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UNDERSTANDING: Reconciliation

What does this Bible word really means…..





“And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18)





Reconciliation is very much a New Testament word and is used by Paul in 2 Corinthians 5. He writes of God having “reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ” and of “the ministry of reconciliation” which has been entrusted to believers (v.18). He proceeds to explain “that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself,” before stating again that “the word of reconciliation” has been “committed unto us” (v.19). What is meant by reconciliation?


Perhaps we should begin by explaining what is not meant. The Lord Jesus spoke of being “reconciled” in Matthew 5. “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift” (Mt.5:23,24). In this situation something has gone wrong. One of God’s people comes to worship Him. As he does so, the thought enters his mind that somebody is not pleased with him. A relationship has soured. The worshipper begins to reason that there is very little point in offering something to the God he cannot see when he is estranged from the individual he can see. He therefore delays offering his gift until he has “made it up” with his estranged brother.


The word used in this passage is not the word used by Paul in 2 Corinthians 5. The Lord Jesus used diallasso because it concerns mutual hostility which is followed by mutual concession. This kind of situation is commonplace. One person becomes annoyed by another, and an angry response leads to hostility. It requires one person to go to the other with an apology. If the second person in this example takes this step, the first person may recognize the part they played in the disagreement. Both were at fault, and reconciliation was needed between the two of them.


The doctrine of Reconciliation is not like that. God is not a man and is incapable of sin. He is not responsible for enmity developing. Never once in Scripture is God said to be reconciled towards us. It is significant that the apostle Paul does not use the word diallasso in explaining Reconciliation. Instead he uses either katallasso or apokatallasso, bringing out the meaning of changing from enmity to friendship, or reconciling completely. Reconciliation is what God accomplishes in His grace towards sinful men on the grounds of the death of Christ.


In this study we shall examine Reconciliation in four ways. We shall look at its worth, noticing what a necessary subject this actually is. The second approach will be to consider the work that brought it about. The third point will deal with the wonder of it, for it is truly wonderful for the believer to know he is reconciled and enjoys a right relationship with a holy God. Finally we shall think about the word of reconciliation, mentioned by Paul in 2 Corinthians 5, which has been entrusted to us. The purpose of this study is not to create theologians – though a right understanding of doctrine is important. Rather, it is to enable us to rejoice as we discover the greatness of God’s grace, but it ought also to have a practical effect upon our lives.




Reconciliation is an immensely important subject. “We were enemies” at one time, hostile to God (Rom.5:10a). The earlier chapters of Romans reveal our guilt before a God who is absolutely pure and righteous and who demands the same of us. Although the works of creation prove His existence, mankind did not give God the glory He was worthy to receive but became foolish and idolatrous. Preferring to live without the knowledge of God, man became debased, unrighteous, and disobedient. We were alienated from God “and enemies in [our] mind by wicked works” (Col.1:21) as well as “alienated from the life of God” through our ignorance (Eph.4:18). Not being subject to the Law of God, we were at enmity with Him (Rom.8:7). What a dreadful position to be in!


Familiar verses of Scripture remind us that we have fallen short of God’s standards and deserve death (Rom.3:23; 6:23). By nature we are “the children of wrath,” characterized by sin, disobedience, and self-will (Eph.2:2,3). In our unregenerate state God’s wrath hangs over us and has already been revealed (Rom.1:18). “The day of wrath” lies before us when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed (Rom.2:5). We can be absolutely sure that God will judge righteously and meet out a fitting punishment, for He shows no partiality (Rom.2:6,11). In this condition “tribulation and anguish” await us (Rom.2:9). These are the reasons why we need to be reconciled to this holy God. This is indeed a tremendously important subject.




The Bible explains that “there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim.2:5). We also read that “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself” (2 Cor.5:19a). Two parties are identified here – God and the world. Between them stands Christ, God’s representative (not man’s), put forward by Him. If we might ask how God can be “in Christ,” Christ was God and came as God’s representative. He came as God Himself. As another verse teaches, God saw “there was none to help,” so He brought about salvation Himself (Isa.63:5).


How could God reconcile the world to Himself? An incident in the First World War might help us understand what has been done. A painting from that Great War showed a young signalman lying dead on the field of battle. In his lifeless hands were the newly-joined ends of a broken telephone cable he had been sent to repair. Through his sacrifice communication had been restored. This is actually a very fitting illustration of the Gospel. Communications with God had broken down, and diplomatic relations had been severed. A state of hostility, or war, existed. But through Christ’s death a bridge has been built and man can be reconciled to God. Ephesians 2:16 conveys this teaching. “That He might reconcile” means to reconcile completely, removing all enmity. As a result of Christ’s work at the cross no barriers remain between Jew and Gentile. Christ has made peace through the blood of His cross, thus reconciling all things to Himself. Once-alienated unbelievers are now reconciled believers – all because of Calvary (see Col.1:20-22a). Again, the Greek word used here is apokatallasso – which means to reconcile completely. Of course, this does not teach universal salvation. Satan, fallen angels, and unrepentant people remain lost and under condemnation. These will not be reconciled but subdued in a coming day.




The fact is stated plainly in 2 Corinthians 5:18: “God … hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ.” Earlier in the verse we read, “And all things are of God.” The plan was entirely His. Redemption is costly, for “the precious blood of Christ” was shed in order to provide it (1 Pet.1:18,19). Reconciliation is also costly as we see in the last verse of 2 Corinthians 5. The Lord Jesus who was absolutely pure and sinless was “made … sin for us” at Calvary (2 Cor.5:21). Long ago Isaiah wrote: “The LORD hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isa.53:6). He was “stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted” (Isa.53:4). Although at one time we were “alienated from the life of God,” (Eph.4:18), believing on God’s Son we now have life (Jn.3:36). The wrath of God which hung over us has been removed.


Reconciliation is an established fact. We do not need to fear that we might lose this blessing or cease to be reconciled. Colossians 1:21,22 clearly states: “And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight.” If we are true believers we remember how at one time we were unholy, full of blame and guilty through and through. What a change has come about! We are “now … reconciled” – apokatallasso speaking of complete reconciliation. Romans 5:10 informs us that “when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son.” The same verse also points out that “being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” Why is this? The answer is that we now share His life – a resurrection life. We shall be saved fully and brought safely home to Glory.


These wonderful statements must be brought together. “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself” (2 Cor.5:19). “God … hath reconciled us to Himself” (2 Cor.5:18). But the word is used again in these verses: “God … hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation,” or “the word of reconciliation” (v.18,19). This aspect must now be considered.




These verses need to be examined in their context. Believers know Christ died for them, and their responsibility as saved individuals is to live for Him (v.14,15). He has made all things new in our lives (v.17). God is the Source of all our blessings and has entrusted us with the message of reconciliation (v.18). The same God who has reconciled us to Himself entrusts us with the work of ministering to others.


Paul saw himself as an ambassador acting on God’s behalf. In this role he implored people to be reconciled to God. We too, on Christ’s behalf, are to plead with lost sinners in our day to be reconciled to God.


One night William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, could not sleep. His son Bramwell who lived next door saw a light shining from his father’s house and went to investigate, thinking something must be wrong. He discovered his father pacing back and forth with a towel wrapped around his head. “Shouldn’t you be asleep?” Bramwell asked, wondering whether his father was suffering from a bad headache. “I’m thinking,” William Booth told his son, “Thinking about people’s sins. What will they do with their sins?” This concern is largely absent today. Sinful men and women need to be reconciled to God, to change their attitude and accept God’s provision whereby they can be forgiven and justified. “The word of reconciliation” has been entrusted to us.


What can we say as we ponder these things? Who can estimate Reconciliation’s worth? The work has been done through Christ at the cross, and the wonder of it ought never to be absent from the believer’s mind. Truly, we “joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the [reconciliation]” (Rom.5:11). The Authorized Version has “atonement” but “reconciliation” is to be preferred. We do not receive atonement but the result of atonement which is reconciliation. Having received it, we can rejoice in it! A solemn responsibility remains, for we have been entrusted with the word of reconciliation. Our message to others is simply, “Be ye reconciled to God” (2 Cor.5:20).



A mind at perfect peace with God:

Oh, what a word is this!

A sinner reconciled through blood:

This, this indeed is peace.

  1. C. Paget