In our Greek Word Devotional series, we discuss some of our favorite passages in the Bible, focusing on the specific use of certain Greek words. Today, we are going to look at 2 Corinthians 5:18-20, and its usage of the word katallassō, or reconcile.
“Everything is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation. That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and he has committed the message of reconciliation to us. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal to us. We plead on Christ’s behalf: ‘Be reconciled to God.’”
The following is an excerpt from the CSB Study Bible:
Greek pronunciation: kah tahl LAHSS oh
CSB translation: reconcile
Uses in 2 Corinthians: 3
Uses in the NT: 6
Focus passage: 2 Corinthians 5:18-20
The Greek verb katallassō basically means to change or exchange. It was often used as a monetary term referring to changing or exchanging money, but in general it referred to exchanging one thing for another. A common use of katallassō was in reference to changing someone from an enemy into a friend, that is, bringing together or reconciling two people or parties that are at odds with each other. This is how katallassō is used all six times in the NT, as is also the case for all four uses of the related noun katallagē (meaning reconciliation; see Rm 5:11; 11:15; 2Co 5:18-19). These two words are found only in Paul’s writings. In 1Co 7:11, Paul used katallassō to describe a husband and wife being reconciled. Paul’s other five uses of the term explain unbelievers and God. Because of sin, unbelievers are God’s enemies (Rm 5:10), but they can be reconciled to God through faith in Christ (2Co 5:18-19).
I think we all know and understand that at Christ’s death and resurrection, we were reconciled to God. But what sticks out to me from this passage is how Paul describes our ministry.
In Matthew’s version of the Great Commission, Jesus says, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” That, surely, is our ministry. Paul sums up the Great Commission by saying it is our duty, our command, and our ministry to reconcile.
There’s no denying that we don’t see a lot of reconciliation going on today. It’s no secret that our country and our world are incredibly divided.
Our role as believers should be that of reconcilers. Are we agents of reconciliation or are there areas of our lives where we are widening the divide?
Paul points out that God did not “count their trespasses against them.” How do we respond to other people when we see patterns of sin? Is our approach more “Go and sin no more”? Or “Sin no more, then be reconciled”? If we aren’t careful, we can get caught in the trap of expecting people to conform to our exact beliefs and desires before we are willing to be reconciled to them and to accept them into our family.
If we are to be like Christ, it is our ministry to be reconcilers of this world, no longer counting their trespasses against them and instead proclaiming, “Be reconciled to God.” But perhaps we ourselves need to be reconciled before we can be the ambassadors Christ calls us to be.