Get Right With God
“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.”—2 Corinthians 5:20
I believe it is upon our nation’s reception to that word, that word from Heaven, that voice which speaks with authority from the Throne, that beseeching, pleading, earnest supplication and prayer that comes from the place of all authority and power, “Be ye reconciled to God,”that depends our future in this generation and for all time. Indeed, without it, any promise of any politician is merely a straw in the wind. What wonderful words they are! Not only because of what they reveal to us of the servants who are described as His ambassadors, but they are wonderful because of what they reveal of God Himself: “as though God did beseech you by us.” Here is God’s pleading, and with whom is God pleading?
You notice in this verse that the word “you” is in italics in both instances, and the verse would really read this way: “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech by us: we pray in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.”
You will recall that Paul has been speaking in verse 19 of a world that is already reconciled to God. Notice therefore that the plea is not to a few people, but it is as worldwide as is God’s tremendous power to reconcile the human race at the cross. The Corinthian church have already been reconciled; that is the whole implication of the message. They had experienced something of the buffeting as well as the blessings of the Christian life. That is what Paul has been talking about, and what we have been considering. They have known something of the affliction which is but for a moment, which is for a lifetime on Earth—the affliction that comes from being a Christian, from standing for God against sin. They face the judgment seat of Christ to give an account of the deeds done in their body. Consequently, it is the whole ransomed, redeemed church—reconciled, pardoned and Spirit-filled—that is now committed to this ministry of reconciliation.
We read in verse 17 that “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation; old things are passed away; all things have become new.” Then what is the next word? “And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation.” In other words, the “all things” that are new (because we now belong to the Lord Jesus) combine together with this one supreme purpose to extend to the whole world and are committed to this ministry of reconciliation: “as though God did beseech by us, we pray in Christ’s stead be ye reconciled to God.” This word is to be proclaimed by the church of Jesus Christ, by every redeemed man and woman in whose life all things have become new, and therefore all things are committed to this ministry. From the lips of every child of God there is going out to one hundred and fifty million people in the United States “Be ye reconciled to God!”, for the pleading of the heart of God is only made known through the lips of ransomed men and women, and the whole range of God’s pleading is as wide as the world which He has reconciled by the blood of Jesus Christ.
Here, then, is the voice that I pray the United States may hear at this tremendous moment. It is the voice of God, greater and mightier than any man’s voice could ever be, no matter how great they may be. Here is the voice that comes from the throne, and it is the pleading voice of the Lord Jesus, because when God pleads, Christ pleads, and when Christ pleads, God pleads. The two are one, that is the language of verse 20: “Ambassadors for Christ…We pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.” You notice how Paul interchanges Christ and God; the two are absolutely one. Here is the deity of our Lord revealed, and the great voice that comes from the Trinity in Heaven declares, “Be ye reconciled to God.”
I would stand in a sense of awe and worship, and in reverent amazement: here is God, the omnipotent, pleading! Almighty God, our fortress, our deliverer, our strength, to whom the nations are but a drop in the bucket, Who has all power in heaven and in Earth committed to Him—God pleading! Surely, this plea for the love of another, to beg that an enemy would put away his enmity, is the part of the one who is inferior, the one who has offended, the offender rather than the offended. It is the place of the rebel, not the king, to plead. But here is deity in the person of God in Jesus Christ breaking through all the patterns of human relationships and human precedence; here is God omnipotent in heaven bending down to this little planet in which there has been a total rebellion against His rule, and saying to the rebel race which lies helpless at His feet, “I beg you to be reconciled to God.”
Why should God do that? Because the rebel, though he be helpless, chained and absolutely powerless, is unconquered by heaven until his heart lies broken before God. Can you imagine it? Would God I had the lips of a Martin Luther, or a Wesley, or a Moody or even the archangel Gabriel, to bring this picture of a bending deity down at the feet of a rebellious humanity, pleading with them to be reconciled!
Can you imagine Eisenhower taking a trip across to Cuba and paying a visit to Mr. Castro and saying, “It was very wrong of you to steal all our property, but now, let’s be friends, I beg of you.” Can you imagine Prime Minister MacMillan taking a trip across to Egypt and saying to Mr. Nasser, “It was extremely bad of you to take all our property at the Suez Canal; but come, let’s be reconciled!” Of course, the thing is a sheer impossibility. It would never happen in human relationships, of course, and the illustration is very imperfect. It could not happen because both sides distrust each other, and would have motives that are not perfectly selfless.
Here, however, is God omnipotent, infinite love, lowering Himself to plead with rebels that they might accept His pardon. Did I say lowering Himself? I ought to have said exalting Himself, because here is the greatest thing about the love of God that He stoops down from the throne to where I am today, and pleads that I be reconciled to God. This represents, if it represents anything, that in the heart of God is a great longing that the creature that He has made might be reconciled to Himself.
“We are ambassadors on Christ’s behalf” (v. 20 RV). “We pray on Christ’s account,” as if to suggest that it means so much to Him if the rebel was reconciled, as though God, Who is absolutely self-sufficient and complete in Himself, yet could only see the travail of His soul and be satisfied, when one man allows the love of God in Jesus Christ to subdue his heart and silence the rebellion of his will. God is ready to stoop to any humiliation to achieve the reconciliation of the human heart, not for His sake, but for our sake. So intent was His desire for our love, because when we give it to Him and yield it to Him, it means our salvation, that He stoops to any depths in order to sue for our hearts rather than to lose us eternally.
This may raise an objection in the minds of some that I want to answer at this point, and it is this. “I don’t know what you are talking about. God is completely silent to me. The thing that baffles me is that He says nothing, He seems indifferent to all our problems and troubles, and the most amazing things about present day facts is that God is so silent and apparently indifferent.” But wait a moment, you are wrong. The message that God speaks at this time is, “Be ye reconciled to God,” for only in such a reconciliation can there be your deliverance. But how does God do this?
Observe the method which God uses. I would remind you of tears the Lord has shed as He sat and looked upon Jerusalem and said, “Oh, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, but ye would not!” “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” Oh, the intensity of the desire in the heart of our Lord, and the pain of disappointment as He wept over a city that refused Him!
See also the travail that God has experienced. There is one thing, which more than anything else, shows us what God is, what sin is, and what I am. It is the cross. Paul concludes the great argument of this portion of the letter by saying, “He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” Isn’t that the most earnest entreaty of all, the voice that would seek to pierce the darkness of these days? He was made sin for us to make reconciliation possible, to banish our rebellion, to put sin out of the sight of God forever, that His heart might be reconciled to bear our punishment instead. I don’t understand it, and I don’t expect any of us will until we get to heaven; but this much I do know, that whereas the offence of one man has involved the whole human race in rebellion, sin, total corruption and failure, so the obedience of one man, even obedience unto the death of the cross, can involve the whole human race in a glorious deliverance from the effects of our sin and can bring us back as reconciled to God. For the whole, ugly load of it has been heaped upon His head as He cried, “My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” Oh, the travail that God experienced to welcome us back!
You may say, “That is all history; it doesn’t work today. I don’t think God is speaking now in spite of what you say.” Isn’t He? Do you mean to tell me that God has not spoken to this nation in the last two decades? How often a very fond and loving mother would seek to draw her little child’s heart away from its faults and its sin by redoubling her kindness and love. How eager she is to overlook the faults, if not to excuse them, and to shower love and affection from her mother-heart, so that the little one may respond to the love of the mother and despise the things that are spoiling that little life. Isn’t that what God has done?
We have every one of us deserved His anger, but He has showered upon this nation in the last quarter of a century providential blessings that are unprecedented in the life of any country in the world anywhere. I say this without fear of contradiction that this land in which you and I live is the world’s most favored nation. You can go to any country you like, and you’ll see a contrast; you’ll see poverty, a lack of many of the things that this country possesses, and as you come back to this land you cannot help but come to the conclusion that here is a country to whom a merciful creator has given good measure, pressed down and running over. He has been doing to the United States of America that which He tells us to do just because He had done it Himself: “If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink; for in so doing, thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head.” In the providential mercy of a loving Creator-God, there has been heaped coals of fire upon the head of one hundred and seventy million people in this favored land in the last twenty years. Do you mean to tell me that God has been saying nothing? He has been most active, if I may dare to use the term reverently, in the life of the United States, when He has come with unrivaled power to the world’s greatest and most influential country and placed in her hands every providential blessing in order that through this land there may be speeded to the uttermost ends of the earth the evangelization of our generation.
However, I want to bring this message to a much more personal level. You say, God is silent, He has not spoken. Think of the tears God has shed; think of the travail God has experienced; think of the providence that God has given; think of the pricks of conscience that God has sent to every one of us. How many an inward prick of conscience has accompanied these outward tokens of God’s blessings? Do you mean to tell me that you could stand up and deny this? Do you say that there has never been a moment in your life when perhaps in time of loneliness, failure, disillusionment, disappointment, sadness and bereavement, there has not been a voice saying, “My son, give Me thine heart”? I don’t believe you, if you say there never has been. I am sure that every individual who is loved (and all of us are by a loving God) have known moments when God has supported the overwhelming outward evidence of His care by the inward stab of conscience. How many a strange longing has swept across your soul in the course of your brief life—a longing for companionship, a longing for love, a longing for friendship, a longing for assurance, a longing for someone to whom you could just take every care, a longing to find the strength to get you through, to pick up and send you on the road again when you are conscious of so much failure and disappointment. Do you mean to tell me that you have never known this? Of course you have; we all have. How our hearts have echoed the words, “Jesus, lover of my soul”! We have known it, and have heard His voice and the pleadings, but we have recoiled from it, misunderstood it, because we have not recognized it. We have silenced it, and turned away from Him, resisting the spirit of conviction. Yet while there is yet time, the word is “Be ye reconciled to God”!
That is the message that God speaks. If you want to know the method God uses, He has wept over you, toiled and travailed over you: He has given you all earthly blessings that you might be grateful to Him. He has spoken to the depth of your heart in many a hundred moments of bitterness and sorrow, and desperation. But so often you have recoiled from Him.
Finally, here is a paradox, for inherent in this verse is the man that God judges. What a mystery that a poor little speck of humanity like you and me has the power to lift its puny little self up before the throne of God and say “No” to all His beseeching love! God beseeches because He has no settled relationships between Himself and creatures like us that He has to do this in order to win our love. He cannot force us, He cannot pry open the human heart and force an entrance. The door opens from inside. “Behold I stand at the door and knock. If…” You ask a theologian to explain that “if” and he cannot; some of us could. “If any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in” (Revelation 3:20). The living God Who pleads and beseeches, stands at the door and the rest is left with the man on the inside. A mysterious prerogative, an awful responsibility is placed upon every one of us, and the act of refusal is so simple—only do nothing about it and you’ve done everything.
There are millions of people in this land today, in and out of churches, listening perhaps with unconcern who, all of their lives, have unconsciously been refusing the pleading of God. They are indifferent and passive; they hear it all often, but it does not produce any effect. This is the sort of thing they expect a preacher to say—he has been taught to say it, and they wonder why he gets so excited and concerned about it, and then after church, they discuss the weather or some other subject. Once more, not recognizing it as the pleading of God, they recoil against it and refuse it simply by doing nothing. That is the climax of all folly, for the refusing of His highest and best is choosing certain ruin.
Why is God so persistent? Why is He so patient, so passionate in His entreaties? Why must Jesus Christ die? Why was it worth His while to bear the punishment of our sins? Why does He let us go through this and that? Why does He speak to our hearts, time and again, in spite of our refusals? I’ll tell you why. Because He says, “They that hate me love death.” There is no alternative. “Be ye reconciled to God,” for enmity is ruin and destruction. There can be no stronger proof of the sinfulness of the human heart than that God should plead and I should steel my heart and deafen my ear to His voice. The crown of all sin and the disclosure of what we really are by nature, the secret of all true character, is that light has come into the world, but men have preferred darkness to light because their deeds are evil. “Choose you this day whom you would serve.” I beg you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.