THE following scriptures were read, 2 Cor.5:17-21,; Rom.5:10,11; 11:1-5.
Christ God was conciliating the world to Himself, not reckoning their offenses to them,
and placing in us the word of the conciliation."
The text states a gospel and its
ministry. First, What God did in Christ, and then, What He is saying through His
I. Consider the gospel of the conciliation.
1. "Conciliating." The
word conciliation differs from reconciliation. Some teachers have spoken of a one sided
reconciliation, which is a difficult idea to grasp. The CONCORDANT VERSION is the only
one, as far as I know, that brings over into English the important distinction found in
the Greek between conciliation and reconciliation.
When in English we speak of
reconciliation we conceive of two persons or parties who were once estranged becoming
mutually conciliated and so at peace with one another. Such, however, is not the meaning
of the word conciliating in the text. For it is obviously not true that the world which
God was conciliating has got rid of its estrangement and enmity, and is consequently now
rejoicing in the favor and fellowship of God.
Either estrangement or conciliation may be
two sided or one sided. When conciliation is two sided it becomes reconciliation. In the
above scriptures it is everywhere a one sided conciliation which God effected and by which
He is able to show an attitude and an
activity of grace to the whole world.
The word reconciliation does properly occur three
times. Notice the occurrences that we may more clearly grasp the distinction. In Ephesians
2:16 we read that He makes both (believing Jew and gentile) one, creating the two into one
new humanity, making peace, and should be reconciling both to God. The reconciliation is
mutual, they are reconciled to each other as to God, being made partakers of a new
spiritual humanity in which all racial antagonisms and distinctions vanish. Colossians
1:20 reveals the purpose of God to reconcile all to Himself, having made peace through the
blood of His cross. The conciliation wrought through the blood of His cross was one sided.
But as a result the benefit will accrue to the whole universe, and the reconciliation, or
mutual conciliation, of all creatures will consummate and crown the mediatorial work of
Christ. Colossians 1:21 is addressed to believers, "You being once estranged
and enemies in your mind in your acts of wickedness, He now reconciles by His body of
flesh." The ecclesia enjoys a present two sided reconciliation. Believers have
"received the conciliation," and peace reigns between God and His people where
once there was alienation and enmity, which are shown in this verse to be the opposite of
reconciliation. Reconciliation in these three passages is two sided.
world." God was conciliating the world, but the world had no part in the transaction.
In Christ God was doing for Himself and for the world what was necessary to make peace
between them possible. It does not mean that at Calvary God tried to prevail on men to be
reconciled to Him. Peace was made by the blood of the cross, and is an accomplished fact
altogether independent of man's knowledge or belief. The fact is not affected either by
man's enmity or his submission, anymore more than sunshine is affected by blind
eyes that do not see it. Though the world is not, on its side, conciliated to God, God has
conciliated the world to Himself. Nothing less than the whole world, without any
exceptions. Not believing men, but all men have been brought into such favor that God can
and does ignore their personal offenses to Him. He continues despite the world's enmity
and unbelief to maintain the peace He made.
3. "To Himself." How a righteous and
holy God can be at peace with a world of sinners was the problem. God must react to the
world's enmity. Man has offended and injured His Maker. Sin is an assault on God. The
crucifixion reveals man's attitude to God. His enmity and offensiveness found fullest
expression when it slew the Son of God. Man came into violent collision with the will of
God and Christ suffered man's hate. How can God be at peace with those who are thus
actively offensive to Him? There are obstacles to peace between a holy God and sinning
men, and at the cross God was earnestly and effectively dealing with those obstacles. He
has on His side removed every obstacle. That He has done this is a gospel, the word of
conciliation, that He would have preached.
4. "In Christ." All God does is in
and through Christ, whether in creation, in providence, in deliverance, or in
reconciliation. The best statement of God's method is made in verse 21 in the immediate
context, "For the One knowing no sin, He makes sin for our sakes, that we may be
becoming God's righteousness in Him." As He takes our sin, so we take His
righteousness. As He takes sin not His, so we become righteousness not ours but God's. He
was treated as a sinner that we may be declared righteous. Righteousness is the basis of
peace. God was not reckoning to men their offenses just because "He [Christ] was
given up because of our offenses. "Sin must be righteously dealt with before there can be peace, and God did so deal with
it in Christ. "Being enemies, we were conciliated to God by the death of His
Son." Not when we surrendered to the entreaties of God, but when we were enemies, we
were conciliated to God, the death of His Son being the solitary and sufficient cause. In
Christ God did the work without human cooperation.
As evidence that God is satisfied with
His own achievement, He does not reckon to men their offenses. How offensive, for example,
were men at Calvary! That crime was surely man's greatest offense. Sin "did its
damnedest" when it gibbetted the Son of God. But God met sin with grace, evil with
good. Instead of pouring out wrath He makes overtures of peace. That very death procures
conciliation. God's love is greater than sin at the cross.
O love of God! O sin of man!
this dread act your strength is tried,
And victory remains with love,
For He, our Lord, is
It has been objected, "God is love and therefore does not require a
propitiation in order that He may pardon." We reply, God's is a holy love, love with
a righteous backbone in it, and therefore He set forth Christ for a propitiatory through
faith in His blood. Christ is the Sinbearer and Peacemaker.
II. Look now at the ministry
of the conciliation.
Having conciliated the world to Himself, God places in us, in our
mouths and hearts, the word of the conciliation. This is good news. It is urgent news. The
conciliation is to be accepted in order to reconciliation. To this end the appeal is,
"Be ye conciliated to God." Is there some estrangement between you and God? It
is all on your side! Do you cherish some prejudice or ignorance of God, some stubborn
unbelief, some desire to be rid of God and the restraints of His will? That is the only
hindrance to peace between you and God. God has
proclaimed a great amnesty for the offenses of men in this dispensation. This is truth for
the present era.
The words of Romans 11:15 state that the era of the preaching of the
conciliation is the time of Israel's setting aside. "Their casting away is the
conciliation of the world." At one time salvation was of the Jews, and the time will
come again when they shall be the channel of blessing to all the families of the earth.
But Israel is now temporarily cast aside. God makes their apostasy the occasion of
revealing reserves of grace too great to be channeled by Israel, and greater than any of
their covenant promises. When He again takes up Israel the day of the Lord with its
judgments will ensue, and the preaching of the conciliation will be withdrawn, only to be
proclaimed again in the day of God.
Lo! Now is a most acceptable era! God is for peace and
not judgment. It is related that a famous English infidel once held up his watch and made
the challenge, "If there be a God, let him strike me dead within the next
minute." When he had counted off sixty seconds he laughed triumphantly. Ignorant man!
God puts such value upon the Person and work of Christ that no offense or blasphemy can
move Him to break the peace or end the day of grace until, in due time, it gives place to
the day of the Lord, the day of judgment. This explains the absence of miracles of
judgment in this era. To treat His enemies now as God treated Sennacherib's army would be
inconsistent with the word of the conciliation.
Such is the loving urgency of God that He
condescends to plead for peace. Paul, in whom this word of the conciliation was placed, is
so possessed by its spirit that he says, "We are ambassadors for Christ, as God were
entreating through us. We are beseeching for Christ, Be conciliated to God." Alas!
that we preachers have sometimes preached in a far different spirit. Sometimes it
has been in the spirit of the little girl who came home and said, "Mother, I slapped
Willie's face, and he would not turn his other cheek, though I told him it was in the
Bible. He'll go to hell, and I'm glad!" The world needs the word and the spirit of
the conciliation. God is not threatening, He is entreating us. His earnest desire for
peace is so great that He becomes a suppliant. Shall we pray to Him? Only after we have
heard His entreaties and yielded the faith obedience by which we receive the conciliation.
Then we shall make our boast in God and praise Him Who is our Peace.