18 But all things are from God, Who through Jesus Christ reconciled us to Himself [received us into favor, brought us into harmony with Himself] and gave to us the ministry of reconciliation [that by word and deed we might aim to bring others into harmony with Him].
19 It was God [personally present] in Christ, reconciling and restoring the world to favor with Himself, not counting up and holding against [men] their trespasses [but cancelling them], and committing to us the message of reconciliation (of the restoration to favor).
20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors, God making His appeal as it were through us. We [as Christ’s personal representatives] beg you for His sake to lay hold of the divine favor [now offered you] and be reconciled to God.
21 For our sake He made Christ [virtually] to be sin Who knew no sin, so that in and through Him we might become [endued with, viewed as being in, and examples of] the righteousness of God [what we ought to be, approved and acceptable and in right relationship with Him, by His goodness].
2 Co. 5:21 AMP
First, all these things we are about to learn about the cross and what Jesus did there, who are they from? They are from God. How many of these aspects of the gospel are from God? All of them! That means the gospel is all about what God has done, not what we have to do. The gospel is truly the good news of grace, for one meaning of grace is that God does it ALL, thus we don't have to do anything!
What is the first thing it mentions that God has done for us? He reconciled us to Himself. What does that word 'reconciled' mean? It means He received us into favor and brought us into harmony with Himself! This is the very ministry or message He has given us to share. The good news isn't a message that people are terrible sinners or that God is mad at or estranged from them; the Gospel is the good news that God has reconciled us to Himself! God isn't our enemy, He has actually received us into favor and brought us into harmony with Himself! He is calling out to us that He is friends with us and has repaired the damage sin did to our relationship.
By Whom did God do this wonderful thing, restoring us to favor and harmony with Himself? He did it by and through Christ! God was present in Christ, reconciling and restoring who to favor with Himself? The world!! This was a shock to me. God hasn't just restored Christians to favor and harmony with Himself. He has restored the whole world! Had the world done anything yet according to these verses? No! ALL these things are from God, the verse says! NONE at all from mankind. So this means that without man's help, without man's turning to God, feeling sorry for sin, repenting, asking for help or forgiveness, coming and grovelling before God, begging to please let us back into His good graces, without all that, God has gone ahead and repaired the damage in the relationship, gone ahead and restored us to a place of His favor, a place in harmony with Him! But how can that be when the world is full of sinners? How can that be when our sin is so wrong and deserving of death. What is the way God, through Jesus, was looking at the world in regards to sin? He was not counting up or holding mankind's sins against them! Instead He was cancelling them! On the cross, God cancelled the sin debt of mankind. Through Jesus' death, God was not counting men's sins against them. That means our sins did not keep us from God, for they weren't counted against us but instead cancelled. In other words, God forgave our sins through Jesus' death on the cross..
This really shook my world the first time God revealed it to me! What does it mean to forgive? In the New Testament, forgiveness means to send away, to let go, to graciously restore one to another, to pardon, to let go free/loose a captive's bonds, to release a debtor and not press your claim against him, to acquit one accused of a crime and set him at liberty. Thus, when the verse says that God did not count men's sins against them but cancelled them, we see that basically what He did was forgive them. He did not press His claim against us sinners; instead He cancelled our debt and restored us to Himself in friendship and favor.
The gospel of grace is crazy and wonderful because it says God actually forgives the world before it repents! God actually justifies the ungodly. He receives sinners. He doesn't count mankind's sins against them. He truly has reconciled the world to favor and harmony with Himself by the work of Jesus on the cross!
So what do we plead with the world about? We plead with them to receive this divine favor that is given and BE (not seek to become or try to attain, but just BE what is already true) reconciled to God! The message of the gospel is that God has already become your friend, so receive that friendship! God has already reconciled you so be a reconciled person. Stop acting as if God is against you and our to get you, because He isn't..He is FOR you, you're in His favor. Favor means to show special regard to, treat with goodwill, show exceptional kindness to, treat with generosity far beyond what would be normally expected. That is the way God feels about us and treats you, His disposition toward you! God is favorable disposed toward mankind, not against mankind. God is not our enemy and never was. We made ourselves God's enemies, and He went and made us back into His friends, without our even doing anything, no questions asked! That is the wonder of grace!
But how could this be, you might be asking..God can't just overlook sin. He can't just forget about the injustices done in the world, the heinous crimes done to the unsuspecting. How could He just wipe the slate clean for the whole world, without anyone even needing to feel sorry or remorseful, without anyone even promising to change or clean up their act in any way? What does the last verse say that God did about our sin, for our sake? For our sake, He made Jesus to BE our sin. Did Jesus ever sin? NO. Did Jesus even have a nature to sin? NO. Did Jesus deserve to be punished for sin? NO. But out of love, for our sake, He became sin. What does it mean that He become sin? He identified with our sin and took on our sin. He was endued with sin for our sakes. He took our punishment, He took our mistakes, He took the ruin sin caused, He took it all into Himself. Why? So we could become the righteousness of God in Him!
So the Gospel in a Nutshell is 1) that God loved us and gives us life in place of death and also that 2) God for our sake gives us righteousness in place of sin!
Just what does it mean that Christ became sin so we could become righteousness in Him? Well, the answer is so big and wonderful that we want to really unpack it in depth, so let's take a look at that next time!