Reconciled to God (Part 2)
“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).
Christians are people who have been reconciled to God (see also Romans 5:10; 2 Corinthians 5:18-19). As we saw last week, reconciliation means that a relationship that was wrecked is now restored. In the passages above, it is our relationship to God that is in view. Sin estranges each of us from God. But the message of the gospel is that we can be reconciled to Him.
Consider a few things that are always involved in reconciliation, and think of the part they play in our being reconciled to God.
• Purpose. When two people have been estranged, reconciliation does not occur by accident. Neither can it be imposed by only one side or the other. Both parties must desire it, or it won’t happen.
Sin is the reason for the enmity between men and God (Isaiah 59:1-2). The blame is ours alone. And God alone has the authority to reconcile us to Himself. It follows, then, that reconciliation is only possible if He desires it. No matter how badly we might want it, it cannot happen unless God wants it. The good news is that He does; in fact, that has been His purpose since before the world began (Ephesians 3:10; Acts 2:23; 1 Peter 1:20). He has provided the means of reconciliation through Jesus Christ—specifically, through His death. Only by the sacrificial death of the sinless Christ could God both satisfy His justice and still offer man fellowship (Romans 3:24-26).
However, God does not impose reconciliation on us. His setting the terms of reconciliation is not the same as His forcing us to be reconciled. Otherwise, a statement such as this one is meaningless: “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20). We can never be reconciled to God unless we choose to accept it. God offers salvation; we must respond in obedient faith.
• Humility. When human relationships are damaged by sin, Jesus teaches us to seek reconciliation, whether we are the offender or the offended (compare, for instance, Matthew 5:23-24 and 18:15). In either case this demands humility. It demands valuing the relationship above my personal pride.
Humility plays no less a role in our being reconciled to God. It is seen in Jesus Christ, “who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-8). Likewise, humility is the only proper human response: to recognize my sinful condition and my need for redemption and to submit to the will of God.
• Forgiveness. “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them” (2 Corinthians 5:19). Two people cannot truly be reconciled unless each is willing to forgive the wrongs of the other. In the case of our reconciliation to God, however, this part of equation is one-sided: He does not need our forgiveness, but we desperately need His! And when we come to Christ, we receive it in abundance (Ephesians 1:7-8).
• Fellowship. The very point of reconciliation is the restoring of a relationship. Paul wrote, “God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:9). “Fellowship” in the New Testament is from a term denoting a partner, associate, or companion. Scripture describes the Christian’s relationship to God in many ways: father and child, master and servant, king and subject. But it also describes it as partnership, association—even friendship. We understand that it’s one thing to say, “I know that person,” and quite another to say, “He is my friend.” But just as Abraham for his faith was called a “friend of God” (James 2:23; 2 Chronicles 20:7), the gospel’s message is that in Christ we go from being God’s enemies to being His friends. So the New Living Translation has this wording: “You were his enemies…yet now he has brought you back as his friends” (Colossians 1:21-22). Jesus said, “You are My friends if you do what I command you” (John 15:14).
• Joy. Any time a broken relationship is healed, there is happiness. Think again of the emotional scene when Joseph was reunited with his long-estranged brothers (Genesis 45). But being restored to fellowship with God is the greatest joy of all. After describing our being reconciled to God through Christ, Paul says, “More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (Romans 5:10-11, ESV). The Ethiopian, after being baptized, “went on his way rejoicing” (Acts 8:39).
But the joy of this reconciliation is not ours alone. In Luke 15, three parables depict the thrill of being reunited with what had been lost. “In the same way,” Jesus assures us, “there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (v. 10). The third story in particular tells of a father’s reaction when his rebellious son comes home in repentance: he runs to hug and kiss him, arrays him in fine clothes, and throws a party to celebrate his return. In that picture we see the heart of our heavenly Father each time a wayward child returns to Him. Joy, as C. S. Lewis wrote, is “the serious business of heaven.”
Do you know the joy of being reconciled to God?