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Sermon Notes

Please note that these are only notes, not transcripts, and as such are not identical to the recorded sermons. They also contain frequent abbreviations.


    1. Have you ever fallen out with someone?

      1. Such a situation can have devastating effects upon a family.

        1. Have you every wronged someone or been wronged by someone so that hurt feelings were such that a friendship was on the brink of collapse.

        2. Do you know what it is like to lose a friend so that you can no longer be in their company, speak with them or enjoy a cordial relationship with him?

        3. Perhaps you know of someone where there is a long-standing family feud.

      2. When such a situation occurs there is need for urgent reconciliation.

        1. There is the need for one or both to admit their faults, ask for forgiveness and make amends.

        2. In this way, the bonds of friendship and even marriage can be preserved.

    2. More serious than a family feud or the threat of divorce is our alienation from God.

      1. Isaiah 59:2 explains that our iniquities (our sins) have separated us from God.

        1. They have done so because God is holy: He cannot abide sin for a moment.

        2. Our sins are the expression of our hatred for God, so that we declare to God: We are your enemies, we will not submit to your Lordship.

        3. Such highhanded rebellion deserves swift and terrible punishment.

      2. You would expect, that, given such rebellion, God would simply destroy us but the Gospel proclaims the opposite to us.

        1. Instead of destroying us as incorrigible rebels God reconciles sinners to Himself.

        2. He does this through the death of His Son on the cross in such a way that His justice is fully vindicated and we are fully saved.

        3. And He sends Paul and a whole army of preachers to proclaim the glad tidings: God has reconciled the world unto Himself. Repent and believe this Gospel.



I. The Meaning

II. The Accomplishment

III. The Proclamation



    1. Reconciliation is the restoration of a broken friendship.

      1. [Among humans] The basic idea of the word “reconcile” is to “change” or to “exchange;” and thus, to change enmity into friendship, or to exchange alienation for fellowship.

        1. If fellowship is enjoyed between parties, it is nonsensical to speak of reconciliation. Reconciliation only becomes necessary when the relationship breaks down.

          1. A man and his wife who live together happily do not need to be reconciled to one another; children who play happily together in the playground at school do not need to be reconciled to one another; nations which live in peace as political allies do not need to be reconciled to one another.

          2. But because of the dreadful reality of sin, men and women and children can very easily destroy friendships: alienated friends, jilted spouses, broken homes and war between nations are evidence of that.

          3. Because of sin peace is elusive in this world: it is rarely found and rarely maintained.

        2. When relationships break down so that parties are no longer able to live in friendship reconciliation becomes necessary.

          1. When a husband and wife no longer live as friends but are constantly fighting so that divorce is a real threat, reconciliation must take place by means of confession and forgiveness, so that the marriage can be saved and communion restored.

          2. When long-standing allied nations threaten war, reconciliation becomes imperative if terrible suffering and bloodshed are to be avoided and nations are to remain in a peaceful relationship.

          3. Or, if two friends fall out for whatever reason so that they can barely look at or speak to one another, reconciliation becomes necessary so that fellowship can be enjoyed again.

        3. Among human beings reconciliation is usually two-sided; both parties are at fault, and both parties are involved in bringing about a restoration of the relationship.

          1. Although men speak in divorce cases, for example, of the “innocent party,” the reality is that there is very rarely, if ever, an innocent party among men.

          2. There is often one who contributes more to the breakdown of the relationship but usually a relationship falls apart because of faults and sins on both sides.

          3. And when it comes to reconciliation both parties need to be willing to sit down, confess their sins to one another, admit how each contributed to the problem and work out a solution.

      2. [God] The reconciliation of the text is the reconciliation which God works: God who hath reconciled us” “God was in Christ reconciling …”

        1. Just as reconciliation among men presupposes a relationship (one does not reconcile strangers to one another), so reconciliation here presupposes a relationship between God and men.

          1. In other words, reconciliation presupposes the covenant. God did not create man and then enter into a mutual agreement with man as the covenant of works doctrine asserts; He created man (Adam and Eve) in a covenant relationship.

          2. The covenant in which Adam was created was a relationship of friendship in which Adam enjoyed communion and life with God in the Garden, walking with Him, talking with Him and experiencing God as the highest and the sole good.

          3. In this covenant relationship God made Adam in His own image so that He knew God and was able to serve Him; He made Adam the king over all creation and He even called Adam His son.

        2. But Adam violated that blessed relationship of friendship and became God’s enemy by siding with God’s arch-enemy, the devil, and disobeying God, his Heavenly Friend.

          1. When Adam and Eve listened to the serpent and disobeyed God they declared to Him: We do not want to be your friend, God; we want enter into an alliance with the devil.

          2. This is clear from Gen. 3:15 where God declared that He would put enmity between the serpent (devil) and the seed of the woman; the putting of enmity suggests that there was previously friendship between the devil and man.

          3. And so long as Adam and Eve remained friends with the devil they could not be friends of God.

        3. Adam and Eve were now in a state of guilt and in a condition of total depravity, and it was impossible for them to remain friends with the Most High and Holy Triune God; and all of their descendants were born in exactly the same state and condition. We were!

          1. But, notice, here we can speak absolutely of THE innocent party. God created Adam and Eve in fellowship with Himself; He gave them all things (including Himself) to enjoy, and gave them every reason to remain faithful to Him.

          2. Adam and Eve (and all men in them) are THE guilty party: they (and we) acted treacherously; we are wicked traitors and rebels against God.

          3. And, now as a consequence we are by nature God’s enemies: God sees us as such and we treat Him as such and all men die as the enemies of God unless they are reconciled to Him.

    2. Beloved, the Gospel is this: God has reconciled us unto Himself; the covenant which we have violated God has restored so that men, women and children (natural enemies of God) again enjoy God’s friendship.

      1. Notice, first, that this is entirely the work of God. That has emphasis in the text (“God who hath reconciled …” “God was in Christ, reconciling …”).

        1. That is amazing, you know: we did all the work of destroying our relationship with God and He has done all the work in restoring it.

          1. The wronged party – God – is the one who took the first step, indeed all the steps, to make His enemies into His friends.

          2. That is God’s great love for His people: they betrayed Him, they spat in His face, they turned their backs on Him, they declared war on Him, but God would not let them go.

          3. If God had left it up to us to initiate reconciliation we would all have perished: we did not seek it, we did not want it, and we had no ability to accomplish it.

        2. The Bible speaks of God reconciling us to Himself but never of God being reconciled to us.

          1. Reconciliation, remember, means a change or exchange: but God never changed. When we violated God’s covenant in Adam, we changed, God remained faithful.

          2. Reconciliation, then, does not mean that God hates His people and then is somehow persuaded to love them again: He reconciles us to Himself because He loves us.

          3. God does not have to be reconciled to us; we have to be reconciled to Him; and God did the work of reconciliation.

        3. Since God condescended to seek after those who were His enemies, what an example He has given us in our relationships with our neighbor.

          1. Compared to this, all our little disagreements are petty and foolish, but how reluctant are we to take the first move! “Why should I have to go to him and seek to be reconciled, let him come crawling to me!”

          2. But, where would we be if God had taken that attitude with us: “So, you want to be friends with the devil, do you? Well, fine; I wash my hands of you.”

          3. God loved us so much that He would stop at nothing (not even the death of His beloved Son) to restore us to His fellowship; let us love one another in like manner.

      2. Notice, second, that this reconciliation was God’s great work throughout history and that it is now a completed work.

        1. God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself. He was busy preparing for this great work throughout the Old Testament in Christ, in type and in shadow, until Christ, the great Reconciler, finally came.

          1. God announced the Reconciler immediately after the Fall: by means of the seed of the woman God would restore friendship between Himself and His people.

          2. God prepared for this reconciliation throughout the OT: He chose Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and the children of Israel, and preserved a people through whom the great Reconciler would come.

          3. God pictured to His people both the necessity and the reality of the promised Reconciliation in the OT sacrifices, in the tabernacle, etc, so that God’s people were taught to long for the day when fellowship with God would be restored in all its fullness.

        2. Now, declares Paul, God has reconciled us Himself, and not only us, but the world of Jews and Gentiles, including the believers in Corinth.

          1. God was justly angry with us: we were before Him His enemies with whom He could not have fellowship, but with whom He was determined to establish friendship.

          2. But, now, reconciliation has been accomplished: the barrier between the guilty sinner and the holy God has been removed.

          3. Nothing more needs to be done: God has accomplished what seemed to be impossible: He has reconciled us to Himself.


    1. For reconciliation to be accomplished the obstacle which we had set up between ourselves and God had to be dealt with, our “trespasses.”

      1. Our trespasses made a cordial relationship between us and God impossible: the holy God cannot be friends with unholy trespassers of His Law.

        1. Our trespasses are deliberate deviations from the path of righteousness, which make us liable to punishment.

          1. In trespassing against God we have declared war on God, and God can only view us as enemies.

          2. What misery: to be enemies of the true and living God, to set ourselves in opposition against the Almighty and Holy God!

          3. How foolish and how vain to oppose the sovereign of the universe; and how wicked, to rise up in rebellion against the God who gives us life and breath and all things!

        2. But the text makes this astounding statement: God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them …”

          1. The world which God reconciles unto Himself has trespasses, make no mistake, and those trespasses make the world the enemy of God, but God does not impute trespasses unto them.

          2. To impute trespasses is to reckon trespasses to the account of someone, to lay trespasses to the charge of someone and to treat him accordingly as a guilty criminal.

          3. So long as God imputes trespasses unto us, we cannot be considered His friends; but, blessed news, God does not impute trespasses to us whom He has reconciled unto Himself.

        3. In fact, “not imputing trespasses unto them” means forgiving them all trespasses and sins.

          1. In reconciling you unto Himself God has forgiven your sins: He will never charge them to your account; He will never punish you for them; in fact, He will never bring them up again.

          2. In not imputing your trespasses unto you it is as if your sins never happened: they are gone, forgiven and forgotten forever!

          3. But, you say, my sins are so great; you cannot possibly know the depth of them: God says to you who believe in His Son, “Thy sins and thy iniquities I remember no more!”

      2. Paul writes that it is the world to whom God does not impute their trespasses (“reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them”).

        1. It is true that everyone in the world head-for-head stands in need of reconciliation because everyone has trespassed against God, but it is clear from Scripture that not all are reconciled to God.

          1. Reconciliation is the non-imputation of trespasses: but there are many to whom God indeed imputes trespasses.

          2. There are many who live and die under the terrible burden of their own trespasses, and who suffer God’s just vengeance against them for those trespasses forever in hell.

          3. In no sense, then, can it be said of such that God reconciled them to Himself: forever He treats them as enemies; never does He embrace them as friends.

        2. Since this is true “the world” which God reconciles to Himself is not the entire human race, but only the elect within the human race.

          1. Remember that Paul is writing to the Corinthians who were outright pagans: they would have appreciated the distinction between the Jews and the world.

          2. Remember, too, that the text does not say, “God was in Christ, trying to reconcile as many as possible in the world to Himself … but the world unto Himself.

          3. Either “world” here means the entire human race and ALL without exception will be saved (which Scripture does not teach); or “world” here means the entire human race but “reconciliation” does not actually mean that God does not impute trespasses (which overthrows the Gospel of reconciliation) or the text means that God does not impute trespasses to the “world” in the sense of God’s people from every nation, tribe and tongue (the only correct view).

    2. This reconciliation, this non-imputation of trespasses, was accomplished by the Triune God by and in Jesus Christ.

      1. When Paul writes concerning the trespasses of the world that God did not impute them to them (not imputing their trespasses unto them”) he meant that God imputes them somewhere, to someone else.

        1. That “someone else” is Jesus Christ Himself the Son of God who suffered for our sins.

          1. God reckoned the trespasses of the world which He reconciled to Himself to the account of Jesus Christ, so that Jesus Christ became legally responsible for those sins.

          2. God lay the trespasses of the world which He reconciled to Himself to the charge of Jesus Christ and accordingly the full weight of the Law fell upon Jesus Christ.

          3. In order for God again to embrace us as His friends He treated His Beloved Son as if He were His enemy.

        2. Jesus Christ fulfilled the double requirement of the Law: He rendered perfect life-long obedience to the Law, and He suffered the vengeance of the broken Law.

          1. The Law stands before every man and says, “You owe to God perfect obedience” and no man can or will obey the Law.

          2. The Law stands before every man and says, “You must pay for every violation of God’s Law,” and no man is able even to begin to pay that debt.

          3. But, out of perfect love for the Triune God and out of perfect love for His people Jesus Christ assumed responsibility to obey the Law and to pay for all our violations of that Law.

      2. The imputation of our sins to Christ was necessary because Christ had to die to reconcile us to God.

        1. Nothing short of the death of the Son of God in human flesh could reconcile us to God.

          1. Had Christ simply come and preached to us how much God loves us, in order to try to melt our hearts in love for God, that would not have brought reconciliation.

          2. It was not enough that Christ give us moral teachings and leave for us an example of righteous living, that would not have brought reconciliation.

          3. If Christ had not died, God’s wrath would still be upon us, and we would still be His enemies living and dying in rebellion against Him.

        2. But, Christ could not suffer the penalty of death unless He stood before the Law with the legal status of a lawbreaker and a sinner.

          1. Christ personally never sinned: He had no original sin, He committed no actual sins, He had no sinful flesh. In no sense did He deserve to die for His own sins.

          2. But Christ willingly took on Himself the legal responsibility for the sins of all those whom He represented; and God imputed to Him our guilt.

          3. Before the Law, then, Christ was constituted a sinner and punished accordingly.

        3. As a result of this legal double imputation – our sins to Christ and His righteousness to us – God declares us to be His forgiven friends and declares that we are worthy of the “all things” of verse 18.

          1. Christ’s death which reconciled us to God purchased for us the right to have Spirit who makes us into new creatures.

          2. God makes all those for whom Christ died and them only new creatures in Christ Jesus so that for them the old has passed away and all things are made new.

          3. As new creatures in Christ we have the life of Jesus Christ, we are indwelt by the HS of Christ and we experience friendship with God in Christ.


    1. Everything which God has done in Christ would be in vain if God did not make it known.

      1. Indeed, if God told nobody about the reconciliation in Christ it would show that He is not really serious about restoring friendship with His people.

        1. For friendship actually to be restored the work of Christ has to be appropriated by faith.

          1. Only when we believe in Jesus Christ do we become reconciled to God so that we consciously enjoy fellowship with Him.

          2. Only when we repent of our rebellion against God and come to Him seeking forgiveness in the blood of Christ, do we know that God is our Friend for Christ’s sake.

          3. But how can we believe except we hear that reconciliation has been accomplished?

        2. The one who does not believe and who does not repent will die under the wrath of God as an enemy of God.

          1. His final impenitence and unbelief show that he never was one whom God reconciled to Himself.

          2. And therefore he will show by his unbelief that he is not one for whom Christ died.

          3. For Christ only died for those who are actually made God’s friends by virtue of His death.

      2. Therefore, to make known the glad tidings that God has reconciled His people to Himself, God sends an army of preachers to proclaim the Gospel.

        1. In verse 20 he calls these preachers “ambassadors” official representatives of the Government of Heaven.

        2. And in the text we consider Paul calls this the ministry and the word of reconciliation.

    2. This is astounding when you think about it: you would expect that a holy God would declare war on sinners, not send messengers to announce to them reconciliation but this is exactly what He does.

      1. Writes Paul, “And [God] hath given unto us the ministry of reconciliatio” (v. 18).

        1. The content of the ministry of the Gospel is the word of reconciliation, the truth that God has reconciled us unto Himself by the blood of His Son.

          1. To men is to be proclaimed the truth that God who is justly offended by our sins is just and justifies all those who believe in His beloved Son.

          2. We do not have to reconcile ourselves or find some way in which we can appease the anger of God against our sins: God’s anger has been appeased.

          3. That’s the message which Paul brought to Corinth and that’s the message I bring to Limerick.

        2. This is a gift of God’s grace (“hath given”) to the Apostle Paul, and by extension, to all true preachers.

          1. What a gracious God we serve: not only has He made enemies His friends by removing the cause of that enmity (our trespasses) but He has made us instruments in making this reconciliation known to others.

          2. Paul had been an enemy of God in Jesus Christ, who hunted down Christians in an attempt to destroy the Church and blot out the name of Jesus Christ.

          3. Now Paul has the great privilege to proclaim reconciliation through the same Christ He tried to destroy.

      2. [Concl.]: Without the ministry or reconciliation and the word of reconciliation there will be no actual reconciliation.

        1. Those whom God has reconciled to Himself must hear the Word of God that reconciliation has been accomplished.

        2. And they must hear that Word through men whom God Himself has appointed to that work, weak sinful men, who themselves (like Paul) have been reconciled to God by the blood of Jesus Christ.

        3. Hear those men, beloved: God has become your friend thru Jesus Christ; live as His friends, therefore, Amen.