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We preachers have a habit of using terms that many people, especially new Christians or visitors to our churches, simply don’t understand. I was reminded of this recently when someone approached me after a sermon and asked what the difference is between “reconciliation” and “redemption.”
It’s a good question. These two words can be used to describe aspects of God’s work of salvation for the world through Jesus Christ. To reconcile means to patch up a quarrel, or to make a relationship that has become strained right again. To redeem means to buy back, or to claim ownership.
Christ has accomplished both for us since there is but one whole and single work of his. But what he inaugurates is a healed, restored relationship making us his very own brothers and sisters. This relationship of belonging to him calls for our involvement in it, our participation. His provision for us includes enabling us to receive and respond and so live in that restored relationship. So, we can say that the fruit of Christ's reconciliation is our redemption in Christ.
Through most of history, humans have been in a state of alienation from God. That is, they have been unreconciled. We can see this by the record of the collective human failure to get along with each other. This is simply a reflection of alienation from God.
As the apostle Paul wrote in Colossians 1:21-22 “And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight” (NKJV).
First, we should note that it was never God who needed to be reconciled to us, but we who needed to be reconciled to God. As Paul said, the alienation was in the human mind, not in God’s mind. God’s response to human alienation was his forgiving and cleansing love fulfilled in Christ.
Second, notice also that according to Paul reconciliation leads to a further development of that restored relationship. It leads to a fullness of life that is characterized by holiness, blamelessness and being above reproach because face to face ("in his sight") we freely and gladly enter into the healed relationship and so receive all that God has to give us through Christ.
Getting at the same point, Paul wrote to the church in Rome to say: “For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” (Romans 5:10 NIV).
God has turned to us before we ever made a move in his direction. So God reconciles us even while we were enemies and alienated. But note that the restoration of right relationship with us leads to greater fruit that unfolds as the fullness of life, joyfully receiving the fullness of salvation itself.
And Paul tells us that it does not stop there. “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people's sins against them” (2 Corinthians 5:18-19 NIV).
In his letter to the church at Colossae, Paul explained how in Christ, God reconciled the whole world to himself, “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Colossians 1:19-20 NIV).
God has reconciled all humans to himself through Jesus. No one is excluded from the love and power of God. Everyone who has ever lived has a place reserved for them at God’s banquet table. But all have not yet believed God’s word of love and forgiveness for them, or embraced their new life in Jesus. They have not donned the wedding garments Jesus has prepared for them and taken their seat at the table. In other words, we could say that although they have been reconciled, they have not yet entered into their redemption. Some have yet to share in or participate in their redemption accomplished for them in Christ. Consequently they are not yet experiencing the full benefits of Christ's work set out for them at his wedding feast.
And that’s what the ministry of reconciliation is all about – we announce the good news that God has already reconciled the world to himself – through the blood of Christ – and invite all people to trust in, receive, believe in just this good news. All of what God has for us in Christ calls for a response to receive it and enjoy it— turning to God in repentance, taking up the way of Jesus' reconciling cross and following him daily. What wonderful news we have to proclaim. May God bless us all as we share in his reconciling work so that others may, even now, receive all the benefits of their redemption.
I’m Joseph Tkach, Speaking of LIFE.