The ministry of reconciliation in 2 Corinthians 5:18 refers to the work believers have been given to do and the message they declare: you can have a restored relationship with God through Jesus. The verse says this: “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”
The ministry of reconciliation involves the proclamation of the gospel and its assurance that forgiveness of sin is available in Christ. Sin prevents us from having a relationship with God, but Jesus’ perfect sacrifice on the cross made atonement for sin (Hebrews 2:17) and brought harmony to mankind’s relationship with Him. Jesus reconciled us to God. Now we can proclaim that people can repent of their sin and be right with God again through faith in Jesus (Romans 5:10; Colossians 1:20–21).
We need reconciliation with God because our relationship with Him was broken. God is holy and righteous, and our sin separates us from Him (Isaiah 59:2). Sin made us His enemies (Romans 5:10). On the cross, Jesus took our sin upon Himself, satisfying God’s justice. Jesus’ death made it possible for us to have peace with God, as 2 Corinthians 5:19 says, “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.” Now we can be called God’s “friends” (John 15:15) and Jesus’ “brothers and sisters” (Hebrews 2:11). Those who have been justified through faith (Romans 5:1) by Jesus’ blood (Romans 5:9) no longer have their sins counted against them. They are reconciled with God.
God has given believers the ministry of reconciliation; that is, He uses us to tell the world that they can be reconciled to God through Christ. In this way, we become “Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us” (2 Corinthians 5:20). Verse 19 describes this ministry of reconciliation as proclaiming “the message of reconciliation.” The message we are to share with the world is this: “Be reconciled to God” (verse 20). We are to tell people of the wonderful opportunity they have to be made right with God through Jesus. We implore them to believe in Christ. Sins do not count against those who are reconciled to God through Christ, because “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (verse 21).
This ministry of reconciliation is a big responsibility. God is “making his appeal through us” (2 Corinthians 5:20). The ministry we’ve been given to turn hearts toward God is urgent and it is vital—it’s truly a matter of life and death. Jesus paid the price for our reconciliation because God loves us (John 3:16), so we must share this message of reconciliation in love, and our lives need to reflect our message (Ephesians 4:1). Jesus is the One who saves, and the Holy Spirit is the One who convicts the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment (John 16:8), yet we have been given the privilege of being ambassadors for Christ.
Every believer plays a part in this ministry of reconciliation. One plants; one waters, and God brings growth (1 Corinthians 3:7). As we proclaim the gospel, we act as peacemakers, and God blesses such (Matthew 5:9). We tell and live out His message of reconciliation, lives are changed, and God gets the glory.