Text: 2 Corinthians 5:14-21
“Therefore,” St. Paul said, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself…in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them.”Today, we’ve come to the lowest depths of the Church Year to witness the greatest heights of God’s love for us. On this day, we remember that He who knew no sin – our Lord – was made to be sin for us. Though He had committed no sin, He bore our sins in His body on the tree. He was betrayed, flogged, crucified. He bowed His head and died so that we, crass and ungodly sinners, might become new creations. In Christ, God reconciled the world to Himself and made us new creations, but only at great cost.
St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians that those who are in Christ are new creations, new creatures. He means that those who have been Baptized into Christ have been buried with Him into death so that, as He was raised from the dead, they, too, might walk in newness of life. Those who have been buried and raised with Christ through Baptism and by faith are new creations in God’s sight. For the sake of Christ, their sins are no longer reckoned to them and they are restored to a right relationship with God. The word that St. Paul uses to describe this new reality is reconciled. “In Christ God[reconciled] the world to Himself.”
This word is a powerful word in English. It means to right what was wrong, to create harmony and make things compatible. In this tax season, we might also reconcile our bank accounts and records. It is also a powerful word in Greek. In Greek, it’s a legal term. This word for reconcile that St. Paul uses means to formally exchange hostility for friendship.It means to remove the obstacles, which were in place, which prevented a right relationship between two parties. It means to repair legally – and in reality – a relationship which had fallen into disarray.
St. Paul uses this profound and specific language because, apart from Christ, there is a vast gulf of separation between our God and us. That gulf is of our own creation; it is the chasm of sin. We spoke just a few moments ago from Psalm 51. This psalm was composed by King David after Nathan brought before him his sin in committing adultery. David had spied Bathsheba from afar and lusted after her in his heart. He later physically committed adultery with her as well and, after his attempts to cover it up had failed, had Bathsheba’s husband killed. Nathan came to David and showed him his sin. David then recognized where he stood before God. God had revealed to David His holy and good will. God had been gracious to David and blessed him in a multitude of ways, and David – by his actions – despised the Lord.
Our sin may not be the same as David’s, but our own sins are just as great. As the Bride of Christ, we have all – each of us – been unfaithful to our heavenly bridegroom. We have not feared, loved, and trusted in Him above all things. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. And often, we have acted as if we and our own desires were what mattered most. And, rather than acknowledging our sin, we have denied it. We have covered it up, we’ve pretended it doesn’t exist, we have feigned ignorance, and we have been complacent in forsaking sin. We have encouraged others in their sin, and we have been strengthened in our sin by them. We have rightly, and fully, deserved God’s wrath – not only this world; but we deserve to stoke the fires of hell. Our God is a just God, and we have disobeyed and despised His holy will.
Our God is a just God, but He is also a merciful God. Sin demands payment and God receives that payment – but not us; from Himself. God made the payment for sin, He atoned for sin, Himself. That brings us back to St. Paul. Remember that Paul used the word, “reconcile.” To reconcile means to cease hostility, to exchange hostility for friendship by removing an obstacle. The gulf between us and our God, the obstacle preventing a right relationship between He and us was sin. Instead of demanding payment and atonement from us, and from each and every sinner, God provided the payment – His own dear Son.
St. Paul wrote to the Galatians, “when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoptionas sons.”In the words which we already heard, “in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them.” St. Paul continued, “For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”
Our God is holy, righteous, and just; He is also merciful. Out of His mercy, and at great cost to Himself, He has reconciled us to Himself. He did this by placing our sin on His only-begotten Son and handing Him over into death. He who alone – in all creation – did not deserve to die, did die. He died horribly and brutally. Jesus died for you. By His death, He made full atonement for the sin of the world. He made the full payment for your sin. By faith in His death and resurrection, God has reconciled you to Himself and has made you a new creation. If anyone is in Christ, He has been made a new creation – but only at great cost. Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy. Amen.
William Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 521.