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The Great Truth of Reconciliation Unto God

 by David A DePra

Therefore if any man [be] in Christ, [he is] a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things [are] of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech [you] by us: we pray [you] in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.  For he hath made him [to be] sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.  (II Cor. 5:17-21)

 The above passage can certainly be considered a summary of the gospel; a summary of the finished work of Jesus Christ – and what that means for humanity.  And yet the good news contained in this passage is often either overlooked, or corrupted, by religious flesh.  That is why it merits a close examination.

Paul begins by telling us exactly what a Christian person is:  A Christian person is one who is IN CHRIST.  Or, if you prefer, a Christian person is one in whom Christ dwells.  This corresponds to his words to this same Corinthian church in his first letter – it is there that Paul tells us HOW Christ dwells in the believer:

He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit (with Him).  (I Cor. 6:17)

So we see that the believers in one in spirit with the risen Christ.  That is why He is our life; why we are alive with His life:  He is THE LIFE, and if we are one with Him in spirit we are alive in Him – in other words, saved. 

Paul tells us that this resurrection, spiritual union with Christ constitutes the NEW CREATION in Christ.  Note that the believer is not, “acted upon,” and morphed INTO a new creation simply because of faith in Christ.  Neither is a person a new creation only in a legal sense.  No.  The believer BECOMES and IS a new creation solely because of spiritual union WITH Christ – “if anyone is IN CHRIST they ARE a new creation.”  This is, of course, equal to the NEW BIRTH.

Now, what follows in Paul’s description of what it means to be IN CHRIST is essential to see.  But there is a translation problem here.  The KJV and many other versions read,  “old things are passed away.”  That is not correct.  The Greek actually reads, “old things are passed by; old things are passed over.”

What are these, “old things?”  Well, if we are joined to the Lord and made one spirit with Him – if that is what it means to be IN CHRIST – if that spiritual union constitutes the new creation – then the old things that are passed over must be all that is NOT united with Christ; not in Him.  And what would those things be?  Not our human spirit – for that IS united with Christ.  No.  What is not united with Christ is our physical body and our natural, soul man.  These are NOT united with Christ in spirit – they could not be, for they are NOT spirit.  Rather, they remain outside of our spiritual union with Christ – they are passed over – that is, not incorporated into the new creation in Christ Jesus.

It ought to make sense that Paul would say that our physical body and natural soul man are PASSED OVER as it pertains to the new creation, rather than passed AWAY.  Our physical bodies and natural soul man haven’t passed away – and don’t we know that!  We deal with them every day.

So what Paul is describing here is what is often referred to as, “the separation of soul from spirit,” in the believer.  When the believer puts faith in Christ, it is then that Christ joins us to Himself in spirit – our human spirit united with Him by the means of the Holy Spirit – and we become a new creation IN HIM.  That is the new man; the inner man.  But our physical body and natural soul man are NOT united with Him in this age.  They remain outside of this resurrection union.  Thus, we have a separation between that which IS united with Christ – the spirit – and that which is NOT united with Christ – the natural.  The Bible often refers to this distinction as, “the flesh vs. the spirit.”

Having established that separation – having defined what constitutes the new creation in Christ Jesus – Paul then makes this statement:  “All things are become new -- and all things are OUT FROM God.”  This is the Greek reading. 

What is Paul referring to when he says, “All things are become new?”  Well, we have already seen that the OLD things that are passed over with regards to the new creation are the physical body and natural soul man – these remain outside of our resurrection union with Christ.  Therefore, what Paul means by, “all things are become new,” is all that constitutes the new creation in Christ.

The verse division between verses 17 and 18 is unfortunate because it tends to cloud Paul’s thought.  He is actually saying, “All things that are of the new creation in Christ are OUT FROM GOD – no things that are of the new creation in Christ are out from the natural man, for natural man is passed over as it pertains to the new creation.”

This is so essential to grasp.  There is absolutely NO contribution to the new creation in Christ Jesus that comes from our old nature; from our natural man.  No.  That is passed by; passed over -- nothing that is of God in our lives is OUT FROM ourselves.  But ALL that is of God in the life of the believer – ALL that is new is OUT FROM God through the Christ with Whom we are joined in spirit.  ALL is out from Christ – NOTHING is out from us.  That is a complete separation; a complete setting aside of natural man and shows that Jesus Christ is the very life of the believer.

This also shows the danger of incorporating into the spiritual life that which God says is passed over – the natural man.  No.  There is nothing that can be found in natural man – not even what we might call “good” – that has been incorporated by God into the new creation.  Thus, if WE incorporate any part of natural man into the new creation we are in error.  We are bringing in corruption.

The way in which God deals with this issue is by bringing the believer under the work of the Cross so that the natural man might be experientially crucified – in order that Christ, who is our life, might be manifested.  All of this is already a done deal.  But because humanity has a free will, and because God wants us to grow to KNOW HIM – it all must be worked out and experienced.  Paul is simply giving us the Truth.


This great Truth of the new creation in Christ – and what that really means – is preliminary to the statements that follow in this passage by the apostle Paul.  They are statements that are so wonderful, freeing, and eternal, that they have often been buried under the corruption of religious flesh.  Let’s read them again:

And all things are OUT FROM God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.

The first thing we notice in this passage is that God has reconciled US to HIMSELF – by Jesus Christ.  There is no suggestion in all of scripture that God ever needed to be reconciled back to humanity.  No.  The problem between God and humanity has always been humanity.  And that problem has never been limited to what we DO.  The problem is what we ARE.  The Adam race is a dead race; utterly and completely at enmity against God.  This is why the redemption of the Adam race was MORE than a matter of forgiveness for sins.  Rather, redemption for the Adam race required a full deliverance from what we are through death and resurrection unto a new creation in Christ Jesus.

So often we define salvation as a matter of God forgiving us for our sins – so that we can be sure we are, “going to heaven.”  But this is an extremely limited definition that is actually blinds people to the magnitude of the real Truth of what Christ has done.  If all that Jesus Christ made possible was for God to forgive our sins then what did that do to address SIN ITSELF – what does forgiveness FOR sin do to set me free FROM sin?  We might say we are forgiven for sins, but that does nothing to deliver humanity FROM the condition of sin; from death.

The reason so many people accept this limited version of the redemption is that we have accepted the error that the problem between God and man IS GOD.  We believe that God is mad; God must punish for sin.  In other words, contrary to the words of Paul, we do think that Jesus Christ reconciled GOD back to MAN.  We have bought into the false notion that because humanity sins that God is angry – and because God is holy He MUST punish humanity with death.  But wait.  Jesus was sent to appease God in His anger – give Him the death He needed to justify His forgiveness for sin.  Thus, God is appeased, and forgives humanity.  To many, THAT is salvation.  It is how Jesus reconciled GOD back to MAN.

But if you examine this notion, it does nothing at all to actually address the sin IN HUMANITY.  It simply forgives the sin – it simply lifts the death penalty from the sinner while leaving the sinner IN SIN.  It does absolutely NOTHING to deliver us from the Adam race or birth us in Christ as a new creation. 

Paul is telling us directly that, “God was IN CHRIST reconciling US back to GOD.”  That one statement alone ought to completely adjust and redefine our false assumptions about the redemption.  It agrees completely with the rest of scripture, including the most well known passage from John 3:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.  (John 3:16-17)

Note the motives of God in giving His Son:  “For God so loved the world.”  Does it say, “For God was so angry with the world that He gave…?”  No.  Indeed, John states that God have His Son so that no one needs to perish, but so that whoever would believe could be saved.  If the false notion of the redemption were true then this could not be true – for John would have to write that God gave His Son to appease His own anger.  The false notion makes the penalty for sin God’s anger – rather than the penalty for sin to be what it really is:  The death of the sinner.  Sin kills.  Not God.  The fact that God must judge the sinner worthy of death if the sinner will not turn does not change that fact.

Paul states that God was, in Christ reconciling humanity back to Himself – by giving His Son so that none need to perish.  God initiated the redemption of humanity because, “God so loved the world.”  God did all that is necessary for the redemption of every single human being who will ever live – in His Son.

But now we can see that this great redemption was not merely some legal forgiveness.  It was not merely a forgiveness FOR sin – in the sense of removing the death penalty – only to leave the sinner in sin as a member of the Adam race.  Rather, the redemption was a deliverance from the Adam race through death and resurrection in Christ into a NEW race – the new creation in Christ.

Redemption is not a, “fixing up,” of the Adam race.  It is not the removal of God’s death penalty from the Adam race.  Rather, on the Cross the death penalty was completely FILLED and satisfied.  Jesus Christ not only died for our sins – but He died AS US.  On the Cross, Jesus bore the entirety of the Adam race in His own person – and consequently He bore all of the sins of the Adam race – and He died.  Thus, the Adam race was planted into the death of Jesus Christ.  The Adam race -- as the race in which God was working ENDED at the Cross.

This is why Jesus is called, “The Last Adam.”  Having brought the Adam race fully into God’s glory by His sinless life as a human being, He offered Himself as the One who would bear all of the rest of the Adam race down into death.  He was the Last Adam in the sense that He was the fullness of what God wanted in Adam – the consummate Adam, if you will – but He was the Last Adam because in Him the Adam race ended at the Cross.  What was risen three days later was not a, “fixed up,” Adam race.  No.  Jesus Christ was the author of a NEW race – a new creature born of resurrection life.

This is what Paul is getting at in our passage.  “If anyone if IN CHRIST they are a NEW CREATION.  Old things are passed over.  All things that are of that spiritual union with Christ are NEW – and all of that NEW is OUT FROM GOD through Christ.”  This is a full deliverance – through death and resurrection in Christ – from out of the old creation in Adam into the new creation in Christ Jesus.  It is utter and complete deliverance from, and separation from the old – and an utter and complete reconciliation of humanity back to God through His Son.

All Are Reconciled Back to God

What Paul states next in this passage is not commonly understood or preached.  Religious tradition and self-righteousness has blinded most of us to the enormity of the Truth that Paul states.  He says:

God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.

Note two phrases in this passage:  First, “God HAS (past tense) reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ.”  Second, “God was in Christ (past tense) reconciling the world unto Himself – NOT IMPUTING their trespasses unto them.”  You have TWO groups being spoken of – “US,” meaning believers, and, “the world,” meaning unbelievers.  Yet Paul states that God has already reconciled both US and THE WORLD to Himself through Jesus Christ.  Indeed, he even states that because God has reconciled the world to Himself, He is NOT IMPUTING their sins unto them.  That is astounding.  But what does that really mean?

It means that full reconciliation is a completed work for every human being that has ever lived or will live.  It means the unbelievers are just as much reconciled to God as are believers.  Read it.  That is what it says.  And just so we would not misunderstand, Paul says that God is, “not imputing,” the sins of unbelievers unto them – precisely because of the reconciliation that Christ has finished for them. 

Yet how many of us actually believe that?  Most of us do not believe it.  What we believe is that believers are reconciled to God because we believe – and that unbelievers are not reconciled to God because they don’t believe.  Yet Paul is clearly stating that ALL are reconciled to God whether they believe or not – God is not imputing sin even to unbelievers. 

Is this universal salvation?  Is Paul saying that people are saved whether they believe or not?  NO.  We need to be clear about that.  Paul is NOT saying all are saved whether they believe or not – He is not saying that all are in Christ as new creations whether they believe or not.  He is simply saying that all are reconciled back to God whether they believe it or know it.  Being reconciled to God is not equal to salvation.  Being reconciled to God simply means that Jesus Christ has removed all obstacles between God and humanity – by taking away the sin of humanity – by no longer imputing sin to humanity.  This does not mean that everyone will actually believe or embrace that great Truth.

And therein is the entire issue.  Solely by the grace and initiative of God – because God so loves the world – Jesus Christ has – in Himself -- reconciled the entire human race back to God.  He has taken away all sin – taken away every sin that could separate humanity from God.  We need only believe and embrace Him – knowing this is finished.  We need only take our place -- through repentance -- in His death – the death that made this possible.  And if we do, and ONLY if we do, will we be raised in Him as new creatures unto newness of life.  But if we will not believe, then we remain reconciled to God – but it will do us no good.  Indeed, we will be guilty of refusing the grace of God.

To put is simply, the way into the holy of holies is clear for all humanity – the veil is forever rent.  There is no sin that you and I could commit that can sew that veil back up and keep us out – there is no sin that can undo what Jesus has done.  Therefore, THE SIN is the refusal to enter in; THE SIN is unbelief.  The only sin that can keep you and I from Jesus Christ is THE SIN of refusing Jesus Christ.  THE SIN of refusing Jesus Christ is THE SIN of refusing reconciliation back to God.

To follow up on the example of the holy of holies – no sin can close the door that Jesus has opened; no sin can sew that veil back up.  But THE SIN is our refusal to walk through that eternally opened door.

Herein we see the ONE sin that has no forgiveness.  Jesus Christ died for every sin ever committed by every human being.  But He could not die for THE SIN of refusing His death.  How could He?  That would be a contradiction.  Jesus did not die for the sin of refusing His death.  God cannot forgive the refusal of His forgiveness.  That is why it is the sin that has no forgiveness.

This sin that has no forgiveness is the sin of unbelief – not a temporary lapse of faith – but the sin of finally neglecting or refusing God’s only way through Jesus Christ.  You will remember that the first words of the gospel are, “Repent and believe.”  Well, what do we repent of?  Sins?  Ok.  But ultimately we are to repent of UNBELIEF – and if we do, then we will do what? – we will BELIEVE.  And if we do believe then it is only because we have repented of unbelief.  Thus, the real issue between God and humanity is no longer acts of sin.  The real issue is faith verses unbelief.  If I believe and embrace Christ the sin issue is addressed.  If I refuse to believe and embrace Christ, then I am refusing to believe that the sin issue is addressed – and am guilty of the ultimate sin of refusing God’s deliverance from sin through His Son.

Jesus Christ has reconciled all of humanity back to God.  The choice of humanity is whether we will enter BY FAITH into all that His reconciliation has made possible – the choice is faith or unbelief.  In short, Jesus died for the entire Adam race.  But only those who believe will be united with Christ in resurrection union, and thus saved.

The Ministry of Reconciliation

God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech [you] by us: we pray [you] in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.  For he hath made him [to be] sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

What is the, “ministry of reconciliation?”  Well, a deeper meaning is found in this passage if we once again examine the original Greek.  The words, “has given us the ministry of reconciliation,” actually read, “has LODGED in us the ministry of reconciliation.”  In other words, this ministry of reconciliation is more than just a message that we repeat.  It is Christ in us – it is part of those NEW things that are all OUT FROM GOD.  In short, if we are in Christ, then His very presence in us is not only the means of our reconciliation back to God – but this very same Christ is the means of reconciliation for ALL.  The ministry that ought to emerge is that of the Truth of God in Jesus Christ – the Truth of grace.  God has, in Christ, reconciled all back to Himself.  It is an ongoing, abiding, Truth.  It is a continual plea and exhortation to all:  Be you reconciled to God, that is, walk through the open way back to God through Jesus Christ.

Now, how his applies to unbelievers ought to be apparent.  But Paul says to believers, “Be you reconciled to God.”  And isn’t it a fact that so often when we sin or fail – isn’t it a fact that we don’t feel as if we are reconciled to God?  We feel cut off from Him.  But while conviction and confession are right – we need to state the Truth if we have sinned – we also need to state the Truth that we are already forever reconciled to God.  For if God is not imputing the trespasses of unbelievers unto them, He certainly is not imputing the trespasses of those in Christ unto us.

Do we imagine that if we accept this great Truth that we will begin to sin because grace abounds?  Well, we need not worry that we will begin to sin -- simply because we never stopped.  The real Truth is, if we believe and accept the grace of God through Christ -- this is the only path to freedom FROM sin.  We must first believe and enter in.l

Is this not grace?  What do you and I think we are going to do about our sin otherwise?  No.  God has, in Christ, done everything there is to do about sin.  He has not only forgiven all sin forever, and reconciled the human race back to Himself, but He has delivered those who believe from out of the Adam race into resurrection union with Jesus Christ. 

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