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Aim for restoration.  2 Corinthians 13:11

“Aim for restoration” was highly relevant to this community in Corinth.  They were broken at multiple levels.  They were making progress, but there was much good still to accomplish.  So, “aim for restoration” was ideal as an all-encompassing intention.  For any gospel-defined church, then or now, restoration is an obvious priority.

But is it obvious?  Or, is it obvious to us today?  Few churches and movements, it seems, are free from relational strains and fractures.  A settled wholeness seems rare.  But I wonder if restoration is the priority it deserves to be.

Earlier in 2 Corinthians Paul defined his life work as “the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18).  He defined the gospel as “the message of reconciliation” (verse 19).  That is why he did not say, “We have moments of reconciliation now and then.”  No, he saw his calling as “the ministry of reconciliation.”  In other words, “Reconciliation is all I do.  It’s how I roll.  It isn’t a preference.  It is a gospel necessity, an obvious one.”

I wonder how many of our churches and movements can honestly say, with the apostle, “Reconciliation is our ministry, because it is our message.  We have no higher priority.  We want to be living proof of the gospel.  This is obvious to us.”

Aiming for restoration deserves to be a matter of prayer and priority in 2014 for every gospel-defined church and ministry.  Settling for the status quo – where is that in the gospel?  We might not succeed in renewing shalom with everyone (Romans 12:18).  Some people will always be unsatisfiable.  But have we tried?  To whatever extent God gives success, we will be more ready for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit we all long for, for the salvation of many others around us.

What wonderful things might the Lord do for us all in 2014, if we allow the gospel of reconciliation to define, or perhaps redefine, our ministry priorities?

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10 thoughts on “Restoration as a gospel priority”

  1. Dan Horne says:

    Dear Ray,
    Discipleship should produce mature followers of Christ and mature followers apply the gospel to all areas of their lives on an ongoing basis. Unfortunately we found that without restoration and especially relational restoration that the discipleship process was hindered and in some cases stopped all together in believers. To put some feet to what you are calling for in this blog we at Worldwide Discipleship Assoc. have developed an integral division of our ministry called Restoring Your Heart. If anyone is interested in using this ministry in your church or ministry please visit our website for more information. May the Lord of restoration cause His Kingdom to expand in 2014!!

  2. Vic Christian says:

    Just in case the reader is unsure as to what is meant by “reconciliation” – the Bible is clear in that Paul’s and other’s definition of reconciliation is between God and man. Christ’s death and man’s belief reconciles God and man.

    1. Charitas says:

      Vic, you are quite right.
      In 39 words you summarized the gospel correctly, unfortunately this article failed by focusing on “reconciliation” wordplay.
      This article is just another feel good that fails to explain the need for reconciliation to God through Jesus Christ (hint no mention of Jesus at all even 2 days after CHRISTmas).

      1. Ray Ortlund says:

        Friends, one of my most basic convictions is this. Gospel doctrine creates a gospel culture. In other words, the vertical beautifies the horizontal. It is not an either/or but a both/and, with the doctrine/vertical given first priority. This is evident throughout Scripture, though too often unrecognized by us. If we don’t give adequate attention to this, we inadvertently create churches that are theologically faithful but relationally volatile. I do not believe that is what Jesus died to create.

  3. Vic Christian says:

    Ray – your conviction may be admirable, but I cannot find in anywhere in the Bible. The gospel, and Christians in general, cannot and will not affect our culture in any meaningful way. If your writings are part of any gospel coalition it should reflect the gospel as given in the scriptures. Any departure from that is the “other gospel” as we are warned to avoid.

    1. Ray Ortlund says:

      Vic, I am not thinking of affecting our culture. Influencing the world is not my interest here. I am thinking of the culture of our churches. I am talking about pastoring our churches toward health and beauty. In my view, that is highly biblical.

      Not to argue with you, but only to clarify further what I mean, this post might be of interest:

      God be with you.

  4. Amy says:

    What I am struggling with this year is the pressure toward reconciliation and restoration with abusive and manipulative people who claim to be Christians. I keep coming across the “restoration at all costs” thinking (I am not implying that is what this article is saying)and have experienced the pressure to reconcile with people who are unrepentant, in fact they believe that their cruel treatment is somehow sanctioned by God.

    These people have a “reconcile with me or else” attitude and believe that saying, “I’m sorry, but you…” is a get out of jail free card. To restore the relationship back to as before and act like everything is fine, would be to put the emotional and spiritual health of my family in danger, especially my children.

    We have tried to discuss the issue, prayed, even offered to attempt mediation with a third party in the hopes of working through the issues. Eventually we had to decide we had done enough and needed to leave it in the Lord’s hands. We told them we wished them well, but we were going to move on with our lives. We are now accused of being unforgiving.

    I would love to see some more writing and resources for working through issues like this. I know my family is not the only one struggling with this and searching for answers.

    1. Dan Horne says:


      Thanks for pouring your heart out and expressing your hurt and pain. You are correct in that many in the church and most in American families today have experienced similar struggles. It is for all of us who have a need to learn how to grieve our loses and process our pain that WDA developed the Restorative Ministry that I mentioned in my first reply. The gospel Jesus preached about in Luke 4: 16-21 is all about restoring mankind to a healthy and whole relationship with the Lord and with one another. Paul in Romans 1:16 uses language that instructs us to keep believing–applying– this gospel as it will continue to lead us to salvation ie restoration. This is all part of God’s plan for us to work out our salvation–keep applying the gospel–for He is at work in us ( Phil 2: 12-13). Amy I will pray that the Lord will comfort and direct you in His perfect peace.. God Bless

    2. Ray Ortlund says:

      I’ll think this over, Amy, and try to compose a response that might help. God bless.

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Ray Ortlund

Ray Ortlund is senior pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and serves as a Council member with The Gospel Coalition. You can follow him on Twitter.

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