26 May, 2016

II Corinthians 5:19-20—“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”

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. 5:18-21).

This passage is sometimes used to support the “well-meant offer of the gospel” (so-called)—i.e. the notion that the Almighty earnestly and fervently wills, wishes, wants and desires the salvation of the reprobate; the notion that entails the ghostly spectre of a failing, foolish and frustrated God.
Verse 19 has also been used frequently to teach that Christ, in some sense, has died for all men (the keyword in that instance being “world”).


Herman Hoeksema (1886-1965)


[Source: The Protestant Reformed Churches in America (1947), p. 344; emphasis added]

(3)   The world may also mean the totality of the saved out of the world, because the saved are gathered from every nation and tongue and tribe and not merely from a single nation or group.** A plain illustration of this connotation you find in II Cor. 5:19: “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. They that would interpret the word “world” in this text as meaning all men, must needs distort and deny the true meaning of the word “reconciliation.” To reconcile always implies the blotting out of sin. That this is also implied in the text is evident from the words “not imputing their trespasses unto them.” It is clear, then, that this “world” is actually saved in the blood of Christ. It is reconciled. But, then, either is true: “world” does not mean “all men,” otherwise “all men” are saved. The latter is not true; hence, “world” does not signify all men, but the totality of the saved out of every nation. Another illustration of this meaning of the word “world” you may find in I John 2:2: “And he is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only (that is, for us as we have already been called as a church) but also for the sins of the whole world (all the saved as they shall be called out of every nation).

** On pages 343-344, Rev. Hoeksema demonstrates from Scripture that “world” can also mean (1) “creation in its organic sense … without having respect to individual creatures” (John 3:16) and (2) “this present world as it is in sin and corruption … the works of God … from the viewpoint of their being dominated by the wicked” (John 14:30; 16:11; 17:9, 16; I John 2:15-17)


[The] Gospel proclaims […] that God in Christ has reconciled the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and prays in Christ’s stead: be ye reconciled with God. [The advocate of the general offer of grace and salvation on the part of God to all men] wants to make of this reconciliation “a possibility of reconciliation,” completely in harmony with his general offer. But this is not according to the word of God. He who proclaims the possibility of reconciliation does violence to the Gospel. For the Gospel is the fulfilment of the Promise of God by God. The reconciliation is an accomplished fact. Nineteen hundred years ago God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, and the “world” is therefore reconciled.

We must understand this well: for the pure preaching of the gospel hangs in the balance precisely at this point. Reconciliation is the objective blotting out of our guilt through satisfaction in the blood of Christ. It is therefore also purely an act of God. It is not a fact which comes into existence through an act on God’s part and an act on our part. It comes into existence only by a work of God. Among men reconciliation is a reciprocal action. Men cannot blot out sin. Therefore men reconcile with one another. But this may never be applied to the idea of reconciliation with respect to God and His people. We do not reconcile God. Neither do we reconcile ourselves with God. Neither does God reconcile Himself. One finds all these confused and incorrect presentations frequently in writings and in preaching. And by all such false presentations men always and again conciliate Arminianism and meet it half way. No, there is but one correct, scriptural presentation of reconciliation: God has reconciled us unto Himself. Reconciliation is not a possibility, but an accomplished fact. We enter into reconciliation by faith. But never may reconciliation as such be presented as a possibility, neither as far as the power and completeness of that reconciliation is concerned, nor as far as the participants in that reconciliation are concerned. For Christ has died for the elect; God has reconciled the elect unto Himself through the blood of Christ, not imputing their sins unto them. That reconciliation, therefore, is also not conditional. It does not depend upon our faith; it does not come into existence through our faith; it is not made void through our unbelief; in all its significance it is an historic fact, the fulfilment of the sure promise of God, and must be proclaimed as such.

And this is not only true of the objective fact of reconciliation and atonement, but of the entire central fulfilment of salvation in Christ Jesus, of the resurrection and the ascension and the sitting at the right hand of God and the victory and reign of Christ over all things. Christ’s resurrection is the resurrection of the elect: for they are in Him, and He is their head. We are then also raised with Him and set with Him in heavenly places; with and in Him we have the victory and are more than conquerors through Him who has loved us …
… As far as II Corinthians 5:20 is concerned … [much modern preaching] leaves the impression as though reconciliation is really a work which comes about through both God and man. There are then two parties who reconcile with one another, just as is the case among men: “Now that God is already reconciled, you must now also be reconciled with God, even as God has reconciled Himself with you, and reconciliation is an accomplished fact. As long as you do not become reconciled, reconciliation is finished only from one side; then it is not complete. But if you become reconciled with God, peace is accomplished.” Or, if they do not present it thus, they nevertheless come with the presentation that God is indeed willing to reconcile you; if now you also let yourself be reconciled, something to which God then prays yjou through the Gospel, you are actually reconciled with the Most High. But neither of these presentations is according to Scripture. In reconciliation God is His own party. Thus it is also with God’s covenant in general. There is no covenant concluded between God and man. God is GOD! Man is never a party over against God. God’s covenant is solely God’s. And He establishes His covenant with whom He will. It is no different with reconciliation. God and man do not reconcile with one another. Whoever would say that would thereby reveal that he understood nothing of it, would especially show that he does not understand that God is GOD. God reconciles. And He reconciles not Himself, but the sinner, His people. And that reconciliation is the blotting out of guilt through satisfaction of the justice of God over against sin in the blood of the cross. It is then also an accomplished fact through the death and resurrection of Christ. Whether anyone is reconciled with God does not depend on him, but only on his being in Christ, who died for us and is raised again. And on the ground of that objective fact of reconciliation God now comes, not with an offer of reconciliation to all men, but with the serious calling, with the prayer to His people: “Be ye reconciled to Me! Reconciliation is an accomplished fact, for I have reconciled you in Christ; believe now My word of reconciliation which I have laid in the apostles, and through faith enter into that reconciled relationship also before your own consciousness and with your entire life! Let that reconciliation rule your entire life, so that you no longer live unto yourself, but unto Him who died for you and is raised again! For if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature, old things are passed away; behold, all is become new.”

If [a student of the word] carefully reads the context of this text, he shall have to agree with this explanation. For the apostle writes here to the church. This may not be overlooked. In the context this even stands emphatically on the foreground. The context is precisely concerned with the light in which the apostle views the congregation and according to which he judges her. It is the judgment which is determined by the love of Christ toward His church. That love constrains Him unto this judgment, that if one died for all, then are all dead. That all is the elect (verse 15). [The Reformed believer] will grant me this if he does not want to embrace entirely the error of a Christus pro omnibus [Christ for all]. Well, then: He has died for all in order that they should no more live to themselves, but to Him who died for them and is raised again. Therefore the apostle judges that the congregation must be considered as the gathering of new creatures; the old is passed away, all is become new. That this does not hold for all, head for head, who belong to the church on earth, makes no difference as far as this judgment concerning the congregation is concerned. The apostle knows no man after the flesh. Now then, all these new things are of God and find their basis in reconciliation. For God was in Christ reconciling the world (here, the elect world out of all nations) unto Himself (not Himself with the world), not imputing their trespasses unto them. Reconciliation, which is the firm basis of the preaching, is an accomplished fact. And because He has committed the word of reconciliation unto the apostles, therefore the apostles must preach that reconciliation and on the ground of it come to the congregation and to all whom the Lord will call thereto, with the lovely prayer: “Be ye reconciled with God!” Also according to the context, therefore, you have here a very particular basis in reconciliation, a very particular call of God to His church on the ground of that reconciliation, and a very particular outcome: the elect enter into that reconciliation by divine grace through faith and become new creatures.

This does not mean, of course, that the preaching of reconciliation and the prayer of God to enter into that reconciliation is not heard by others than the elect. The preaching of particular reconciliation, the demand of God unto repentance, is general, or at least common. This hearing of the general proclamation of reconciliation also compels an answer. And the negative answer of the natural man, “I will not be reconciled with God!” also aggravates his judgment. For it brings to manifestation the dreadful character of sin as enmity against God. But this does not change the fact that you do not have here a general offer, well-meant on God’s part, in which He offers to all men to reconcile them with Himself, but the proclamation of a very particular reconciliation, on the ground of which the church enters into salvation.



More to come! (DV)

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