August 2 - 8
The Ministry of Reconciliation
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: 2 Cor. 5:18-6:13.
MEMORY TEXT: "God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation" (2 Corinthians 5:19, NKJV).
KEY THOUGHT: In God's reconciling work through Christ, we hear a call to extend the message of reconciliation in the home, the church, and the world.
IN CHRIST, WE ARE RECONCILED WITH GOD. Some of the words Paul uses to explain God's work of salvation are difficult to understand. "Justification" comes from the law courts. And "redemption" reflects the practice of freeing slaves on payment of a price. "Reconciliation," though, is easily understood by all who have experienced the healing of a relationship. We need only reflect on a time when shoulders gave way to warm embraces or when words of accusation changed to forgiveness. God "reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation" (2 Cor. 5:18, NIV). Reconciliation with a human companion is blessed indeed. This, however, is the greatest wonder--through Christ we have been reconciled to God!
As you study this week's lesson, remember that Christ wants to share with you His Ministry of reconciliation as you reach others for Him. By God's grace, determine to be a minister of such reconciliation.
On what basis does God offer reconciliation to the human family? 2 Cor. 5:18-21; Rom. 5:6-11.
Philip Hughes says of 2 Corinthians 5:21, "There is no sentence more profound in the whole of Scripture."Paul's Second Epistle to the Corinthians, (Atlanta, Ga.: Presbyterian Church U.S.A. Executive Committee for Home Missions) p. 211. 2 Cor 5:18-21 discloses a profound truth: God not only initiates reconciliation. He is its goal. "Through Christ every obstruction is removed, and access to God is secured. Man is urged and welcomed to the pardoning love of God. By His love for fallen men, God is honored and glorified and magnified through Jesus Christ. God can be just, and yet pardon the transgressor. Oh, what love, what matchless love!"Ellen G. White, The Home Missionary, Nov. 1, 1897.
What impact does Christ's death have on our relationship with God and with one another? What is the extent of the reconciliation Christ won? 2 Cor. 5:18-21; Eph. 2:11-22; Col. 1:19, 20; Gal. 3:26, 20.
Paul's focus in 2 Corinthians 5:18-21 is on reconciliation between humans and God. This is "vertical" reconciliation. However, God's reconciling work in Christ also affects our relationships with others. This is "horizontal" reconciliation. That Paul also is interested in reconciliation among Christians is obvious for at least two reasons: (1) Paul remains concerned about his relationship with the Corinthian believers. When he pleads, "Be reconciled to God" (verse 20, NIV), he also is asking them to open their hearts to him (2 Cor 6:11); (2) In chapters 8 and 9, we see the deep commitment Paul has to reconciliation between Jewish and Gentile Christians. "The collection" discussed there is likely his way of nurturing such reconciliation.
Review the following incidents where Paul served as a "minister of reconciliation" in order to bring Christians together. What can you learn from them that will help you to become reconciled to someone? 1 Cor. 1:10-12; Phil. 4:2, 3; Philemon.
|Can you recall an incident when God used you as a "minister of reconciliation"? What plans do you have to be a reconciler in your family, church, and place of work? How would you go about implementing such plans?|
Jesus provided strategies for reconciliation among church members. Describe each strategy after the appropriate verse. How useful are these strategies today?
Matt. 5:23, 24.
"When our duty is so plainly marked out, why do so many church members go contrary to a plain 'Thus saith the Lord,' and speak of their difficulties to those who know nothing in regard to them or in regard to those whom these difficulties concern? Jesus the great Teacher, has told us what our duty is. Our gifts, our prayers are not acceptable to God while we leave this duty undone, and let the poison of envy, evil-surmising, and jealousy, take possession of our souls, and spoil our union and happiness. Oh, how much unhappiness would be spared, and how many evil thoughts would be quenched, if believers would take up the work that Christ has said must be done to prevent evil thinking and evil speaking. "This Day With God, p. 19.
A person who has been wronged is not the only one who can initiate reconciliation. "If we have in any way grieved or wounded others, it is our duty to confess our fault and seek for reconciliation. This is an essential preparation that we may come before God in Faith, to ask His blessing."Christ's Object Lessons, p. 144.
"Reconciliation one with another is the work for which the ordinance of feet washing was instituted.
"As Christ celebrated this ordinance with His disciples, conviction came to the hearts of all save Judas. So we shall be convicted as Christ speaks to our hearts. The fountains of the soul will be broken up. The mind will be energized, and, springing into activity and life, will break down every barrier that has caused dissension and alienation." Evangelism, p. 275.
|As you read Ephesians 4:31, 32, ask yourself: How well does my life reflect this passage? If there is one characteristic in these verses on which God has been wanting to get your attention, spend some time now in thoughtful prayer and reflection.|
How might family members reflect the reconciling work of God in Christ? 2 Cor. 5:18-21; Eph. 5:21-33.
God's work in Christ is designed to be practical to our daily lives. God longs to make us "ministers of reconciliation." And He invites us to reflect His reconciling love in our relationships with family members, Christians, then, have a marvelous privilege-we, the recipients of God's reconciliation, may actually help to widen the circle of reconciliation. Nowhere is such a witness more needed than within the home.
What are some of your favorite words of counsel that would help support reconciliation in the home? Possibilities might include Prov. 12:18; 14:29; 15:1, 28; 17:9, 14; and Eph. 4:26.
Tourists on Tokyo's subway sometimes find it difficult to determine the correct fare. Some clever travelers discover that each station has a "fare adjustment" window. When someone cannot determine a fan, one can pay the highest rate, then receive the appropriate refund at the end of the trip! In the home, there also is a "fare adjustment" window. It is the two words "I'm sorry." We must often step up to the window and speak these words. They allow us to make adjustments for those difficult parts of the journey where we have misjudged the effects of our words and actions. Also, they trigger the work of reconciliation.
"Love's agencies have wonderful power, for they are divine. The soft answer that 'turneth away wrath,' the love that 'suffereth long, and is kind,' the charity that 'covereth a multitude of sins' (Proverbs 15:1; 1 Corinthians 13:4, R.V.; 1 Peter 4:8, R.V.)would we team the lesson, with what power for healing would our lives be gifted! How life would be transformed, and the earth become a very likeness and foretaste of heaven! "Education, p. 114.
|What do you see as a job description of a "minister of reconciliation"? How much of a reconciler have you been in the last month? What specific telephone calls could you place, letters could you write, or visits could you make that would help to rebuild some bridges in your family, work place, church, neighborhood, or community?|
How does our mission imply the need for reconciliation among races? Rev. 14:6, 7; Matt. 28:16-20. How do the results of that message reflect the same need? Rev. 7:9, 10.
In a world where "ethnic cleansing" is a present evil, the church needs to witness to another set of values-values that "rate" people, not on the basis of prejudice, but on the basis of eternal worth. We are to regard no one from merely "a human point of view" (2 Cor. 5:16, NRSV). We are called to a global mission that is promised success in winning a reconciled and redeemed community drawn from everywhere on earth.
"Jesus is not going to save Greeks and Jews, or Blacks and Whites, or Hispanics and Asians, or Italians and Germans, or Irish and English, or West Indians and Africans, or Americans and Russians, or Armenians and Azerbaijanis, or Israelis and Palestinians, or Pakistanis and Indians, or Iraqis and Iranians, or Japanese and Chinese. He is going to save a 'new humanity' who have risen by God's grace above ethnocentric world views, prejudicial attitudes, political ideologies, and racist actions, to become the 'new men' and 'new women'the new humanityin Christ."Caleb Rosado, Broken Walls (Boise, Idaho: Pacific Press, 1990), IV 87. (See Eph. 2:11-22.)
Scripture links our mission to the world with reconciliation. What does this tell us about God?
We may be tempted to feel that reconciliation between and among ethnic groups or tribes is something that should be accomplished in an afternoon or two. But Paul's experience tells us the task is far more involved than that. He spent his entire ministry trying to reconcile Jewish and Gentile Christians. We must listen carefully to one another until we have a fresh degree of understanding. Then we must listen again and again. We must not be discouraged but work persistently to reconcile and to be reconciled, ever measuring our reactions to others by God's own reconciling work toward us.
|How great do you think is the need for reconciliation among ethnic groups in our church today? In your congregation? What role do you think God might wish you to play where you live? Where you work?|
If you had been one of the Corinthian Christians, what do you think your response might have been to Paul's appeals in 2 Corinthians 6:1, 2, 11-13? Why?
Paul has just issued one of the most heartfelt invitations in the Bible: "We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God" (2 Cor. 5:20, NIV). To this he adds another invitation. "Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation" (2 Cor. 6:2, KJV). Since Paul is addressing Christians, we may each hear a call to accept afresh God's reconciling work. Have you accepted Christ today as your Saviour and Lord?
Why is the life we live important to the success of the gospel? 2 Cor. 6:1-13.
In 2 Corinthians 6:1-13, Paul returns to the relationship of the Corinthians between God, Paul himself, and his companions. Paul's opening appeal invites them to respond to God's grace by accepting it immediately. His closing appeal invites them to "open wide" their hearts toward him. "In all his dealings with them ... Paul has been out of the abundance of his heart .... His heart has always been full of love for them, and even now he yearns for them and for their loving response. He has met all their criticisms in the spirit of Christ, with largeness of heart."SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 876.
Between these two appeals, Paul once again defends his ministry. He states again that the hardships he has endured are a badge of honor. In these afflictions, Paul and company have, through God's power, modeled the great Christian virtues (verses 6, 7). They have ministered consistently through shifting tides of public opinion and unfair treatment (verses 8-10).
Among the contradictions of his ministry that Paul lists is that he and his helpers are "unknown, and yet are well known" (verse 9, NRSV). They have earned no grand reputation among humans. But in God's sight, they are well known. Interestingly, Paul's sacrificial ministry has made him, in our own day, one of the best-known figures of history!
|If we could ask You, O Creator, for one gift, it would be fore the gift to open hearts--hearts that are wide open to You, and hearts that are wide open to every one of Your children. We ask in the name of the great Reconciler, Amen.|
FURTHER STUDY: Study Genesis 32,33, and Luke 15:11-31. What do these stories teach us about reconciliation?
"No distinction on account of nationality, race, or caste, is recognized by God. He is the Maker of all mankind. All men are of one family by creation, and all are one through redemption. Christ came to demolish every wall of partition, to throw open every compartment of the temple, that every soul may have free access to God.... In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free. All are brought nigh by His precious blood"Christ's Object Lessons, p. 386.
"Caste is hateful to God .... Without distinction of age, or rank, or nationality, or religious privilege, all are invited to come unto Him and live."The Desire of Ages, p. 403.
"When the Holy Spirit moves upon human minds, all petty complaints and accusations between man and his fellow man will be put away. The bright beams of the Sun of Righteousness will shine into the chambers of the mind and heart. In our worship of God there will be not distinction between rich and poor, white and black. All prejudice will be melted away. When we approach God, it will be as one brotherhood. We are pilgrims and strangers, bound for a better country, even a heavenly. There all pride, all accusation, all self-deception, will forever have an end."Review and Herald, Oct. 24, 1899, p. 677.
SUMMARY: The gospel proclamation of God's reconciling work in Christ commissions us to take part in the "ministry of reconciliation." To a world in desperate need of reconciliation, Paul calls us to be a reconciled community.
Haunted House Helps Open Work
The three young missionaries from the 1000 Missionary Movement arrived in Masalisi, a large community in the Philippines, and began looking for a place to live. They soon found a house that seemed to meet their needs. It had rat been occupied for years, and the rent was surprisingly cheap. "It belongs to a well-to-do family who has moved closer to town," the agent explained. They rented the house and moved in, thanking God for providing for their needs so quickly and cheaply.
As the young men began meeting their new neighbors, it seemed that everyone was interested in where they lived. Then they learned that the house was "haunted."
"How did you drive away the devil?" one neighbor asked.
"We cannot get close to the house! Surely God is with you!" another remarked.
The young missionaries' fame spread quickly, and they found ready welcome in the homes. People listened eagerly to their testimony, because they had overcome the spirits in the haunted house. After only four months of visitation, the young people were ready to hold evangelistic meetings.
Some 65 people attended the two-week series of meetings. They listened carefully and seemed to understand the Bible truths. But when the call was given to follow Jesus in baptism, only one brave soul came forward. The missionaries were puzzled by the lack of response from the people.
They visited the people, and asked what had held them back from taking their stand for Jesus. "I believe," they heard repeatedly, "but I am waiting for others to step forward before I take my stand." The missionaries prayed that God would touch their hearts.
Little by little the people took their stand for God and prepared for baptism. Soon 15 were baptized, and others were studying for baptism.
The new believers worshiped in an old tent and prayed for means to provide a church for themselves and those who would follow. One of the new members provided a small piece of land in the center of the community for a church building. The newly organized company is now working toward its dream to have a simple church in which to worship.
Samuel Ada is associate director for missionary training at the 100 Missionary Movement campus outside Manila in the Philippines.
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