for years he had borne the image of the father – he just didn’t know it – our ministry is to help people discover the image of God in their life.