Calvary Road Baptist Church


Second Corinthians 5.20

My text for this morning, found in Second Corinthians 5.20, is “be ye reconciled to God.” However, before we turn to that portion of scripture, let me dwell on some grammar and the meaning of a single word for just a few minutes.

First, the grammar. There is in most languages a quality of verbs that is called “voice.” “Voice” is the quality of verbs that indicates the relationship of the subject of the verb to the action of the verb. A verb in the active voice means that the subject of the verb is acting, is doing what the verb describes. For example: “Bill is driving” lets us know that Bill is the one who is driving the car. Moreover, unless Bill is breaking the law he is sitting behind the steering wheel. A passive verb, on the other hand, means that the subject of the verb is being acted upon and is not doing what the verb describes. Instead, what the verb is doing is being done to the subject. An example of this would be “Bill is being driven.” In this case if Bill is not behind the wheel steering the car, someone else is. Bill is sitting in the car and someone else is doing the driving. Bill is being driven.

Am I communicating the main difference between active voice in a verb and passive voice? With active voice, the subject is doing it. With passive voice, it is being done to the subject.

Here is another look at active and passive voices in a verb. “Raymond is punching him.” That is the active voice of the verb “punch.” The passive voice would be “Raymond is being punched by him.” See the difference? You may not think the distinction between the active and passive voices is significant, but to Raymond it is the difference between sore knuckles and a black eye, a difference that to him is very significant.

Now, the word. The Greek word is pronounced “katallassw,” and it means to reconcile, to effect a change, to change, as in changing hostility into friendship.

Turn to Second Corinthians 5.18. In this verse, Paul writes, “And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ.” Now look at verse 19: “To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself.” In both of these verses, the subject of the verb “reconcile” is God and the verb is in the active voice, meaning that in both verses God is reconciling, God is effecting a change. My friends, these are the only two places in the entire New Testament where God is said to reconcile. In addition, in both places be careful to observe that it is God Who is reconciling, it is God Who is performing the action of the verb.

Let us take a few moments to consider another word, “apokatallassw,” which means the same thing; to reconcile, to exchange, to change hostility into friendship, but is a stronger expression.

In Ephesians 2.16, which speaks of Jesus reconciling both Jews and Gentiles unto God in one body by the cross, and Colossians 1.20, which refers to Jesus reconciling all things to Himself, we also see the active voice of the verb. You can look those two verses up later if you wish.

My primary interest before this morning’s sermon is to make you aware of how the passive voice of this verb is used in the New Testament. First, we will look at reconciliation between two people, and then we will look at man’s relation to God.

Turn to First Corinthians 7.11: “But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband.” In verse 10, Paul commanded Christian women not to leave their unsaved husbands. However, if she does leave for some reason other than her unsaved husband’s adultery, we see that in verse 11, she is to remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. Here the word “be reconciled” is in the passive voice, meaning that the subject, the Christian woman who has left her unsaved husband, is to be reconciled if she does not want to remain unmarried. That is, she does not initiate the reconciliation. She does not reconcile with him, but he must reconcile with her. I take this to mean that Paul does not want a Christian woman to leave her unsaved husband and later to initiate a reconciliation. If she leaves, she is bound to wait until her husband initiates the reconciliation. Thus, Paul removes from a Christian woman any permission to manipulate an unsaved husband. He commands her not to leave in verse 10. However, if she does leave, verse 11, she cannot go back unless he seeks to bring her back, presumably prior to any final divorce decree.

However, this is a side issue that is better left to another time. My real intent in showing you this verse is to expose you to an example of reconciliation that is not initiated by the subject. The Christian woman is to be reconciled, though she is not to do the reconciling herself. How can she do this? Only by acquiescing, only by submitting to the effort by her estranged husband to reconcile with her.

Now consider man’s relation to God. Romans 5.10: “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son.” Notice that here, too, the verb is passive. Paul and those he wrote to, the Christians in Rome, were, indeed, reconciled to God. However, reconciliation was something done to them and for them, not something they did or in any way initiated. How do we know? The verb is passive, meaning the subject of the verb, those identified as “we” in the verse, did not do the action of the verb. They were acted upon. Thus, we see that Paul and the Roman Christians did not reconcile themselves to God. They were reconciled to God by the death of God’s Son.

Second Corinthians 5.20: “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.” Paul, an ambassador of Jesus Christ, pleading on behalf of Jesus Christ, commands that the Corinthian Church members be reconciled to God.

Please notice that Paul does not command them to reconcile with God, which would be the active voice, and which would suggest that they are to initiate reconciliation with God. Instead, Paul commands, as an ambassador of Jesus Christ, that they be reconciled to God. That is passive voice. However, what does it mean? It means that those Corinthians were not to understand their response to Paul’s first Corinthian letter as in any way initiating reconciliation with God. You do not, you cannot, initiate any reconciliation with God! Instead, it meant they were commanded to not resist their reconciliation with God, to not resist the exchange of their hostility to God’s ways for compliance to His ways, to not resist the exchange of their carnal rebellion with God for peace with God.

Thus, all reconciliation between God and men is seen to be initiated by God and by the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no example in the New Testament wherein reconciliation between God and a man is initiated by that man.


“Be ye reconciled to God.” Addressed to Christians in Corinth, to be sure, but a phrase that can properly be applied to you who are here today without Christ.

With what justification do I apply this phrase to you who are not Christians, to you who are unsaved, to you who have never turned from your sins and come to Christ for forgiveness and cleansing and life?

Consider these:

Acts 2.38: “Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.”

Acts 16.31: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.”

Acts 17.30: “God . . . now commandeth all men every where to repent.”

First Peter 4.17: “What shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?”

Just four examples that show that it is appropriate to apply this text to you who are lost. Therefore, I stand before you this morning and declare to you, “Be ye reconciled to God.”

Why should you be reconciled to God? Imagine being reconciled to God. Apart from the astonishing revelation that you can be reconciled to God, let me ask for you why you should be reconciled to God? For three reasons, which I want to develop for you.


I want you to consider two things related to the issuance of this command passed on by Paul:

First, it is the nature of God to issue such a command to sinners. Consider Almighty God, creator of heaven and earth. Ponder one who is terrible in majesty, who is high and lifted up, whose glory fills the whole earth. Think on this One Who is infinite in wisdom, this One Who is a consuming fire, this One Who laid the foundations of the earth, and who spoke the universe into existence. Is it like this God to plead, to request, to ask for favors? Or is it like this God to command, to issue directives, to pronounce, to give forth edicts, and to declare? I tell you, by the authority of God’s holy Word, that the God of this Bible, the One Who broke up the fountains of the deep and judged the whole earth with a great flood, the One Who shall judge the quick and the dead, that He does not ask; He tells. He does not cajole, He commands. From Him is originated this command that you be reconciled to God.

Second, it is the nature of the Lord Jesus Christ to issue such a command to sinners. Read the gospels over very carefully. In those accounts of the life and lessons taught by the Lord Jesus Christ, I dare say you will not find the One Whose name is Wonderful, Counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace doing less than issuing directives, stating commands, or announcing orders. Oh, to be sure, when He was clothed with humanity before His glorious resurrection His majesty was not put on full display. He did not reveal His regal splendor except for a moment on the Mount of Transfiguration. But despite this concealment of His divine nature, consider the words which He spoke. At the marriage feast in Cana He said, “Fill the waterpots with water.” He did not ask. After He drove the moneychangers out of the Temple, poured out their money and overthrew their tables, He commanded (He did not ask) those who sold doves to take them elsewhere. These examples are in John chapter 2. To Nicodemus, in John 3, Jesus said, “Ye must be born again.” To the woman at the well, in John 4, He said, “Give me to drink.” Then He said to her, “Go, call thy husband.” To the nobleman He said, in the same chapter, “Go thy way; thy son liveth.” In Jerusalem, John 5, Jesus said to the impotent man, “Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.” Then He said to that same man, “Sin no more.” To prepare for the feeding of the 5000, He said, “Make the men to sit down,” in John 6. In addition, in John 8, to the woman taken in adultery, He said, “Go, and sin no more.” Many, many more examples could be cited. The point that I seek to make is that it is contrary to the very nature of the Lord Jesus Christ to request something of someone. Rather, He issued commands, directives, and orders if you will. He told people what to do, He did not ask them to do. Tenderly? Frequently, yes. With compassion? Many times. However, my point is that the holy One of Israel did not ask His subjects to obey Him; He commanded them to obey Him. Therefore, it is both reasonable and to be expected that the emissary of the Lord Jesus Christ, the one who spoke on His behalf, Who represented Him as an apostle of Jesus Christ, would make known His will with a command such as this. Do not expect the Lord Jesus Christ to ask you to come to Him, to request that you receive Him, to plead with you to acknowledge Him. My friend, you are this day commanded to be reconciled to God.


The very meaning of the word “reconciled” suggests the existence of a conflict of some kind. There is evidence of this conflict, from two sources.

First, secular history shows a conflict between God and man. Anthropologists have discovered in every primitive culture ever examined, before they were contaminated by advanced civilizations, what archaeologists have unearthed in their digs around the world where ancient forms of writing have been preserved. From the aborigines in Australia, to the cannibals on the island of New Guinea, to remote Indians in South America, there are ancient traditions of men rebelling against the original god, the first god, the god of gods. Anthropologists indicate that it is because of this great conflict the primitive and backward idolaters saw existing between their oldest god, and their god of gods, that their primitive religions were developed in a vain search to appease the offended god or gods. Their vain attempts are idolatries similar to those in Romans chapter 1. Archaeologists tell us the same thing. Ancient tablets found in Middle East digs tell of an ancient flood that came because of angering a god, bearing a striking resemblance to the Genesis account of the flood. Enough of details. The point that I seek to make here is that there is a universal record of a great spiritual conflict in the dim recesses of mankind’s collective cultural and archaeological memory. There is variation of the specific details from place to place, but they are all agreed on the big picture. Mankind is estranged from God.

The scriptural record bears witness to this conflict, as well. Only God’s Word actually provides a truly accurate record of this conflict because only the Bible is free from sinful man’s attempts to justify and excuse himself in his conflict with God. However, when the Scriptural record is compared to the secular record the parallels are astounding. The conflict arose, according to God’s Word, when our parents in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve, sinned against God, plunging themselves and their offspring born later into the darkness and depravity of sin and rebellion. Since that day when Adam first sinned mankind has been a race in rebellion against God, with enmity in his heart against his Maker. So great is the enmity for God that the apostle Paul rightly describes God and unsaved men as “enemies” in Romans 5.10. God’s enemy you are, my unsaved friend. Whatever God wants you do not want. Whatever God says to do you do not. Whatever His commands, you disobey. Love God? You do not love God. You hate God, ignore God, disobey God, refuse to honor God, refuse to serve God, despise His Word, and despise His Son Jesus Christ. I could go on. But God has commanded you to love Him and you do not, you will not, and you care not. Honor your mother and father? You do not honor your parents. You deceive them, mislead them, disobey them, take advantage of them, outright lie to them, and complain about serving them. You embarrass them with your childishness, humiliate them with your laziness, discourage them with your rebelliousness, and sabotage their efforts with their other children. Is there a conflict between you and God? There is a conflict between you and God. The conflict is serious. God has commanded that the conflict be resolved. To this end, He sent His Son Jesus Christ to suffer, bleed, and die, so that reconciliation can be made.


In Hebrews 10.30-31 we read, “Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” From these two verses, we can clearly see that some dreaded accounting awaits you unless you obey the command to be reconciled to God.

The nature of this dreaded accounting, the nature of this looming consequence, must reflect the very nature of God. Therefore, what do we know of God’s nature? Nehemiah described God as great and terrible, and as the great, the mighty, and the terrible God. In Job 13, we read that His excellency makes men afraid. In Job 37, we read that men fear Him because of His judgment, His justice, and His power. Psalm 47.2 reads, “For the LORD most high is terrible.” And what about Psalm 90.11? “Who knoweth the power of thine anger? even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath.” My friends, God’s nature is not like your nature or mine. You and I are finite, while God is infinite. You and I are flesh, while He is spirit. You and I are weak, while He is all powerful. You and I forget, while He remembers. Therefore, as God is fearful, the consequences of not reconciling with Him are fearful. As He is terrifying, so is His retribution to those who continue in their rebellion. In addition, it must be, since His consequence must be akin to His nature.

What is the consequence that looms on the horizon? Death. Hell. Flames. Torment. Weeping. Loneliness. Blackness. Falling. Regret. Guilt. Horror. Eternity. Writhing pain. “Please. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” “And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever.” “The people against whom the LORD hath indignation for ever.” “Thou shalt be cut off for ever.” “His anger did tear perpetually, and he kept his wrath for ever.” “Ye have kindled a fire in mine anger, which shall burn for ever.”

“Be ye reconciled to God.”

Here is your dilemma. Since you cannot reconcile yourself to God, because you are dead in trespasses and sins, the command is for you to be reconciled, passive voice. Only God and Jesus can reconcile a sinner. You cannot reconcile yourself to God. Yet you are commanded to be reconciled, lest you suffer an eternity of unimaginable torments. So, what should you do to obey God’s command to be reconciled to God, all the while being unable to reconcile yourself to God? Listen to this verse. Second Corinthians 5.18: “And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation.”

My friend, do not resist my attempts to bring you to Christ. Jesus Christ came to reconcile you to God. However, He is now at His Father’s right hand on high. Therefore, I “pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.”

Since I have been given this ministry of reconciliation, it is God’s plan for me to play a role in introducing you to His Son, Jesus Christ. That means you and I need to talk.

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.