2 Cor. 5:20 and 6:1, 2, “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. We then, as workers together (with Him), beseech (you) also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain; for He saith ‘I have heard Thee in a time accepted and in the day of salvation have I succoured Thee.’ Behold now is the accepted time: behold now is the day of salvation.”
Attention is directed to the sentences, “Be ye reconciled to God,” and “Now is the day of salvation.”
“Be ye reconciled to God.” Generally regarded as an exhortation to unconverted persons to make their peace with God—i.e., to take such steps as shall lead Him to overlook their sins and receive them favourably for Christ’s sake. This sentiment is embodied in the following lines, evidently founded on this passage. “Our Own Hymnbook,” by C.H. Spurgeon, No. 519:
“Sinners, you are now addressed,
In the name of Christ our Lord;
He hath sent this message to you,
Pay attention to His word.
“Think what you have all been doing,
Think what rebels you have been;
You have spent your lives in nothing
But in adding sin to sin.
“Yet your long-abused Saviour,
Sends to you a message mild;
Loathe to execute His vengeance,
Prays you to be reconciled.
Hear Him woo you—
Sinners now be reconciled.”
[In the same volume may be found the fine verses given on pages 56 and 57 of this work, “Hail Mighty Jesus!”—“Our Own Hymn-Book,” Psalm 45, version 4. May it not be inquired whether the Mighty Jesus, at whose “commanding word” “the stoutest rebel must resign,” is the same Saviour who stands loathe to execute His vengeance, and woos rebels to be reconciled? If He is, one of the hymns embodies a strange libel on His character.]
“Now is the day of salvation,” ordinarily employed as the basis of an exhortation to sinners to avail themselves of the present day (of twenty-four hours) to become religious and close with the Saviour’s offer of mercy.
“Sinner,” says C.H. Spurgeon, “now is thy time to think about eternity, and prepare to meet thy God. Seek Him in the days of thy youth; for the promise is, “They that seek me early shall find me.’ I charge thee, since there is only a ‘day of salvation,’ before the sun goes down, and the black night of ternal ruin shall come upon thee, lay hold upon the hope that is set before thee.”
Again Our Own Hymn Book, No. 516:
“Today a pard’ning God
Will hear the suppliant pray;
Today a Saviour’s cleansing blood
Will wash thy sins away.
“But grace so dearly bought,
If yet thou wilt despise,
Thy fearful doom, with vengeance fraught,
Will fill thee with surprise.”
Again in No. 519, we read—
“In Christ’s name you are entreated
To accept this act of grace,
This, the day of your acceptance,
Listen to the terms of peace.
“Having thus, then, heard the message,
All with heavenly mercy fraught;
Go and tell the gracious Saviour
If you will be saved or not.”
Our verses then are regarded as proving that salvation is contingent on the consent or refusal of sinners.
Consider, however, that St. Paul is addressing the Corinthian church. The texts, therefore, are not addressed to the unregenerate. Internal salvation comprises reconciliation to God, which is an essential branch of the Spirit’s work. All saved sinners are reconciled to God by the death of His Son (Rom. 5:10). “You that were sometimes alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, now hath He reconciled” (Col. 1:21).
We may, however, cease to be enemies of God without being fully resigned to His will, and delighting in His character and conduct. Many true saints fail to “do all things without murmurings and reasonings, or disputings” (Phil. 2:14. Hence the propriety of exhorting them to be cordially reconciled as dear children, to their Heavenly Father. In two senses—
1. Doctrinally. From the many Jewish allusions in these Epistles it is evident that no small proportion of the Corinthian saints were of the seed of Israel. St. Paul’s desire may, therefore, have been to exhort them to abide by the truth of Justification by Christ, without the deeds of the Law. See Israel Atkinson, in Gospel Herald for 1873.
Thus a Christian who opposes the doctrines of sovereign grace on the ground of certain intellectual and sentimental objections, may well in the present day be exhorted to be reconciled to God’s way of salvation, because it is God’s.
2. Experimentally. It is more generally held that the Apostle meant “Wherever you have thought that God has dealt hardly with you in Providence, be satisfied that all is for your good; be resigned to His will in all things, and view every thing that proceedeth from Him in Providence and Grace as consistent and just, and obey Him, accordingly.”—Charles Drawbridge.
It has been urged that it is irrational to suppose that the Apostle would thus appeal to persons who were already reconciled to God. It is, however, common in Scriptures for possessors of a certain grace to be exhorted to exert it to the utmost extent of their spiritual ability. Thus St. John writes to those “that believe” that they “may believe” 1 John 5:13.
The special reason for the Corinthians’ fully acquiescing in the will and ways of the God of their salvation is given in verse 21: “Be ye reconciled; for He hath made,” etc. The great love of God that was manifested in the gift of His Son, and the transference of our sin to Him, is an argument for our depending on Him in all other things, and bowing to His will.
He then exhorts them not to receive God’s grace in vain (explained on page 117—Compare 1 Cor. 15:10, “His grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all.”), and as a motive for their seeking to avoid doing so, he urges the consideration of chap. 6, verse 2, where notice—
1. THE PASSAGE QUOTED—Isa. 49:8. In this chapter Christ is introduced as claiming the attention of the Gentiles (verse 1) to the fact that Jehovah the Father had called Him from the womb of the Virgin Mary, His mother, and invested Him with authority and power (verse 2). His ill success amongst His own people is then referred to—for He did not succeed in bringing (national) Jacob again to God, or in raising again the tribes of Jacob to national supremacy. Of this He complains, expressing the pitying love and sorrow of His human heart. The Lord, however, replies that though Israel be not gathered—i.e., though the Jews did not believe in Jesus as the Messiah, and were not gathered (Matt. 23:27), yet should Emmanuel be glorious in the eyes of the Lord, and His God should be His strength (verse 5). It is further predicted that in an acceptable time He would be heard, and helped in a day of salvation—the verbs in verse 8 being in the prophetical past tense, which bears a future signification. Thus 770 years before the advent of Jesus it was foretold that though He should be rejected by the Jews, the time of His acceptance would come—the day of His salvation would arrive—i.e., the time when He would be accepted and received into Heaven, as the Representative, Priest, and Forerunner of His people, and that He should then successfully prosecute the work of salvation. Notice—
2. ST. PAUL’S EXPLANATION of the passage cited, “Behold now IS the accepted time,”—i.e., the time predicted by Isaiah, the time of Christ’s acceptance in the upper temple. “Behold now IS the day of salvation,” i.e., we are actually living in the period foretold by the prophet.
The day referred to is, then, not a period of twenty-four hours, but the term is used metaphorically, in contradistinction to night. “When Adam fell, darkness covered the earth. God placed, if I may so speak, a star in the heavens, over this dark world—the first promise. Then, one by one, He caused others to shine; then thousands appeared. In Solomon’s time, the moon shone brightly; but it was the night, not the day of salvation; and God took His saints home by the glimmering light of the stars of promise. At length Jesus came—the Sun of Righteousness arose, and the presence and sacrifice of the Saviour put an end to night, and brought in the Gospel day—not a day of twenty-four hours; but the day that extends from the death of Christ to His second coming. ‘The darkness is past, and the true light now shineth’ (1 John 2:8)”—John Hazelton.
Thus the Corinthians were exhorted not to receive their grace to no purpose, so far as the world and their fellow Christians were concerned, inasmuch as they were going to their eternal home by daylight, and possessed an abiding interest in the accepted and glorified Redeemer.
The great and godly Archibald McLean objects to the above interpretation on the ground that “the pronoun ‘you’ is not in the Greek. The Apostle,” he therefore judges, “is not here urging the believing Corinthians to be reconciled to God, for He considered them as already reconciled; but he is setting before them the Apostolic message to the world at large, as appears from the foregoing verse; and therefore the supplement out to be men or the world.”
In reply, we admit that the two “yous” are not in the original, and concede that we may, and perhaps should, read “As though God were entreating by us, we beseech on behalf of Christ—Be ye reconciled to God.”
John Stevens, however, clearly shows that the introduction of the word “men,” in the place of “you,” would interfere with the evident scope of the passage which consists of an address to the Corinthian Church.
Moreover, this interpretation would flatly contradict verse 18. There it is distinctly stated that the Reconciliation is a Divine operation in which, God works alone. “But all things are of God, who reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ.” This interpretation makes reconciliation a possible human duty. It is incredible that such contrary teaching should occur in the same paragraph.
Moreover, competent authorities retain the second “you.” See the Revised Version. Alford says, “We beseech (‘you,’ but not uttered as an integral part of the present text.)