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
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
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
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
(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.