Reconciliation: What does it mean to BE reconciled?
II Corinthians 5:20
20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, BE ye reconciled to God. [Emphasis added]
The last phrase of this verse is a command directed to all mankind. In the Greek text from which it is translated, it is what is technically called the aorist passive imperative of the word KATALASSO. The aorist tense tells us this can be fulfilled in a point of time. The passive voice tells us the subject, in this case the believer of the gospel of Christ, receives the action of the verb. The imperative mood makes this a command. That tells us that though a work of reconciliation was accomplished through the work of Jesus Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection, there’s still something man must do for complete reconciliation. In this case, it is to simply believe, to put one’s faith in what Christ accomplished. When that occurs there’s not only reconciliation between that individual and God, but also eternal salvation.
As I just noted, the word reconciliation used in the Bible comes from the Greek word KATALASSO. Reconciliation is the typical translation for it. In the King James Version of the Bible, it is once mistranslated with the word “atonement.” There’s absolutely no reason to believe the KJV translators had some special insight on this to translate it with the word atonement. If you think they did, where is the proof of that? There is none!
11 And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. [Emphasis added]
In all the other passages of the KJV the exact same word has been translated with the word reconciliation. Here are two examples.
II Corinthians 5:18-19
18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;
19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word [the message] of reconciliation. [Emphasis added]
There’s no good reason for it to have been translated with another term in the Romans 5:11 passage. Even in another Romans passage, the same word was rightly translated with the word reconciling.
15 For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead? [Emphasis added]
When used in the apostle Paul’s writings, reconciliation does not in itself mean salvation. However, unfortunately, there are those who have claimed that it does mean that. This is typically spoken of as the teaching of universal reconciliation. It is also called universal salvation or sometimes simply universalism. Whatever, it is the doctrine or teaching that all people will at some point receive salvation because of the love and mercy of God. I know there are many who want to believe that, but it simply isn’t true. The fact of the matter is that most members of the human race will spend all eternity in the Lake of Fire [Revelation 20:11-15]. It certainly doesn’t have to be that way, but it will be. God’s people have always been a part of a small minority.
The doctrine of reconciliation speaks of what God has done to make a way for all mankind to be saved. But it also speaks of the need for man to do something [actually, to believe something] to complete the process so that FULL or COMPLETE reconciliation is brought about. It is only when this COMPLETE reconciliation is accomplished that SALVATION occurs. So, what is it that must occur for that to happen? Answer: The individual must “receive” by faith what God did to provide for his reconciliation. And what was that? Answer: It was Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. It was through that work of God that the means for our salvation was provided. If a person accepts by faith that means and that means alone, God grants salvation to that person. They can then be said to be FULLY reconciled to God.
I Corinthians 15:1-4
1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;
2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: [Emphasis added]
Let me briefly illustrate this principle of reconciliation. If you graciously offer reconciliation to someone who has wronged you in some way, that reconciliation is not complete until the other party accepts it. If they want to remain your enemy, they certainly can. That’s what people do when they refuse to accept what God has done through Jesus Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. God has graciously provided a way for us all to have FULL reconciliation with God, but when people foolishly refuse to accept what He’s done to provide for it, they remain His enemies. That means they continue as unsaved people. That relationship doesn’t change until the individual freely decides to accept God’s offer. But if he does, that relationship is changed forever!
10 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 [His resurrection life]. [Emphasis added]
Therefore, there’s certainly a sense in which all mankind has been reconciled to God, but until that work of God through Christ is accepted by faith, man remains God’s enemy and unsaved. This then means his reconciliation is not complete and never changes. That’s clearly stated in this next verse in that same passage.
Again, Romans 5:11
11 And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement [reconciliation]. [Emphasis added]
Here Paul is celebrating what has happened. Paul and the believers in Rome had received what God had done in Christ. They had received the work of reconciliation and, therefore, they’d been saved.
It is important to realize that the work of Christ did provide a way of salvation for all mankind for now and for anytime. But the salvation is something potential. Some accept it and others don’t. What have you done? Are you relying totally upon Christ’s work, or are you adding other things? Until a person has come to a place in their life where they see their need for a Savior, they’re not saved. Christ isn’t your partial Savior. He is your only hope! Until a person has placed their faith in Him and Him alone, they are not saved. Even though this wonderful work of reconciliation was accomplished through Christ, until it is accepted [or received] salvation does not occur. That’s why there’s this command to BE reconciled,
Again, II Corinthians 5:20
20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. [Emphasis added]
This thing of “universal reconciliation” as it is taught is a false teaching. God has always required faith for salvation. There was a time when God demanded certain works to be performed in association with one’s faith. But such is not the case in our time.
20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
21 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; [Emphasis added]
In our time it is all to do with one’s faith being placed solely in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The work of Christ is now an accomplished fact. Christ came and died for your sins. He took our place. He paid the complete price that was due by the justice of God.
II Corinthians 5:21
21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. [Emphasis added]
All that remains for you to be saved is to believe it, to put your faith in that for your salvation. To believe these things is to BE reconciled with God forever. If you haven’t already, why not do this today?