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2 Corinthians 5:18

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

And all things are of God - As the thorough conversion of the soul is compared to a new creation, and creation is the proper work of an all-wise, almighty Being; then this total change of heart, soul, and life, which takes place under the preaching of the Gospel, is effected by the power and grace of God: this is salvation, and salvation must ever be of the Lord; and therefore men should apply to him, who alone can work this wondrous change.

Who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ - Having given Jesus Christ to die for sinners, they have through him access unto God; for his sake and on his account God can receive them; and it is only by the grace and Spirit of Christ that the proud, fierce, and diabolic nature of men can be changed and reconciled to God, and by and through this sacrifice God can be propitious to them. There is an enmity in the heart of man against sacred things; the grace of Christ alone can remove this enmity.

The ministry of reconciliation - Διακονιαν της καταλλαγης· The Office or function of this reconciliation called, 2 Corinthians 5:19, the word; τον λογον της καταλλαγης· the Doctrine of this reconciliation. Καταλλαγη, reconciliation, comes from καταλλασσω, to change thoroughly; and the grand object of the Gospel is to make a complete change in men's minds and manners; but the first object is the removal of enmity from the heart of man, that he may be disposed to accept of the salvation God has provided for him, on the terms which God has promised. The enmity in the heart of man is the grand hinderance to his salvation.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

And all things are of God - This refers particularly to the things in question, the renewing of the heart, and the influences by which Paul had been brought to a state of willingness to forsake all, and to devote his life to the self-denying labors involved in the purpose of making the Saviour known. He makes the statement general, however, showing his belief that not only these things were produced by God, but that all things were under his direction, and subject to his control. Nothing that he had done was to be traced to his own agency or power, but God was to be acknowledged everywhere. This great truth Paul never forgot; and he never suffered himself to lose sight of it. It was in his view a cardinal and glorious truth; and he kept its influence always before his mind and his heart. In the important statement which follows, therefore, about the ministry of reconciliation, he deeply feels that the whole plan, and all the success which has attended the plan, was to be traced not to his zeal, or fidelity, or skill, but to the agency of God; see the note on 1 Corinthians 3:6-7.

Who hath reconciled us to himself - The word “us” here includes, doubtless, all who were Christians - whether Jews or Gentiles, or whatever was their rank. They had all been brought into a state of reconciliation, or agreement with God through the Lord Jesus Christ. Before they were opposed to God. They had violated His laws. They were his enemies. But by the means of the plan of salvation they had been brought into a state of agreement, or harmony, and were united in feeling and in aim with him. Two people who have been alienated by prejudice, by passion, or by interest, are reconciled when the cause of the alienation is removed, on whichever side it may have existed, or if on both sides, and when they lay aside their enmity and become friends. Thenceforward they are agreed, and live together without alienation, heart-burnings, jealousies, and strife. So between God and man. There was a variance; there was an alienation.

Man was alienated from God. He had no love for Him. He disliked His government and laws. He was unwilling to be restrained. He sought his own pleasure. He was proud, vain, self-confident. He was not pleased with the character of God, or with his claims, or his plans. And in like manner, God was displeased with the pride, the sensuality, the rebellion, the haughtiness of man. He was displeased that His Law had been violated, and that man had cast off his government. Now reconciliation could take place only when these causes of alienation should be laid aside, and when God and man should be brought to harmony; when man should lay aside his love of sin, and should be pardoned, and when, therefore, God could consistently treat him as a friend. The Greek word which is used here ( καταλλάσσω katallassō) means properly to change against anything; to exchange for anything, for money, or for any article - Robinson. In the New Testament it means to change one person toward another; that is, to reconcile to anyone; see the note on Romans 5:10.

It conveys the idea of producing a change so that one who is alienated should be brought to friendship. Of course, all the change which takes place must be on the part of man, for God will not change, and the purpose of the plan of reconciliation is to effect such a change in man as to make him in fact reconciled to God, and at agreement with him. There were indeed obstacles to reconciliation on the part of God, but they did not arise from any unwillingness to be reconciled; from any reluctance to treat his creature as his friend; but they arose from the fact that man had sinned, and that God was just; that such is the perfection of God that He cannot treat the good and evil alike; and that, therefore, if He should treat man as His friend, it was necessary that in some proper way He should maintain the honor of His Law, and show His hatred of sin, and should secure the conversion and future obedience of the offender.

All this God proposed to secure by the atonement made by the Redeemer, rendering it consistent for him to exercise the benevolence of his nature, and to pardon the offender. But God is not changed. The plan of reconciliation has made no change in his character. It has not made him a different being from what he was before. There is often a mistake on this subject; and people seem to suppose that God was originally stern, and unmerciful, and inexorable, and that he has been made mild and forgiving by the atonement. But it is not so. No change has been made in God; none needed to be made; none could be made. He was always mild, and merciful, and good; and the gift of a Saviour and the plan of reconciliation is just an expression of his original willingness to pardon. When a father sees a child struggling in the stream, and in danger of drowning, the peril and the cries of the child make no change in the character of the father, but such was his former love for the child that he would plunge into the stream at the hazard of his own life to save him. So it is with God. Such was his original love for man, and his disposition to show mercy, that he would submit to any sacrifice, except that of truth and justice, in order that he might save him. Hence, he sent his only Son to die - not to change his own character; not to make himself a different being from what he was, but in order to show his love and his readiness to forgive when it could be consistently done. “God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten Son,” John 3:16.

By Jesus Christ - By the agency, or medium of Jesus Christ. He was the mediator to interpose in the work of reconciliation. And he was abundantly qualified for this work, and was the only being that has lived in this world who was qualified for it. Because:

(1) He was endowed with a divine and human nature - the nature of both the parties at issue - God and man, and thus, in the language of Job, could “lay his hand upon both,” Job 9:33.

(2) he was intimately acquainted with both the parties, and knew what was needful to be done. He knew God the Father so well that he could say, “No man knoweth the Father but the Son,” Matthew 11:27. And he knew man so well that it could be said of him, he “needed not that any should testify of man, for he knew what was in man,” John 2:25. No one can be a mediator who is not acquainted with the feelings, views, desires, claims, or prejudices of both the parties at issue.

(3) he was the friend of both the parties. He loved God. No man ever doubted this, or had any reason to call it in question, and he was always desirous of securing all that God claimed, and of vindicating him, and he never abandoned anything that God had a right to claim. And he loved man. He showed this in all his life. He sought his welfare in every way possible, and gave himself for him. Yet no one is qualified to act the mediator‘s part who is not the common friend of both the parties at issue, and who will not seek the welfare, the right, or the honor of both.

(4) he was willing to suffer anything from either party in order to produce reconciliation. From the hand of God he was willing to endure all that he deemed to be necessary, in order to show his hatred of sin by his vicarious sufferings, and to make an atonement; and from the hand of man he was willing to endure all the reproach, and contumely, and scorn which could be possibly involved in the work of inducing man to be reconciled to God. And,

(5) He has removed all the obstacles which existed to a reconciliation. On the part of God, he has made it consistent for him to pardon. He has made an atonement, so that God can be just while he justifies the sinner. He has maintained His truth, and justice, and secured the stability of His moral government while He admits offenders to His favor. And on the part of man, He, by the agency of His Spirit, overcomes the unwillingness of the sinner to be reconciled, humbles his pride, shows him his sin, changes his heart, subdues his enmity against God, and secures in fact a harmony of feeling and purpose between God and man, so that they shall be reconciled forever.

And hath given to us - To us the apostles and our fellow-laborers.

The ministry of reconciliation - That is, of announcing to people the nature and the conditions of this plan of being reconciled. We have been appointed to make this known, and to press its acceptation on people; see 2 Corinthians 5:20.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
The renewed man acts upon new principles, by new rules, with new ends, and in new company. The believer is created anew; his heart is not merely set right, but a new heart is given him. He is the workmanship of God, created in Christ Jesus unto good works. Though the same as a man, he is changed in his character and conduct. These words must and do mean more than an outward reformation. The man who formerly saw no beauty in the Saviour that he should desire him, now loves him above all things. The heart of the unregenerate is filled with enmity against God, and God is justly offended with him. Yet there may be reconciliation. Our offended God has reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ. By the inspiration of God, the Scriptures were written, which are the word of reconciliation; showing that peace has been made by the cross, and how we may be interested therein. Though God cannot lose by the quarrel, nor gain by the peace, yet he beseeches sinners to lay aside their enmity, and accept the salvation he offers. Christ knew no sin. He was made Sin; not a sinner, but Sin, a Sin-offering, a Sacrifice for sin. The end and design of all this was, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him, might be justified freely by the grace of God through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. Can any lose, labour, or suffer too much for Him, who gave his beloved Son to be the Sacrifice for their sins, that they might be made the righteousness of God in him?
Ellen G. White
Fundamentals of Christian Education, 370

We should cherish gratitude of heart all the days of our life because the Lord has put on record these words: “For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” The reconciliation of God to man, and man to God, is sure when certain conditions are met. The Lord says, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise.” Again He says, “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.” “Though the Lord be high, yet hath He respect unto the lowly: but the proud He knoweth afar off.” “Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool: where is the house that ye build unto Me? and where is the place of My rest? For all those things hath Mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at My word.” “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me; because the Lord hath anointed Me to preach good tidings unto the meek; He hath sent Me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified.” The psalmist writes, “He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.” Though He is the restorer of fallen humanity, yet “He telleth the number of the stars; He calleth them all by their names. Great is our Lord, and of great power: His understanding is infinite. The Lord lifteth up the meek: He casteth the wicked down to the ground. Sing unto the Lord with thanksgiving; sing praise upon the harp unto our God.... The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear Him, in those that hope in His mercy. Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem; praise thy God, O Zion.” FE 370.1

How precious are the lessons of this psalm. We might well devote study to the last four psalms of David. The words also of the prophet are very precious: “Will a man leave the snow of Lebanon which cometh from the rock of the field? or shall the cold flowing waters that come from another place be forsaken? Because my people hath forgotten Me, they have burned incense to vanity, and they have caused them to stumble in their ways from the ancient paths, to walk in paths, in a way not cast up.” “Thus saith the Lord; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord. For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited. Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.”—Special Testimonies On Education, April 22, 1895. FE 371.1

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