“God deviseth means (literally, thinketh thoughts), that he that is banished be not an outcast from Him.” These were the words of the wise woman of Tekoah, as, at the instigation of Joab, she sought to persuade David to recall the outcast Absalom (2 Sam. 14. 14).
Man, by his own sin and on righteous grounds, is banished from God, for God cannot tolerate sin in His presence. However, the outcast is not abandoned by God, for His love is unchanged toward the sinner, even though His wrath is kindled against his sin. The Divine dilemma, if we may reverently use this human expression, was to devise means whereby God could be just and the justifier of the ungodly. His thoughts are thoughts of holiness and thoughts of love, and by the means of the Cross and the death of His Son, He has been able to effect a righteous reconciliation for the sinner. “If while we were enemies, alienated and hostile to God, we were reconciled to God (not God to us but we to Him), by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled we shall be kept safe in His life” (Rom. 5. 10). It is interesting to notice in our study of the word “reconciliation” that two distinct thoughts emerge from its usage. First, that in which the change is on the part of one party induced by an action on the part of another – the reconciliation of men to God by the death of His Son. Secondly, that in which there has been mutual hostility, yielding to mutual concession, as in Matt. 5. 24, between man and man. Let us note then:
Reconciliation between man and man (Matt. 5. 24). This is the only occurrence of the Greek word in the New Testament, and as we have already observed infers that where there has been mutual hostility there must be mutual concession. There is no such idea as “making it up” where God and man are concerned. It is well to remember that unless there is mutual agreement between man and man, it is vain to offer our gifts to God.
Reconciliation between believing Jew and Gentile. “That he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby” (Eph. 2. 16). Dr, Moule beautifully expresses this union, when he writes, “the Apostle cannot let the Ephesians forget the past, lest they mistake the blissful present. He is indeed in the act of reminding them that they have been brought not only into a place of mercy, but into all the wealth of a covenanted privilege. They are incorporated, out and out, into the true Israel of all the promises; no more resident aliens, lodged in the suburbs of the Holy Zion, but full citizens of the place, aye, members of the royal family of its king … they cannot be nearer to God, for they are in His Christ. They were outsiders once. They had not the slightest claim upon salvation. Not only as they were, men, fallen and sinful, but also as they were ‘Gentiles’ they stood upon ground where redemption found them outcast and outlawed … it was mercy from first to last.”
Reconciliation between man and God. “And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your minds by wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled, in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight” (Col. 1. 21). Here, it is not the union of Jew and Gentile which is in view, but the change wrought in the individual believer from alienation and enmity. Reconciliation is what God accomplishes in grace towards man on the ground of Christ’s death. He bore the judgment due to sin, and God reconciled us (believers) to Himself through Christ, giving us the ministry or word of reconciliation, “that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself” (2 Cor. 5. 18, 19). The thought here is not that of the unity of the Godhead (God in Christ) but what God has done in the matter of our reconciliation He has done in Christ and is based upon the fact that “Him who knew no sin He made to be sin on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Hence, as ambassadors for Christ we beseech men to be reconciled to God, that is to change their attitude and accept the provision God has made for them. Until this change of attitude takes place, men are under condemnation and exposed to God’s wrath. The death of the Lord Jesus is the ground upon which this can be removed and by which we can “receive the reconciliation” (Rom. 5. 11, R.V.). The rendering “atonement” in the Authorized Version is incorrect; atonement is the offering itself of Christ under divine judgment upon sin. We do not receive ‘atonement,’ but its result, namely ‘reconciliation.’ It may be asked “Does not the removal of God’s wrath contravene His immutability?” The answer is that God is Light and God is Love, and we must distinguish between these and between indignation and anger against evil, and between wrath and hostility. When our Lord was criticized for healing on the Sabbath Day we are told that “He looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts” (Mark 3. 5). Here was anger without enmity, righteous indignation combined with fervent love. The change in God’s relative attitude towards those who receive the reconciliation only proves His real unchangeableness. Not once is God said to be reconciled; the enmity is alone on our part.
Reconciliation of all things. It is the Divine purpose “to reconcile all things unto Himself … whether they be things upon the earth or things in the heavens” (Col. 1. 20, R.V.). God will “in the dispensation of the fulness of times, gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in Him” (Eph. 1. 10). Things “under the earth” though not reconciled will be subdued, for “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2. 10, 11).
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