The Cross and Reconciliation

Like Paul, we glory “in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal 6:14).1  The cross is the basis for all of our hopes and the centre of God’s divine purpose, and all of the great biblical doctrines focus on and are centred in it. Our subject in this article is reconciliation. The cross is the wonderful means of reconciliation, bringing lost sinners into a relationship with God.

The subject of reconciliation is varied and includes aspects such as the need for reconciliation between brethren (Mat 5:24), between a husband and wife (1Co 7:11), and is also required in interpersonal relationships in assembly contexts (Php 4:2).

Reconciliation essentially means to change or exchange, to change from one condition to another. This change refers to the restoration of a harmonious relationship between parties who had been at enmity. Therefore, the meaning of reconciliation is to change from hostility to harmony, enmity to amity, antagonism to accord.

Positional Reconciliation Based on the Cross

We were separated from God in our sins. In Colossians 1:21, we are described as being “alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works.” In Ephesians 2:16, there is mention made of enmity, which is the enmity or hostility between human beings and God. God did not need to be reconciled; He was the one offended by our sin, and we were estranged from Him; reconciliation was required to bring estranged sinners back into fellowship with God. It is the Lord Jesus, via His cross, who has brought us back to God; we have been reconciled by Jesus Christ (2Co 5:18-21) through His death on the cross (Rom 5:10; Eph 2:16). Such is the power of Christ that now there is a harmonious relationship between parties who had once been at enmity. At the moment of conversion, we were positionally reconciled to God and brought into a personal relationship with Him. This is an eternal relationship and cannot be changed or forfeited in any way.

Privilege in Reconciliation Based on the Cross

This era is unique in many ways; one of its distinguishing features is the fact that Jews and Gentiles are united together into “one new man” (Eph 2:15). In that context, Paul is not referring to the creation of a new individual but a new corporate entity which is united in Christ.

The Jewish nation is unique in divine purpose; God’s covenantal blessings were given to the patriarchs. These were confirmed to David and his lineage forever (2Sa 7:12-14). These promises have never been abrogated; they will never be repealed. We affirm what the Bible reveals about Israel, its land and its unique place in history and prophecy, and we know that the Scriptures confirm a coming kingdom and a monarch reigning for God from Jerusalem.

The Scriptures reveal God’s mind concerning His purpose for the future; however, it is in this era that God has revealed something unique, an entity called “the church, which is his body” (Eph 1:22-32). As part of this unique entity, we realize our elevated position of having been reconciled to God. As Gentiles we did not share in the national privileges that Jews enjoyed, we had no prospect of a future inheritance, we had “no hope,” and we were “without God in the world” (2:12). Through the cross, Jews and Gentiles are brought onto the common ground of being members together of one body (3:6), they have a common bond of salvation, they have been brought into the same privileges, share the same aspirations and goals, wait for the same Saviour, and are part of the same dispensational Church.

Prospective Reconciliation Based on the Cross

The great truth of universal reconciliation is based on the cross. We are part of a troubled world; nations are divided and are at war with each other. Antisemitism is rising; the stage is set for the end times, the manifestation of the man of sin and the great tribulation. As those who are saved, our expectation is not earthly but heavenly; we await our Lord from heaven. Through Him, the whole universe, those things on earth and things in heaven, will be reconciled and brought into accord with the mind of God. There is no mention in Colossians 1:20 of  “things under the earth” (Php 2:10). The subject in Philippians is subjugation, not reconciliation. The realms of the infernal world, including Satan and those angelic beings who sinned, will be subdued but will never be reconciled to God. The Greek word for “reconciled” (apokatallasso) used in Colossians 1:20 means to reconcile completely, to change from one condition to another. Nothing will be left undone; this world, which was created to manifest the glory of God, will be restored to what God designed. The Millennial Kingdom of Christ will give way to “the day of God” (2Pe 3:12); Christ will deliver up the Kingdom; divine purpose will have reached its goal and universal reconciliation will be complete.

We look forward to and anticipate that day of universal reconciliation which will be accomplished by our glorious Savior. We have the opportunity of presently being occupied with Him, being able to appreciate His person, worship His name and glory in His cross. Like John Bowring, we can sing:

In the cross of Christ I glory,
towering o’er the wrecks of time;
all the light of sacred story
gathers round its head sublime.

When the woes of life o’ertake me,
hopes deceive, and fears annoy,
never shall the cross forsake me.
Lo! It glows with peace and joy.2

1 Bible quotations in this article are from the KJV.

2 John Bowring (1792–1872)