Reconciliation (Col. 1:20-22; Eph. 2:16; Rom. 5:11; 2 Cor. 5:18-19) has to do with God’s work of bringing lost and guilty sinners back to Himself. Reconciliation deals with alienation, and the feelings of enmity that are in the heart of the sinner. Alienation and enmity are the result of man’s sin. The fault is on our side… God’s heart has remained unchanged! God does not need to be reconciled to man, but man needs be reconciled to God. Alienation is the moral distance between God and man. How does alienation occur? First, in Eph. 2:3 we find that man is at a distance from God; “by nature the children of wrath”. Second, in Col. 1:21 it says we were “alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works”. Not only is man at a distance from God by nature, but he travels farther away by his own actions. The alienation is on both sides: we couldn’t be in God’s presence, and He couldn’t be in ours. Enmity is the opposition that arises in sinner toward God. To emphasize, God had no enmity toward man, but man does toward God. How does enmity arise? Man commits “wicked works”, and then has a bad conscience about those works. He then begins to think of God as his enemy. That is why men are called “haters of God” (Rom. 1:30) when God has done nothing against them. The enmity is in “the mind” of man. Therefore, reconciliation to God is needed. Note: the same pattern can occur between brethren (offenses, alienation, guilt, enmity), and therefore brotherly reconciliation is needed (Matt. 18:15-20).
God’s Work through Christ. In the world, the concept of reconciliation is that of two opposing parties brought together on the basis of compromise; each side giving in a little. Not so with God. His heart has always been towards man, but our hearts were turned against Him. We were alienated from God, and enemies toward Him. There was an incredible distance between us. But in reconciliation, God brings the sinner to Himself (100% one direction). But didn’t God come down to man? Yes… that is the incarnation (Col. 1:19). But reconciliation is God’s work; “that he might bring us to God” (1 Pet. 3:18). 2 Cor. 5:18-19 tells us that “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself”. The cost of reconciliation was the cross; “that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross” (Eph. 2:16). The basis for reconciliation is the propitiatory aspect of atonement; “God made Him to be sin for us” (2 Cor. 5:21). Read more… Therefore, the message of reconciliation can go out to the whole world; “Be ye reconciled to God!”
How does reconciliation occur? First, a soul is forgiven his sins, and justified before God. Then, having peace with God, the power of God’s love comes home to the believer, being shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. By the power of His love, our minds are transformed to think of God differently. This is shown in Col. 1:21-22; “yet now has it [the Godhead] reconciled in the body of his [Christ’s] flesh through death; to present you holy and unblamable and irreproachable before it”. When we understand what it cost God to save us, we are inwardly transformed. Reconciliation is a broad term that encompasses other terms, such as forgiveness, justification, redemption, etc.
Results in Joy. Reconciliation is always connected with relationship, and with joy. Reconciliation gives us the joy of our salvation; “we joy in in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom now we have received the reconciliation” (Rom. 5:11). But it brings God joy as well, because we were created for His pleasure, and reconciliation allows for the enjoyment of relationship. Reconciliation takes us deeper into the positive truths of the gospel than forgiveness, justification, or even redemption, because it brings us right into God’s presence in perfect joy and happiness. You can be forgiven and not know the heart of your forgiver! But reconciliation brings us into perfect harmony with God’s heart, which has always been toward us in love.
- Justification has to do with a change of thinking in God’s mind. God reckons the believer as righteous. Justification gives us peace with God (Rom. 5:1). Read more…
- Reconciliation has to do with a change of thinking in the believer’s mind. The sinner’s thoughts of enmity toward God are replaced with rejoicing in God. Reconciliation gives us the joy of our salvation (Rom. 5:11).
An good illustration is that of the prodigal son. The father’s heart was always toward the wayward boy, but the boy’s thoughts of his father were far lower; “make me as one of thy hired servants”. Not only did the prodigal need to be brought back to the father (alienation reversed), but he also needed to have his understanding of the father’s heart corrected (enmity reversed).
Reconciliation of all things. Reconciliation in scripture comes in two phases. The first phase of reconciliation is present, and ongoing. It is the reconciliation of persons (Rom. 5:11, 2 Cor. 5:18-19; Eph. 2:16; Col. 1:21-22). This is an ongoing work through the Gospel of God’s grace. The believer shares in this work of reconciling souls. God “hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:19). We have the privilege and responsibility of beseeching lost men to “be reconciled to God”. In this sense we are ambassadors for Christ. But the second phase of reconciliation is future. It is the reconciliation of all things (Col. 1:20). This will occur when the new heavens and earth are formed, and all things in the Eternal State are according to God’s mind.