Ministry of reconciliation: Meditation for the 11th Sunday after trinity
Reconcilitaion, (katallagē in Greek), is rendered atonement by the Authorised Version of the Bible (Rom. 5:11).
It is also regarded as one of the metaphors of Atonement in the New Testament Theology.
According to John Stott, atonement “denotes either an action by which two conflicting parts are made “at one” (At + One + Ment), or the state in which their oneness is enjoyed and expressed”.
Reconciliation deals with our alienation from God and the removal of such alienation.
It is an important concept fundamental to the gospel of Christ.
It is the heart of the Christian message.
The whole of the salvific work of Christ can be summarised as effecting reconciliation between us and God.
The ministry of Christ is Reconciliation. He has also entrusted us with the same ministry.
Thus, every Christian should be reconciled to God, and also be committed to the ministry of reconciling the world to God.
The Epistle For The Day (2cor.5: 14-6:2) – God Reconciles.
Paul attributes his changed perspective to God, Who did two things for him: reconciling him (Paul) to Himself through Christ, and giving him the ministry of reconciliation (v. 18).
Thus the reconciled became the instrument of reconciliation.
Paul is the only New Testament writer to use the noun katallagē
(reconciliation) and its verb katallassō (to reconcile).
The basic idea is to change or make otherwise.
In Greek social and political spheres, the term denoted a change in relations between individuals, groups or nations, while in the religious arena it was used of relationships between gods and humans.
In Paul’s writings, God is always the Reconciler.
Those in need of reconciliation are hostile human beings (2Cor 5:18-19; Rom 5:10-11).
This is the reverse of Hellenistic religion, where it is the human being that seeks restoration of the gods’ favour, and also of Judaism, where confession of sin and repentance are the means by which reconciliation with God is sought (cf 2 Macc 1:5; 7:33; 8:29).
The initiative now is with God, Who changes a relationship of enmity to one of friendship.
This is accomplished through Christ (His death on the cross – Rom 5:10).
The essence of the message Paul proclaimed as a minister of reconciliation is spelled out in verses 19-20: God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ.
Reconciliation And Repentance
Reconciliation to God is related to repentance.
Certainly, it is not abstaining from sin that effected our reconciliation to God, for it was while we were yet sinners that Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8).
However, reconciliation with God brings us to a relationship with Him.
To maintain a healthy relationship, we need repentance – turning away from sin to God.
Christians are not saved by their good works, but they are saved unto good works (cf. Eph. 2:8-10).
Reconciliation is both an accomplished fact (v. 18) and a continuing process (v. 19).
Although it is a completed deed because of Christ’s work on the cross, it nonetheless must be personally appropriated.
God has always made it clear that He hates evil and does not condone it.
He never pretended about it, even as He proclaims the gospel of grace in the New Testament.
It is wrong to think of the God of the New Testament to be different from the God of the Old Testament on account of His condoning evil.
God’s graciousness, compassion and patience are only highlighted, not conceived in the New Testament.
They are also there in the Old Testament (Exod. 34:6; Joel 2:13) and even derived from there.
They cannot be taken for toleration of evil.
Rather, they convey invitation to repentance (Rom. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9, 15).
God has zero tolerance for evil, grace or no grace, Old Testament or New Testament.
As it is written, ‘God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness’ (2Tim. 2: 19).
Ven. Dr Princewill O. Ireoba is the Rector,
Ibru International Ecumenical Centre,
Agbarha-Otor, Delta State.
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