“Therefore, 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 and gave us the ministry of reconciliation . . . We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”
There is a paradoxical aspect of this passage that is now true, but is not yet fulfilled. We are reconciled to Christ already, but are still being asked to be reconciled. We are both possessing and needing what Christ gives.
To reconcile, of course, means to bring back together two people or groups of people. A married couple that experiences conflict may work hard to resolve the conflict, and so be reconciled to one another. Two nations at war may sit down at the negotiations table and reach a peace agreement.
Reconciliation is a beautiful, wonderful thing; instead of conflict, peace; instead of separation, unity.
We are reconciled now because Christ has given Himself as the peace offering between God and man. Christ became the sacrificial Lamb to pay the price that our wicked rebellion deserved.
During Lent we do well to remember that we should be reconciled to God. That is, repent and attend to His Word. Listen to the Gospel Word about Christ. Receive forgiveness through Absolution and the Supper, because these are seals of God’s peace with you. Alongside these is Holy Baptism, by which you have been created anew in Christ, and therefore are in unity with the Father.
But we must constantly come back to the ministry of reconciliation. That is the holy ministry, the work of pastors to preach the Gospel and administer the sacraments. The moment we think we do not need them, we are thrusting away from us the reconciliation of God. In the same way, a husband who is reconciled to his wife, but then begins to treat her shamefully, is showing that he does not value her, and is rejecting the marriage all over again, and wants no part of it.
May such things never happen among us.
We have indeed received life and forgiveness in Christ. But we should not think that we do not need to ever hear about it again, and spend our days as far from the Gospel as we can get. Do you think God will honor such disdain for His reconciliation? Do you think God will ignore it if we show contempt for His Son’s work?
So be reconciled to God. As you have received, continue to receive the Word of reconciliation. Repent continually, as continually as you sin. Your sins are truly great, as are mine and the sins of all people. Flee to this Gospel, by which God announces the atonement in His Son’s Blood.
The atonement is this: God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us. The Man who knew no sin was Christ. He was perfect in every way, from the sinless words of His mouth, to the deepest thoughts of His mind, to the pure emotions of His heart. Not once did He commit any trespass against the Commandments.
That is hard to imagine. Our lives are so immersed and saturated with sin. How could a man have none at all? It does not seem possible.
Indeed, by the strength that is in every person we have ever met, it is impossible to live a sinless life. But that is precisely what Christ accomplished. He was born of the Blessed Virgin Mary without the tiniest taint of iniquity. He lived about thirty-three years without a single slip-up or stumble. All was perfect with Him.
Yet He submitted to the worst thing imaginable. He took the sins of the world upon Himself. We can hardly grasp this, either. The guilt and punishment and torment of every single act of disobedience in history fell upon His shoulders. He became the One who was saturated and immersed in sin, more than any man in history. Christ became the Biggest Sinner ever – not that He did anything wrong, but that He was loaded up with every wrong act ever committed.
This is why Saint Paul can say, “He became sin for us.” Christ took all sin. Every sin in history was located in His Body on the Tree of Calvary. All sin was there, where the Son of Man laid down His life for you and me.
This is bigger than we can fully take in during this lifetime. The immensity of the sacrifice of Christ exceeds us. In the lifetime to come, we shall see far more, to comprehend how immeasurably vast was the payment made to purchase us.
Now you are new creations in Him. Now you are the righteousness of God. The holiness of God’s Son covers you, as a cloak placed upon you at Baptism. When the Lord looks on you, He sees righteousness equal to Christ, who is God. You have received His obedience as a gift, credited to you. So you are sons of God in the image of The Son of God. You have eternal life even now, and will most certainly, without a doubt, enter everlasting joy at the coming of the new heaven and new earth.
In fact, you already represent the new heaven and new earth, because you are part of the new creation. You are not part of the old order, of sin and death and hell. No, you belong to God and to life. You have in you the seeds of the deathless creation that is to come. You contain immortality, because all death was swallowed up for you by Christ on the Cross. His Resurrection shows that this is most certainly true, and not satan nor all the demons of hell can take it from you.
May the Spirit increase in us the peace and joy of this reconciliation that we have received. As sons of the Father, may we live lives fitting for the new creation, not the old. And He will keep us in this Word and faith to life everlasting, beyond life and death and the passing of this temporary world, to ages of ages unending. Amen.
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