Reconciliation comes from the Greek family of words that has its roots in allasso [ ajllavssw ]. The meaning common to this word group is “change” or “exchange.” Reconciliation involves a change in the relationship between God and man or man and man. It assumes there has been a breakdown in the relationship, but now there has been a change from a state of enmity and fragmentation to one of harmony and fellowship. In Romans 5:6-11, Paul says that before reconciliation we were powerless, ungodly, sinners, and enemies; we were under God’s wrath (v. 9). Because of change or reconciliation we become new creatures. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” ( 2 Cor 5:17 ).
Reconciliation has to do with the relationships between God and man or man and man. God reconciles the world to himself ( 2 Cor 5:18 ). Reconciliation takes place through the cross of Christ or the death of Christ. Second Corinthians 5:18 says that “God reconciled us to himself through Christ.” God reconciles us to himself through the death of his Son ( Rom 5:1 ). Thus, we are no longer enemies, ungodly, sinners, or powerless. Instead, the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit whom he has given to us ( Rom 5:5 ). It is a change in the total state of our lives.
Reconciliation is the objective work of God through Christ ( 2 Cor 5:19 ). But it is also a subjective relationship: “Be reconciled to God” ( 2 Cor 5:20 ). Thus, it is Christ through the cross who has made reconciliation possible, for “God made him to be sin for us” ( 2 Cor 5:21 ).
Reconciliation is also related to justification. God has reconciled the world, not counting people’s sins against them. It is related to justification in Romans 5. We have been justified through faith (v. 1) by his blood (v. 9).
Reconciliation is also subjective in that the sinner is spoken of as being reconciled. It is a relationship that comes between man and wife as well as Jew and Gentile. If a person is about to offer a gift at the altar and remembers that he has something against his brother he should leave his gift and be reconciled first to his brother and then come and offer his gift. Reconciliation is something done by the one who offers it; it is not just something that happens to the estranged people. It is the cross of Christ that reconciles both Jew and Gentile. They are brought near by the blood of Christ. Because of this, Jew and Gentile have access to the Father by one spirit. They are no longer foreigners and aliens but fellow citizens with God and members of the same household ( Eph 2:11-22 ). Gentile and Jewish believers are reconciled to God and the middle wall of partition is broken down; both are brought near by the blood of Christ. They are all built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ as the Chief Cornerstone. This is made possible by the cross of Christ, but only appropriated when we make the cross and the death of Christ applicable to our life or our relationships.
This message of reconciliation or salvation that has come from God through Christ has been passed on to us. “God gave us the ministry of reconciliation” ( 2 Cor 5:18 ); “he has committed to us the message of reconciliation” (v. 19). The ultimate aim is that we are not only justified, but that we might become the righteousness of God (v. 21).
The whole message of reconciliation is centered around the love of God and the death of Christ. Paul reminds us that “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” ( Rom 5:8 ). This brings peace with God, access to God through Christ, rejoicing in the hope of the glory of God, making us rejoice in suffering, and having the love of God poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit ( Rom 5:1-5 ). We rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation ( Rom 5:11 ).
William J. Woodruff
Bibliography. D. M. Baillie, God Was in Christ ; J. Denney, The Christian Doctrine of Reconciliation ; R. Martin, Reconciliation ; L. Morris, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross ; V. Taylor, The Atonement in New Testament Teaching.
Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Edited by Walter A. Elwell
Copyright 1996 by Walter A. Elwell. Published by Baker Books, a division of
Baker Book House Company. Grand Rapids, Michigan USA.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.
For usage information, please read the Baker Book House Copyright Statement. [N] indicates this entry was also found in Nave’s Topical Bible
Elwell, Walter A. “Entry for ‘Reconciliation'”. “Evangelical Dictionary of Theology”. 1997.