Life-Study of 2 Corinthiansby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In the foregoing message we covered a number of important points in 2 Corinthians 5: the aspiration to have a transfigured body, the ambition to please the Lord, living to the Lord, and being a new creation. In verse 17 Paul speaks of the new creation: “So that if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; the old things have passed away; behold, they have become new.” The old creation does not have the divine life and nature, but the new creation, the believers born again of God, does have the divine life and nature (John 1:13; 3:15; 2 Pet. 1:4). Hence, they are a new creation (Gal. 6:15), not according to the old nature of flesh, but according to the new nature of the divine life. The word behold in verse 17 is a call to watch the marvelous change of the new creation.
In verses 18 through 20 Paul goes on to speak of the ministry of reconciliation: “But all things are of God, Who has reconciled us to Himself through Christ and has given to us the ministry of reconciliation; how that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not accounting their offenses to them, and putting in us the word of reconciliation. On behalf of Christ, then, we are ambassadors, as God entreating through us; we beseech you on behalf of Christ, Be reconciled to God.” We need to read these verses very carefully. The word “then” in verse 20 is a connecting word joining verse 20 with the preceding verses. According to verse 20, the ambassadors of Christ are one with God; they are like God, and they entreat as God. Their word is God’s word, and what they do is God’s doing. Furthermore, the words “on behalf of Christ” mean representing Christ. As those who represent Christ, the apostles were ambassadors of Christ. Today an ambassador is a person authorized to represent his government. In like manner, the apostles were authorized by Christ to represent Him to do the work of reconciliation.
Paul’s composition in 5:20 is unusual. After saying “we are ambassadors,” he says, “as God entreating through us. Paul seems to be saying, “We are ambassadors of Christ, and we are doing a reconciling work. This is like God entreating you through us. We are one with Christ and one with God. Christ is one with us, and God also is one with us. Therefore, God, Christ, and we, the apostles, are all one.” The ministry of the new covenant is a ministry in which God, Christ, and the ministers are one.
Paul’s word in verse 20 is strong and emphatic. He says, “We are ambassadors, as God entreating through us; we beseech you on behalf of Christ, Be reconciled to God.” God, Christ, and the apostles were one in carrying out the ministry of reconciliation.
Paul’s word in verse 20 about being reconciled to God is not directed to sinners; it is directed to the believers in Corinth. These believers had already been reconciled to God partially. However, they had not been fully reconciled to Him. It would not be true to say that the Corinthian believers had not been reconciled to God at all. In 1 Corinthians chapter one Paul refers to them as saints, as those who had been called by God into the fellowship of His Son. Therefore, they surely had been reconciled to God to some degree. Perhaps they had been halfway reconciled to Him.
The books of 1 and 2 Corinthians show that the believers at Corinth, after being reconciled to God partially, still lived in the flesh, in the outward man. Between them and God there was the separating veil of the flesh, of the natural man. This veil corresponds to the veil inside the tabernacle, the veil that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies, not to the veil at the entrance to the Holy Place. The Corinthian believers may have been in the Holy Place, but they were not in the Holy of Holies. This means they were still separated from the place where God is. Therefore, they had not been reconciled to God in full.
In verse 19 it is the world that is to be reconciled to God. In verse 20 it is the believers, those who have already been reconciled to God, who are to be reconciled to Him further. This clearly indicates that there are two steps for people to be fully reconciled to God. The first step is as sinners to be reconciled to God from sin. For this purpose Christ died for our sins (1 Cor. 15:3) that they may be forgiven by God. This is the objective aspect of Christ’s death. In this aspect He bore our sins on the cross that God might judge them upon Him for us. The second step is as believers living in the natural life to be reconciled to God from the flesh. For this purpose Christ died for us—the persons—that we may live to Him in resurrection life (2 Cor. 5:14-15). This is the subjective aspect of Christ’s death. In this aspect for us He was made sin to be judged and done away with by God that we may become the righteousness of God in Him. By the two aspects of His death He has fully reconciled God’s chosen people to God.
These two steps of reconciliation are clearly portrayed by the two veils of the tabernacle. The first veil is called the screen (Exo. 26:36, lit.). A sinner was brought to God through the reconciliation of the atoning blood to enter into the Holy Place by passing this screen. This typifies the first step of reconciliation. The second veil (Exo. 26:31-35; Heb. 9:3) still separated him from God Who is in the Holy of Holies. This veil needed to be rent that he might be brought to God in the Holy of Holies. This is the second step of reconciliation. The Corinthian believers had been reconciled to God, for they had passed through the first veil and had entered into the Holy Place. But they still lived in the flesh. They needed to pass the second veil, which has already been rent (Matt. 27:51; Heb. 10:20), to enter into the Holy of Holies to live with God in their spirit (1 Cor. 6:17). The goal of this Epistle is to bring them here that they may be persons in the spirit (1 Cor. 2:14), in the Holy of Holies. This is what the apostle means by saying, “Be reconciled to God.”
In the Old Testament, when a sinner came to God, he first had to come to the altar to have his sins forgiven through the blood of the sin offering. After experiencing the forgiveness of sins, he could enter the Holy Place. This is the first step of reconciliation, the step by which a sinner begins to be reconciled to God. This was the situation of the believers at Corinth, and it is also the situation of most genuine Christians today. They have been reconciled to God in part through the cross upon which Christ died as our sin offering, where He shed His blood to wash away our sins. When we believed in Him, we were forgiven by God, reconciled to Him, and brought back to Him. Formerly, we went astray from God. But through repentance we returned to Him and have been reconciled to Him. However, we have been reconciled to God only partly, halfway.
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