Just What Do You Mean....
by J. Preston Eby
In the Bible there are a great number of words, phrases, and expressions that are especially significant in the creative and redemptive plan of God. One of the first such phrases was uttered by God Himself before ever He brought mankind into being when He said, "Let us make man in our image." This was the purpose of God condensed into about as few words as can be used. Then there were the inspired words of Isaiah when he prophesied, "Unto us a child is born; unto us a Son is given." Connected with this were the words of the angels unto the shepherds, "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord," and the proclamation of the Voice from heaven at the Jordan river, "This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased."
Now God and man were united together in one body, never to be separated, never to be divided. And there were the meaningful words spoken by Jesus on the cross, "It is finished!" and then the wonderful words of the messenger at the tomb, "He is not here, He is risen." I am quite sure that no man as yet has ever plumbed the depths of those words or their meaning to all mankind. Innumerable works have been written, countless sermons have been preached, and many beautiful hymns have been intoned about the unsearchable riches of Christ and the unspeakable glories of redemption; but truthfully, no one has yet fathomed the depths of such glorious and awe-inspiring realities.
There are many other examples of such words and phrases, but one we want to consider in this message is the declaration of Paul in Col. 1: 20 "... by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself." The full text reads, "For by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him, and for Him: and He is before all things , and by Him all things consist... and, having made peace through the blood of His cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself; by Him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now has He reconciled " (Col. 1:16-17, 20-21).
The word "reconcile" in the Old Testament means "to cover" or "to make atonement." The many sacrifices made upon the altar served to cover over the sins of the people, making a certain kind of peace between God and man. Yet under the limited meaning of the word "atonement" we do not have the complete answer to our need, for we need more than a covering over of sin, but a complete and finished putting away thereof, never to be remembered any more. "But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year" (Heb. 10:3). "But now once in the end of the world has HE appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself" (Heb. 9:26).
In Christ there is no more remembrance of sin, for HE brings forth a new creation life, old things passing away, and behold, all things becoming new.
The dictionary defines the English word "reconcile" to mean: to unite; to bring back into harmony; to settle; to make consistent or compatible. The basic Greek word dealing with reconciliation in the New Testament is ALLASSO. This simple verb means "to change" or "to exchange." From this verb comes the compound KATALLASSO which is translated "reconciled" in Paul's epistles. Then there is an intensified compound, APOKATALLASSEIN, which is used in two places and rendered "reconciled" and "reconcile." ALLASSO is used in Acts 6:14 where Stephen is accused by false witnesses of preaching that Jesus of Nazareth would "change" the customs delivered to the Hebrews by Moses. In Rom. 1:23 the apostle Paul declares that reprobate men "changed" (in the sense of exchanged) the glory of the creator for images of the creature. In I Cor. 15:51 the apostle tells of a "mystery" concerning the resurrection when we are "changed" from corruptible to incorruptible beings. Again ALLASSEIN is used in Gal. 4:20 for a "change" of voice, and in Heb. 1:12 for a "change" of garment.
KATALASSO is a word which had an interesting history of usage in secular Greek before it was taken up by the Holy Spirit for use in the New Testament writings. It early acquired the technical sense of money exchange or of changing precious metals into money. Later it expanded to include the idea of giving one's life as a mercenary soldier in exchange for a small salary and adventure. Finally, in the Hellenistic writers, the term is found in constant use to describe the bringing together of individuals and nations who have been estranged.
Have you ever received your bank statement only to discover that the balance therein was not in agreement with the balance shown in your checkbook? If so you know something about the Bible teaching of reconciliation! When the balance shown by the bank and the balance shown on your check stub are not identical, there is bound to be error on the part of someone. In most cases you have probably discovered, as have I, that the mistake was on your part - a simple error in arithmetic, or, perhaps, a failure to register a deposit or a change of one kind or another. At any rate it became necessary to "reconcile" your balance with that submitted to you by the bank. To do this you traced down the error, corrected it, changed the sum, and brought the figure in your checkbook into conformity to that given by the bank.
The basic idea of reconciliation is, therefore, "to change thoroughly, to cause to be conformed to, or adjusted to a specified norm or standard." In the case of your home bookkeeping you found it necessary to adjust your check balance so that it "conformed to" the amount published by your bank in their monthly statement. In the case of Divine Bookkeeping there was found a necessity to have an adjustment made on man's books which were out of balance with the Divine Norm or Standard. God's act in bringing conformity of man's account to the Divine Norm, by rectifying the "errors" (sin) that brought about the imbalance, was accomplished through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
How meaningful, then, these words of Ray Prinzing:
"In the New Testament Greek we really find the depth of meaning for this word (reconcile), which is to change thoroughly. There can be no true unification without first a thorough change. Thus we are not seeking for just a present-time harmony, covering over the past, and hoping for the best in the future, but we desire that the Spirit of God, working within, shall bring a thorough change in us, and then we shall be united with our Lord. There will be no fear of the things we covered over rearing their ugly heads and distressing us again, making a break in our fellowship, for there will have been a thorough correction, and all things made new. Thus, we repeat, there must be a change before unification, 'for what fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion has light with darkness? and what concord has Christ with Belial? or what part has he that believes with an infidel?' " ( II Cor. 6:14-15)
Our Lord Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace. He came to bring peace. Peace is alien to earth. When sin entered, peace fled. The moment that sin entered, peace fled, and Adam and Eve themselves were at strife with God and each other...so that their firstborn son had the spirit of the devil and was a murderer from the beginning. He slew his own brother.
The second Man, the last Adam, was the Lord from heaven. When He was once rejected, in the days of His flesh. His disciples, with indignation, besought Him to command fire to come down from heaven and destroy these evil people. His answer comes down to us through the ages: "You know not what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them" (Lk. 9:55-56). The firstborn son of Adam was a murderer, but the firstborn Son of God was a Saviour. One was the peacebreaker shedding his brother's blood, the other was the Peacemaker shedding His own blood that He might make peace with God. Yet the Christ had power to destroy men's lives if He had the will. When He stood there with the cross in full view, He said to His persecutors that it was in His power to call twelve legions of angels. If that heavenly host which hovered about that Son could have once made itself manifest, oh how they would have swept that doomed city, that accursed conclave of false priests, and those wretched, blind and filthy-minded heathen soldiers! How the breath of these heavenly angels could have swept the life out of them and swept them down into hell and the grave. But that is not God's way in redemption. That is not the mission of the Son of God nor of the Sons of God.
Now this leads to a point of immense importance. We often hear it said that "the death of Christ was necessary in order to reconcile God to man." This is a pious stupidity, arising from inattention to the language of the Holy Spirit, and indeed to the plain meaning of the word "reconcile." God never changed - never stepped out of His normal and true position. He abides faithful. There was, and could be, no derangement, no confusion, no alienation, so far as He was concerned; and hence there could be no need of reconciling Him to us. In fact, it was exactly the contrary. Man had gone astray; he was the enemy, and needed to be reconciled. Wherefore, then, as might be expected, the Scriptures never speak of reconciling God to man. There is no such expression to be found within the covers of the New Testament! "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them." And again, "All things are of God, who has reconciled US to Himself by Jesus Christ" (II Cor. 5:18-19). In a word, it is God, in His infinite mercy and grace, through the cross of Christ, bringing us back unto Himself.
We have seen that the ideas in the simple and compound verbs translated "reconcile" that "change" and "exchange" form the keynote. However it is not God who must undergo a change, nor is it His account which is in need of alteration even one single iota! There is no need for a change in the attitude of God toward man, for it has been Love from eternity. There is no equality of footing in this truth for it is the story of the Absolute One who is Infinite in Power condescending to act towards rebel man in perfect grace in the latter's desperate need for reconciliation. It is the Lord Himself changing the accounts from "Sin's Wages" to "God's Gift," from "Legal Righteousness which condemns" to "Divine Righteousness which exalts." It is the Mediator exchanging the "Hostility of Man" for the "Peace of God." It is that which God does and which God gives which is at the heart of the cross whereby man is reconciled. Only God Omnipotent could accomplish the reconciliation! The books are cleared. And God did it!
"Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ; whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time His righteousness: that He might be just, and the justifier of Him which believes in Jesus" (Rom. 3:24-26).
The following words penned by George Hawtin are true and graphic on this point:
"The word propitiate means to appease, to soothe, to cause to he favorably disposed, and to conciliate. When Paul says, therefore, that God has set forth Christ to be a propitiation, the great question that must be answered is this: Whom is Christ propitiating? Whom is He appeasing? Whom is He soothing? Whom is He causing to be favorably disposed? Whom is He conciliating? Is this propitiation for His benefit? Or is it for the sinner's benefit? Is God trying to conciliate Himself or is He conciliating the sinner? You know as well as I do that the Church system has always erroneously taught that it is God who must be propitiated, conciliated and soothed, but I want you to know that such teaching is utter rubbish and the brashest sort of nonsense. It springs from that Romish tradition that likens God the Father to a fearful and offended despot, spoiling for the blood of the offenders, and it makes Christ to be the one who pleads with God on behalf of the victim until the Father is consoled and conciliated.
"The Church all down through the ages, including all evangelicals of the past and present, have taught that Jesus came to propitiate God and to endeavor to dispose Him to be kind toward His fallen race. If you search in a thousand places, I doubt that you will find one man who does not make this incorrect assertion. How often I have listened to preachers describe Jesus Christ as a lawyer who stands up before God to plead our cause and beg for our lives on the grounds that He, being innocent, died for us and God is propitiated by Him and we are forgiven. This gross misunderstanding of the truth of propitiation is everywhere evident in sermons, in writing and in hymns. Notice how this error is brought out in the words of the following hymn:
Five bleeding wounds He bears,
Received on Calvary.
They pour effectual prayers;
They strongly plead for me.
Forgive him, O forgiv , they cry,
Nor let the ransomed sinner die!
The Father hears Him pray,
His dear anointed One;
He cannot turn away
The presence of His Son.
My God is reconciled;
His pardoning voice I hear.
"This is Church tradition, but it is not the truth. Nowhere in all Scripture are we ever taught that God has to be reconciled to the world or to man. God never ever became an enemy of man nor does He need to be reconciled to man. The opposite is the truth and always the teaching of Scripture. Man is an enemy of God and man must be reconciled to God. Oh that sinners would be told that it was God the Father who gave His Son, not to appease or reconcile Himself, but to appease and reconcile man! Therefore the Scripture loudly proclaims, 'We beseech you in Christ's stead, be reconciled to God' (II Cor. 5:20).
This is the message that I bring,
A message angels feign would sing:
Be ye reconciled!
Thus says my Lord and King,
O be ye reconciled to God.
"Oh, the wonder of it all just to know that God the Father has sent Christ to be His propitiation toward us and that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them (II Cor. 5:19), and has committed unto us the word of reconciliation! So then, when the great apostle says that God has sent Christ as a propitiation, he means that He sent Christ to propitiate US and dispose US to kindness and repentance before God and to reconcile US to Himself. The Father did not send Christ to appease Himself, though that is the way the Church has always erroneously taught propitiation. The idea that God would send forth His Son to propitiate and appease Himself is exceedingly absurd. The truth is that Christ came to propitiate you and me that we might repent of our rebellion and iniquity against Him, believe and be reconciled to God, who has always loved us and been our friend and not our enemy. We might also take notice that in referring to the Scripture, 'There is one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus ,' the preachers have also turned this backwards and made Christ to be our mediator with the Father, but that is not what Paul said. He said that the mediator was between God and man, not between man and God. So Christ was sent as a propitiation, a propitiator, or one sent by God the Father to dispose man to repentance and kindness, love and faith toward God"
"For if, when we were enemies , we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life" (Rom. 5:10).
What wonder there is in these few words! We were enemies, yet reconciled to God, and that reconciliation came through the death of the Son of God. We were not converted people when we began to be reconciled. We were not saved people at that reconciliation. If we had been saved or converted or righteous at the time of reconciliation, THERE WOULD HAVE BEEN NO NEED FOR A RECONCILIATION. A reconciliation is for the purpose of bringing people of opposing ideals and desires together.
Two things many Christians have not known. One is that when we were reconciled we did not even know that we were enemies of God; the second is that we did not know it until the knowledge of it was brought to us. In fact, at the time of the reconciliation, we had absolutely no knowledge of it at all. No one is reconciled at any altar, or anywhere else, except at the death of the Son of God. The joy and the happiness comes to the sinner, not because he has just been reconciled, but because he has discovered that in actuality he was reconciled to God a long time ago. Preachers and people are quick to say that we are not healed NOW, but that in all actuality we WERE healed by His stripes two thousand years ago. In like manner, in God's estimation, we, when we were enemies, were reconciled to God by the death of His Son.
When Jesus the Christ died on the cross, excepting the very few disciples who stood there, He did not have one single friend. ALL were His enemies! In Acts 4:27-28 we read, "For of a truth against Your holy child Jesus, whom You have anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together for to do whatsoever Your hand and Your counsel determined before to be done." This people had no choice in this matter. GOD gathered them together on that fateful day! Why was this so? In order that all of them together with the whole world might come to know the wonderful love of God that would save mankind, even against its will, so that God might fulfill His Will for the entire race. All this was in the will and purpose of God and nothing was amiss or out of order, or in opposition to the will of God.
The wondrous and gracious words of Jesus confirm this when, as He was dying, He cried, "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do." What was it that made this manifested love of God so gloriously known? It was the opposing character in all the multitude that crucified the Christ. Had the nation of Israel and the empire of Rome supported Jesus and His teachings, no such manifestation of the LOVE OF GOD would ever have been revealed. The hatred and violence of the mob actually illuminated God's love and made it known.
Every soul has been at war with God; in order for reconciliation to take place, there must be a cessation of the warfare, the hostilities, which exist between the individual and the Creator. The question that must be answered, therefore, is: How is the warfare that exists between the soul and God to come to an end?
The first part of the answer is that we must realize that the war exists and confess the fact. A man who tries to insist that there is nothing wrong between him and God is dodging the truth. There is warfare between every man and God by the very nature of man's ego, his self-seeking, sinful heart. God says that the warfare exists, and we have to admit it. Paul expresses the matter with finality: "For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be" (Rom. 8:5-8).
Phillips graphically translates these verses: "The carnal attitude sees no further than natural things; but the spiritual attitude reaches out after the things of the Spirit. The former attitude means, bluntly, death; but the latter means life and inward peace. And this is only to be expected for the carnal attitude is inevitably opposed to the purpose of God, and neither can nor will follow His laws. Men who hold this attitude cannot possibly please God."
Let us examine how a war between two nations comes to an end. A French statesman once pointed out that there were only two types of peace that ever followed a war: A peace imposed upon the defeated by a conqueror; or a peace accepted by the defeated through surrender. There is a vast difference between the peace which is imposed or the peace which one accepts. It should be evident that if there is to be peace between a man and God, the terms must be imposed by God Himself. God, the eternal God, omniscient and omnipotent, must have His way it is the only right way in the universe. Every other way is the selfwill of the creature, the way of earth, the way of limitation, blindness, finiteness. Men who will not submit their wills to the Creator go their horrible way into judgment.
Yet in spite of the fact that our position and our condition are defenseless, there have been those who have talked about "making their peace with God," as if they had a right to set the terms. The phrase has long been in use to describe settling differences between men. Shakespeare, in Twelfth Night, has one of his characters say, "I will make your peace with him, if I can." Thomas Fuller seems to have been the first man who ever spoke of making one's peace with God. But the phrase is incorrect and an absurdity in such a connection. If you are to know the joys of what God has for you, you must get that idea out of your mind. You must realize that God has already made the peace and that you are simply to accept it! And when you come to God, the wonderful thing is that you find Him merciful toward you. The man who flings himself upon the promises of God finds that God is the loving Saviour. God has already made peace and is ready to receive that soul with all grace and tenderness. In the epistle to the Colossians, we read of the Lord Jesus Christ that "it pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell; and having made peace through the blood of His cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself" (Col. 1:19-20).
Note especially the tense of the verb: Having made peace. This is of paramount importance: God has made peace! There is no other peace that can be made except that which God has made. A man who talks about making his peace with God is ignorant and denies the peace which God has already made. God will have no other peace with man than that which He made at the cross. God established the terms for this peace. He set these terms by the death of His Son. He declared that only by the death of man's ways, the death of man's will, the death of man's attitude and hostility, could there be peace. In all this God does not change at all. But God works a mighty work upon man, placing him in the Christ upon the cross, crucifying all that he is and all that he does, and bringing him forth out of that death into the resurrection of a new creation in Christ Jesus. Oh the wonder of it! And now, if you will come with an absolute capitulation and unconditional surrender, you will find that God is all peace toward you. It is then that you can go on to find that FULLNESS OF PURPOSE which God fulfills in all who surrender to Him.
What a hideous affront it is to the God of our salvation to wickedly accuse Him of needing to give His own Son as a propitiation to appease His own wrath, though this is the inexcusable lie we hear continually from the pulpit and over the air waves! God is portrayed by the preachers as so mad at sin and sinners, so violently angry and beside Himself that He is metaphorically foaming at the mouth with uncontrollable rage which can only be appeased by looking upon the bloody sweat and cruel, ugly death of His Son upon a Roman cross. All sermons and songs that picture God as a God of rage who must be "appeased" and "soothed" by blood are heathenish and should be piled on a bonfire and burned.
The Old Testament sacrifices serve as a beautiful revelation of God's love towards us, in His reconciliation. Whatever Israel brought to God was brought at His command and was an expression of their dependence upon Him. Sacrifice was not intended to make God gracious; it was brought in recognition of a grace which He Himself had assured. Every sacrifice was offered from. this point of view, and free from any thought of appeasing an angry and hostile God. The idea of man being able through the death of a victim, or through some act of self-immolation, to appease the anger of an offended deity or to change His mind toward the worshipper, has clung persistently to most pagan religions. How alien it was to the Israelitish conception of the relation between God and man is clear from the statement in Lev. 17:11, "For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls." Ah, God gave the sacrifice, and not to change His attitude toward man, but to change something about man! How could the blood of the sacrifice appease the wrath of God and make Him merciful toward man? It was the gracious, loving character of God that gave the sacrifice! "I have given it to you upon the altar." How clear that the blood of the sacrifice was not God-ward, it did not avail to make God gracious, for He against whom the offence had been committed has Himself provided the means of reconciliation!
Never was holiness more vindicated, than at the cross, when Jesus "suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God " (I Pet. 3:18). Never was love more lavishly outpoured than when "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have the life of the ages" (Jn. 3:16). Notice, dear reader, it does not say that God was so mad at the world, or so offended by the world, or so angry with the world, or so vengeful toward the world, or so caught in a dilemma because of His justice - but God so loved the world that He gave. Hallelujah! We stand in awe before this fulfillment of Gen. 22:8, when by the Spirit Abraham prophesied to Isaac, "God will provide Himself a lamb for a burnt offering."
As one has pointed out: "And that is just what He did, He provided HIMSELF! Stripping Himself of His glory, He who was in the form of God, took upon Himself the form of man, and offered that form in that great sacrifice, yea, poured out the life contained in that form,, which life was freely given to reconcile all things back into Himself. Never was grace more majestic in its operation, than when 'He made Him to be sin (Greek, literally, a sin-offering) for us, Who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him' (II Cor. 5:21)."
How inspired the words of John the Baptist when he declared of Jesus, "Behold the LAMB OF GOD, which takes away the sin of the world" (Jn. 1:29). Ah, this Lamb was no sacrifice to appease - it was the perfect and purposeful embodiment of God's grace and mercy and love and life to reconcile a hostile world unto Himself!
Appeasement is the basis of the offerings and sacrifices in all pagan religions. J. A. Dowie once wrote:
"The religions of the world are wordly, are sensual, and are devilish for the most part. No one will doubt that is true in China. No one will doubt it, notwithstanding the clever philosophies and moral axioms of the Chinese Analects, or the works of Mencius or Confucius or the commentators upon these. No one will doubt that the worship of the Chinese is essentially a Devil Worship. I remember once going into a very fine Chinese joss-house (temple), in Australia, where offerings of the costliest kind hung upon the walls, where many interesting things were to be found. I was talking with the chief priest, and said - to him: 'Tell me how you worship,' and he told me. 'Why,' I said, after I had heard attentively, 'My dear fellow, it seems to me that you are worshipping bad divinities.' 'Oh,' he said, 'Of course we do. The good ones we do not need to worship. They will do us no harm. To protect ourselves we have to get right with the bad ones, so we make it right with the devils.' I thought to myself that there were some other people like that in America and Europe, who are not Chinese' "
Can we not see by this that the Christians have copied the heathen and have made a fiendish devil of their God, and have then used the sacrifice of Jesus to "appease" this God who is more like a malicious devil than a loving and gracious Creator and Redeemer? Most Christians know, by hearing at least, that "'God is Love," but the sense of condemnation from His Presence beclouds the vision of the heart, so that The Face which He has revealed in Christ Jesus cannot be seen. Often that is because of the continual preaching which describes God as a destroyer, a vindictive punisher. Even as a child many were taught to think of Him as an avenger of every little thing they did wrong. Parents have said, "Now don't you do that because GOD will punish you! He will punish you!" And even much stronger things are told to little children.
It is one thing to describe God as a loving Father, and all the relations of the little child to a loving Father who corrects in order to bless. It is quite another thing to darken the heart of a little child with threats of the certain vengeance of a Being who is a constant terror over the life. It is a false and terrible thing to leave upon the heart of a little child, as their first impression of God, that He is always waiting, lurking around, to punish them.
Think of it! That little child whose whole being is susceptible to love; who is always looking for and wanting love; who is capable of the purest and fullest simplicity of response to love - think of it! marked and stamped with the impression that "God" is one to be constantly scared of. As though He is waiting everywhere with a punishing whip of large dimensions! Such impressions remain through a whole lifetime as an actual foundation of belief and action. That Wonderful Father! That Gracious Redeemer! That most Loving of all Beings! Oh, how I love Him! He turned my heart back again and restored me into His life. God, the Father, the Most High, sent Jesus - the very fullness of His own heart - sent Him into the world to die on Calvary's cross. But the real grasp of what that love and mercy actually is, may often be nearly destroyed by the impression of wrath deeply ingrained in the mind. If our basic understanding of "God" is that He is a Destroyer, that impression can discolor and influence our thought and our prayer life and our faith so that we can with great difficulty see Him as He is. How wonderfully He changes that when we come to Him repenting and believing in His loving Word. We cry out with an almost inexpressible joy that we loveHim. It is love, His love, which does it! He flows into our lives in what He is and we no longer think of Him as a great force out there somewhere or a great destroyer, but as the life Giver.
"For by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers; all things were created by Him and for Him: and He is before all things , and by Him all things consist. And, having made peace through the blood of His cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself, by Him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. And you that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now has He reconciled " (Col.1:16-17, 20-21).
"And all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ, and has given to US the ministry of reconciliation ; to wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself by Jesus Christ, and has given unto US the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be reconciled to God" (II Cor. 5:18-20).
It is utterly impossible for any man or any creature on earth or in heaven to exclude himself from this most precious ministry - the ministry of reconciliation . Before the reader can shut himself, or any other man or being out from the application of this grace, he must prove that he does not belong to either the earth or heaven, or that he is not a part of the "all things" that were created by and in the Christ in the beginning, and that therefore he is excluded from being reconciled, since he has no identification with any of the "all things" that were created and that are being reconciled into the Christ. This he cannot do, and hence he must see that God is beseeching him and all to be reconciled! Every foot of this earth and every man upon this earth belongs to Christ, for He made the earth and He made every man. On that wonderful day when God created "all things" in earth and in heaven He also said, "Let us make man in our image, and after our likeness." Christ made every man and tasted death for every man, and therefore every foot of the earth and every man on the earth belongs to Christ my Lord, first by right of creation, and second by right of redemption.
This leads us to look, for a moment, at the features which characterize this glorious ministry of reconciliation . First, let us mark God's attitude. He is beseeching sinners. What a thought! It seems too much for the heart to conceive. The words "to sin" in either Hebrew or Greek mean, to err, to miss the mark. It speaks of that which turns away from the true course, causing a separation by its own selfhood course. "All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned everyone to his OWN WAY" (Isa. 53:6).
Only think, precious friend of mine, of the Most High and Mighty God, the Creator of the ends of the earth, think of Him as beseeching and praying you to be friends with Him! And more than that, to be unified with Him, made one in His life! It is not a question of your desiring to be like Him and your praying to Him and His hearing. No: but the very reverse - He is praying you! He simply asks you to be unified into Him because He has made the provision at the cost of His own Son. Think of this. He spared not His only begotten and well beloved Son, but met the demand of divine law, made HIM to be a sin-offering for you, judged your sin in the person of His Son, opened up the fountain of the life-giving stream of His incorruptible life, in order that He might be able to reconcile you. And now He stretches forth His arms and opens His heart to you, and prays you to be reconciled - to be unified in Him. Surpassing grace! It really seems to me as though human language can only tend to weaken and impoverish this grand reality.
I would further suggest that the force of verse 20 is greatly weakened by the word "you," which, as the reader will observe, is in italics, showing that it does not appear in the original text but is supplied by the translators. "Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be reconciled to God." What an inexcusable error! The inserted "you" makes it as though God through Paul was beseeching the saints, new creation men for whom old things had passed away and all things had become new to now be "reconciled" to God! What an unmitigated absurdity! The word "you" doesn't belong in the text at all. It makes it appear as though the apostle were beseeching the Corinthian saints to be reconciled, whereas he is only setting forth the terms and the style adopted by all "ambassadors" for Christ wherever they would go through the whole wide world - the language in which they were to address "every creature" under heaven.
It is not, "Do this or that" or "Give this or that," it was not law or ritual or ceremony or creed; but simply, "Be reconciled." The message, "Be reconciled" is not for saints, but for the world, for "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their (not our) trespasses unto them (not us); and has committed unto us (the saints) the ministry of reconciliation." The next verse, purged of the erroneous "you," then declares, "Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech by us: we pray in Christ's stead, be (the world) reconciled to God."
Consider now Col.1:16 from the Emphatic Diaglott: "Because IN Him were created ALL THINGS, those in the heavens and those on the earth; the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or lordships, or governments, or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him." The King James version says that all things were created BY Him, but the more literal Diaglott says that all things were created IN HIM. Paul is here speaking of God as the Creator and as creating everything in the Son.
I must emphasize that God is the Creator of all things. Notice the things that the inspired apostle includes in creation. all things in the heavens, or all things that are in and constitute the ruling element -"the heavens do rule" (Dan. 4:26). all the things on the earth, or all things that are in or constitute those elements which are ruled, or under authority. ALL things that are visible, or that are discernible to the physical senses - ALL that the eyes can see, ALL that the ears can hear, ALL that we can touch, feel, taste or smell - has been created by God. ALL things that are invisible were created by our God - ALL the wisdom, ALL the knowledge, yea, even that which has not yet been tapped or conceived of by the mind of man - God created. ALL of the myriad machines and devices that shall yet come out of the mind of man, were created by God. ALL of the vast forces and powers and universal laws that science has not yet discovered, were created by God. ALL the thrones, and the glory and the power of those who occupy them, were created by God. ALL the dominions or lordships, the mastery and the supremacy, were created by God. ALL the principalities and powers, angels, intelligences, chief ones, in heaven and in earth, were created by God. And it is not just the fact that all of these were created by God that startles us the most, but it goes on to say that by the blood of the His cross all these things are reconciled to God in Heaven and in Earth. This implies that the principalities and powers in the heavenly realms needed reconciling and are reconciled by the blood of God's Son. This is why the redeemer was both a HEAVENLY BEING and an EARTHLY BEING. He was the Word from heaven made flesh upon earth, heaven and earth blended into one, so that the Son could say, "No man has ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven" (Jn. 3:13). Praise God, even the principalities and powers IN THE HEAVENS are included in the glorious reconciliation and peace secured by the blood of His cross, the Man who was from heaven, born on earth, reconciling both realms into one IN HIMSEL. Glory!
If God be the Creator of ALL THINGS, then it must of necessity follow that God is the source of all things. We read in Rom. 11:36, from the Diaglott, "Because OUT of HIM, and THROUGH HIM, and FOR HIM are ALL THINGS, to Him be the glory for the ages, Amen."
All things are out of God, all things are through Him, all things are for Him, and all things are unto Him, ending in Him. The clearest possible rendering is given by Goodspeed, "For from Him everything comes; through Him everything exists; and in Him everything ends ! Glory to Him for ever! Amen."
The Amplified Bible also expresses it beautifully, "For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. - For all things originate with Him and come from Him; all things live through Him, and all things center in and tend to CONSUMMATE AND TO END IN HIM. To Him be glory for ever! Amen - so be it."
Some misguided individuals have argued that the reconciliation of all "things" does not mean men or beings. But, pray tell me, what "things" in the whole vast universe, apart from men and other creatures, are described in the Word of God as "enemies" of God, "alienated" from God, "blasphemers" of God, "haters" of God, etc. in need of reconciliation? These are not mere "offices" or "governmental positions" for they carry the qualities of personality and being. And it is an important and incontrovertible fact that the Colossians were themselves part of the "all things" to be reconciled! "...by Him to reconcile all things to Himself...and YOU, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked words, yet now has He reconciled " (Col. 1:20-21).
The internal evidence within these verses demonstrates beyond question that the "all things" to be reconciled are living creatures. To say that "things" is not persons, or that "all things" does not include all persons is to violate the whole testimony of the Scriptures. Of course all things includes all people! Numerous passages could be cited, but I share only two briefly, to establish the point. "Therefore let no man glory in men. For ALL THINGS are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cepahs, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours" (I Cor. 3:21-22). It should be clear to anyone that people - Paul, Apollos, and Cephas - are among the all things that Paul enumerates as belonging to the saints. Such other items as "the world" and "life" and "death" are included with them as "things." No less illustrious a personage than our blessed Lord Jesus Christ is called in Scripture a "thing." "The angel answered and said unto her ... that HOLY THING which shall be born of you shall be called the Son of God" (Lk. 1:35).
It is deceitful to say that "all things" is something other than people! Paul was teaching us and all who have ears to hear that there is coming a time of universal reconciliation in which all things - all men, and every created spirit, whether they be in heaven or on earth, whether they be visible or invisible - shall abide in the conscious awareness of having been wonderfully and gloriously conciliated to God!
Far too many Christians testify like this: "Thank God I'm saved, sanctified, and baptized in heaven's sweet Holy Ghost - but its too bad for the rest of you people. Thank God He laid His hand on me, so I believed and am on my way to heaven - but it is going to be hell for the rest of you. Come quickly, Lord Jesus, and take me out of this sin cursed world and let it go to the devil."
Few people, even if they had the authority, would condemn anyone, even their worst enemy, to a burning, scorching, tormenting, eternal hell. Yet they expect God to do it! Some, as we have spoken of the good consolation and everlasting hope we have for all men, have said, wistfully, "I wish it were true." But sadly they confessed that their own sense of hope and mercy obviously exceeded that of God's. Other folk would never be satisfied for God to judge the world in a way that would bring the world back to Himself. Their attitude is, if men have spurned God's love, if they have lived in sin, if they have done wickedly, if they have drawn their last breath blaspheming His name, then let them burn in hell - they deserve it! And these so-called followers of the Lamb of God who died to take away the sin of the world would personally join in shoveling the coal and seeing to it that they get everything they deserve - and perhaps a little bit more! I have no hesitation whatever in saying that people who hold that attitude are not Christians at all. They are devils.
The most abusive and vindictive letters I have received through the years have come from people who claim to be in the sonship company through which God will set all creation free. Only this week I received a letter from one of these "creation-delivering-sons" bitterly denouncing me and the teaching of the "reconciliation of all things." He said it is "destructive" and "Satanic" and said that he was sick of it all. When people call these precious truths Satanic, they unwittingly blaspheme the Holy Spirit, for it was He and none other who inspired Paul to write these words: "And, having made peace through the blood of His cross, by Him reconcile all things unto Himself." It was the Holy Spirit who said that "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them, and has committed unto us the word of reconciliation." Even in the face of such wonderful and all-inclusive statements as these, these have the brazen audacity to write to me and make such Holy Spirit-defying statements as: "I don't believe in the reconciliation of all things!"
The simple truth is, my beloved brethren, that until we are able to embrace God's immutable intention of reconciling all things unto Himself, we will never be able to clearly see God's plan for this present age nor for other ages yet to come. And most certainly God will not entrust into our hands the blessed ministry of reconciliation as long as we remain hostile toward God's gracious purpose and vindictive toward men for whom Christ died and the creation we are sent to rescue and redeem.
Some have asked what good it does to believe that God will save all men. You might as well ask what good it does to believe that God will save some men! If a man does not believe that Jesus Christ saves sinners he will not spend his time preaching to and pleading with sinners. If a man is convinced that God will not save any men in this age then he will not exert one ounce of energy to accomplish what he believes God will not do. Every evangelist believes that it is God's will to save some men during this present time, or he would not be an evangelist! And if a man does not believe that God will save any men past this present age, is it not obvious then that he will not spend his time ministering to men in the ages to come? To what end, then, is such a man's "sonship ministry?" Why strive and labor to be a Son, to set creation free, if what God is accomplishing in redemption during this present age is all there is? We may as well join a good Church, become the very best evangelist possible, and give ourselves to getting the few saved that can now be won for Christ. If there is no out-working of redemption in the ages to come, no extension nor expansion of the Kingdom of God beyond the formation of the body of Christ, then why not settle for the fundamentalist's heaven and content ourselves with spending eternity shouting up and down the golden streets, waving palm branches and strumming harps? All who say out of one side of their mouth that they are called to sonship to bring deliverance to the whole creation, while out of the other side of their mouth they denounce as heresy the doctrine of the reconciliation of all, foolishly contradict themselves. You simply can't have it both ways, my friend!
In II Cor. 5:18 the apostle Paul states the matter very clearly. He tells us that something wonderful has been given unto us. He tells us why God has given us this understanding of His plans and purposes. He admonishes us that we have work to do. He says that "God ... has reconciled US to Himself by Jesus Christ, AND has given to us the ministry of reconciliation."
Let us notice the logical sequence of this statement. Having first reconciled US to Himself by Christ, God then gave to US the ministry of reconciliation, having put in us the word of reconciliation. And this ministry of reconciliation is on behalf of whom? The Church? NO! "God was in Christ, reconciling THE WORLD unto Himself." God has reconciled the Church, so that He might give to the Church the ministry of reconciliation on behalf of the world that He has reconciled through Christ. The great God of the universe, He who is from everlasting to everlasting, from the ages to the ages, the Creator of all things, has invited us to be His associates in this great plan of reconciling the world! This grand project of reconciliation, in which it is our privilege to have a part, begins with the Church in this age, it carries over into the ministry of the Sons of God on behalf of the whole world of mankind, and ultimately to the whole vast creation of God in all realms. God will, in the ages to come, put on display in His Sons all His power, wisdom, love, mercy and righteousness which are even now specially operating on behalf of the "firstfruits" followers of the Lamb. But our part now in this great work of reconciliation, in this present age, is to preach the Kingdom of God and grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, being conformed to His image. The Kingdom is in the world, but how sorely the world needs the Kingdom! And God's wonderful plan shall not end until all things have been subdued unto Him and delivered up into His kingdom.
Reconciliation brings harmony and peace. "And having made peace by the blood of His cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself." The distinguishing characteristic of a Son of God is that he is a peacemaker above all things. "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children (Greek: Sons) of God" (Mat. 5:9). How are we to be peacemakers? We are peacemakers, first of all, by being at peace with God. We cannot make peace; we cannot assist in ministering God's peace, unless we are ourselves at peace.
If I am to be an ambassador for God, I must surely be at peace with God. If the ministry of reconciliation is my ministry, then I must possess the peace of God. I must be reconciled to God. Christ has "made peace" by the blood of His cross. Therefore do I say unto you, "acquaint now thyself with Him, and be at peace." Many Christians are not at peace. They ought to be, but they are not. They talk about being justified by faith and having peace with God, and they have no such thing. Some are justified by faith but they are at controversy with God because they are not obedient. All within has not been stilled, reconciled. All within has not been subdued. You may be God's child and yet be at controversy with your Father. Some who now read these lines are children of God but they are at controversy with the Holy Spirit of truth over the doctrine of the reconciliation of all things! My message to you today is: be reconciled to God. Accept God's beautiful plan and stop fighting against the truth and He will receive you and be a Father unto you and you will be His Son, a fit instrument to bear the word of reconciliation to the ends of the creation.
In II Cor. 5:18-20 the Holy Spirit has given us a direct word concerning the reconciliation of the world as well as the members of the body of Christ. Having said that we who trust His word have been (past tense) reconciled to God by means of Christ, we are told that we now have been given the "ministry of reconciliation." This is explained as a sharing with the world that they also are reconciled. This "word of reconciliation" is committed to us. The Lord is trusting us with the job of seeing to it that the lost men and women of "the world" know that God has reconciled them unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them. Now, as representatives, as ambassadors of Jesus Christ and His Kingdom, you and I are to minister this reconciliation to the world. The debt of sin has been paid in full. The books are balanced as far as God is concerned. Divine righteousness is theirs, also, when they will finally lay down their rebellion and surrender, believing God's Word of Love and accepting the Life He offers them in exchange for their death. And what is the ultimate result of such a ministry? Hear it! "And, having made peace through the blood of His cross, by Him to RECONCILE ALL THINGS UNTO HIMSELF: by Him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven" (Col. 1:20). Amazing grace! Stupendous and glorious plan! What a ministry!
As Ray Prinzing has so aptly written:
"A ministry of reconciliation, of changing others so that they might be drawn into unification and harmony with God. This is a NEW ministry, based upon a new covenant, 'established upon better promises' (Heb. 8:6). 'Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; Who also has made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the Spirit: for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life' (II Cor. 3:5-6). Herein is a ministry of mercy and grace! 'To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them' (II Cor. 5:19). Not charging them with guilt, to heap upon them loads of condemnation, but simply to give them the good word, namely, that God loves them, forgives them, and is ready to receive them back to Himself. All is well, come home - forsake your wayward course, the Father waits to forgive and receive you. No word of condemnation, not imputing a list of sins against you, but a word of hope, of grace, of love.
" 'Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ.' This word 'for' is the same word as used later 'in Christ's stead.' In behalf of Christ, as though God did beseech by us, 'we pray you in Christ's stead, be reconciled to God.' God is going to beseech the whole creation through the enchristed (anointed) company of which The Christ is the Head. The word 'beseech' is a strong word, bespeaking of laying hold in earnestness. This company will be filled with divine compassion, 'for the love of Christ constrains us' (II Cor. 5:14). And will this ministry be effective? Ah, yes, 'And I heard every created thing in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea and all that is in it, crying out together, to Him Who is seated on the throne and to the Lamb be ascribed the blessing and the honor and the majesty (glory, splendor) and the Power (might and dominion) forever and ever' (Rev. 5:13, Amplified).
"Yes, He purposes in His sovereign will that all human history shall be consummated in Christ. Everything that exists in heaven and earth shall find its perfection and fulfillment in Him. All things shall 'center in and tend to consummate and to end in Him' (Rom. 11:36, Amplified). Though the ages run their course, and the time seems long; though judgments are required and the discipline is severe; though there be many paths washed with tears, and the valley be deep; yet God has purposed that all shall be fully restored, and the great age of jubilee shall see a universe redeemed from the tyranny of change and decay, delivered into the glorious liberty which rightfully belongs to the children of God, and the whole purpose of the ages shall redound to the glory of God. We bow to worship HIM who truly 'does all things well' "
And this glorious work of reconciliation has, now begun - in us! I would quote once more from Brother Prinzing's writings:
"The law demands, 'the soul that sins, it shall die.' Why? Because the only way to end the wayward course of self's rebellion is to die outto that course of action, and be reconciled back into the will of God. But how can we 'die' to that which has captivated us, especially when we are 'dead in trespasses and sins,' and cut off from the life of God, and His power which is needed for our overcoming? Death - which came as an enemy, and separated us from righteousness, and the life of God, must now be reversed, so that we die to this carnal realm, and are restored into fellowship and harmony with our God. This death-route was blazed out for us by Christ. 'That He by the grace of God should taste death for every man' (Heb. 2:9). And now He is able to indwell us by His Spirit, and give us the power to walk in His steps, and follow through the process of 'death to self' that we might come alive to God, praise Him!
" 'What are we then to say to facts like these? If God is for us, who can be against us' (Rom. 8:31, Williams). This is not some wierd figment of a vain man's distorted imagination, dreams of the night; these are facts. God is working a thorough change, and He has already begun with a firstfruits company, gathering a remnant out of each generation, until the appointed hour when He shall begin the greater scope of the restitution of all things spoken of by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began"
A thorough change! That my dear friend, is what we mean by ... Reconciliation! We have possessed "in part" the life of God, and we have thrilled to its surgings within us, and the transformations wrought, but we must have the WHOLE, being thoroughly changed into His same image. What a tremendous process, for man is not a noble ruin, but he is an utter ruin of what was once a noble nature. God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion..." But, alas, how the glory has grown dim, how the fine gold has tarnished! The crown has fallen from man's head. His kingly nature is deformed, and the image of God is destroyed. Thus we see that so little remains in the unregenerated man of that copious flow of love and life and light and righteousness and power which at first poured forth from man to the creation.
How can it be restored? "And, having made peace through the blood Of His cross, by Him to reconcile (thoroughly change) all things unto Himself." With the climax of the cross bringing final death to the carnal mind, mankind will emerge out of the barren tomb as a NEW CREATION. If man is to be restored to the image of the all-loving God, reconciled, thoroughly changed and unified INTO HIM, it will only be done by God Himself. A little child can take an egg in his hand and crush it. All of the skill of all of the men in all of the world, all of their wisdom and all of the power that can split the atom, and all of the technology that can place men on the moon, all these combined cannot restore that egg to what it was before. How much less can man, by his own strength or wisdom, restore the destroyed image of God in his being unto that which God originally made him to be? Nothing will suffice but a thorough change, a new creation, a reconciliation wrought by God Himself. "Therefore if any man be in Christ He is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who HAS RECONCILED US to Himself" (II Cor. 5:17-18).
If such be not the end of God's great plan of the ages then Calvary is a failure and redemption a farce. Current so-called "orthodox" theology incorporates into its system belief in the superior power of Satan, the deathlessness of sin, the indestructibility of error, and the permanence of evil. The doctrines of the harlot church system teach that since sin and death have entered upon the scene in God's universe, they have come never to go out again, unconquerable, ineradicable, endless.
Charles Schmitt has asked the burning question: "Is God, who is sovereign Lord, destined to possess about 3% of all the billions who have sprung from His creative hand? Shall the absolute majority of all these created beings perpetuate hate and blasphemy against their blessed Creator throughout an endless eternity? Is Jesus, who died effecting the death blow to all sin and to all the works of Satan (I Jn.3:8) destined to reign in a universe where sin shall exist in staggering proportions, and even as some purport, in increasing proportions throughout all eternity? The counsels of God, according to Sacred Scripture, have declared an emphatic NO! Through the consuming fires of God's holy Love (Heb. 12:29) God has deigned to cause all men everywhere eventually to drop the sword of proud rebellion and willingly acclaim the Lordship of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that to the glory of God (Phil. 2:10-11)! Have we hereby done despite to the justice and holiness of God? No, unlike those who hold the opposing view, we have rather fully satisfied it against all sin and rebellion! Have we hereby maligned the sovereign love and the mercy of God? No, we have rather upheld it in its infinite scope! "
And what a wonderful effect the truth has upon those who see it with spiritual eyes, hear it with spiritual ears, and believe it with pure and reverent hearts! The witness of spiritual giants like Andrew Jukes, William Law, John Alexander Dowie, and Hannah Whitall Smith, not to speak of precious saints living today and known to the writer, men and women of holiness and deep spirituality, whose lives emit the fragrance of Christ, is no mean tribute to this beautiful truth. As for myself, I humbly bear witness to the blessed sense of the thrill of the Holy Spirit whenever I touch upon this subject.
This blessed hope, in the words of A. E. Saxby, "gives a fuller vision of HIS glory; it arouses greater love to men; it inspires intenser hope over the fallen; it furnishes an argument to utmost patience with the worst; it leads to a deeper humbling of self; it divides aright the Word of God and meets the unanswerable problems of the otherwise dark mysteries of human destiny; it restores the character of God to its Scriptural poise; it brings the sob of pity even over the vilest offender; it stirs to service and sacrifice for God and men; and lastly it evokes such an admiration of, and affection to, the God who is Creator and Redeemer, that all the soul can do is to abandon afresh all life and ministry to Him, to bear for Him the stigma that must be suffered in advocacy of His thoughts and ways, which ever surpass ours as the heavens are above the earth".
To which my ransomed spirit shouts, Amen!
How we long for that day when ALL THINGS SHALL BE RECONCILED! God shall grant it! God hasten it!
You can count on it! That is God's plan!