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Images of the Cross

Relationships
2 Corinthians 5.11-21
06 March 2011
Introduction

Pakistan Death of Shabbaz Bhatti Minorities minister

An unusually sombre start to a sermon for me. However, it clearly links us


back to Rob’s introduction of last week….what are you willing to die
for?.. and also takes us forward to this week when we are thinking about
the search for search for reconciliation which inevitably carries a cost.
Here was a man who not only believed the Gospel, but lived it, walking
closely in the footsteps of Jesus Christ Himself. As I understand it,
Bhatti’s concern was not simply the plight of his fellow Christians, but for
the whole of Pakistani society, that there should be freedom of conscience
for all and that all people should live together peaceably. He was, then,
not simply a Christian, but a Christian committed to the task of
reconciliation and he paid for is with his life. Sound familiar?!

Talk comes easy. Living it out is far more difficult

A theologian is born by living, nay dying and being damned, not by thinking,
reading, or speculating. Martin Luther

Before moving along, allow me a few words of introduction to the series


as a whole
‘The Cross….’ speaks for itself. ‘Images of the Cross’ needs expanding

o It impossible to confine an explanation of the cross to one approach!

Quote Ronald Wallace from Tidball pp.20,21

We must beware the danger of becoming ‘one club golfers’ which I am


afraid, to a considerable degree, Conservative Evangelicals have. We
thrash away with our favourite club of ‘penal substitution’ – nothing
wrong with that, it’s a good club, as Rob was saying last week – however
it’s a pity when there are a number of others in the bag!

The Lord has more truth and light to break forth from His holy word John Robinson

o Why would you want to do that anyway?

Evangelical spirituality is grounded on a meditation on the Cross in a way


that other spiritualities, even Christian ones, are not. At its heart are the
great hymns, songs and prayers that sustain and enrich our spirits. I’m
afraid that it is something of a cliché, but a diamond makes the point
perfectly…. If we don’t give ourselves the space to view the cross in its
full glory then our faith will become dull and lifeless.

Of course, as bible believing Christians we will demand that any image we


use is anchored in scripture. But we are surely also interested in what one
might term the pastoral significance of the cross – how a particular image
connects with the concerns and needs of Christian people. To take an
obvious example, the image of Christ as a slain, but victorious lamb used
in the Book of Revelation clearly spoke to the readers of that book. We
will surely also be seriously interested in the missional significance of the
Cross. For example, images of victory, which we will be thinking about
next week, worked well in the early Christian centuries when Christians
faced conflict and persecution. Images of the satisfaction of debt and
honour worked well in the Middle Ages when there was a feudal society.
Judicial or legal images worked well in the time of the Reformation when
people thought very much in those sorts of categories and so on. But none
of those, necessarily, speak to people in the same way today.

c.f. John Drane the Gospel and a Jazz band


I. The biblical background

Where is this image of reconciliation found in the scriptures?

o We could go back all the way to Genesis 3

Adam where are you?...

o We could trace the linked idea of God’s forgiveness through the


Pentateuch, the Psalms and the Prophets e.g. Psalm 103

o We could most certainly think about how reconciliation was taught


and practised by Jesus Christ on both the horizontal and the vertical
levels

His most famous sermon – Blessed are the peacemakers


His most famous story – The lost Son
His most famous visual aid – Holy Communion
His most moving words – Father forgive

However, as in so many cases, it is Paul who articulates and works out the
detail of this doctrine in several key passages of teaching

o In Romans 5.1-11, Paul speaks of the peace resulting from Christ’s


death on behalf of those who were God’s enemies
o In Ephesians 2, Paul describes the reconciliation that the cross has
brought about between Jew and Gentile
o In Colossians 1, he outlines the implications of reconciliation for the
whole cosmos
o In 2 Corinthians, Paul uses the image of reconciliation to describe the
nature of his ministry and, in effect, the shape of the Gospel

Reconciliation is mentioned five times in these verses


The logic of reconciliation, as Paul describes it in 2 Corinthians and
elsewhere, overlaps quite heavily with the logic of justification from last
week, but is a much more personal image, hence the title of the sermon.

o God loves us
o There is a problem
o God has done something to remove the problem
o The result, potentially, is peace
o Therefore respond to the good news

o God loves us

I think that Rob made this point last week, but in case he didn’t or you’ve
forgotten, let me repeat it, the cross did cause God to love us. He always
has loved us and always will love us even when we stand under His
judgement

e.g. Genesis 3 = no curse on humanity, though definitely judgement

Tom Wright in one of his books compares what happened on the cross to
an extinct volcano. Was Calvary like that, a one off, a massive explosion,
now concluded? The Cross certainly was a one off, but that ‘one off is
indicative of a massive eternal love lying constantly ‘under the surface’.

Though some don’t like it, ‘love for the sinner, but hatred for the sin’ sums
this truth up perfectly for me. We are God’s enemies, but He is not ours!

o There is a problem

: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s
sins against them

Part of the problem lies on our side. We don’t want God as Rob was
explaining last week. But part of the problem lies on God’s side. He loves
us as I have said, but cannot condone our sin. Hence we stand under
God’s judgement as well as His love
o God has done something to remove the problem

He has reconciled the world to Himself in or through Christ, that is,


through his death. Notice the stress on God’s action in the following
verses
18
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the
ministry of reconciliation:
: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s
sins against them

He did it by taking the sin of the world upon Himself


21
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become
the righteousness of God.

This sheer, magnificent grace.


6
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the
ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good
person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for
us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5

o The result is new creation (peace)


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Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the
new is here!
1
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we[a] have peace with God
through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into
this grace in which we now stand.

Peace, of course, represents not simply the absence of enmity, but the
possibility of a new depth of relationship and a new way of living. Which
is why the Gospel is about far more than the forgiveness of sins, important
as that is!
o Therefore believe the Good News

The reconciliation Paul speaks of is not automatic. Christ has paid the
penalty of our sins, but to suggest, as some do, that this means that I am
necessarily forgiven is to think in too mechanistic terms. Reconciliation
concerns people, it is personal, thus there must be an acceptance of the
offer of forgiveness by the one to whom it is offered or the process of
reconciliation will not have taken place.
1
As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. 2 For he
says,

“In the time of my favour I heard you,


and in the day of salvation I helped you.”[a]

I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.
II. The implications

a) We should be at peace with – reconciled to – God ourselves

God has made the most amazing offer. Have you and I accepted it? Like
the prodigal or lost son, have we made the journey home? Or at least have
we started down the road. Becoming a Christian is not a matter of simply
placing a tick in the box to say that we accept Christ as Saviour, it is a life
changing encounter with the living God. And so, as much as it is about
coming home, it is also about enjoying home, about feeling the strong and
warming embrace of those arms on our back.

The example of Dialogical personalism 

Martin Buber – I and Thou

God is not object, but subject


b) We should be at peace with – reconciled to – others

In 2 Corinthians we see clearly that Paul draws no hard and fast line
between the vertical and the horizontal in terms of relationship – though it
is, perhaps, a little more complicated than that as Paul is an apostle and so
represents God – nevertheless, taken in the round, reconciliation in Paul
and the bible, is clearly something that should and must extend out to
others.

We should seek to be at peace with others in our relationships in general –


at work, with friends, wives and partners, our children and our relatives
etc. though, of course, we can only remove the barrier from our side, we
can’t make others be at peace with us (and so, when you face that pain and
frustration, remember how God feels!)

Within seek to be at peace with others within the church in particular


3
Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

The Celtic v Rangers match

This is a very important outworking of the Gospel. Without it we might as


well not bother with seeking to preach a message because it will never be
heard. The church is a living community not a business

Have you build up a barrier against another person? Ask God to help you
take it down! It will not be easy, quite the opposite, it will be painful, for
reconciliation is always based on truth and we usually prefer not to face
that.

Quote from Moltmann biography


c) We should be peace makers – seeking to reconcile others to
God and to one another

Which means, first and foremost, that we should be evangelists, tellers of


the Good News
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We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal
through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.

How we do this is as important as that we do it

Quote Tidball pp.225, 226

But not just evangelists. In the name of Christ, we should seek to be


agents of reconciliation and peace in a broken and divided world.

Fair Trade

Sentamu quote