Spend the week studying 2 Corinthians 5:17-21. Consult the commentary provided and any additional study tools to enhance your preparation.
DETERMINE | which discussion points and study questions will work best for your group.
PRAY | for our pastors and this week’s message, the upcoming group time, your group members and their openness to God’s Word.
LANDING POINT | Jesus reconciled us to God by giving us a restored identity and purpose.
Remember the 4 Rules for Small Group Discussion
- Confidentiality. What’s said in the group stays in the group.
- No cross-talk. Be considerate of others as they share. Refrain from side conversations and texting during group time.
- No fixing. We are not in the group to fix each other. Jesus does that part.
- Sharing. Be sensitive to the amount of time you share. Don’t talk too much or too little. Every person brings something valuable to the group.
As your group time begins, use this section to introduce the topic of discussion.
Previously, you discussed how Jesus turns away God’s wrath (propitiation) and makes sinners right before God (justification) through the cross. Last week your group discussed redemption and how Jesus rescues us out of slavery to sin to live freely in God’s Kingdom.
This week your group will discuss reconciliation, the fourth theological aspect of the cross. Jesus restored the relationship that was lost when sin entered the world. Sin alienates us from God; it makes us enemies of God who live outside His will. His will is for us to enjoy a flourishing, intimate relationship with our Creator. The cross gives us a new identity (as children of God) and purpose (to be God’s ambassadors).
What comes to mind when you hear the term ‘reconciliation’?
Recall a time when you experienced reconciliation personally. What happened? What did you learn?
Select 2-3 questions to discuss as a group.
Reconciliation is “a term indicating a repaired relationship between persons or groups who were formerly at enmity with each other.”  When we think of reconciliation, we often think of a couple getting back together after being estranged or separated. Or maybe we think of two friends restoring a broken friendship. The Bible speaks of this kind of reconciliation, but it primarily refers to reconciliation between God and humanity.
Think of reconciliation as the effect of propitiation, justification and redemption. That is, a reconciled relationship with God is made possible only by what Jesus accomplished at the cross. You can’t have reconciliation if there is still hostility or separation between two parties. Therefore, Jesus ends hostility between God and humanity by turning away God’s wrath. Jesus justifies us, making us right before God (i.e., we’re no longer separated from God by sin). And His redemption frees us to live for God, not against Him.
Why is it impossible to have reconciliation if there is still hostility or estrangement between two parties?
What characterizes someone who lives for God? What about someone who lives against Him?
No more barriers
Jesus brings us into a relationship with God defined by peace. Sin builds barriers between God and us. Like Adam, sin causes us to run from God. Its shame makes us hide from God. This is not the relationship God intended for us. The cross shows how God came running after us in Jesus. He broke down the barriers sin created, calls us out of hiding and invites us to enjoy new life and peace with God.
Why does sin cause us to run and hide from God?
What would it look like to live a life without barriers between you and God?
Select 2-3 question from this section to answer.
In Jesus, believers have: 1) a restored identity and 2) a restored purpose. Let’s explore each of these and how they can be applied in life.
The Apostle Paul tells us that we are a new creation in Jesus. When you came to faith, God began a new creation in you. Because of Jesus, your past sin and failures no longer define you. The moment you trusted Christ, God began to restructure your whole life—your thoughts, words, actions and relationships—around Him.
At the cross, Jesus gave you a new identity by adopting you into God’s family. No longer is God your enemy. In Jesus, He is your Father. No longer are you a child of wrath. In Jesus, you are a child of promise. As a child of God, nothing can separate you from the Father’s love. This was the relationship God always intended for humanity.
Consider the following statement: “Because of Jesus, your past sins and failures no longer define you.” How can this truth be lived out practically?
What’s one thing you can do this week to remind yourself that you have a new identity as a child of God?
You were made for God. He created you for Himself and sent His Son so that you could be reconciled to Him. And God wants to be reconciled to others. His plan is bigger than you and your personal relationship with God. The Bible makes this clear when it says, “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.”
In Jesus, you have a new purpose: to be God’s ambassadors. God has called you to represent Him before others. And He has given you a message to share: the Gospel. The Gospel is the story of how Jesus reconciles to God through the forgiveness of sins. At the cross, Jesus atoned for sin by offering Himself as a sacrifice. This revealed God’s mercy, because He took the punishment we deserved. Jesus did all this to bring peace between God and humanity.
Why is it important to see the Gospel as “bigger than you and your personal relationship with God”?
Split the group into pairs. Take turns briefly sharing the Gospel story with each other and how the cross brings peace between God and humanity.
When you’re finished, discuss the exercise. What did you learn? What was challenging?
Select a question from this section to answer.
Ministry of reconciliation
Our new purpose gives us a new ministry. In it we call others to be reconciled to God. We do this by proclaiming the truth of God’s reconciliation through Jesus. But there’s more to this ministry than our declaration of God’s work. We must live out reconciliation. Like Jesus, we must seek reconciliation in relationships where there is none. Where there is discord, we seek agreement. Where there is hostility and hate, we seek peace and love.
People will be drawn to who you are more than what you tell them. So back up your words with radically different lives that point others to Jesus’ radical love.
Explain the following statement in your own words: “People will be drawn to who you are more than what you tell them.”
Consider one relationship in your life that needs reconciliation. How could you pursue reconciliation in that relationship?
Thank God for His reconciling work in you. Thank Him for taking initiative to give you new identity and purpose in Jesus. Pray to be a reconciling people who seek reconciliation in all areas of life. Pray specifically for relationships that need reconciliation. Ask God for the desire and opportunity to restore those relationships.
Midway through this week, send a follow-up email to your group with some or all of the following:
Memorize 2 Corinthians 5:17-18 and reflect on what it means to carry on Christ’s ministry of reconciliation.
Did you experience any breakthroughs in seeking reconciliation this week? If so, what did you learn from your experience?
United with Christ.
To be “in Christ” is to be united with Christ. Baptism is a powerful sacrament (or ritual) that images the believer’s union with Christ in His death and resurrection (see Rom. 6:5). Those who have been raised with Christ are a new creation.
This was Paul’s message to the Corinthians: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Cor. 5:17). If you are a new creation in Christ, God is working to bring your thoughts, desires, and actions into line with His; He is transforming you more and more into the image of His Son (2 Cor. 3:18).
It’s important to note that reconciliation includes more than God’s reconciling Himself to humanity. In Isaiah 65:17, God reveals His plan to restore all creation: “See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.” Christ ushered in this new creation and believers are evidence of God’s restorative work already under way.
An ambassador acts as a representative for another. Before His Ascension, Jesus told His disciples: “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8b). Jesus calls His followers to be His ambassadors and bring the good news of the Gospel (“the gospel of peace”, Eph. 6:15) to those who need to hear it.
2 Corinthians 5:21 tells us, “God made [Jesus] who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” In this statement, Paul summarizes the concept of imputed righteousness. This important term refers to how God imputed (or attributed) our sin to Christ and imputed Jesus’ righteousness (or obedience) to us at the cross. Imputed righteousness makes all four theological aspects of the cross possible.