-"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 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." (2 Corinthians 5:17-21)
Commentary On 2 Corinthians 5:17-21:
-The person who experiences authentic conversion of heart through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit by definition becomes a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17), and thereby ceases to view the things of this world in carnal terms. We throw away the “old man” when we abandon our former sinful lifestyles (Ephesians 4:24). All of this takes place as a direct consequence of having a personal relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ. In the context of 2 Corinthians 5:17-21, the word “reconcile” describes resolving hostility between two enemy parties. It involves a change of mind that only God can accomplish on our behalf through the expiatory work of Christ (Romans 5:9-10). The Lord has appointed all members of His church to function as His representatives on earth by entrusting to us the “ministry of reconciliation”, which is the preaching of the gospel. It is the proclamation of the good news that the Son of God has forever put away sin through His sacrifice on the cross at Calvary. Thus, He is by no means an ordinary man, but is God in the flesh. To not impute sin against us means that God has pardoned us (Romans 4:4-7; Colossians 2:13-17; 2 Timothy 4:16). The present tense verbs found in 2 Corinthians 5:19 clearly denote continuous action (Hebrews 10:10-14; 1 John 1:9). “The ministry of reconciliation” consists of the “ambassadors for Christ”, which are all the people who have been truly born again by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is a firmly established principle of Scripture that God does the reconciling work, not us (v. 18). Therefore, the text of 2 Corinthians 5:17-21actually reinforces the concept of dependency on God (instead of human effort). Now, that is exactly the message that the “faith only” crowd has been trying to convey to the “faith plus works” side of the debate! We simply need to place our trust in Him. The text being discussed at hand reveals three aspects of imputed righteousness, which are a.) Verse nineteen tells us that God imputes not iniquity, b.) Sin is imputed to Christ, and c.) His foreign righteousness is imputed to our account. Moreover, it is important to highlight the symmetrical correspondence of the wording found in verses nineteen and twenty-one: “…not counting their trespasses against them…he made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.” In other words, the spotless Lamb of God was “made sin” (i.e. our sins are not imputed against us), and His righteousness (i.e. the righteousness of God) was credited to us. Christ is our merciful substitute, in the same manner that the Apostle Paul desired that any of Onesimus’ (Philemon’s runaway slave) possible wrongdoings be charged against him instead (as though they were committed by him--Philemon 18). Also consider the instance recorded in Genesis 22:13 where God commanded Abraham to vicariously offer a lamb as a sacrifice (instead of his son Isaac). This typology reveals to us that Christ was offered in our place on the cross to save us from eternal separation from Him in the literal flames of hell. And 2 Corinthians 5:21 clearly teaches this doctrine! Other texts of Scripture that corroborate this interpretation of 2 Corinthians 5:21 would include Isaiah 53, Mark 10:45, Romans 5:19-20, Ephesians 5:1-2, Galatians 3:13-14, Hebrews 10:10-14, and 1 Peter 2:22-24. From the perspective of justification, this text tells us that our righteousness is based on the righteousness of Jesus Christ (Romans 3:24-25). From the viewpoint of sanctification, His righteousness is applied to us daily.