There are only four verses in this section, but if, by the grace of God, a person can lay hold of the things taught in these verses, he will have a foundation which will not be shaken, a sure hope in Christ Jesus and the greatest comfort in every trial.
(Vs. 18.) "And all things are of God." Paul probably referred to the preceding statement: "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature," for this complete change which is wrought in conversation is certainly not of ourselves, but of God (John 1:12, 13). We have a new name, a new heart, a new nature, new principles and a new family, which are all of grace by the power of God. But on a wider scale all things are of God all things in creation, in providence, in redemption and in the world to come. He is the first cause of all things! There may be second and third causes and instruments used by God to accomplish his purpose (Acts 4:27,28), but he works his will in heaven and earth gives it to whomsoever he will. "He hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ." Those who were enemies by birth, by nature and choice are now made friends and sons. Reconciliation indicates a quarrel or separation, and sin is responsible for that separation. "Your sins have separated you from your God." The law of God is violated, the justice of God must punish the guilty and the holiness of God will not permit acceptance or fellowship. But God is not only willing to be reconciled, he has appointed his Son the Mediator of reconciliation (1 Tim. 2:5). He set forth his only begotten Son in his purpose and decree to be our representative, our righteousness, our sin-offering and our atonement (Gal. 4:4, 5) that by his obedience before the law and by his suffering and death the law might be honoured, justice satisfied and peace made between God and the elect. He reconciled us to himself as being the party offended, whose law was broken, whose justice required and demanded satisfaction (Rom. 3:19-26). And he "hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation", which is the gospel. By the inspiration of God, the Scriptures were written (2 Tim. 3:16· 17) which contain the word of reconciliation, showing that peace and eternal life are in Christ. God also sends forth his ministers to preach the gospel of mercy and grace in Christ (Rom. 10:13-15; 2 Tim. 1:8-11; Mark 16:15-16). This ministry of reconciliation is God-given.
(Vs. 19.) "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself." This phrase declares what is the ministry of reconciliation, its author, its means, its subjects and its consequences. Christ is God (John 1:1-3; Acts 20:28). In the person of Christ, God was actually providing himself a lamb, a ransom and an atonement. He did not charge our sins to us but to Christ, having made Christ to be sin for us (Isa. 53:4-6, 11,12; 1 Peter 2:24). The word "world" does not mean that Christ effectually bore the sins of every person and reconciled every son of Adam to God by his death. If this were true, no one would finally be lost. He reconciled the world in the sense that he redeemed a people out of every tribe, kindred and nation - not of the Jews only, John Owen said, "If Christ died for all of the sins of all men, then all men will he saved; if he died for some of the sins of all men, then no one will be saved; but if he died for all of the sins of some men, then some men will be eternally saved." This message of substitution and satisfaction by the obedience and sufferings of Christ has been committed to faithful ministers of the gospel. We dare to preach it and dare not preach any other message (Gal. 1:8, 9; 1 Cor. 9:16). Inasmuch as Christ is our righteousness, God does not call upon us to produce a righteousness, but to receive his righteousness by faith. Inasmuch as Christ is our Surety and Substitute, God will not require satisfaction from us but accepts us in the Beloved (Eph. 1:6, 7).
(Vs. 20.) Since God has reconciled his sheep by Christ and has given to his ministers the gospel of reconciliation, then they are certainly the "ambassadors", or representatives· "for Christ". They come sent of him, empowered by him and speaking for him. To hear a true servant of Christ speaking by his Spirit in keeping with his Word is to hear Christ (1 John 4:6). The minister of the gospel speaks in the name of Christ, for the glory of Christ and for our eternal good. His message is that God is reconciled in Christ; Christ died for sinners; there is peace and life to be had through faith in Christ: "Be ye reconciled to God." God is reconciled to us in Christ, but before regeneration and conversion we are still at war with God. Our natural mind is enmity, not subject to God, loving darkness and hating light (1 Cor. 2:14; Rom. 8:7). This is the message of God's ambassador: "God is reconciled; lay down your arms of rebellion, kiss the Son and be reconciled to God."
(Vs. 21.) Christ our Lord had no sin, knew no sin and did no sin. He was perfect before the law of God (I Peter 2:22; Heb. 4:15). Our sins were reckoned to him. He was identified and numbered with the transgressors and, though he personally had no sin, yet by imputation he was the world's greatest sinner and was dealt with as such and died under the wrath of God (Gal. 3:13; Heb. 9:28; Rom. 8:32). All of this was done that we might be made the righteousness of God in Christ and, by our identification and oneness with Christ justified. Christ, who knew no sin, was made sin for us that we, who have no righteousness, might be made righteous before God in him (Rom. 10:1-4). With his spotless garments on, we are as holy as his Son (Isa. 45:24) Someone said, "The gospel can be summed up in two words substitution and satisfaction." Christ, as our Substitute, made full and complete satisfaction for us before God's holy law and righteous justice. In him we are wholly sanctified, completely and eternally saved.