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Reconciliation
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1. Introduction
Reconciliation is the restoration of fellowship between God and man [humanity] (Ladd 1977:450). The doctrine of reconciliation is thus closely related to the doctrine of justification, according to which the guilty are given right-standing before God. Fellowship restored is the proper completion of this work of God's grace.
 
The
concept of reconciliation is found throughout the Bible, but it is explicit in only two passages as far as the use of the term (καταλλάσσω 'katallassō') is concerned, namely Romans 5:10 and 2 Corinthians 5:18 (Morris: 1976:214). The word occurs here in two forms, the verb κατηλλαγημεν, and the noun καταλλαγῆς. The root meaning behind the word being – to change; to exchange; to change back, to reconcile ((Morris 1976:215).
 
 
The problems that have arisen in this field of doctrine mainly concern the concept as it relates to God. The Scriptures speak of man being reconciled to God, but what of God? Does reconciliation not involve a change in the attitude of God?
 
 
Modern theologians have tended to emphasise the reconciliation of man and to discount any reconciliation of God. The idea of God being reconciled, an Umstimmung Gottes, is seen as a denial of the "trinitarian character of reconciliation" (Berkouwer 1976:256). In other words, that a "hostility" of the Father toward the sinner is transformed to love by the work of Christ is God umgestimmt, a turn-around in attitude, and a denial of "God so loved the world that He gave His only Son" (Jn.3:16) or that "God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself" (2 Cor.5:9).
 
2.
The Nature of Reconciliation
 
According
to Berkouwer "the background of the doctrine of reconciliation is the doctrine of the attributes of God" (1976:266). To counter-pose the attributes of justice and love to procure grace therefore in the Umstimmung-idea is to misapprehend the character of God.
 
 
In the Scriptures quoted above, the Father clearly exercises the love-initiative in the reconciliation work of Christ (also Jn.5:19). It is significant that nowhere is God expressly said to be reconciled. Perhaps the etymology (word-origin) of 'katallagé', change (make other), as improper of divine attributes, contributed to this.
 
 
It is surely a caricature of the truth and "bifurcation within the character of God" (Ladd 1977:451) to simplistically regard the Son as acting to appease the Father's anger.
 
 
However, those theologians who have been the most ready to find such a view and oppose it have themselves fallen into an opposite error. While shunning any 'patripassianism' (suffering of the Father) they allow a 'theopaschitism' that is equally in conflict with the biblical evidences. The effect of this suffering-God concept is to reduce the Cross to a sign; a sign of the love of God and the seriousness of sin, in order to evoke recognition of God's forgiving, reconciling love. Berkouwer describes GJ Heering as following this by interpreting the meaning of the Cross as simply –
"Christ with a divine gesture spreads his arms out and says: Also this last, this very last thing I did for you, in complete unanimity with the Father, according to His gracious and saving intent, in order to open your eyes at last, to convince you of His love, to draw you irresistibly, in spite of all your opposition, to the Father, and to make you bow down under His mercy." (1976:274).
 
 
It is most certainly true that the Father as Co-author of our reconciliation was not unmoved by the suffering of the Cross, but the very nature of the Atonement forbids any difference in kind of the suffering of the Father with every sin, sickness and sadness in all the history of His creation. That the Father suffered to a greater degree in the agony of than that of any other man is sure, but the uniqueness of the Cross is that it is a suffering of righteousness, not with, but for sin. The most explicit reconciliation passage closes with –
"He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf..."  (2 Cor.5:21).
 
The essence of the suffering of Christ is expressed in His fourth statement from the Cross in agony –
"My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?"  (Matt.27:46).
 
 
The rejection of Christ for our sakes in the horror of divine wrath upon our sin in Christ is the heart of the Father's love-offering for us. Even Christ's reference to the "cup" during His Gethsemane prayer points to the Wrath of God which He endured (Psalm 75:8; Jer.25:15; Hab.2:16; etc.).
 
 
Many modern scholars have taken umbrage at the idea that God's justice means divine hostility or wrath toward the guilty and have opposed the God-ward direction in Christ's sacrifice. This is evident in the Revised Standard Version and other recent translations of the Bible where the word "expiation" is used in the place of "propitiation". While both words mean the removal of wrath, "propitiation" is of a person whereas "expiation" avoids this aspect. Leon Morris writes –
"It can scarcely be doubted that the modern preference for 'expiation' is due to a dislike for the concept of the wrath of God" ("Expiation", Henry (ed.) 1973:233).
 
 
Men are described as receiving the reconciliation as the means of being reconciled (Morris 1976:452). It is a reality outside of man, an objective act of God in the death of Christ; a completed work!
 
 
God, estranged and offended by us, was propitiated through the man Christ Jesus, and the "word of reconciliation" (2 Cor.5:19), the message of this event, is the good news of God's love.
 
3.
The Need for Reconciliation
 
Man's
estrangement from his Maker is essentially personal rather than circumstantial. The Bible calls this man ἐχθρός 'echthros', an enemy of God. Men are hostile in their minds toward God (Col.1:21). Because men are enemies of God they are subject to divine wrath (Rom.5:9; Eph.2:3). Not only are men sinful by their hostility toward God and His purposes but they are passively also enemies of God by virtue of God's rejection of their actions and their attitude.
 
 
Mankind is "dead" in trespasses and sins (Eph.2:1; Col.2:13). This death is a spiritual state from which the exclusion of God is the exclusion of life. They are "the perishing" for their life proceeds from a state of spiritual death to a state of everlasting destruction (Ladd 1977:406).
 
 
Their life is lived under the wrath of God (Jn.3:18; Rom.1:18) and proceeds unwaveringly towards "the punishment of eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord" (2 Thess.1:8-9).
 
 
Nothing less than the initiative of the Almighty was needed to save man. Through the word of reconciliation the love appeal of God invites all men to receive the divine act of reconciliation and so be reconciled (2 Cor.5:20).
 
 
Their reconciliation is only "in Christ" however (2 Cor.5:17). In Him alone is judgment fulfilled (Jn.3:18). "In Christ" man is saved from "the wrath to come" (2 Thess.1:10).
 
 
This reconciliation applied means a personal change in the recipient. Hostility becomes submission or reconciliation is not reconciliation. Reconciliation and rebellion cannot co-exist (2 Cor.13:5).
 
 
Thus reconciliation is objective historically and subjective personally (Ladd 1977:455). It is firstly an act of God outside of ourselves in Christ and becomes an experience of God (fellowship) by His Spirit inwardly.
 
4. The Result of Reconciliation  
Ladd
describes justification as the ethical condition of reconciliation (1977:455). In this right-standing before God man is restored to fellowship.
 
 
The immediate result of this fellowship is "peace with God" (Rom.5:1). This is not simply a tranquil emotional condition. It is the obverse of the enmity and hostility of those who were εχθροι 'echthroi', enemies. God's wrath no longer threatens us. As Ladd put it: we have peace with God because through Christ God is now at peace with us (1977:456) and from this the gracious favour of God proceeds.
 
 
The reconciling act of God in Christ is described as –
"that He might create in Himself one new man in place of the two [Jew and Gentile], so making peace,
and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the Cross, thereby bringing the hostility to an end".
Ephesians 2:15-16.

 
If the absolute hostility between God and man is ended through the work of Christ, both objective and subjective, the hostility between men is also removed "in Christ."
 
 
The "new man" (Eph.2:15) or "new creation" (2 Cor.5:17) is the final product of reconciliation. Every hostility among men is abolished by the reconciliation work of Christ.
 
 
Outside of Christ all are yet εχθροι 'echthroi', enemies of God!
 
  It is only in the practice of the gift of reconciliation, peace with God, that peace among men can be realised.  
 
 
5.
Bibliography
 
 
Berkouwer, GC 1976  The Work of Christ Grand Rapids, US: Eerdmans.
Henry, Carl FH (Ed.) 1973  Bakers Dictionary of Christian Ethics Grand Rapids, US: Baker Book House.
Ladd, GE 1977  A Theology of the New Testament Grand Rapids, US: Eerdmans.
Lenski, RCH 1963  I and II Corinthians Minneapolis, US: Augsburg Publishing House.
Morris, L 1976  The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross Leicester, UK: Inter-Varsity Press.
Strong, AH 1962  Systematic Theology London, UK: Pickering and Inglis.
 

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