Criswell Theological Review 4.1 (1989) 77-95.

          Copyright © 1989 by The Criswell CollegeCited with permission. 









                                    DAVID L. TURNER

                           Grand Rapids Baptist Seminary

                                  Grand Rapids, MI 49505





The passage which is the object of this study is one of the most

memorable sections of the NT. R. P. C. Hanson refers to it as "one of

the charters of the Christian ministry in the New Testament."l C. K.

Barrett calls it "one of the most pregnant, difficult, and important in

the whole of the Pauline literature."2 Calvin's comment on 5:18 is also

arresting: "Here, if anywhere in Paul's writings, we have a quite

remarkably important passage and we must carefully examine the

words one by one."3

            While the present author is in sympathy with Calvin's remarks

about the necessity of carefully studying this remarkable passage, this

study does not examine its words one by one. Rather the goal is to

develop Paul's teaching on reconciliation in the literary context of

2 Corinthians. This necessitates careful attention to the syntax of 5:11-

6:2 and to the argument of the entire letter. There is also a brief

survey of reconciliation elsewhere in Paul, along with a concluding

theological synthesis of Paul's doctrine of reconciliation. The doctrine

of reconciliation involves individual, corporate, cosmic, and eschato-

logical dimensions which make it extremely challenging theologically.


            1 R. P. C. Hanson, 2 Corinthians (Torch Bible Commentaries; London: SCM,

1954) 51.

            2 C. K. Barrett, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians (HNTC; New York:

Harper, 1973) 163.

            3 J. Calvin, The Second Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians and the

Epistles to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon (eds. D. Wand T. F. Torrance; Grand

Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964) 77.




However, the real proof of our understanding of it is our competence

as agents of reconciliation in this hostile world.


                                    Reconciliation in 2 Cor 5:11-6:2


Background Considerations

            The argument of 2 Corinthians is a hotly debated issue, mainly

due to major questions about the unity of the letter. Abrupt changes

in tone and subject manner in 6:14-7:1 and especially 10:1-13:10 have

caused many to believe that the letter contains interpolations, perhaps

involving the letters alluded to elsewhere in the Corinthian corre-

spondence (1 Cor 5:9; 2 Cor 2:4). While these and other related ques-

tions are not determinative of the exegesis of 2 Cor 5:11-6:2, the

positions adopted in answering them indirectly influence that exe-

gesis. This study will proceed on the assumption that 2 Corinthians is

a literary unity from the hand of Paul and that the abrupt changes

evident in the letter may be satisfactorily explained by the apostle's

emotional state and personal anguish over the Corinthians' spiritual


            Another difficult question is the occasion of the letter in view of

Paul's earlier contact and correspondence with the Corinthians (Acts

18:1-18; 1 Cor 5:9; 2 Cor 2:4). This is related to the identity and views

of the party which was promoting the rift between Paul and the

Corinthians. One may suggest answers to this question by attempting

a “mirror reading” of the epistle (cf. 2 Cor 2:11; 3:1; 4:2-4; 5:12; 6:14;

10:1-2, 10-12; 11:3-4, 12-15, 18-23), but there is no agreement as to

whether this party emphasized gnosis, law, or a syncretistic blending

of many false ideas. It is clear that Paul viewed his opponents as false

apostles, messengers of Satan whose emphasis on fleshly show, rhe-

torical flourish, and self-commendation was antithetical to the mes-

sage and ministry of the true gospel.4

            Despite these difficulties the epistle's argument is clear. In chaps.

1- 7 Paul is appealing to the Corinthians to recognize that his is a true

gospel ministry. Chaps. 8-9 comprise his instructions and encourage-

ment regarding the offering for the saints in Judea. Feelings which

had evidently been held in check up to this point erupt in chaps. 10-

13, where Paul feels compelled to boast about the authority and


            4 For discussion of these problems, see the introductions to the exegetical com-

mentaries. There is a convenient summary in D.Guthrie, New Testament Introduction

(Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1970) 422-41. P. E. Hughes makes a good case for

the unity of the letter in Paul’s Second Epistle to the Corinthians (NICNT; Grand

Rapids: Eerdmans., 1962) xxi-xxxv. For an exegetical treatment of Paul's teaching on

the style of genuine ministry, see D.A. Black, Paul, Apostle of Weakness: Astheneia and

its Cognates in the Pauline Literature (New York: Peter Lang, 1984).



power of his ministry. This polemic is written sarcastically (cf. espe-

cially 10:1; 11:4, 19-21; 12:13, 16; 13:3) in order to get the attention of

the Corinthians and to convince them that he loves them and that he

seeks only their spiritual well-being (10:14-15; 11:2, 12; 12:14-15, 19).

            In 2 Corinthians 5 Paul is in the middle of his appeal to the

Corinthians to recognize his personal integrity and apostolic authority.

This appeal and defense is developed in between references to time

spent in Macedonia awaiting the arrival of Titus (2 Cor 2:14; 7:4).

Martin is correct in saying that this section is not a digression or a

rehearsal of the past. Rather

            it is an extension of the same spirit he [Paul] had shown them in calling

            them to repentance (2:2; 7:8-11) and obedience (2:9), and it is a fervent

            yet reasoned appeal to any who were still unyielding to the pressure of

            his earlier appeal and whose friendly attitude toward himself he still has

            reason to doubt. The plea is a renewed call to them to leave their hostile

            dispositions and suspicions of both his message and his ministry and

            accept his proffered reconciliation, already given to the ringleader (2:5-

            11; 7:12).5


The section is intensely theological and strikingly personal, for Paul's

theology and his manner of ministry will stand or fall together. Paul

presupposes that it is impossible to separate the gospel message from

the messenger of the gospel.


Exegesis of 2 Cor 5:11-6:2

            This pericope6 begins with the note that Paul's attempts7 to per-

suade people8 are motivated by awe of Christ's judgment seat (5:11).

Paul acknowledges that his life and ministry is an "open book" before


            5 R.. Martin, 2 Corinthians (WBC 48; Waco, TX: Word, 1986) 137.

            6 Helpful studies dealing with reconciliation and this passage include J. W. Fraser,.

"Paul's Knowledge of Jesus: II Cor V.16 once more," NTS 17 (1970-71) 293-313; R.

Martin, "Reconciliation at Corinth," Reconciliation: A Study of Paul’s Theology (At-

lanta: John Knox, 1981) 90-110; J. L. Martyn, "Epistemology at the Turn of the Ages:

2 Cor 5:16," Christian History and Interpretation: Studies Presented to John Knox (ed.

W. R. Farmer et al.; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1967) 269-87; J. I. H.

McDonald, "Paul and the Preaching Ministry," JSNT 17 (1983) 35-50; M. E. Thrall,

"2 Corinthians 5:18-21," ExpTim 93 (1982) 227-32.

            7 The present tense verb pei<qomen is correctly interpreted by Barrett and Furnish

as conative in force. Day in and day out, Paul is seeking to persuade people. Cf. C. K.

Barrett, 2 Corinthians, 163; and V. P. Furnish, 2 Corinthians (AB 32A; Garden City, NY:

Doubleday, 1984) 306.

            8 Hughes' idea that Paul is referring to persuading the Corinthians, not to evan-

gelism (2 Corinthians, 186), is too specific. It is doubtful that Paul would have granted

such a distinction between receiving the message and receiving the messenger of the

gospel. Rejection of the messenger calls into question the reception of the message (cE.

2:9; 6:1; 7:1; 8:8, 24; 9:3; 11:3-4; 12:20; 13:5).



God (cf. 1 Cor 4:4) even though it is necessary for him to persuade

people of his sincerity.9 He will not get involved in self-commenda-

tion (5:12; cf. 3:1-2; 10:12, 18; 12:19; but on the other hand cf. 4:2; 6:4;

12:11); he is not interested in outward appearance but in internal

integrity. Whether he is in an ecstatic state of mind before God or in a

serious state of mind before the Corinthians, they have no reason to

doubt his integrity (5:13).10

            The prospect of appearing before Christ's judgment seat is a

strong motive, but it is not Paul's sole motive for ministry. In 5:14 he

explains (ga<r) that he is also controlled11 by the retrospect of Christ's

love12 demonstrated by his death. This constraint of the cross is due to

Paul's conviction13 that the death of Christ14 represented15 the death of

all. Further (5:15), the death of Christ means that those who live16


            9 Plummer insightfully explains that the first de<. in 5:11 conveys the antithesis that

"God knows all about us through and through, but we have to persuade men to believe

in our sincerity." Cf. Alfred Plummer, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the

Second Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians (ICC; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1915)


            10 It is difficult to know the precise reason for his statement. Perhaps Paul used

both of these opposite mental states to defend his total integrity. Or perhaps the false

apostles were critical of Paul's participation in the xari<smata. Cf. 1 Cor 13:1-2; 14:1ff.,

especially vv 18-19.

            11 The precise translation of sune<xei is disputed, though the general sense is clear.

In more concrete settings it can mean "to press" or "to crowd," but here the idea seems

to be "to constrain" or "to impel." Furnish (2 Corinthians, 309-10) opts for "to lay claim

to" due to usage in the papyri denoting legal obligation.

            12 There is little doubt that h[ a]ga<ph tou? Xristou? emphasizes the love of Christ for

sinners (subjective genitive). Jean Hering's preference for the objective genitive (love

for Christ) is weakly supported. See his The Second Epistle of Saint Paul to the

Corinthians (London: Epworth, 1967) 41-42. Zerwick's argument for a "general" (others

use such terms as "comprehensive" or "plenary") genitive comprising both Christ's love

for Paul and Paul's resulting love for Christ is more plausible, but meanings plausible to

the reader are not necessarily meanings intended by the author. Contextually the

emphasis is upon God's initiative and grace, thus the subjective genitive is strongly

preferred. See M. Zerwick, Biblical Greek (Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1963) 13.

            13 The aorist participle kri<nantaj should be viewed as causal.

            14 The death of Christ on the cross (and the resurrection of his body) as the heart

of the gospel is repeatedly stressed in the Corinthian correspondence. Cf. 1 Cor 1:17 -18;

2:2; 5:7; 8:11; 10:16; 11:23-26; 15:3ff.; 2 Cor 4:10; 13:4.

            15 Perhaps "represented" does not sufficiently stress the substitutionary nature of

our Lord's death. The debate over the precise meaning of u[pe>r pa<ntwn is well sum-

marized by Martin (2 Corinthians, 129-31), who favors a substitutionary understanding.

Hughes (2 Corinthians, 193-95) strongly argues for a substitutionary understanding. It is

quite clear that terminology such as "example" or "moral influence" cannot begin to

explain the thought of Paul at this juncture.

            16 Systematic theologians have long debated the question of the extent or intent of

the atonement, and this passage is commonly brought up. Does the "all" for whom

Christ died constitute the whole human race or those who will eventually believe in



should live not for themselves but for the one who died for them and

again. The theological framework behind this is that the Adamic

order, characterized since the Fall by selfishness and death, has been

superseded by the order of the second Adam, characterized by selfless

living for Christ. Paul's ministry is characterized not by living for

himself but by living for the one who died for him and rose again.

Paul sees believers dying with Christ in the past and standing before

him at the future judgment. Therefore life in between these two

epochal events can never be the same again. Self-commendation and

pride in appearance cannot characterize those who are controlled by

love of their redeemer and future judge.

            Second Corinthians 5:14-15 has stressed Christ's death as a repre-

sentative act and as an act of renewal. Due to Christ's representative

death, Christ-centered rather than self-centered living is required of

those who would identify with the gospel. Paul next in 5:16-17 de-

scribes two consequences of Christ's death.17 First, Christ's death

means that from now on a radically different way of viewing reality is

present. No one is to be viewed according to the old order with its

"fleshly" priorities and values;18 Even if Paul has known Christ in this

manner, those days are gone forever.19 Further (v 17), the former

fleshly worldview has been replaced by a distinctively Christian one.


him (the elect)? Similarly, are "those who live" human beings in general, or those who

through faith have come alive spiritually? These questions are somewhat foreign to

Paul's immediate agenda in this passage, which is to explain Christ's epochal death and

resurrection as the ultimate motivation for his ministry. The universality of Paul's

commission and message would seem to demand that the whole human race has been

impacted by the cross, and yet that every human being must come to terms with it

personally in order to experience its benefits.

            17 Verses 16 and 17 both begin with w!ste, a particle of result or consequence. It

seems best to take both these verses as parallel consequences of 5:14-15 instead of

viewing v 17 as a consequence of v 16 (Furnish, 2 Corinthians, 314, 332).

            18 The phrase kata> sa<rka describes a point of view dominated by the flesh, which

should be taken in its pejorative ethical sense (cf. Rom 8:3-13; Gal 5:16-24). At Corinth

the fleshly worldview involved pride in external prestige and appearance, not in

internal realities of the heart (1 Cor 1:26, 29; 3:1-4; 2 Cor 1:12, 17; 5:12; 10:2-4; 11:18).

            19 The combination of ei] kai> which begins v 16b concedes that Paul once viewed

Christ erroneously. As Harris states, "his sincere yet superficial preconversion estimate

of Jesus as a messianic pretender whose followers must be extirpated (Acts 9:1, 2;

26:9-11) he now repudiated as being totally erroneous, for he had come to recognize

him as the divinely appointed Messiah whose death had brought life." See M. J. Harris,

2 Corinthians (EBC. 10; Grand Rapids; Zondervan, 1976) 353. Perhaps the "Christ

party" at Corinth (1 Cor 1:12ff.) was also guilty of viewing Christ in a fleshly manner.

The view of Reitzenstein and existentialist sources that this text shows Paul's disinterest

in the Jesus of history is rightly debunked by W. D. Davies, Paul and Rabbinic Judaism

(4th ed.; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1980) 195; and Hughes, 2 Corinthians, 199-200.



Those who come to be "in Christ"20 by faith in the gospel are part of

a new order for the universe. The former Adamic order (ta> a]rxai?a) is

gone and a new order has come to exist.21 The cross has once for all

radically changed Paul's view of reality by its power to begin the

renewal of the universe by renewing individuals within it (5:16-17).22

            This individual and cosmic renewal which has forever changed

Paul's view of life is not achieved without human instrumentality. In

5:17 Paul alludes to the divine origin of the new order23 and its

mediation through Christ, but he also clearly speaks of his own part in

the ministry of reconciliation. The mention of ministry returns to the

main theme of 2 Corinthians 2-7, the appeal to the Corinthians to

recognize Paul's ministry as authentic (cf. 3:7-9; 4:1; 6:3). Verse 17

describes the origin of reconciliation in the Father, the mediation of

reconciliation through the Son, and the actual accomplishment of

reconciliation through the ministry of Paul.

            At this point it will be helpful to focus on the vocabulary and

conceptualization of reconciliation.24 When Paul describes his ministry

of the gospel as a ministry of reconciliation, he uses a familiar image


            20 This is the characteristic Pauline expression for those who are in solidarity with

Christ by faith (cf. e.g., Eph 1:4, 7; 2:10). Thus there are individual, corporate, and

eschatological dimensions of this expression. Thro!lgh faith in the gospel individuals

enter the New Covenant community (I Cor 3:16-17; 2 Cor 3:1-18) of those who

already (though partially) experience the blessings of the age to come (I Cor 2:6-8;

7:31; 15:20; 2 Cor 1:22; 2:14).

            21 Paul's thoughts on the new order may be based in part on Isa 42:9-10; 43:19;

48:6; 62:2; 65:17; 66:22; cf. Rev 21:1-2,5. The new order as a divine creation has already

been mentioned in 2 Cor 4:5-6. Despite satanic opposition (4:3-4), the God who

originally created light is now enlightening sin-darkened hearts as the gospel is being

preached. It is striking that Paul uses the creation motif to describe the new order in

Christ. For the Adam-Christ analogy elsewhere, see I Cor 15:20-22; Rom 5:12-21.

            22 The phrase kainh> kti<sij in 5:17 (cf. Gal 6:15) may be translated "he is a new

creature" or "there is a new creation." Thus there are both individualistic, subjective

interpretations and corporate, cosmic, eschatological interpretations of the expression.

It is best to see the two as complementary, however the expression is translated.

Hughes (2 Corinthians, 201-2) puts it quite well: “As a man-in-Christ he [Paul] is in fact

a new creation--a reborn microcosm belonging to the eschatological macrocosm of the

new heavens and the new earth-for whom the old order of things has given place to a

transcendental experience in which everything is new. . . . Redemption in Christ is

nothing less than the fulfillment of God's eternal purpose in creation, so radical in its

effects that it is justly called a new creation."

            23 The clause ta> de> pa<nta e]k tou? qeou? in 5:18 probably refers to the content of

5:16-17 about the new creation, not to the universe as God's creation (Barrett, 2 Corin-

thians, 115). For verbal parallels, see Rom 11:36; I Cor 8:6. For emphasis upon the

Father's activity in 2 Corinthians, see 1:21; 2:14; 4:6; 5:5; 7:6; 9:15; 10:13; 11:7; 13:4.

            24 Helpful studies of the reconciliation word group may be found in NIDNTT,

s. v. "Reconciliation. . . katalla<ssw," H. Vorlander and C. Brown (3.166-76.); TDNT,

S.v. a]lla<ssw  k. t. l.  by F. Buchsel (1.251-59).



from human interpersonal relations. Anyone who undertakes a study

of soteriological reconciliation in the NT soon discovers that it is a

Pauline concept. Indeed Paul is the primary NT author to use the

katalla<ssw word group which is commonly associated with the

concept of reconciliation.25 The three key words are a]pokatalla<ssw

(Eph 2:16; Col1:20, 22), katallagh< (Rom 5:11; 11:15; 2 Cor 5:19), and

katalla<ssw (Rom 5:10; 2 Cor 5:18, 19, 20).26 Of course, the concept

of reconciliation is broader than anyone word group. Louw and Nida

state that "meanings involving reconciliation have a presuppositional

component of opposition and hostility, and it is the process of recon-

ciliation which reverses this presuppositional factor."27 Thus any NT

teaching which deals with God's gracious redemption as overcoming

the hostility of sinners and establishing peace is implicitly dealing

with reconciliation.

            The use of this word group in extrabiblical Jewish literature is

strikingly different than its NT usage.28 Josephus uses the word

katalla<ssw to describe David's being asked to be reconciled to

Absalom.29 Also in 2 Maccabees God is implored to be reconciled to

his erring people Israel in consideration of the merit of their suffering

and the efficacy of their prayers.30 This contrasts with Paul's usage

here and elsewhere in that God is always the subject and never the

object of reconciliation. Human beings need to be reconciled to God,

not vice versa. God is the initiator and people are the receptors of

reconciliation. Though L. Morris tends to minimize this distinction,31

its validity will be supported in later discussion.


            25 The simple verb a]lla<ssw, which means "to change" or "exchange," occurs in

nonredemptive contexts in Acts 6:14; Rom 1:23; 1 Cor 15:51, 52; Gal 4:20; and Heb 1:12.

The other occurrences of this word group outside of Paul involve reconciliation be-

tween human adversaries. See a]palla<ssomai in Luke 12:58, diala<ssomai in Matt 5:24,

and sunalla<ssw in Acts 7:26.

            26 Katalla<ssw also occurs in 1 Cor 7:11 describing marital reconciliation.

            27 J. P. Louw and E. A. Nida, eds. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testa-

ment Based on Semantic Domains (2 vols.; New York: United Bible Societies, 1988)

1.502. Louw and Nida also include the words ei]rhnopoie<w (Col 1:20), ei]rhnopoio<j

(Matt 5:9), mesi<thj (1 Tim 2:5), and a@spondoj (2 Tim 3:3) under the semantic domain

of reconciliation.

            28 This is noted by Furnish, 2 Corinthians, 334-35; Martin, 2 Corinthians, 149;

Thrall, "2 Cor 5:18-21," 227.

            29 Josephus Ant. 7.184.

            30 2 Macc 1:4-5; 5:20; 7:18, 32ff.; 8:29.

            31 L. Morris, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,

1955) 192-98. Morris is concerned to show that God is not passive in relation to sin but

rather is actively wrathful against it. His wrath against sin must be satisfied. This of

course is true, but the fact remains that Paul uses the term "propitiation" (i[lasth<rion

Rom 3:25), not the term "reconciliation" to describe the satisfaction of God's wrath

against sin.



            Paul's description of the ministry of reconciliation is expanded in

5:19.32 This verse begins with the difficult double connective w[j o!ti

variously translated "namely" (NASB), "that" (NIV), "that is" (RSV),

"to wit" (KJV), "for indeed" (DV), and "what I mean is" (NEB).33 All

of these are epexegetical translations implying that 5:19 further ex-

plains the thought of 5:18. Two other questions confront the exegete

of this verse. First, should the prepositional phrase e]n Xrist&? be

understood adverbially ("God was reconciling in Christ," NIV) or

adjectivally ("God-in-Christ was reconciling," KJV, NASB)? The first

option is preferable due to the usual usage of prepositional phrases as

adverbs, not adjectives. Further, Paul's emphasis is not upon incarna-

tion but upon reconciliation, and it is his habit to mention Christ as

the means of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:18; Rom 5:10; Col 1:20). The

second question concerns the periphrastic verbal construction h#n . . .

katalla<sswn (imperfect plus present participle). One wonders why

the simple finite verb was not used, and also why the progressive

aktionsart rather than the aorist (as in v 18) appears. Perhaps the best

answer is that Paul wished to emphasize here the element of contin-

gency in the ongoing process of reconciliation through the ministry of

the gospel. It is noteworthy that the middle clause of v 19, "not

counting their sins against them," also uses a progressive tense (logi-

zo<menoj, present participle) to describe God's reconciling action. Al-

though there is an historic, objective sense in which reconciliation was

finished at the cross, there is also the subjective actualization of that

objective truth as the gospel is preached and people believe.34


            32 The following displays the similarity of these two verses:

            18 A   ta> de> pa<nta e]k tou? qeou? tou? katalla<cantoj h[ma?j e[aut&? dia> Xristou?

                        B kai> do<ntoj h[mi?n th>n diakoni<an th?j katallagh?j,

            19 A'  w[j o!ti qeo>j h#n e]n Xrist&? ko<smon katalla<sswn e[aut&?,

                                    C mh> logizo<menoj au]toi?j ta> paraptw<mata au]tw?n

                        B' kai> qe<menoj e]n h[mi?n to>n lo<gon th?j katallagh?j.

The A and A' lines are quite similar except that the object of reconciliation ("us") in A

is expanded to "world" in A'. The B and B' lines are nearly synonymous except for the

terminology, with B having do<ntoj . . . diakoni<an and B' having qe<menoj . . . lo<gon. It is

obvious that the major expansion has taken place in line C, which describes reconcilia-

tion in terms used elsewhere of justification (Psa 32:2; Rom 4:8).

            33 Paul also uses this combination in 2 Cor 11:21 and 2 Thess 2:2, but in these cases

the combination introduces statements which Paul does not totally affirm. Some who

believe that Paul is alluding to a traditional formula at this point translate ''as it is said"

(e.g., Furnish, 2 Corinthians, 317-18). But arguments that Paul is adapting tradition

throughout the passage (as, e.g., by Martin, "Reconciliation at Corinth," 94ff.) are not

convincing. One thing is clear, the thought of v 18 is enlarged in v 19, making an

epexegetical translation such as "that is" preferable. See further BDF §396; and

T. Muraoka, "The use of WS in the Greek Bible," NovT 7 (1964) 65.

            34 See Furnish, 2 Corinthians, 318; Hering, 2 Corinthians, 44; and Martin, 2 Corin-

thians, 154.



            Paul's statement in v 19 is that in Christ God was reconciling "the

world" (cf. Rom 11:15) to himself, not "us" as in v 18. While some

take the world as equivalent to "all" (people) in 5:14-15,35 it is more

likely that a cosmic meaning is intended. Though people are primarily

in mind (note the middle clause of the verse, "not counting their

trespasses against them,") Paul's thought cannot be limited merely to

human beings. Paul has been speaking of the new creation in Christ as

superseding the old creation ruined by Adam's fall (5:17). Thus it is

likely that he does not mean merely all people (believers?), or even

the Gentiles as opposed to merely Israel (as in Rom 11:15), but rather

the universe as a whole. "All things" are in the process of being

reconciled through the cross of Christ. The effects of the second

Adam's obedience can be no less than the effects of the first Adam's

disobedience. As Adam's disobedience wreaked havoc throughout the

entire created order, so Christ's obedience will ultimately harmonize

the universe in the new heavens and new earth. The entire ko<smoj

will ultimately be at peace with God due to Christ's redemptive

mediacy (cf. Rom 8:18-21; Eph 1:10; Phil 2:9-11; Col l:20). This is not

to be confused with soteric universalism, since many will only bow

the knee grudgingly. However, recognition of a sort of cosmic uni-

versalism is necessary if we are to grasp the glorious comprehensive-

ness of Christ's work of redemption. Paul seems to picture this process

of reconciliation elsewhere through a military motif (2 Cor 2:14;

10:3-5; Coll:13; 2:15). It is as if the decisive battle of the war has

already been fought, and it is only a matter of time until the defeated

foes lay down their arms. In God's wisdom the ministry of reconcilia-

tion already is calling his enemies to surrender. Ultimately this will

result in the total victory of the Lord Jesus Christ.36

            In v 20 contemplation of the glorious truth of God's program to

reconcile the world to himself through the gospel of Christ brings

Paul to a conclusion (ou#n). In vv 20-21 Paul takes the general truths

which he has been explaining and applies them directly and specifi-

cally to the situation in Corinth. As Christ's ambassador,37 and as the

very mouthpiece of God, Paul pleads with the Corinthians in Christ's

behalf to be reconciled to God. Though some take this to be a sample


            35 E.g., Barrett, 2 Corinthians, 177; C. Kruse, The Second Epistle of Paul to the

Corinthians (TNTC; Leicester/Grand Rapids: InterVarsity/ Eerdmans, 1987) 127.

            36 For the cosmic view see, e.g., Hughes, who precisely comments, "The cosmic

rehabilitation is brought about through the salvation of sinful men" (2 Corinthians, 209).

            37 The verb presbeu<omen (Cf. Eph 6:10) pictures Paul's ministry as the representa-

tive or legate of a king carrying out diplomatic or governmental business. That verb was

used to describe such activities for the Roman emperor in NT times. Cf. 1 Macc 14:22;

2 Macc 11:34.




of Paul's missionary preaching directed to no one in particular,38 it is

preferable to understand it as Paul's appeal to the Corinthians to

renew their peaceful relationship to God and his messenger.39 Though

it is true that the personal pronouns ("you") found in many English

translations do not occur in the Greek text of 5:20, the second person

plural ending of the imperative katalla<ghte implies that the Corin-

thians are its subject. Also, the presence of ou#n at the beginning of

5:20 implies that Paul is now drawing a new inference from his

previous general statements about reconciliation. Likewise, the urgent,

emotive, personal tone of 5:20 makes more sense if it is directed to the

Corinthians than if it is merely an example of what Paul would preach

if he had an audience for evangelism. Most importantly, the context

must be given its due. Since 2:14 Paul has been making an appeal/

defense to the Corinthians regarding his message and ministry. Their

rift with him carried with it ominous implications of defection from

the gospel. The messenger and the message cannot be separated, as is

underlined in Paul's warning in 6:1-2. Paul is God's ambassador,

speaking in Christ's stead. Rejection of the ambassador is tantamount

to rejection of the King of kings and calls into question the reception

of the King's message (cf. 2:9; 6:1; 1:1; 8:8, 24; 9:3; 11:3-4;12:20; 13:5).

            The urgency of Paul's appeal for the Corinthians to renew their

relationship with God is underlined by the striking asyndetic addition

of v 21. Here Paul explains how reconciliation can be achieved: the

sinless Messiah became sin so that sinners might become righteous in

him (cf. Rom 3:21-22; 1 Cor 1:30; Phil 3:9). The language is once

more (cf. 5:19b) reminiscent of justification. Barrett's proposal of a

chiastic structure for this verse is unconvincing, but he is correct that

the verse "is set out in a carefully balanced pair of parallel lines."40

Through the years this striking statement has been the basis of a great

deal of theological debate as the relationship of Christ to sin was

pondered. Harris correctly comments that these words "defy final

exegetical explanation, dealing as they do with the heart of the

atonement."41 This passage reaffirms and defines the central truth Paul

has just alluded to in 5:14-15: the representative, substitutionary char-

acter of Christ's death.

            The central problem of the verse is the meaning a[marti<an e]poi<h-

sen.42 How indeed was Christ "made sin"? Paul affirms in continuity


            38 Hughes, 2 Corinthians, 210-11.

            39 Furnish, 2 Corinthians, 350; Kruse, 2 Corinthians, 128; and especially Martin,

2 Corinthians, 155-56.

            40 Barrett, 2 Corinthians, 179.

            41 Harris, 2 Corinthians, 354.

            42 Among many treatments of this problem, see especially L. Sabourin and

S. Lyonnet, Sin, Redemption, and Sacrifice (Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1970)




with many NT passages that Christ "knew no sin"43 (cf. John 8:46;

Heb 4:15; 7:26; 1 Pet 2:22, citing Isa 53:9; 1 John 3:5). Nevertheless,

Christ identified himself with sinners in order to redeem them (Matt

3:13-17; Luke 23:40-41; Rom 8:3; Gal 3:13). Paul does not say that

God made Christ a sinner, but that he made (appointed?) him to be

sin. While some have argued that sin means "sin offering," it seems

better to view this as compressed, almost hyperbolic language in-

tended to say that Christ totally identified with sinners. Harris elo-

quently explains that it was Paul's intent

            to say more than that Christ was made a sin-offering and yet less than

            that Christ became a sinner. So complete was the identification of the

            sinless Christ with the sin of the sinner, including its dire guilt and its

            dread consequence of separation from God, that Paul could say pro-

            foundly, "God made him. . . to be sin for us."44


            The compressed statement of 5:21 regarding the substitutionary

basis of reconciliation now gives way to a direct appeal to the Corin-

thians in 6:1-2. The chapter division is unfortunate, since the flow of

thought runs uninterrupted from the profundity of Christ's identifica-

tion with sinners to the appeal for the Corinthians not to receive God's

grace in vain.45 Most scholars agree that sunergou?ntej; in 6:1 speaks of

Paul as God's coworker. This striking thought fits the context, espe-

cially the thought of 5:20 (cf. 1 Cor 3:9; 1 Thess 3:2). Paul does not

mean to lord this over the Corinthians since he uses the same word to

describe his relationship with them (2 Cor 1:24). Nevertheless, in his

apostolic vocation he is uniquely endowed for ministry (2 Cor 2:14;

3:4-6; 10:14; 12:11-12), and this heightens the obligation of the Corin-

thians to respond obediently. Coming as it does after 5:11-21, this

appeal is perhaps the most direct and urgent of the entire epistle.46

Paul urges (parakalou?men; cf. deo<meqa in 5:20) the Corinthians not

to receive the grace of God in vain (ei]j keno>n, cf. Gal 2:2; Phil 2:16;


            43 Obviously this is not to say that Christ was intellectually unaware of sin. Here

the "knowledge" of sin refers to accepting or approving it, or having an intimate

relationship with it. The verb ginw<skw, and its Hebrew equivalent it", commonly

fixpress this idea (cf. Ps 1:6; Amos 3:2; Matt 7:23).

            44 Harris, 2 Corinthians, 354.

            45 Sources which recognize that the appeal of 6:1-2 belongs with the flow of 5:11-

21 include Barrett, 2 Corinthians, 182; Furnish, 2 Corinthians, 341; Harris, 2 Corin-

thians, 355; and Martin, 2 Corinthians, 160. Hughes (2 Corinthians, 211) makes too

much of a distinction between the appeals of 5:20 and 6:2. Hanson goes so far as to say

that Paul wrote 2 Cor 5:19-6:2 as "unostentatious midrash" because he had been

meditating on Isa 49:1-8. See A. T. Hanson, Studies in Paul’s Technique and Theology

(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974) 167.

            46 Furnish (2 Corinthians, 321, 338) states that the appeal of 5:20-6:2 connects

Paul's discussion of apostleship (2:14ff.) with a major section of appeals (5:20-9:15).



1 Thess 3:5). This expression has been taken in two different ways.

Some think that Paul warns the Corinthians so that their genuine

acceptance of the gospel will not be without beneficial purpose.47

However, Hering is correct that "acceptance of the gospel is an action

or state which continues."48 In this understanding genuine acceptance

of the gospel will be a persevering acceptance. If this is accepted,

Paul must be warning the Corinthians to consider whether their ac-

ceptance of the gospel has been superficial and counterfeit.49 In other

words, the offer and acceptance of God's grace is an ongoing process.

Though acceptance of this grace has a beginning, it must also have

continuance. This second option is to be preferred due to the solem-

nity and urgency of Paul's argument to this point, an urgency which is

emphasized further in the OT passage cited next in 6:2.50

            The section under consideration began in 5:11 with the awesome

prospect of future judgment. This prospect caused Paul to have a

ministry characterized by integrity, one which the Corinthians must

obey. Now the prospect of future judgment should cause the Corin-

thians not to receive God's grace in vain. To emphasize this point

even further, Paul cites Isa 49:8 from the LXX. The appeal becomes

more urgent if it is realized that the eschatological "day of salvation"

is already present. The thought here relies upon Paul's new creation

emphasis in 5:14-17. The old order is past; the new order has dawned;

and the opportunity for salvation must be grasped now, at the "ac-

ceptable time," during the "day of salvation." Paul thus applies Isaiah's

oracle about the Servant and postexilic salvation to the gospel era of

messianic salvation (cf. Isa 61:1-2 in Luke 4:19).

            Therefore the Corinthians are participants in the age of oppor-

tunity, and this heightens their accountability to Paul's appeal. They

must renew their original faith in the message and messenger of God's


            47 Kruse, 2 Corinthians, 131.

            48 Hering, 2 Corinthians, 46.

            49 Martin, 2 Corinthians, 167.

            50 Many lack understanding and appreciation of Paul's warnings due to a one-

sided and misguided emphasis upon the "eternal security" doctrine. It must be noted

that the NT generally promises security to those who are persevering in faith (John

10:27-30; Rom 8:25, 28; 1 Pet 1:5; Jude 1, 21, 25). God preserves those whose genuine

faith produces fruit (Matt 7:15-27). The urgent warning of 2 Cor 6:1-2 is not excep-

tional in the Corinthian correspondence (cf. 1 Cor 3:1-4, 16-17; 6:9-11; 8:11; 9:24-27;

10:12; 15:2, 10, 12, 14; 2 Cor 11:2-4, 20; 13:5-6) or in Paul's other epistles (cf. Gal 1:6;

3:1-4; 4:19-20; 5:2, 4; Col 1:23; 2:8; 1 Tim 6:9-10; 2 Tim 2:14-21; Tit 1:10-16). Paul

places strong emphasis upon the duty of believers to persevere in good works (cf. e.g.,

Rom 2:7; 8:25; 11:22; 12:1-2; Eph 2:10; 4:1; Phil 1:29; 2:12; Col1:10; Tit 2:7,14; 3:8, 14).

The cliche bears repeating with urgency: "Faith alone saves but the faith which saves is

never alone."




reconciliation. Their hostility to the messenger is tantamount to hos-

tility to the message. Paul models God's reconciling activity by open-

ing his heart to them,51 and they must reciprocate (6:11-13).


                                    Reconciliation Elsewhere in Paul


            There are many scholarly works which present detailed studies of

the Pauline material on reconciliation.52 And of course the topic is

regularly treated by systematic theologians and ethicists. Here only a

brief survey of the major passages is possible.

            Besides 2 Corinthians 5, four other Pauline passages53 speak di-

rectly of reconciliation. Rom 5:6-11 speaks of reconciliation as God's

loving act toward undeserving sinners in which Christ died for the

helpless enemies of God. Once this reconciliation has been received,

the believer may rejoice in his/her salvation from God's eschatological

wrath. Paul's words here take the form of two arguments, the first

"lesser to greater," and the second "greater to lesser." If dying for a

righteous or good man is praiseworthy, how much more is Christ's

death for helpless sinners (5:6-8)? This magnifies God's mercy in

providing reconciliation through Christ's death. Second, if Christ went

so far as to reconcile his enemies, will he not in the end save his friends

(5:9-11)? This provides assurance that God will ultimately complete

what he has begun in Christ. It is interesting to note the close

connection between justification and reconciliation in the protases of


            51 Martin, 2 Corinthians, 166-67.

            52 See, e.g., J. Dupont, La reconciliation dans la theologie de Saint Paul (Bruges:

Desclee de Brouwer, 1953); J. Fitzmyer, "Reconciliation in Pauline Theology," No

Famine in the Land: Studies in Honor of John L. McKenzie (ed. J. W. Flanagan and

A. W. Robinson; Missoula, MT: Scholars Press, 1975) 155-77; D. Guthrie, New Testa-

ment Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1981) 486-92; E. Kasemann, "Some

Thoughts on the Theme The Doctrine of Reconciliation in the New Testament,'" The

Future of our Religious Past: Essays in Honor of Rudolf Bultmann (ed. J. M. Robinson

and R. P. Scharlemann; New York: Harper, 1971) 49-64; G. E. Ladd, A Theology of the

New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974) 450-56; I. H. Marshall, "The Meaning.

of 'Reconciliation,'" Unity and Diversity in New Testament Theology: Essays in Honor

of George E. Ladd (ed. R. A. Guelich; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978) 117-32;

L. Morris, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1955)

186-223; R. Martin, Reconciliation: A Study of Paul’s Theology (Atlanta: John Knox,

1981); J. Murray, "The Reconciliation," in Studies in Theology, Reviews (Collected

Writings of John Murray (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1982) 4.92-112; H. Ridderbos,

Paul: An Outline of His Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975) 182-86; and V. Tay-

lor, Forgiveness and Reconciliation (London: Macmillan, 1941) 83-129.

            53 The authenticity of Ephesians and Colossians as genuine epistles of Paul is

assumed in this study.



vv 10 and 11 respectively. Eschatological salvation is the consumma-

tion of redemption already begun. The "already" (justification and

reconciliation) assures believers of the "not yet" ("we shall be saved").54

            In Rom 11:15 Paul turns again to the language of reconciliation in

his defense of the wisdom of God's plan for the Jews and Gentiles. If

the present national unbelief of Israel has resulted in the reconciliation

of the Gentiles, the marvelous outcome of Israel's national repentance

can only be described as life from the dead! Paul has been speaking

of his ministry to the Gentiles as a means of provoking Israel to

jealousy (11:11-14). He goes on to illustrate the redemptive historical

process with the olive tree (11:16b-24). The phrase in 11:16 is katal-

lagh> ko<smou, and ko<smou is clearly an objective genitive describing

the worldwide opportunity for Gentiles to receive salvation through

faith in the Messiah of Israel. While reconciliation in Rom 5:6-11 was

something received individually (5:11; th>n katallagh>n e]la<bomen),

here in Romans 11 it has more of a corporate reference to Gentiles

having the opportunity to receive salvation. This opportunity results

in "the fullness of the Gentiles" receiving salvation, which in turn

spells the consummation of national Israel's salvation (11:25-26).55

            Corporate reconciliation is also the theme of reconciliation lan-

guage in Ephesians 2. Here Paul stresses the grace (2:5, 7-8), mercy

(2:4), and kindness (2:7) of God who reconciles (2:16) those who

deserve wrath (2:3). Here the state of alienation from God (2:1) is also

described as a state of satanic influence (2:2) and alienation from

God's Messiah, covenant promises, and covenant nation (2:12-13).

The enmity (e@xqra) or hostility removed by Christ's redemption is not

merely vertical but is also horizontal. The stipulations of the Mosaic

Covenant formed a barrier between Jews and Gentiles which Christ

abolished (2:14-15) when he created the church (1:22) as "one new

man" (2:15), and "one body" (2:16) in which equal access to God is

opened up to all who believe, Jew and Gentile alike (2:18). It is


            54 This connection between justification and reconciliation in vv 10-11 may be

illustrated by the following arrangement of the clauses:

            A poll&? ou#n ma?llon dikaiwqe<ntej nu?n e]n t&? ai!mati au]tou?

                        B swqhso<meqa di ]  au]tou? a]po> th?j o]rgh?j.

            A' ei] ga>r e]xqroi> o@ntej kathlla<ghmen t&? qe&? dia> tou? qana<tou tou? ui[ou? au]tou?:

                        B' poll&? ma?llon katallage<ntej swqhso<meqa e]n t^? zw^? au]tou?:

Both justification (A) and reconciliation (A') produce the assurance of future salvation

(B, B/). There is perhaps a shade of distinction between B and B' in that B states the

truth negatively and B' states it positively. Believers will be saved from wrath by and to

Christ's life.

            55 This interplay between Israel's present rejection and future reception is well

grasped by J. Murray, The Epistle to the Romans (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,

1959, 65) 75-90.




noteworthy that Christ, not the Father as generally stated elsewhere in

Paul, is the subject of the act of reconciliation in 2:16. This is not a

point of tension or contradiction since the Father is acting to reconcile

through, his appointed Messiah.56 The experience of reconciliation

through Christ radically redefines vertical and horizontal human rela-

tionships as there is now peace between mankind and God and peace

between Jew and Gentile (2:14, 17). Both are built into one dynamic

dwelling of God through the Spirit (2:19-22).57

            When one turns to Colossians there is less of the emphasis upon

Jew-Gentile equality which has just been noticed in Ephesians (but

see 1:27; 3:11). Rather, the stress can only be called cosmic. Paul is not

interested so much in individual reconciliation, or in redemptive his-

tory, or even in the corporate unity of Jew and Gentile in the body of

Christ. He is more concerned to point out that the reconciliation

wrought by Christ leaves nothing outside its impact. The entire uni-

verse, including both visible and invisible beings, has in some way

been reconciled by the blood of the cross (1:20).58 Paul's chief goal in

Colossians 1 seems to be the magnification of Christ as the all-suffici-

ent Lord of the universe. This truth is then applied more directly in

Colossians 2 to the false teaching which has endangered the church.

            Thus, Paul speaks of Christ as creator and sustainer of the uni-

verse (1:16-17; ta> pa<nta) and as the head of the church (1:18). The

Father was pleased for divine fullness (cf. 2:9) to dwell in Christ and

to reconcile the universe to himself through Christ (1:19-20). Here the

familiar vocabulary of alienation (1:21) occurs again as the presup-

position of reconciliation, as Paul moves from the universe in general

to the Colossians in particular (1:22). It is striking that the emphasis is

primarily upon the reconciliation of the universe, especially the

supernatural powers (1:16, 20). This is evidently due to the false

teaching about the powers which has been troubling the Colossians

(2:8, 10, 15, 18, 20). They needed to know that not only did Christ

originally create the powers but also that subsequently his cross de-

feated them when they rebelled against their Creator. The term

reconciliation describes both the defeat of the evil powers (1:20) and

the redemption of the Colossians, who are now exhorted to stand firm

in their freedom from the defeated powers (1:23; 2:8, 16, 18, 20).


            56 M. Barth, Ephesians 1-3 (AB 34; Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1974) 266.

            57 For a careful study of the unity of Jew and Gentile see C. B. Hoch, "The

Significance of the syn-Compounds for Jew-Gentile Relationships in the Body of

Christ," JETS 25 (1982) 175-83.

            58 For a careful study of this text see P. T. O'Brien, "Col. 1:20 and the Reconcilia-

lion of All Things," Reformed Theological Review 33 (1974) 45-53; as well as O'Brien's

Colossians; Philemon (WBC 44; Waco, TX; Word, 1982) 53-57,




While there are some who conclude that the reconciliation of

things involves the annihilation of evil powers and unbelieving human

beings,59 this seems to go beyond Paul's statements and to conflict

with other biblical truths. The doctrine of eternal punishment does

not conflict with the reconciliation of the powers and even of those

who reject Christ's redemption. Rather their defeat in the cross of

Christ leads to the pacification of the universe. Their eternal punish-

ment is the means by which eternal peace is achieved on the renewed

earth for the people of God (cf. Rev 21:7-8,27; 22:14-15).

            To conclude the survey, a few lines of continuity between

2 Corinthians 5 and the other Pauline passages may be drawn. It is

clear that Paul's concept of reconciliation was related to his concept

of justification (2 Cor 5:19, 21; cf. Rom 4:8; 5:9-11). Barrett and

Davies opine that these two terms do not describe distinct acts but are

merely different ways of explaining freedom from sin.60 However,

despite some overlap it does seem that distinct truths are expressed

by reconciliation and justification. For one thing it has been rightly

suggested by Buchsel and Cranfield that reconciliation is the more

personal term of the two.61 Not merely a right legal standing but a

harmonious relationship of reciprocal personal love is the result of

reconciliation. Further, Ridderbos notes that the eschatological, cos-

mic scope of reconciliation is lacking from justification, which seems

to be concerned only with individual human beings.62

            Another line of continuity is the necessity of reconciliation being

received individually by faith (2 Cor 5:20; cf. Rom 5:11). People are

not passive in the actualization of reconciliation on earth. There is a

ministry to be fulfilled, a message to be proclaimed, a Lord to be

received.  The message is that people must be reconciled to God, not

that they are so already.63

            Three other matters call for brief notice. The horizontal aspect of

reconciliation so emphasized in Ephesians 2 was threatened by Paul's


            59 Recently this has been argued by P. E. Hughes, The True Image (Grand

Rapids/Leicester: Eerdmans/lnterVarsity, 1989) 405-6. Against others who attempt to

use this text to demonstrate universal salvation, O'Brien (Colossians, Philemon, 57) says

"Although all things will finally unite to bow in the name of Jesus and to acknowledge

him as Lord (Phil 2:10-11), it is not to be assumed that this will be done gladly by

all. . . .

            60 C. K. Barrett, The Epistle to the Romans (HNTC; New York: Harper, 1957)

108; W. D. Davies, Paul and Rabbinic Judaism, 36. .

            61 Buchsel, "a]lla<ssw," 255-56; C. E. B. Cranfield, A Critical and Exegetical

Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (2 vols.; ICC; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark,

1975, 79) 1.267.

            62 Ridderbos, Paul, 160-61.

            63 Thrall, "2 Cor 5:18-21," 228.



strained relations with the Corinthians (2 Cor 5:20; cf. Eph 2:16). The

cosmic aspect of reconciliation found in Colossians 1 is connected in

2 Corinthians 5 with the renewal of all things (2 Cor 5:17; cf. Col

1:20). And finally, it is repeatedly evident that reconciliation is a state

which must be maintained by the believer's perseverance (2 Cor 5:20;

6:1; cf. Rom 11:22; Col1:23).


            Conclusion: A Pauline Theology of Reconciliation


            A brief synthesis now concludes this study. Though some despair

of the idea of a NT doctrine of reconciliation, that pessimism is

unwarranted.64 The doctrine can be elucidated by several contrasts

and by four perspectives. First by way of contrast, the literature on

the biblical theology of reconciliation indicates that Paul's teaching

may be explained as follows:

            Reconciliation is both. . .                             and. ..

                        Objective                                            Subjective

                        Accomplished                                    Applied

                        God's act                                            A person's state

                        Extra nos                                           In/pro nobis

                        Abstract                                              Concrete

                        Indicative                                            Imperative

                        Kerygmatic                                        Parenetic

                        Vertical                                              Horizontal

                        Already                                               Not yet

                        Personal                                             Cosmic


This grid for conceptualizing reconciliation attempts to show that it is

a duality. The sovereign work of God in Christ. accomplished recon-

ciliation objectively, but God also sovereignly planned to apply this

reconciliation to individuals through the work of the Spirit in the

proclamation of the message. Individual reception of the message

changes both vertical (Godward) and horizontal (humanward) rela-

tionships as peace permeates the whole of one's life. Those who

receive reconciliation have already received a taste, token, or guaran-

tee of God's future work in their lives and in the universe as a whole.

They also individually begin to model the kind of peaceful relation-

ships in every area of life which God has ordained for the eschaton.

Paul’s strained relationship with the Corinthians is a serious aberration

from this ideal, and he desperately desires to resolve the hostility.


            64 See E. Kasemann, "Some Thoughts on the Theme 'The Doctrine of Reconcilia-

tion in the New Testament,'" 49-51; J. A. Fitzmyer, "Reconciliation in Pauline The-

ology," 162-70. Kasemanns pessimism is largely corrected by Fitzmyer.




A second way of conceiving Paul's doctrine of reconciliation is

from the four perspectives of initiation, mediation, proclamation, and

actualization. First, God the Father is the initiator of reconciliation:

            ta> de> pa<nta e]k tou? qeou? tou? katalla<cantoj h[ma?j e[aut&? dia> Xristou?

             (2 Cor 5:18)

This emphasis on the Father as the ultimate source of reconciliation is

also seen in 2 Cor 5:19, Col 1:20, and in Rom 5:10 (if kathlla<ghmen is

interpreted as a "divine passive"). Though the Father did not lack the

means to destroy all those who spurned his rule, his grace initiated a

plan to remove the hostility between himself and his incorrigible


            Second, God the Son in his death on the cross is the mediator of


            kathlla<ghmen t&? qe&? dia> tou? qana<tou tou? ui[ou? au]tou? (Rom 5:10)


Christ's redemption as the mediating dynamic of reconciliation may

also be noted in Rom 5:11, 2 Cor 5:18, Col 1:20 (all of which use dia>),

and 2 Cor 5:19 (EV). The two passages which speak of Christ as the

subject of the verb "to reconcile" also speak of him as mediator of

reconciliation (Eph 2:16; Col 1:22). The Father gave the Son who

knew no sin as a substitute for sinners so that they might become

righteous before God. Christ identified with sinners so that there

would be a redemptive basis for sinners to be identified with God

through him. The cross did not merely provide an example by which

sinners were morally influenced to turn to God. Rather it provided a

sinless substitute for sinners by which they could approach a holy and

just God.

            Third, the proclamation of reconciliation is carried out by Paul:

            deo<meqa u[pe>r Xristou?, katalla<ghte t&? qe&? (2 Cor 5:20)


Paul had been divinely appointed to a ministry of reconciliation

(2 Cor 5:19). His consciousness of this apostolic commission stood the

test of the Corinthians' disobedience only because he understood that

as an ambassador of the reconciling God his message was the func-

tional equivalent of the very voice of God (2 Cor 5:20). Paul also

realized that the proclamation of this message demonstrated the wis-

dom of God in redemptive history. In Rom 11:13ff. he shows how

Israel's present rejection of the message of reconciliation in Christ has

resulted in the Gentiles experiencing reconciliation. He goes on to

explain that the Gentiles' reconciliation will ultimately bring Israel to a

point of national reception of their Messiah, which will in turn bring

unprecedented blessing to the whole world.




            Fourth, the actualization of reconciliation comes only when indi-

viduals hear the proclaimed message and receive it by faith:


            kauxw<menoi e]n t&? qe&? dia> tou? kuri<ou h[mw?n   ]Ihsou? Xristou?, di ] ou$

            nu?n th>n katallagh>n e]la<bomen (Rom 5:11)


Individuals cannot experience reconciliation with God apart from

faith in the proclamation of the messianic mediation of the Father's

gracious initiative. As individuals respond to the message of reconcilia-

tion, they gain confidence that they are now at last in harmony with

the Creator of the universe who has begun a new creation in them

(2 Cor 5:17). Their destiny is no longer an unknown which causes

fear. Rather they gain confidence in the good will of their reconciler

and are assured (Rom 5:2ff.) that they will ultimately be saved by his    -

life (Rom 5:10). The actualization of reconciliation has even greater

effects as reconciled individuals begin to live at peace with one

another in the community of the people of God. Local churches thus

become microcosmic examples of the ultimate eschatological shalom

which will some day characterize the macrocosm of the universe

when the Creator brings about new heavens and a new earth.

            As has been often stated, believers today live "between the times"

of the first and second advents of Christ. The first advent mediated

the basis of reconciliation; the second will mediate its universal exten-

sion. In the meantime, may those who have experienced through the

gospel the end of hostilities and the beginning of peace with God

make every effort in their family, church, and societal duties to extend

the message of reconciliation by word and deed. Paul modeled this

reconciling lifestyle as he patiently served the Corinthians in obedi-

ence to his master who said, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they

shall be called the sons of God" (Matt 5:9; cf. Jas 3:17-18).65


            65 Kasemann said it well: "Cosmic  peace does not settle over the world, as in a

fairy tale. It takes root only so far as men [and women] in the service of reconciliation

confirm that they have themselves found peace with God" ("Some Thoughts on the

Theme ‘The Doctrine of Reconciliation in the New Testament,’" 56).




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