Reconciliation

Shannon Baptist Church
101 N.
Broad St
Shannon, Illinois 61078
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written by Pastor David Wood

RECONCILIATION

Imagine yourself standing before God as a sinner, an enemy of the Holy God. What could you say? Imagine then a much preferable event. Imagine standing before God as His welcomed family member. Is it possible that one who was once an enemy could be restored to be a welcomed family member? This is not just a casual possibility but an urgent reality.

The restored relationship the believer has with God is known as reconciliation. God created man with two basic needs. He needs to know he is loved, and he needs to know that he belongs in a family unit.(1) God fulfills both of those needs in the great act of reconciliation offered through the finished work of Jesus Christ. Because of God's act of reconciliation the believer can take great comfort in the security of his relationship with God.
The doctrine of reconciliation dovetails with other critically important Bible teachings regarding salvation. Because man's sin has been covered and God's wrath has been propitiated, because the believer has been bought back out of the terrible bondage of sin and has been placed in a position of being declared righteous and just before a holy God, the believer can enjoy the benefits of reconciliation. "The act of salvation is a personal one by which the individual on the basis of all these works of God is placed in Christ, declared righteous, and therefore reconciled to a holy God."(2)
Beware of faulty views of reconciliation. The Neo-orthodox view of reconciliation, expressed in Barthian theology, emphasizes that reconciliation occurs as man copies Christ. Christ became man and "dialogued" with man to show man a loyal relationship with God. Neo-orthodoxy emphasizes Christ's incarnation as God's redemptive operation rather than Christ's redemptive death on the cross. Understanding this one basic distinction explains much of the error in the liberal mainline denominational social gospel of the day.
Scripture clearly demonstrates that there is no reconciliation without the death of Jesus Christ. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For if, when we were enemies,, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement (Romans 5:6,10,11). Romans 5:6-11 clearly illustrates that man needs reconciliation to God because he has no capability of salvation in himself. Being ungodly, he has no standing worthy of salvation; he is totally guilty before God, and, therefore, he lacks any possibility of joy apart from the atoning work of Jesus Christ.(3) There can be no reconciliation without the atoning death of Jesus Christ.
Some view that reconciliation is God becoming reconciled to man. Others say reconciliation influences both God and man. But Romans 5:10 shows that what God did was the source of reconciliation; Christ was the means of reconciliation, and man is the recipient of reconciliation. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life (Romans 5:10).
The Old Testament paints a picture of temporary reconciliation based on a temporary covering. This can be seen in Leviticus 8:15 And he slew it; and Moses took the blood, and put it upon the horns of the altar round about with his finger, and purified the altar, and poured the blood at the bottom of the altar, and sanctified it, to make reconciliation upon it. The penalty of sin had not yet been addressed; the Messiah had not yet completed the reconciling act of covering sin.(4)
New Testament reconciliation teaching has the lexical idea of "change; exchange or barter; taking one thing in exchange for another." The one reconciled is the one who has been brought "into favor" with God as a new creature (II Corinthians 5:17-21.)(5)

And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation (II Corinthians 5:18).
Reconciliation may be summarized simply in II Corinthians 5:18. First, God is the author of reconciliation; reconciliation is "of God." Second, Christ is the agent of reconciliation; it is "by Jesus Christ"(6) Third, believers are the ambassadors of that reconciliation; it is the believer's responsibility to make reconciliation known to mankind.(7)
Romans 5:6-11 shows why man's reconciliation to God is so important. First, man is totally helpless: he is "without strength" to accomplish any sort of self-salvation. Second, man is ungodly: he is lacking any "reverence toward God."(8) Man's ways are totally contrary to the ways of God. Third, man is a sinner: he has no justification for being able to stand before God. And, fourth, he is God's enemy as a sinner: in and of himself he has no hope of avoiding the wrath that is coming; consequently, he has no peace. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement (Romans 5:8-11). God exchanged man's position as an enemy for that of a trusted family member. He reconciled believers unto himself; he gave them the favored position.
The New Testament brings out a special usage of reconciliation in the heightened form of the word apokatallasso used in Colossians 1:22 and Ephesians 2:16. Here reconciliation means a complete change from one condition to that of another. It means "to bring back to a former state of harmony."(9) And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself... (Colossians 1:20). By the propitious blood of Jesus Christ the believer is bought back into the relationship with God that he lost in bondage to sin.
Reconciliation is "the application of Christ's death to a [sinner] by the power of the Spirit changing [the sinner's] status from that of condemnation to complete acceptability to God."(10) Reconciliation is God's work of restoring a relationship that was once broken to a relationship that will never be broken again! Christ was forsaken on the cross by His Father so that believers never would be forsaken by God the father for all eternity. ...about the nineth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? That is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Christ bore man's rejection so He could say, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee (Hebrews 13:5).
Conclude this then about reconciliation. The death of Christ is absolutely necessary for reconciliation; without it there is no hope of reconciliation. Man's need is critical, and he is totally hopeless without reconciliation (Romans 6:23). Reconciliation is clearly the work of God, not the work of man to reconcile himself to God. (II Corinthians 5:10,21). God took the initiative to make reconciliation available to us, his enemy. Reconciliation, therefore, allows the believer to have confidence in God's provision of a relationship restored; he can have sweet assurance of his standing with God.(11)

(1) Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo, Growing Kid's God's Way (Northridge, California: Growing Families International Press, 1990), 18.
(2) John Walvoord, Jesus Christ Our Lord (Chicago: Moody, 1969), 185.
(3) Ibid, 180-183.
(4) Robert P. Lightner, Evangelical Theology: A Survey and Review (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1986), 195.
(5) Joseph Henry Thayer A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1977), 333.
(6) Note: reconciliation is in the past tense. Christ finished the work of reconciliation on the cross. It is not a process.
(7) John Stott, The Cross of Christ (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1986), 196-202.
(8) Thayer, 766.
(9) Ibid, 63.
(10) Walvoord, 155.
(11) Walvoord, 183,184.

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