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Gospel of freedom and reconciliation


Etim Ekong

God creates man and gives him the freedom to choose. “Choose this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15; cf. 1 kings 18:21). Some of the parables of Jesus dramatise the Deuteronomic exhortation, “Therefore choose life” (Deut. 30:19). Some Theologians have argued that to grant human freedom would contravene the sovereignty of God. These Theologians appeal to passages in which God actually overrides human freedom. This could be seen when He hardens Pharaoh’s heart (Exodus 9:12; 10:20,27; 11:10). Another example is when a lying spirit was put into the mouth of the false prophets (1 Kings 22:23). But a careful study of these passages will reveal that instead of contradicting the belief in human freedom, they support it.

Pharaoh and false prophets were deprived of their normal capacity for free choice, presumably for having overtaxed God’s patience. Before God intervened, Pharaoh had already hardened his own heart three times (Exodus 8:15, 32; 9:34). This shows that the same God, Who gave men the gift of freedom can also, under sufficient provocation revoke it (cf. Isaiah 6:9 f, Rom 1:24). The lesson we have also learnt here is that men are in bondage, when they transfer their trust to some false god, which having demanded their freedom as collateral, promptly forecloses it. Whatever potential freedom they retain is like that of a man in prison.

The good news is that ‘where false gods enslave men, the mark of the true God is to liberate‘(Isaiah 61:1). Those in bondage can only be delivered when they accept God’s invitation to ‘walk in His ways.’ The ‘ways of the Lord’ are the ‘Law of liberty’ (James 1:25; cf Psalm 119:45). “The perfect law of liberty” could also be called “the perfect law that gives freedom.” It seems paradoxical that a law could give us freedom, but God’s law points out sin in us and gives us the opportunity to ask for God’s forgiveness (Romans 7:7,8). Contrary to what we often expect, obeying God’s laws does not inhibit or restrain us. Instead, it frees us to be what God designed us to be. By seeking God’s salvation and forgiveness, we have freedom from sin and the resulting oppressive guilt. By living God’s way, we have freedom to fulfill His plan for our lives.

On reconciliation, we have seen in 2 Cor. 5:18-19 how God brings us back to Himself by blotting out our sins (cf. Eph. 2:13-18) and making us righteous. When we trust in Christ, we are no longer God’s enemies, or strangers or foreigners to Him. Because we have been reconciled to God, we have the privilege of encouraging others to do the same. Believers should not take this responsibility lightly. Irrespective of your vocation, how well are you fulfilling your mission as Christ’s ambassador? You are needed most at this time of uncertainty.

The “Ministry of Reconciliation” is a beseeching of men to be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:20). The very ground on which this appeals is based is that ‘God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them’ (2 Cor. 5:19). Based on the Apostle’s teaching, sinners are the objects of a Divine judicial wrath (Romans 1:18). They lie under a condemnation that needs to be removed (Romans 3:19 ff.)

It is only those who are no more in bondage, those who experience freedom that can enter into the ministry of reconciliation. Reconciliation has a twofold aspect namely, a Godward and a Manward. Before men experience peace, there must be the removal of the variance on both sides.

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Etim Ekong
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