The Mission

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 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.  God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. [2 Corinthians 5:16-21]

So my wife and I had a big debate the other day about war and capital punishment.  Fundamentally it came down to a question of how we see the mission of the Church.

Her argument was that there are some people who are just so far gone, so deeply embedded in a life of sin that they need to be punished even to the point of death.  My argument was that all people regardless of what they have done are infinitely valuable image bearers of God who deserve a chance at reconciliation.

The problem with my wife’s argument is that there is no hierarchy of sins.  It is impossible to rank some sin as worse than others, some deserving of death and others not.  If as the Bible tells us, the wages of sin is death, then even so much as a white lie or a moment of covetousness toward your neighbour’s new car is disserving of a thunderbolt from heaven.  If God meted out justice like that I for one should have died a thousand times over.

The Old Testament is very clear about the need for reconciliation with God and lays out some specific punishments for sin designed to bring us back into communion with Him.   Faith in Jesus does not negate the need for that punishment, as some people may believe, rather as Jesus hung on that cross he took all of the sins of the world upon himself and paid the price of reconciliation.  Now when God says to me “here is your punishment” Jesus stands up and says, “I’ll take that on behalf of my friend father.”  Even though the crime is committed by me but the price of reconciliation is paid by Jesus.  So what Paul is saying in his second letter to the church at Corinth, quoted above, is that while sin has separated us from God, Christ reconciles us.

But it doesn’t end there.

Paul goes on to say that having been reconciled with God through faith in Christ we have a mission of reconciliation to the rest of the
world.  Therefore; it is not our job to help God punish sinners in any way, Jesus paid for every sin already but it is our job to be ambassadors and help everyone to see that the cheque for our reconciliation with God has already been picked up.  All that is left is for us to go back to God.

Put another way;

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  [John 3:16]


  1. This is one instance where there appears to be division in the teaching. Are you a Christ-follower, or are you a Paul-follower? It does not appear that Jesus and Paul held the same opinions.

    For example, Jesus told His followers not to toss pearls to swine (Matthew 7:6). In other words, don’t waste your time on intractable sinners. Also, who could forget how Jesus directed His disciples to condemn the towns which did not welcome them (Matthew 10:14-15)?

    I believe the scripture also supports your wife’s position about differences in sins. While the OT Law had ways to reconcile with God, not all of the ways were identical. If all the sins were equal in God’s eyes, then you would expect all of them to have the same punishment. Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is not the same as other sins (Matthew 12:31-32). Plus, Jesus mentions specific types of sins in a way that implicitly labeled them as worse than others, such as causing children to sin (Matthew 18:6-7). Jesus even ranks the level of “children of Hell,” as you see in Matthew 23:15.

    Be reconciled to your wife humbly. 😉

  2. I’ll have to do a little exigesis on the passages you are refering to and get back later. I don’t have time this morning as I’m late for an appointment but I will say that the overall theme of Christ’s and Paul’s teaching is for all people to be reconciled to God. Where Paul differs from Christ he is aware of it and clearly states that it is not from Christ but merely his opinion.

    The warning about casting pearls before swine and condemnation for those that don’t accept it is not about some much about actively condemning people as it is instruction to leave people alone who clearly don’t want to change.

    (Kind of like what I did with you LOL).

  3. I apologize in advance for giving you such a long answer but when you ask me to exigete scripture it’s never short.

    When we first met I recall having a long and drawn out discussion about context. As a result of that discussion I no longer read the bible one or two verses at a time. When you quote Matthew 7:6, before I can comment on the verse I have to read the whole chapter.

    So – The start of matthew 7 is about making sure YOU are right with God before you attempt to help anyone else, verse 6 in context then says that IF you are right with God and have any credibility with someone else and they still don’t listen stop wasting your time and move on.

    Matthew 10 is about blessing people who are interested in what you have to say. If they don’t listen the blessing will bounce back on you any judgement on that place is God’s business not yours.

    In Matthew 12 the Pharisees think that the only way Jesus can cast out demons is with the help of Satan. So he tells them no, that wouldn’t make any sense since that would mean Satan and his armies were divided against themselves. He then goes on to say that the only sin that can’t be forgiven is the sin of rejecting the one that offers forgiveness. Think about it – If you wrong me and I say “you are forgiven” but you tell me to fuck-off are you? Put more practically, if you were in need of bus fare and I hold out $5 but you slap my hand away, are you going to be able to get on that bus? It’s not the holy spirit that is condemning you, you are condemned by your own act of rejection.

    Matthew 18 isn’t really about children, it’s about enticing anyone weaker than you away from the forgivness they’ve already accepted. Back to the bus analogy it’s as if someone with you accepted my $5 but you ripped it from their hands and threw it on the ground. You’re both in trouble now but since hell is hell there isn’t any indication that you are going to have it any worse that anyone else.

    And Finally Matthew 23 is really the same argument as Matthew 18 in fact if you look at verse 13,14 it’s even more explcitly about blocking other people’s access. But who is more condemned as a result is deliberately ambigious, is it the pharisee who is double condemned or the one he is blocking? Depends on the translation, the greek itself is not clear, it’s a literary devise to give force to the message but when you really think about, how can you be doubly condemned? It’s like serving 2 life sentances, what are they going to do, leave the corpse in it’s cell for another 80 years?

    The bottom line here is that the message of Jesus and the message of Paul are the same on this point. The mission is to be reconciled to God and the best part is, it’s free all you have to do is accept it.

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