I have a passage of scripture to share with you that if you take time to dwell upon it, it will radically transform your view of God, and even your life. This is not a cliche or overstatement. It is transformative. But you will miss it if you only consider what the passage says in English. Understanding it requires a definition, an explanation of a single word. And that single word holds the key to a new life.
First, let’s look at the passage. It’s found in II Corinthians 5:17-18.
“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.”
Now, the first part of this passage is very well-known. If you are a true believer in Jesus then you are a new creation. But we tend to ignore the next statement, which tells us how God went about doing this. He “reconciled” us to himself. But, what does that mean?
Most people, when thinking about the word, “reconcile,” usually think about two parties estranged from one another who need to reconcile their differences. In such a reconciliation they come together, talk things out, make compromises with one another, agree on a new status, and thus become, “reconciled.”
However, that has nothing to do with this passage we are looking at. First of all, God does not negotiate over salvation or relationship. He is the sovereign Lord. He commands. We obey. Second, God doesn’t compromise. You can’t get God to back off of something he intends. Once he has made up his mind there is no going back. The only exception to this is repentance. God always leaves room to change things if we have true repentance.
So, with these truths in mind, what does the term, “reconcile” actually mean? For that we must go to the Greek. The word that Paul uses in this passage is, καταλλάσσω (katallasso). It does not mean reconcile as in two parties making compromise. Rather, it is purely a financial term. We would use this word to say something like, “I have reconciled my checkbook or my bank account.” καταλλάσσω literally means, an exchange of equal value. Did you catch that? Let me say it again, and let it sink in. An exchange of equal value. So, allow me to describe what Paul is saying. Through the cross, God exchanged you for Jesus as if you were of equal value to him. Right about this time you should be having a wow moment. God considered you—sinful, rebellious, selfish you—as if you were of equal value to his own sinless, perfect son.
How does that make you feel? But wait, there’s more!
When I consider the implications of this passage I am left with two takeaways that are transformative. First, God loves me as much as he loves Jesus—to no greater or less degree. This is staggering. We already know from scripture that there is no way we can merit God’s love or gain a relationship with him on our own account. To know God, God initiates, not us. Knowing how much God actually loves us should transform us. How will you respond to the kind of love God offers?
Second, because of this great love I can be as close to God in relationship as any great biblical figure—Abraham, Moses, David, Paul, Peter, John, any one of them. What keeps you from a close, vibrant, intimate relationship with God? You! There is nothing holding God back from expressing his love for you. What holds us back is us!
Think about these statements:
“Abraham, the friend of God” (II Chronicles 20:7; James 2:23).
“O Daniel, man greatly loved” (Daniel 10:11).
“The disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23; John 19:26; John 20:2).
Many people think that these men were so greatly loved by God because they were extraordinary men. But the reality is that they were normal men who were transformed by God’s great love. Before he was called, Abraham was a nobody. Before Daniel ascended to rulership he was a simple teenager. And who was John the Apostle? Just a young man Jesus called. What marks these men were not their deeds, rather, it was God’s deeds in their lives, and their response to him.
God loves you just as much as he loved them. And the close relationship they had? That can be yours too, depending on how you will respond.
You have been reconciled, exchanged, as if you were of equal value to Christ. How will you respond?