The Nature Of Christ’s Sacrifice: Reconciliation

The Nature Of Christ’s Sacrifice: Reconciliation

By David Anderson

What is reconciliation? The Oxford Dictionary definition is “the restoration of friendly relations” – the act of making peace again after estrangement or disagreements; or to make someone accept a disagreeable thing or situation. In industrial, national or political disputes, reconciliation usually involves both sides accepting a degree of compromise to pacify the situation and restore working relationships on the basis of some jointly ratified agreement or peace treaty.

The idea of reconciliation in Scripture goes much further than this, and it certainly does not involve any compromise by God. It means that God righteously accepts back to Himself those who have wronged Him. God, in His great love for the world, has never been indifferent about man’s fallen condition. From the very moment Adam and Eve sinned, God has been working out His plan of salvation. Their sin took mankind far away from God. Therefore, they needed to be reconciled, not God! To remove the mighty gulf between Himself and lost people, God made His Son a sin offering on the cross. God’s grace provides for people to be reconciled to Himself on the righteous basis of Christ’s propitiatory/expiatory* sacrifice. Paul wrote: “And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, He has now reconciled in His body of flesh by His death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before Him” (Col. 1:21-22 ESV). God is unchanging in His holiness and therefore He will only accept people who repent – change their hearts/attitudes about their sin – and believe in the Savior.

Everyone who believes is immediately reconciled. Spiritually they have been brought from being far away from Him into a close relationship with Him. They are holy, without blame and irreproachable – without even a single fault remaining! They stand in a righteous relationship with the holy God. They are at peace with Him, when formerly they “were enemies” (Rom. 5:10).

Reconciliation Is All About What God Has Done (2 Corinthians 5:18-6:2).
“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” —2 Corinthians 5:18

Paul’s motivation to serve God arose out of his knowledge of the terror of the Lord (5:11) and his love for Christ (v.14). The Lord Jesus showed the grace of God in His life and service, as He was sent “in order that the world might be saved through Him” (Jn. 3:17). “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing [reckoning, or counting] their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:19 NKJV). But those to whom the grace of God was manifested crucified His Sent One. It was then that God’s reconciling mercy triumphed, because in Christ’s sacrifice God “made [Christ] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (v.21). Christ was our Substitute. He bore the judgment of God in place of us. The distance that our sins brought in has been completely and permanently removed, and we are accepted in the Beloved! Although God’s stance against sin is unchanging, yet in His grace He has come to us “in Christ.” Even more wonderful, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (v.17).

God has committed to Christ’s disciples the task of spreading this message, “the word of reconciliation” (v.19). Paul calls believers “ambassadors” and “workers together with Him” (v.20, 6:1) – a great privilege and a solemn responsibility – in an alien world that is hostile to Christ and to God.

Reconciliation Is Rooted In The Love Of God (Romans 5:1-11).
“Our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation” —Romans 5:11 ESV

Romans 1:16 to 5:11 is like a court in session, with the last 11 verses being the outcome of the case. With respect to reconciliation, the predominant thought in Romans 5 is that believers have received every blessing from God “through,” or “by,” the Lord Jesus Christ. Verse 1 begins, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith.” “Therefore” is used at various points throughout the book of Romans to state a conclusion. In Romans 5:1-11, the past, present and future results of the gospel for Christian believers are reviewed.

The past is outlined in verses 6 to 10. Consider three points presented there:

  • We were “weak” and “ungodly” (v.6) without any strength to help ourselves, or any desire either to live for God or to ask for His help.
  • We were “sinners” (v.8) without any relationship with a holy God.
  • We were “enemies” of God (v.10) in active rebellion against Him and His declared will.

It is in this context that we discover for the first time in Romans the real secret of reconciliation. The gospel proclaims that God is light and God is love. Amazingly, He offers His own love to us in our lost condition, holding it out, having manifested it in the death of His only Son. “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (v.8 NKJV).

But as to the present, verse 10 also states we have been reconciled to God, That is, we have been brought back from the distance of enmity and death. This is illustrated in the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15, when he returned from the far country to his father’s house. Reconciliation places us before God with no distance between Him and us. It is a present position of grace, His unmerited favor, in which we possess the wonderful spiritual blessings listed in Romans 5:1-11. Among these blessings are things which everyone in the world would like to possess:

  • “Peace with God” (v.1) – no outstanding issues remain!
  • “Access by faith” (v.2) – the continuous ability to avail ourselves of God’s favor. There are no barriers now!
  • The gift of His Holy Spirit (v.5) – through whom we know God’s love. It is not just a taste, but it is a deluge flooding our hearts so we can appreciate all He has done, all that He is doing, and all that He will do for us!
  • The priestly intercession of Christ at God’s right hand in heaven – we are being saved by His endless life (v.10)!
  • Best of all, being reconciled we can worship God in a living and true way – we joy, or boast, in God (v.11)!

Reconciliation also has a future meaning concerning the end times, when God will display His pleasure in and through Christ. The gospel is not just a great escape, although verse 9 verifies that “we shall be saved from [God’s] wrath through Him.” It, the gospel, is about a bright future: “the hope of the glory of God” (v.2). These truths are additional causes of rejoicing.

Reconciliation Is Far-reaching In Its Effects (Colossians 1:18-23).
“Through [Christ, God reconciles] to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross.” —Colossians 1:20

Colossians 1:21 describes the depths of sinful man’s condition and position before God as being “alienated and enemies in … mind by wicked works” (NKJV). Note well that the world is at enmity with God in their minds as well as by their wicked works. Romans 1 states that this is a direct consequence of their willful decisions not to acknowledge Him as Creator. Today, their philosophies and scientific hypotheses continue to exclude Him from their minds, as they persist in defiantly practicing ungodliness and immorality. It is no wonder that God has given them over to vile lusts, vulgar passions and debased minds.

By contrast, believers have been reconciled, brought from the depths of depravity to be “holy, and blameless, and above reproach in [God’s] sight” (v.22). These changes were effected for us by Christ’s sacrifice – “in the body of [Christ’s] flesh through death” (v.22) and “through the blood of His cross” (v.20). The Lord Jesus in His grace identified Himself with us by becoming Man so that He could lay down His life and take it up again in resurrection. Of His own will He offered His body as a sacrifice for sin. At the cross, God acted to condemn sin, and Christ triumphed over every enemy. Through His Son’s death on the cross, where the extreme violence of men was seen, God is now able to reconcile any who believe. This reconciliation is from their repugnant, sinful condition and position; it is through Jesus’ resurrection, and it places them “in Christ.” What they were is completely done away. Some of these far reaching effects of the reconciliation of believers are described in Colossians 2:11-14.

But God, through Christ, will do more in the future – in the world to come and throughout the eternal state. He has already started anew with the One who is the beginning of His new creation (1:18). Christ’s sacrifice, the value of His precious blood, provides a righteous foundation for God “to reconcile all things to Himself … whether things on earth or things in heaven” (v.20). However, there is no reconciliation of “things under the earth.” In Philippians 2:10, “those under the earth” are all of the unbelievers and fallen spiritual beings who follow Satan. They will be forced to confess and bow the knee to Jesus the Lord by God the Father’s command.

Colossians 1:20 means that whatever sin has spoiled, and everywhere sin has entered, will be purged. When God decrees, all who are evil will be consigned to the place of eternal judgment to suffer God’s wrath. Then, when all things in heaven and earth have been reconciled to Him, God’s pleasure and glory will fill the new heavens and the new earth through Christ, His pre-eminent One. The far-reaching effects of reconciliation will bring believers into new creation blessings, where God is all in all (1 Cor. 15:28)!

* Propitiation represents in Scripture that aspect of the death of Christ by which the holy and righteous character of God has been vindicated, and in virtue of which He is enabled to be propitious, or merciful, to the whole world. Expiation is more the satisfaction which is made. One takes the wrath, is devoted, made the curse, and is substituted for the offender so he goes free. (Concise Bible Dictionary, adapted.)