By Mary Kroeger
[First, a personal note. I considered getting rid of all repetition in this article. Ultimately I felt the repetition was necessary. Each repletion expresses a slightly different facet of the important concept of reconciliation. Paul says it is no trouble for him to say the same things again and it is a safeguard for his readers. (Philippians 3:1)
I don't equate myself in any way with Paul or Peter, but I also share Peter's sentiments when he says he will keep reminding them of truths even if they know them. "I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside...." 2 Peter 1:12-15.]
Reconciliation brings joy! It is the restoration of a valued broken relationship! When the reason for the destruction is removed, the restoration of this relationship brings joy and peace.
After Adam and Eve sinned, their harmonious relationship with God was broken. Before, God had been their friend. Although God still loved them after their disobedience, they no longer viewed Him as their friend. Their disobedience had destroyed the good relationship they previously had with God. Instead of looking forward to having fellowship with Him, they now tried to hide from Him. Their sin had broken their good relationship with God. It brought them into the death realm, and death separates us from life. Genesis 2:17 "but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die."
God knew that the need for reconciliation would arise, so even before it arose, God and His Son (His Word) had a plan. His Son would lay aside His deity, be joined to humanity, and in His union with sinful humanity, die on a Roman cross, overcome death and be resurrected into life. Since death is the consequence of sin, (Rms. 5:12 "... death through sin..." Rms. 6:16b "...slaves to sin which leads to death..." Rms. 6:23 "For the wages of sin is death...") before death could be overcome, sin had to be eradicated.
Jesus Christ came to accomplish this! John the Baptist said, "Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the whole world." This is confirmed in 1 John 2:2. "He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world." For death to be eradicated, the sins of the whole world have to be taken away! Only the eradication of sin can eradicate death.
In 2 Cor. 5:18-20, a remarkable truth is revealed to us! There it states, "Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God."
This is the glorious news of the gospel! God has already reconciled us to Himself! He has forgiven the sins of the whole world, and that includes yours and mine! Not only has He forgiven them, He has taken them away! By taking away all sin, death is removed, for death is the consequence of sin! This is the good news of the gospel! God has reconciled us to Himself by taking away the sins of the whole world!
Reconciliation requires two parties to come into agreement. To complete the reconciliation between God and us, our enmity toward God has to be dealt with. The sin that separated us from God has been taken away! Now we have to realize that God is our Savior, our friend! He has taken away the sin that separated us, and He wants us to repent of our rebellion and receive His reconciliation.
Religion (the counterfeit truth) has taught us that we need to initiate our reconciliation to God. It does not want us to realize that without God's life, we are dead. It tells us that we have the ability to make a right decision even when we are dead in our sins. (Rms. 3:11 "...there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.") It tells us that we have to choose to repent of our sins. This sounds good. Is something wrong with that thinking? So we ask, "How can we, who are dead in our transgressions and sins, initiate the reconciliation by making a right choice? How can our carnal mind of death initiate our reconciliation and make a right choice?" This is impossible, for everything pertaining to life has to have its source in life, and we come into this world dead in our transgressions!
Therefore, God has to initiate our reconciliation! By taking away the sins of the whole world Christ has overcome death! His victorious resurrection, not as a single entity but as the corporate Son of Man, proves this fact! He has opened the way for us to receive His life! It is the Holy Spirit who convicts us of sin and our need to repent and receive His forgiveness! It is God who has to open our eyes to the condition we are in and to show us His salvation! "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast." (Eph. 2:8,9)
In Christ, God has removed the barrier that brought the separation. In so doing, He has reconciled the world to Himself! This reconciliation was initiated by God's love. "For God so loved the world (of sinners) that He gave His only begotten Son." (John 3:16) Now, everyone who repents of his wrong thinking and believes in Him receives everlasting life! On the cross, Christ (the Son of Man, the second corporate man - Adam being the first corporate man) entered humanity's death, not as a single entity, but in union with sinful humanity! Not in disobedience, but in obedience! In His union with sinful humanity, He overcame death by taking away the sins of the whole world. In His union with a humanity that was now freed from death, He rose victoriously! His resurrection proved that He had overcome death! His triumph over death proved that all sin had been taken away, for death is the consequence of sin!
Life has to have its source in God, for He is life. Religion has taught us that sin can only be forgiven if a sinless person has taken the punishment for it. It teaches that God's wrath has to be satisfied, and it can only be satisfied by punishing a sinless person. But there was no sinless person until Jesus Christ was born. Therefore He would have to take our punishment so we could go free. We were taught that if we believe in Christ at the time of our death, we will go to heaven after we die. In other words, it says, now all that believe in Christ can go to heaven after death because Christ bore the punishment for our sins! He became the victim of the wrath we deserved.
Again, this sounds good to us. Is there anything wrong with that thinking? So we ask, "Can punishment bring forth life? Is God's wrath against the sinner or against sin? How can His wrath be on the sinner when the scriptures tell us that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us!! How how can we become a new creation by having someone die in our place? How can the punishment meted on a perfect person transform us into perfection? It would only do away with the punishment we deserve. Punishment cannot do away with sin. It cannot produce life! If Christ only died to take our punishment, we would remain sinners forever.
So let's take another look at God's great plan for humanity. He said, "Let us make man in our image." We can trust that God will accomplish what He sets out to do. Humanity was to be an image of Himself - of love in action, being righteous altogether, plus all that God is!
Does humanity believe this is possible? Can humanity's will and choices overcome God's sovereignty and plan? If so, then God is no longer sovereign. Then it is up to humanity to choose its destiny. But can a humanity that is dead in its sins, make a right decision?
The scriptures tell us that all things were created through Christ, by Him and for Him! God's Son was to have the pre-eminence, or first place, in ALL things. (Col. 1:18)
Christ cannot have the pre-eminence in sinners. Before He could have the pre-eminence in all, ALL would have to be in life - in Christ, for He is the Life!! Humanity was in death. It needed to receive life!
God's goal is to have a kingdom for His Son - a kingdom in which He has the pre-eminence in all things! For this to occur, He needs subjects in whom He can have pre-eminence! He cannot have pre-eminence in sinners. He needs saints - people who are in Christ. Our new birth takes us out of the sinner category and puts us into Christ! In Christ we are a new creation, a spiritual creation that still has to grow and mature until we are transformed into His image! This transformation takes place in Christ and He always is! This does not make us equal with Him, for He always keeps His pre-eminence! He has to have first place in all things - not just in some things or a few things - for all things were created by Him and for Him.
Because God is spirit and His Son is spirit and our new birth has transformed us into spiritual creations in Christ, His kingdom has to be a spiritual kingdom filled with subjects who are spiritual images of Himself. Adam was formed of ground, so he could only be an earthy image of God. The fact that Adam sinned (disobeyed) when he was faced with a much smaller temptation than Jesus faced, proved that he was not yet a spiritual image of God. Adam's disobedience brought all of humanity into the death realm, for all sinned. An image of God cannot be sinful, for there is no sin in God. So how can humanity be raised out of its death and put into a life in which there is no sin?
God has a solution for every problem! In this case the solution would come at great cost to Him and His Son! Reconciliation would require the elimination of sin, for death follows sin! Humanity was dead in its transgressions and sins, so it could do nothing to help itself. It all depended on God and the willingness of His Word to be made flesh and overcome death.
Victory over sin and death had to be achieved by a man, for a man brought sin and death into this world. Only the obedience of a sinless man could overcome sin and death. This man's obedience had to be so great that no hardship, no pain, no torture, not even an entrance into the death realm could lure him into disobedience! Where could God find a sinless man?
Humanity was dead in its trespasses and sins. It could not help itself. Only God could give us that Man! He gave us Jesus Christ, and He said that He was that Man! He repeatedly said that the Son of Man would die and the Son of Man would rise from the dead. He never said that the Son of God would die. He always spoke of the Son of Man.
Who is the Son of Man? He came from heaven and was born of Mary. On the cross He was joined to sinful humanity, overcame death and rose victoriously! He did not accomplish this as a single identity, but as the corporate Son of Man, the corporate Christ!
The scriptures speak of two corporate men, and everyone is either in the first man or in the second Man. In Adam all die, and in Christ all are made alive! The Son of Man is the Christ in whom all are made alive! The only begotten Son of God had to become the Son of Man, the second corporate man, so He could take away the sins of the world. It was not the Son of God who died, for God's life cannot die! His life is everlasting!
Before Christ died, He said, "Into Your hands I put my spirit." We know that life is in the spirit. Christ died physically, but His spirit was in the Father's hands. He gave His soul, His sense of being, as a ransom for many! Had this union with sinful humanity not taken place, He could not have taken away the sins of the whole world! This union became apparent when Jesus cried out, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?" This is the only time Jesus addressed God as 'God', instead of as Father.
It is so important for us to know that the Son of Man was united with sinful humanity in His death! This union had to take place so He could take away the sins of the whole world. Before Christ could be resurrected out of death, sin had to be dealt with, for death is the consequence of sin! This helps us to understand why Christ had to die as a corporate Man! Only as a corporate Man could He take away the sins of the whole world! Without the eradication of sin, there can be no eradication of death, for death follows sin. If the sins of the whole world were not taken away, sin and death would remain, and resurrection would only be for Christ! Then His death and resurrection would not help us. The fact that He entered the death realm in union with all humanity, and in this union He overcame death, means that He also took humanity with Him in His resurrection! Before we can be resurrected together with Him we have to be dead and buried together with Him! In our sinful state we were separated from Christ. In separation, His death and resurrection could not help humanity. Humanity was helpless. It could not raise itself into life.
But God did not leave us in this helpless situation! He gave us Christ, the corporate Son of Man! In obedience to the Father's will, He was united with sinful humanity and died - not in separation, but in union with humanity! In this union, He overcame death and was resurrected into life! Adam and Eve entered the death realm because of their disobedience. Christ entered the death realm in obedience to the Father's will! 1 Corinthians 15:21 & 22. "For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive."
We marvel when we receive a revelation of the depth of Christ's humility and love! He, the creator of the universe, He, who is life and truth, laid aside His divinity, humbled Himself and took on the form of a man. Then He humbled Himself even further by allowing Himself be rejected, mistreated, tortured and crucified by those He had made! The sins of the whole world were put on Him when He entered the death realm! The depth of His humility was revealed by His perfect obedience!
His willingness to be united with sinful humanity and enter the death realm took tremendous obedience! Can you imagine how difficult it must have been for Him who is Life, to become the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world? No wonder that He sweat drops of blood before He could put His will in the hands of the Father! In obedience to the Father's will, He was united with sinful humanity and entered humanity's death. But He did not remain there! He overcame death! In togetherness with Him we were raised into life! Christ is the resurrection and the life. In Christ we are in the resurrection and in the life that He is!
Christ, the Son of Man, the second corporate man, overcame death and rose victoriously! The fact that Christ, the true image of God, did not sin, (even in His thinking) even under the most horrible conditions and temptations the devil could dream up, proved that life is stronger than death! It also proved that sin cannot enter His life! It proved that sin, the separating factor, had been removed so reconciliation can now take place! It proved His worthiness to be preeminent in all things!
The scriptures give us some insight into the two corporate men - Adam and Christ! In Adam all die and in Christ all are made alive! It is easy for us to believe that in Adam all die. We see death everywhere. But we do not yet see everyone in Christ. We don't believe this can ever become a reality because we have been taught that whatever we believe at the time of our physical death seals our future. However the scriptures plainly declare that Christ shall have pre-eminence in all things! (Col. 1:18) The word 'all' tells us that there can be no exception! Since all things have been created for Christ, all have to gladly believe in Him!
Humility is foundational to the power of obedience. This is demonstrated in Christ's life! In obedience He took on the form of man. In obedience He accepted the death sentence! In obedience He endured all the pain and suffering of crucifixion. In obedience He was united with sinful humanity and the death it was in. In obedience He became the sin-offering for the sins of the whole world! In obedience, He overcame death - the consequence of disobedience. In obedience He entered the spiritual death humanity was in. In obedience, He overcame death, and rose victoriously in life! In obedience He could fulfill His mission.
His triumphant resurrection proved His victory over sin and death! In Christ the sins of the whole world are taken away! Where there is no sin, there is no death!
Christ did not die as our substitute. He died for us and as us. Paul said that he was crucified with Christ! Yet he lived, yet not he, but Christ lived in him! (Gal. 2:20) Paul's testimony reveals the fact that Christ did not die as our substitute, taking our punishment. If Christ had only paid the penalty for our sins, we could never be raised into life! We would remain sinners - forgiven sinners, but still sinners.
Christ died to take away the sins of the whole world so that reconciliation could take place! Crucifixion always ended in death, and a sin-offering always ended in death. When Jesus Christ entered the death realm a struggle must have taken place, for He overcame death! His triumphant resurrection proved that death had been overcome! In the humility of obedience and in union with humanity, He won a great victory over sin and death! To us it looks as though He did this in separation from God, for He asked God why He had forsaken him. Yet in 2 Cor. 5:19 we read that "God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against Him." This wonderful truth goes beyond our understanding! God was in Christ when the sins of the whole world were taken away! Our trespasses are no longer counted against us! But the world is ignorant of this reconciliation. As God's ambassadors, He wants us to spread this good news to the world! When the world knows that its sins are forgiven, they will be free to be reconciled to God!
This does not mean that repentance is no longer needed. The scriptures plainly tell us that we need to repent, and the scriptures cannot be broken! We need to realize that repentance involves more than just saying that we are sorry for the sins we have committed. It is more than a constant repetition of sinning and asking for forgiveness! That is not repentance. Repentance involves a change of heart, mind and lifestyle. It takes place when we have the love of our Creator and Savior! In His love we see our unworthiness and sinfulness! This produces repentance in us! This repentance recognizes our unworthiness of His love! It also recognizes our inability to change ourselves. It recognizes our need for God, His forgiveness and His great salvation! It recognizes our need to change! We cry out for reconciliation! We welcome His great salvation, His grace and His love! We see His sufficiency and our insufficiency! We are enveloped with His love and grace! "For by grace you are saved, and that not of yourself, it is the gift of God; not of works lest anyone should boast." (Eph. 2:8) Without repentance we cannot be reconciled to God, for then we will just walk in our selfhood. In the repentance God has produced in us, we are changed. Our ill will toward God is gone and it is replaced with love. This completes our reconciliation with God! He has reconciled us to Himself by taking away our sins, and His love and grace have taken away our enmity toward God! In Christ the broken relationship has been healed!
This is the good news the world needs to hear! It needs to hear that in Christ their sins are taken away! In Christ they can become a new creation! In Christ their broken relationship with God can be healed!
In Col. 1:16-18 we see God's ultimate purpose for the reconciliation of all things to Himself! There we read, "For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything."
These verses answer so many of our questions! We may have often wondered why God created the heavens and the earth. Why did He want a spiritual image of Himself? Why did He first make an earthy image of Himself? Why did He allow evil to come into this world when He knew the sad consequences of evil? Why did He allow man's relationship with Himself to be broken? Was His love for us greater than for His Son? Why did the Son agree with the Father's purpose for creation when He knew the suffering He would have to endure to bring reconciliation?
These verses give us answers! They tell us of God's wonderful plan for His Son! He is to have first place in everything! Everything was made for Him and through Him. His worthiness of pre-eminence was revealed in His perfect obedience, His perfect love and forgiveness throughout His horrible ordeal! He was tested to the utmost, even into death! But He did not remain in death. He was the firstborn from the dead! To both the visible and invisible realms, this proved that He was worthy of pre-eminence!
He is also head of the body - the church! It is very important for us to know this because it shows us our relationship with Christ's pre-eminence! The head tells the body what it is to do, and a well-functioning body obeys the instructions. Christ's pre-eminence assures us that His instructions are the best, and our obedience to them reveals our relationship to His pre-eminence!
Before Christ can be preeminent in all, all have to be reconciled to Him! All have to believe that in Christ their sins are taken away. All have to believe and experience their new birth in Christ! In Christ they are a new creation, and individually members of the body of Christ, the preeminent One!
This is the purpose and goal for creation! Christ is to have pre-eminence in all things! He is not only to have the pre-eminence in some things, but in all things! There is no exception in ALL things!
To have the pre-eminence in all, ALL has to be reconciled to Him! He will do whatever is necessary to achieve His goal!
Knowing that God is love, we understand that everything He does is motivated by His love. So we can trust His love even when we face hard times, great difficulties and suffering!
Pre-eminence means the highest in wisdom, love, understanding and all that He is! For Him to have the pre-eminence in all, all have to be in Him and under His rule. He cannot have first place in someone who does not belong to Him. So for Him to have pre-eminence in all, all have to belong to Him. Therefore, all who were in Adam have to be put into Christ! This has been made possible by Christ's union with sinful humanity in His death and resurrection! It was the corporate Son of Man who died and arose triumphantly in life! His resurrection proved that the sins of the whole world were taken away!
Rom. 5:10-11 contains a beautiful message. It states. "For if while 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 this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation." To all who believe in His name, He now gives the power to become the sons of God! (John 1:12)
To become sons of God, we have to believe in His name! To be in Christ we have to believe Him. Here natural thinking faces a problem. Can God get everyone to believe in Him? Will He fail to reach His objective? God has purposed that Christ shall have first place in all! Can He achieve His purpose or can the will of man overpower God's will? It looks that way to us because we do not yet see the end result. Man erroneously thinks that he has a free will. He does not realize that a free will cannot be influenced. He does not see the difference between a free will and a self-will. He has been taught that without a free will he becomes a robot. The scriptures do not teach that, but religion has blinded man so he believes this lie.
Also, what about all who have died in unbelief? Does what we believe at the time of our physical death seal our eternal future? At present we do not YET see all things subject to Christ.
God's consuming lake of fire has not yet destroyed all unbelief and wrong thinking! His fire cannot be quenched! It will burn until all that is not of God is burned away! When all is burned up, it will no longer burn! It is not an eternal fire, but an unquenchable fire! What we do not yet see, we will see at a future time! Christ shall have first place in ALL. This is God's purpose from before the foundation of the world!
God's great salvation in Christ is for all, not only for some. "In Adam all die and in Christ all are made alive." For all to be in Christ, all have to believe in Him! Christ died for all that all shall be reconciled to Him! In Christ we are a new creation! We are entirely new! We have His life! Everything, except His pre-eminence, is available to us through the power of the Holy Spirit! Together with Christ we died, we were buried and raised into life! Together with Christ, we are seated in heavenly places FAR above all rule and power and authority! In Christ we reign with Him! It is all in our togetherness with Christ! He remains the preeminent One! His pre-eminence in all things is not yet seen, but when all is reconciled to Him, it will become visible. The blessings in reconciliation are beyond our imagination!
But the question of how God will accomplish this still remains. In Hebrews 12:29 it states that God is a consuming fire. His fire has the ability to burn away all that is not of Him!
Before Christ can have the pre-eminence in all, all have to be put in Him! By taking away the sins of the whole world, He reconciled the world to Himself! How we thank God for the reconciliation He has provided for us in Christ!
Because of this great reconciliation we are now being changed into the image of Christ! (Rom. 8:29) How thankful we are for God's wisdom and love for all, revealed in His great salvation for all and His reconciliation with all!