Great Gospel Themes – Reconciliation

There are terms we use in the gospel without fully exploring their significance. A Scriptural explanation of reconciliation is given here.

There is ever the danger of confusion about the meaning of the different terms employed in the Scripture which describe the change that occurs when a sinner is saved. In this paper, we will consider reconciliation, a term which has often been misunderstood. In the New Testament it refers, in various contexts, to the changed relationship between God and the sinner, between Jew and Gentile, between husband and wife, between brother and brother, between God and creation, and between God and the world.

The basic idea in the word translated “reconcile” is “change”, so when reconciliation occurs there has been a change of relationship. The most important of the cases mentioned above is that great change which comes about at conversion. Sin raises not only a barrier between God and the sinner, but also results in a state of enmity between them, so that man and God are enemies. “If when we were enemies,” implies that the opposition was mutual. God in His holiness could not be at peace with the sinner who loves his sin, and the sinner who loves sin is hostile to God. The case is very serious, for no matter what way the sinner might change he could never remove the righteous wrath that is in the heart of the holy God because of his sin. How then has the change come about? Through the death of Christ, His sinless Son, God has found a basis whereby He can set aside His anger and welcome the penitent sinner into peace with Himself. In reconciliation it is God who changes because being consistent with His own character, He cannot retain His wrath when the cause of it is righteously removed. The question is often asked as to why the Scriptures always speak of the sinner being reconciled to God, and never of God being reconciled to the sinner. The answer is that the inferior is reconciled to the supenor, and never the superior reconciled to the inferior. If men are asked to be reconciled to God, it means that they enter into the state of peace with God brought about through the death of Christ.

When Paul speaks of God “reconciling the world unto Himself” (2 Cor 5:19), he does not mean that the world is reconciled, but that the provision is for all the world, and so potentially, all can be reconciled. The reason given is that their sins are no longer reckoned to them. This latter statement could be used only of the justified, and so limits the former statement.

When the reconciliation of Jew and Gentile in one body is mentioned in Ephesians 2 and when reference is made to the reconciliation of all things in Colossians 1, a strengthened form of the word in the original is used, (apokatallasso), possibly implying the fullness of the reconciliation made. Likewise, when two brothers are involved (Matthew 5:24), again the word is prefaced with a different preposition, (diallasso), possibly because the two persons involved are equals.