The Reconciled World (1)
For if when 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. Romans 5.10
Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5.18, 19
On May 8, 1945, all of Europe and the United States wept tears of joy at the announcement that Nazi forces had surrendered and peace had returned to Europe. On August 8 of that same year, the Japanese military surrendered, and peace came to the Pacific and the Orient. A broken and shattered world rejoiced, even amid the rubble and ruin of six long years of war.
On those dates, enemies were reconciled. Fault was admitted by the guilty; new forms of government were set in place, and the work of making reconciliation a reality began in earnest. With the United States leading the way, efforts began to rebuild Europe and Japan in a process that would involve the riches and magnanimity of the victors and the hard work of the vanquished. The worst of enemies became, in time, the best of friends, as they labored together to restore and advance the wellbeing and flourishing of the ruined world. Within a single generation, the world was restored to greater peace, productivity, and prosperity than it had ever known.
Similarly, we who believe in Jesus Christ – we who were once His enemies, bent on usurping His Lordship and rewriting His Law to suit our own interests – have been reconciled to God through the victory of our Lord Jesus on the cross. When Jesus, with His dying breath, announced, “It is finished”, He declared to the world that the enmity was destroyed, the debt was cancelled, and a new era of collaboration and flourishing had begun. Three days later, when He rose from the dead; and forty days after that, when He ascended into heaven, He presented His own glorified body before the Father as the Treaty of Peace between God and the world. He had defeated the ancient foe and established peace for the ruined world, reconciling it in whole and part to God.
On the first Christian Pentecost, Jesus and the Father poured out the Holy Spirit to the world; in Him, and in the Word He makes known, they provided all the vision, plans, and resources necessary for restoring the reconciled world. A world ruined by centuries of Satan’s lies, violence, and ravishing lay before those who had received the Spirit. A new government was in place; a new Kingdom and economy were launched; and the work of restoring the reconciled world to flourishing and glory began.
That work of restoration has been entrusted to everyone who names the Name of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. In the installments that follow, we will consider the work of restoring the reconciled world, so that we might understand our calling and duty within this new regime, and enter the joy and power of the Lord in carrying out His work of reconciliation.
The process of reconciliation
The reconciliation of the world, which Jesus accomplished in His life, death, and resurrection, unfolds in stages. Some of those took place within the unseen realm; most of them pertain to the world of time, space, people, work, and things. All of them are God’s work for His glory and goodness.
Peace. Having announced the peace of God from the cross, Jesus secured it by His resurrection, crushing the head of the old serpent, whom He had previously bound and banished (Matt. 4.1-11; 12.22-29), and overcoming the hold of death on the world. On the cross, Jesus presented His sin-stained body to Father, Who received His work, and, following His resurrection and ascension, clothed Him with the garments of a King, and seated Him at His own right hand (Zech. 3.1-5; Ps. 110.1). The heavenly Father – the Ancient of Days – presented King Jesus with an eternal Kingdom (Dan. 7.13, 14), while all of heaven rejoiced with resounding shouts (Ps. 47). Jesus had reconciled the world to the Father. Now the world could be set back on course according to God’s original intentions and design. The work of restoring the reconciled world could proceed.
End of hostilities. In the Gospel, Jesus announces that our warfare has ceased (Is. 40.1, 2); peace has been obtained, and whosoever will come may enter the peace and reconciliation He has achieved (Acts 2.32-39; Eph. 2.14-18).
Terms of peace. Jesus declares the terms of peace: He gives His Kingdom to all who enter His peace and are set aside for His purposes (Dan. 7.18), a Kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14.17, 18); and He calls all who enter that Kingdom to seek it, and the righteousness and glory of God, as the defining priority and motif of their lives (Matt. 6.33; 1 Thess. 2.12).
Work of restoration. They who enter the peace of King Jesus come with ruined lives, broken cultures, and a world in need of rebuilding. All the saints of God are called to good works. They have been redeemed for this (Eph. 2.8, 9); they must work out their peace with God in good works (Phil. 2.12); and they must do so with sincere zeal and constant readiness to express the goodness of God in all their words and deeds, for thanksgiving and glory (Tit. 2.11-14; 3.8, 14; 2 Cor. 4.15; Matt. 5.13-16; 1 Cor. 10.31).
All the while, and to ensure progress in this outward work of restoration, the Spirit and Word of God are at work in the souls of the redeemed, restoring those who are the image-bearers of God into the likeness of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 3.12-18; Phil. 2.13).
The end of reconciliation. The work of restoration must be continuous, self-denying, and sacrificial – like the work of Jesus Himself. We know that in this life, in history as we know it, we shall only partially succeed in our mandate. While God is pleased to see that work make progress in the here and now, only in the there and then – in the new heavens and new earth – will the glory and goodness of the world be fully restored, and the glorious reconciliation of Christ be complete.
God’s work and ours
The psalmists cry over and over to God, “Restore us!” The work of reconciliation, in all its stages, is God’s work. It follows His plan, operates according to His protocols and power, requires His gifts and strength, and works from within those who have entered His peace for the purpose of making all things new.
God is at work in all who believe, to make them willing and able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond all they’ve ever dared to ask or think (Phil. 2.13; Eph. 3.20), to the end that the Presence and power of Jesus Christ might fill all things (Eph. 1.15-23; 4.8-10) and the knowledge of the glory of God might cover the earth as the waters cover the sea (Hab. 2.14). We who believe in Jesus are called to this great work, and privileged to share in it with joy. But we must be sure about the work of reconciliation that Jesus has accomplished. For only as we understand the scope and implications of His work will we be able to take up ours.
1. Christ’s work of reconciling the world to God is both event and process. Explain.
2. How does the process of reconciliation proceed?
3. How does the work of restoring the reconciled world pertain to you?
Next Steps – Preparation: How would you describe the state of restoration in your life and Personal Mission Field at this time? Spend some time meditating on this, then offer your observations and conclusions to the Lord in prayer.
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.