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2 Corinthians 5:19–20

“In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message 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.”

From God alone comes our salvation, the foundation of which is God’s reconciling us to Himself through Christ (2 Cor. 5:18). But how is this reconciliation effected? Today’s passage gives us the answer—namely, that God reconciles us to Himself by not counting our sins against us in Christ (v. 19).

The foundation of all that God does in salvation consists in this reconciling work, and this work of reconciliation is first and foremost a legal work. “Not counting” translates a form of the Greek verb logizomai, which is a term used in accounting and legal contexts describing how one regards or credits something. It has to do with putting something on record. To not count in 2 Corinthians 5:19 means that God is not putting our sin on our record any longer. Even though we have in fact sinned and the Lord certainly knows that we have sinned, He is choosing not to hold our sins on our record before Him. He is looking at our record before Him as if there is no sin to hold against us. The reason He can do this, we will see in verse 21, is because He has put our sin on Christ’s account, because Christ died to bear its penalty, and because God has put Jesus’ perfect righteousness on our accounts when we trust in Him. Thus, He regards us as having met His perfect standard even though we ourselves have not done so. He declares us righteous because of this transfer of our sin to Christ and His righteousness to us. Theologically, this is our justification.

Paul says in verse 19 that God reconciles the world to Himself in Christ. He cannot mean that the Lord has in fact declared righteous everyone in the world. Verse 20 makes that clear enough by calling us to be reconciled to God. The only people who are actually reconciled to the Lord are those who trust in Christ alone for salvation. That God has reconciled the world to Himself simply means that He reconciles people without distinction. All kinds of people from all kinds of backgrounds are at peace with God through the atonement of Jesus and crediting of righteousness through Christ.

The Lord reconciles His people to Himself, and He also gives them the ministry of reconciliation. We are made God’s ambassadors to call people to be reconciled to our Creator (v. 20). To be reconciled to God, Charles Hodge comments, means that we “embrace the offer of reconciliation. The reconciliation is effected by the death of Christ. God is now propitious. He can now be just, and yet justify the ungodly. All we have to do is not to refuse the offered love of God.”

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

In Christ, God reconciles His elect people to Himself. But since we know that His elect come from every background, we may freely extend the call to be reconciled to God to all people. Everyone who receives Christ is reconciled to God no matter what they have done. God freely forgives sinners and declares them righteous in His sight through faith alone. Let us not hesitate to tell all people that they can be reconciled to God through Christ.

For Further Study
  • Isaiah 40:1–2
  • Hosea 2:14–23
  • Romans 5:10
  • Colossians 1:15–23

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The Heart of the Gospel

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From the September 2021 Issue
Sep 2021 Issue