Reconciled to God (Part 1)

Read these three passages from the writings of Paul, and consider what they have in common.

For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life (Romans 5:10).

And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach (Colossians 1:21-22).

Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).

Reconciled. It’s a joyful, satisfying word. It comes from a Latin term meaning “to bring together again.” It speaks of taking things that are in conflict and bringing them into harmony. Applied to people, it means to re-establish friendly relations, to settle a quarrel, to heal a rift. The New Testament word (katalassō) means to change or exchange (e.g., exchanging one form of currency for another); in this case it is exchanging enmity for fellowship.

Reconciliation, then, implies first that a relationship has been wrecked. Two friends or family members have a falling out. Maybe they remain distant for years. But then they overcome their problems and repair their relationship. Think, for example, of Joseph and his brothers (see Genesis 37-45). He was estranged from them through their envy and their rotten treatment of him. But years later came a beautiful moment when their fellowship was restored. That’s reconciliation.

The passages above speak of our being reconciled to God. Let’s think about that.

Why is reconciliation necessary? Because of our sin. Sinful behavior alienates us from a holy God; it makes us His enemies (Isaiah 59:1-2; Romans 5:10; 6:23). It doesn’t require declaring open war on all that is good, either; Scripture warns that “friendship with the world”—sharing its priorities, its philosophies, its lusts—makes us enemies of God (James 4:4). Since all of us have been estranged from God through sin (Romans 3:9, 23), all of us need to be reconciled to Him. Notice how Paul says that “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19). A universal solution points to a universal need.

Who is at fault? You and I are. Usually when two people are estranged from one another, both of them bear some degree of blame. But not in this case. The Bible never speaks of God’s being reconciled to us, as though He were partly at fault. It is we who must be reconciled to God. We are the ones who moved away; we are the ones who need to be brought back.

Who has the authority to bring about reconciliation? Only God does. Again, notice Paul’s language: God “reconciled us to Himself” or “brought us back to Himself” (2 Corinthians 5:18); “He has now reconciled you” (Colossians 1:22). Peace with God is not a bargain to be negotiated. It is not two imperfect people working out their differences and reaching a compromise. Peace with a God requires that I surrender myself to Him. This should demolish any thought in our minds of striking a deal with God or somehow earning His favor. “With regard to the relationship between God and man, the use of katalassō and connected words show that primarily reconciliation is what God accomplishes” (W. E. Vine).

In Isaiah’s words, our iniquities have separated us from our God (59:2). Only He can restore us to His fellowship. That restoration is at the heart of the gospel message. The New Testament reveals not only what God has done, but also what each of us must do in order for reconciliation to happen. We’ll consider that next week.