Last month we considered the cause and effect of the fall and how mankind became separated from God through sin. The good news of course is that God had a plan of redemption to reconcile us to Himself, restoring our relationship with Him and making us righteous in Christ Jesus.
We can see the theme of reconciliation throughout the whole of scripture, but particularly in the following verses:
Colossians 1:20 “and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.”
Ephesians 2:16 “and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.”
Romans 11:15 “ For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?”
The meaning of reconciliation can be understood as:
- The settling of differences, disputes and disagreements between two parties.
- The bringing back of accord or harmony between the parties by changing their attitude to one another.
Sin disrupted man’s relationship with God such that he became alienated and hostile in his thinking (Colossians 1:21), a stranger (Ephesians 2:19), an enemy of God (Romans 5:10), disobedient (Romans 10:21), rebellious (Psalm 107:11,Ephesians 5:6) and a rejecter of God (John 12:48). The result of Christ’s life and death was to bring about reconciliation between God and man, permanently changing the relationship by bringing man back to a place of righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). We often think of righteousness as a scriptural term for moral goodness and uprightness, but its meaning is far greater than this. The same word is sometimes translated justified or justification in the scriptures and it is used in two main ways:
- It is a relational term meaning to be right with God. That is, our relationship with Him is in right standing and there are no disagreements or differences between us (Philippians 3:8-10).
- It means to conform to the expected norm or a set standard. God is righteous because He is always perfect and everything He does conforms perfectly to the absolute standard of His nature (Psalms 97:2, Romans 1:17).
Romans 4:3 says, “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Not only does this mean that faith pulled Abraham into right relationship with God but also that in believing in God, Abraham conformed to the norm or the standard of what man was created to be. The standards of the world are an abnormal state for mankind and the righteousness of God brings man back into conformity with the standards of God. In Job 33:26 it speaks of God restoring to man his righteousness. The context of verses 24 to 28 show that the passage relates to God making him whole, or bringing healing to his body. In other words, health is righteousness for the body – it is the normal state.
If the aim of reconciliation is righteousness, we must also understand that righteousness depends upon atonement. Atonement is the covering of sin by the blood of Jesus that makes it lose its power to accuse and disrupt the relationship between God and man.
Atonement requires the incarnation where God gets a foothold on both sides of the divide between God and man. The God man, Jesus, becomes our sin (2 Corinthians 5:21), our mediator (1 Timothy 2:5), and our high priest (Hebrews 2:17-18). Atonement also requires a judgement. God cannot forgive man’s sin until the individual is able to acknowledge God’s perfect justice in judging sin and the complete righteousness of His rules against it. For judgement to be redemptive, God’s perfect justice must be understood and acknowledged by the one receiving redemption. Only a sinless one could be a sin bearer. Only Jesus, the sinless man God perfectly understands and agrees with the justice of holiness in God’s treatment of sin and therefore, the judgement of God fell on the only place where it could be redemptive – the cross of Christ.
When Jesus died on the cross, he was both a man for all men, i.e. a substitution (1 Peter 3:18, Isaiah 53:11-12) and a man as all men, i.e. our representative (Hebrews 2:14-18; Galatians 2:20 and Ephesians 2:5-6). Therefore, the cross has permanently changed the relationship between the world (collective mankind) and God. Now God forgives sins solely on the basis of man’s response, or repentance, and his faith in the redeeming power and reconciliation of the cross in Jesus Christ. The result of man’s repentance and acceptance of the redemptive power of the cross is a regeneration, a reconciliation with God, a restoration of righteousness:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation,
For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
2 Corinthians 5:17-18,21
Just like in the beginning, we too can walk and talk with God with no sense of guilt or shame, knowing that in Christ Jesus we are reconciled to Him and have been made completely righteous!
So now there is no adverse judgement against those in Christ Jesus who no longer follow the flesh, but the Spirit. For the lifestyle of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has liberated me from the lifestyle of sin which is of death.
Romans 8:1-2 (JMM)