The Expository Files

Reconciling Our Spiritual Account

Ephesians 2:14-16; 2 Corinthians 5:17-20; Colossians 1:19-23; Romans 5:10,11

Once a month my bank statement makes its way onto my desk. It is always with some trepidation that I begin the process of reconciling my checkbook with the bank statement. Some have the luxury of not caring if their checkbook is in agreement with their bank statement or not. As a public school teacher on a budget it is necessary to care; to avoid overdrawing my account as I approach that inevitable "too much month at the end of the money!"

The process of reconciliation is relatively simple (did I mention I am a math teacher?) if you follow the steps outlined on the back of the statement. However, if after this process is completed and the checkbook balance still does not match the statement balance, then there are changes or exchanges that must take place for the reconciliation to be complete.

I have found in my 20-odd years of keeping a checking account that I am usually the culprit when it comes to mistakes to be changed. It usually amounts to an arithmetic mistake or forgetting to record a transaction (hopefully, a deposit). I have caught the bank in error on only two occasions that come to mind. Nevertheless, both parties involved are fallible and susceptible to either human or computer error or both.

When it comes to reconciling our spiritual account with God however, the "bank" is never wrong! The authority on biblical reconciliation is the Apostle Paul. It is through his inspired epistles to the Ephesians, Colossians, Corinthians and Romans that we come to an understanding of how biblical reconciliation operates under God's auspices for our benefit.

Who needs to be reconciled to whom?
The New Testament word "reconcile" means to change or exchange. But who is obligated to do this changing? I can think of three possible relationships where two parties might need to be brought into agreement.

Man to Man?
Jesus suggests that there are cases where reconciliation must take place, brother to brother (Mt. 5:24). Paul speaks of the case where spouse is to be reconciled to spouse (1 Cor. 7:11). In both of these instances those to be reconciled are on equal footing, much like our example of the bank and the customer. The Greek word used for reconcile in these instances has the prefix "di" (two), indicating that the agreement may have to be reached via compromise. Both parties may have to change in order for reconciliation to come about. This is not the kind of reconciliation that Paul says must take place if man is to be in a right relationship with God.

God to Man?
No Bible text indicates that God will reconcile Himself to man. The inspired epistles of Paul the Apostle (1 Cor. 2:7-13) teach us that God provides for the reconciliation to take place, but for it to take place, it will not be God that does the changing.

Man to God?
The New Testament word for reconciliation used in the epistles of Paul demands that the changes take place on the side of only one of the parties involved. If God is immutable, then the changes must take place on the part of man (Jms. 1:17,18). It is man that must be reconciled to God if he wishes to partake of the blessings of Christ. This is clearly seen in Eph. 2:14-16.

14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. (NKJ)

Thus we learn that both Jew and Gentile alike, can and will be reconciled to one another only when they are first reconciled to God.

Why does man need to be reconciled to God?
The Ephesians passage makes it obvious that man can never be spiritually reconciled to man apart from his reconciliation to God. The "enmity" between man is put to death through the cross of Christ. Colossians 1:19-23 and Romans 5:10,11 spell out precisely why man needs to be reconciled to God - because man is at odds with God.

Col. 1:19-23

19 For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fulness to dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. 21 And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, 22 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 -- 23 if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister. (NAS)

Rom. 5:10,11

10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11 And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. (KJV)

Many proponents of "universal salvation" (everyone is saved) have tried to use Col. 1:19-22 as their proof text. However, a close examination of verse 23 indicates that those reconciled must "continue in the faith" and not be "moved away from the hope of the gospel." Why then does man need to be reconciled to God? Without reconciliation we are enemies of God and stand outside of His saving grace.

Who will bring us the Word of reconciliation?

God charged the apostles to plead with us as ambassadors for Christ with the ministry of reconciliation namely, preaching the word of reconciliation, pleading with us to be reconciled to God.

2 Cor. 5:17-20

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God. (NKJ)

To discount the work and words of the apostles is to make them out to be liars and charlatans. Beyond that it calls into question our faith in Christ and the Holy Spirit, because it was Jesus who sent us the apostles and the Holy Spirit that provided them with their inspiration. If it were not for Paul we would not have such a clear concept of changing to be in agreement with God.

How are we to be reconciled to God?

God's gift
We have already seen that God provides the means of reconciliation through Christ (2 Cor. 5:19; Rom. 5:11). An examination of Col. 1:20,22 shows that this reconciliation comes through the blood and death of Jesus. It is this sacrifice that put into effect the New Testament plan of salvation providing a means by which man can truly be reconciled to God. (See Albert Barnes' comments on 2 Cor 5:18b, Vol. XI, p. 128.) In his Word Studies in the New Testament, Vincent makes the following comments on Romans 5:10b concerning God's part in man's reconciliation to Him.

(Reconciliation) involves a movement of God toward man with a view to break down man's hostility, to commend God's love and holiness to him, and to convince him of the enormity and the consequence of sin. It is God who initiates this movement in the person and work of Jesus Christ. See also Eph. 1:6 and 1 Jn. 4:19. (Once man makes the required changes then we see) a corresponding change of relation (not a change of accommodation -cd) on God's part, that being removed which alone rendered Him hostile to man, so that God can now receive him into fellowship and let loose upon him all His fatherly love and grace, 1 Jn. 1:3,7. Thus there is complete reconciliation. (Vol. III, p. 61)

Man's obligations
In his Commentary on Romans, R.L. Whiteside suggests that first a man must want to be reconciled. (Rom. 5:8-10, Whiteside p. 119) It will take what we commonly call "an attitude adjustment."

To quote Vines: By reason of (Christ's propitiatory sacrifice) men in their sinful condition and alienation from God are invited to be "reconciled" to Him; that is say, to change their attitude, and accept the provisions God has made, whereby their sins can be remitted and they themselves can justified in the sight of Christ. (Vines Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, p. 514.)

Continuing with Vincent's comments: (Upon the reception of the work of Jesus Christ we see) a corresponding movement on mans' part toward God; yielding to the appeal of Christ's self-sacrificing love, laying aside his enmity, renouncing his sin, and turning to God in faith and obedience. A consequent change in the character of man (will be evident); the covering, forgiving, cleansing of his sin; a thorough revolution in all his dispositions and principles. (Vol. III, p. 61)

Now returning to the Apostle Paul we note once again that man must continue in the faith and not be moved away from the hope of the gospel (Col. 1:23). Furthermore, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. (Rom. 6:6) or how else can the old passed away? (2 Cor. 5:17) A further study of the Romans passage would show that submission to water baptism would be required to bring us in contact with the death and the blood of Christ. (See Rom. 6:3-14).

Where will this reconciliation take place?
In one body (Eph. 2:16). This reconciliation can and will only take place in one body - Christ's. According to Col.1:18, And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. Christ's body today is the church. A belief that man might be reconciled to God separate and apart from the church is not found in the teaching of the Apostle Paul (See Ephesians and Colossians in toto).

Eight blessed results of man's reconciliation to God.

Peace with God - no longer enemies (Eph. 2:16; Rom. 5:10,11)
Peace with our brethren (Eph. 2:14)
Presented before Him holy and blameless (Col. 1:22)
No longer hostile or engaged in evil deeds (Col. 1:21)
Able to rejoice (Rom. 5:11)
A new creature (2 Cor. 5:17)
Forgiveness of sins (2 Cor. 5:19)
Salvation by Christ's life (Rom. 5:10)

Closing Thought
Our spiritual account will be reconciled when we willingly make the necessary changes in our attitude and life to bring ourselves into agreement with God. Reconciling our checkbook once a month keeps the bank happy, but after we initially reconcile our account with God it needs to be checked and double-checked day by day.

By Carey Dillinger
From Expository Files 8.4; April 2001