Cosmic, Corporate, and Individual Reconciliation through Union with Christ (Part 4)

Ministry of Reconciliation through Christ

Our passage teaches us that “The God who reconciled the world to himself through the death of his Son, now actually appeals to the world, through his ambassadors, to be reconciled to him.”[1] We actually have a part to play in Christ’s cosmic mission. We ourselves do not bring reconciliation but we implore people to be reconciled to God. And the good news is, they can be reconciled to God in Christ (2 Cor. 5:21).

If we understand the precedence for union with Christ in the OT it shines light on what it means for us to be “ambassadors for Christ,” what it means to be “reconciled to God,” and how we can be encouraged in the process even when our message is “foolishness to those who are perishing” (1 Cor. 1:18). When we understand union with Christ in the way that I outlined above then it further encourages us that we are not mere bystanders but we are part of the Kingdom that we represent as ambassadors, in fact, we are “in” the King whom we represent. First, this fills us with hope because we are intimately aware of this King’s power. We know that regardless of what happens to us while we implore people, He is coming soon to establish His eternal Kingdom. We only need to be found faithful. Second, we understand “reconciled to God” not merely in the sense that wrath has been turned away (as true and as precious as this truth is!) but we understand that in Christ as “new creations” we can in a sense walk in the Garden again and have fellowship with God.

Third, while we are ignored rather than applauded while we implore people it is encouraging to remember all the promises our union with Christ represents. When we understand all that is foreshadowed by our union with Christ and all the wondrous promises it entails we will be emboldened knowing that we are not foolish to preach the gospel because we will understand the glorious good news that it is. We will also see the stark contrast of the bad news. When we implore and cry out: “Be reconciled to God!” We will know that there is absolutely no way to be reconciled to God save union with Christ. We will know that prophet, priest, king, and lamb all finally failed and succeeded only as they pointed to the One that could bring true eternal reconciliation. When we understand that union with Christ is foreshadowed in these ways we will be reminded again that all God’s promises find their yes in Jesus the Christ (2 Cor. 1:20).

Fourth, we will also be able to preach a broader, richer gospel. We will better understand the good news of the Kingdom through the cross. We will be more likely to proclaim the good news of salvation and forever shalom—cosmic, corporate, and individual—that comes through Christ the Savior. Understanding the OT precedence of our passage will better equip us to be ambassadors for Christ and help us to offer a more persuasive way to implore people to be reconciled to God.

It is important to strive to understand the precedence of Paul’s doctrine of union with Christ because it sheds light on Paul’s meaning. This is important because leaving out any aspect of the reconciliation that union with Christ brings will be thin and will not give Christ the glory that He deserves and we will also miss part of the good instruction that our hearts need. Theology matters and our minds matter, we see this all over Scripture and especially in Paul.[2] So, let’s praise God as we ponder what all might be the precedence for the Pauline doctrine of union with Christ.


[1] Kruse, The Second Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, 128.

[2] He instructs us to take every thought as a prisoner, capture them and make them obey Christ our Master (cf. 2 Cor. 10:5). Knowledge is good when rightly directed. That is, to Christ and His glory (cf. 1 Cor. 10:31). It was Paul’s custom to reason from the Scriptures and prove that Jesus was the Christ (Acts 17:2-4). This was not purely academic—it lead to worship or rejection, new life or death—but it was academic. Paul also repeatedly told his disciples to set their minds on God’s truth (cf. Rom. 8:5-6; Phil. 4:8-9; Col. 3:1-2) and not evil things. In Paul’s letters to the Corinthians, we often see the refrain “do you not know” (1 Cor. 3:16; 5:6; 6:2-3, 9, 15-16, 19; also Rom. 6:3, 16). In fact, Paul tells us that we cannot be saved apart from some form of knowledge (Rom. 10:13-14, 17). Yet, knowledge is not just essential in salvation but also in sanctification. We are transformed, in part, through knowledge (e.g. Rom. 12:2; Col. 3:10). That is why many of Paul’s prayers have as their goal the increase of knowledge (Eph. 1:17-19; 3:14-19; Phil. 1:9-11; Col. 1:9-10). We are to have a zeal for God, but it is supposed to be according to knowledge (Rom. 10:2). God rewards those who seek Him (Heb. 11:6), and our seeking of God is, at least in part, through knowledge. Yes, we worship God with our spirit through the Spirit—amen!—yet, we use our minds also (1 Cor. 14:15). The life of the mind in the Bible is a life supporting organ. Apart from it, the Christian would have no life; or, if he did, it would be small, sad, and stunted (1 Cor. 14:20; Heb. 5:11-6:3). Therefore, we must pursue knowledge/wisdom and we must pray for it. Our hands, head, and knees, so to speak, must be weary in pursuit (See Paul O’Brien, “Are You Mindful of Your Mind?” [ 12/30/are-you-mindful-of-your-mind/]).

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About Paul O'Brien

I am a lot of things; saint and sinner. I struggle and I strive. I am a husband and father of three. I have been in pastoral ministry for 10 years. I went to school at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary but most of my schooling has been at the School of Hard Knocks. I have worked various jobs, including pheasant farmer, toilet maker, construction worker, and I served in the military. My wife and I enjoy reading at coffee shops, taking walks, hanging out with friends and family, and watching our three kid's antics. :)

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