The Reconciled World (2)
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
God’s love for His world
In his book, God’s Good World, Jonathan R. Wilson defines reconciliation as “God’s act of aligning all things in their proper relationship to God through Christ’s cross.” We note that he picks up on Paul’s statement that “all things are of God” and are thus included as aim and beneficiaries of Christ’s work.
He continues, “This reconciliation is part of the redemption of creation that ends in the new creation.” Here Wilson affirms what we mentioned in our first installment, that the work of reconciliation is only brought to completion in the new heavens and new earth.
Wilson finishes his definition of reconciliation by saying, “In the cross, evil is exposed as evil and in this is rightly aligned with God. In the cross, giving and receiving in love is revealed as life and in this is rightly aligned with God. To use an image that we should not press too far, in the cross, the world’s account with God is reconciled: debts are revealed, accounted for, and settled; creation is revealed as gift and blessing, and its life and telos made manifest in Jesus.” The life of creation is Jesus. The telos or end of creation is Jesus. We who are part of creation have as our life and telos Jesus Christ, for we shall be like Him when at last we see Him as He is (1 Jn. 3.1-3).
In the meantime, the Spirit and Word of God are at work within us, as aspects of God’s creation, to transform us into the likeness of Christ (2 Cor. 3.12-18). This is a gradual and progressive project that requires us working according to the protocols and priorities of the Holy Spirit to realize that which is well-pleasing to God – that which is rightly aligned with God, as Jonathan R. Wilson might say.
When Jesus reported to Nicodemus concerning God’s great love, He testified that the scope of that love took in all of creation – the world (Jn. 3.16). What God loved so much, He sent His Son to redeem and reconcile, that all the world might realize its proper life and telos through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Even a cursory look at the work of our Lord Jesus Christ reveals the world-healing scope of the work of reconciliation He accomplished.
Christ the model of reconciliation
As we look to Jesus, we see in Him a concern to bring the love of God to the entire world – all of creation. Jesus brought realignment to human souls – all who would believe in Him – by granting forgiveness of sins and eternal life with God. His work of reconciliation thus accomplishes peace with God for all who believe, and inaugurates the work of God’s Spirit whereby the soul and life are increasingly remade in the likeness of Jesus.
Jesus was also concerned about matters of culture. He blasted the religious traditions of His day as having departed from Scripture and become captive to the ideas of men. He cleansed the temple in Jerusalem, and declared to all its proper purpose and function. He defied the established civil order by refusing to back away from offending Roman claims that Caesar alone was God. He taught right ways of thinking about marriage, business practices, neighborly living, and law. He launched the Church as a new cultural entity, to be the sign and outpost of His Kingdom on earth. He made Himself the final authority on these and all other matters of culture, insisting that His Word define the rightly-aligned parameters of all cultural life.
He taught about beauty; exercised authority over seas and trees; commanded fish into nets; darkened the world at His death; and caused it to tremble at His resurrection. Not even creation itself is beyond the reach of Christ’s reconciling work.
God loves the world, and everything in it; and He sent Jesus to reset and realign the cosmos and its components so that they could realize God’s life and telos, as He originally intended.
As we take up the work of restoring the reconciled world, we look to Jesus to guide us, and to mark out the broad parameters or categories of our work. And we strive to love the world as God does, so that in Jesus we can do whatever is in our power to reset and realign the world – from the souls of people to the groaning and travailing creation itself – so that all things might return to God’s plan for life and telos.
The focus of our work
The work of reconciliation is granted to the Body of Christ, His Church, as part of their calling to the Kingdom and glory of God. We should expect the healthy and growing presence of the Church in the world to affect all aspects of the world according to God’s life and telos. In fact, this is precisely what we have seen throughout the ages. Not only have churches pursued a commitment to win lost souls to Jesus Christ, and to nurture saved souls to maturity in Him; churches have also worked to bring the beauty, goodness, and truth of God to culture, institutions, social relations, and all other aspects of life in creation. Christians have labored in all legitimate fields of endeavor to bring Jesus to light by good works and true words. Our forebears in the faith have understood that, for the time allotted to us, we must endeavor to bring the goodness of God to light in the land of the living, to glorify Him in even the most quotidian of daily activities, and thus to show Jesus to the world, and to fill the world with His Presence (Eph. 4.8-10).
This must be the focus of our work as well. As believers, we are called to restore God’s life and telos to the world. We cannot all do everything, of course. We must begin with ourselves, looking to the restoration and nurture of our souls, and living in our spheres of influence (2 Cor. 10.13-18) as those who have been sent there as ambassadors of the rule of King Jesus, for the progress of God’s Kingdom and the glory of His Name. Nothing in our lives is outside the scope of what Jesus has reconciled to God, or of what is to be restored to His life and telos.
Believers are called to the Kingdom and glory of God (1 Thess. 2.12). Within that framework and calling, each of us is sent as Jesus was sent to bring near the Kingdom of God and to shed the light of God’s truth and love on those parts and people of the world with whom we have to do (Jn. 20.21). We will only know the working power of God and the utter joy and blessedness of our salvation as we take up the work assigned to us of restoring the reconciled world, beginning right where we are.
1. What does it mean to say that Jesus is the life and telos of your life? How much of your life?
2. Can you cite some ways in which Christians have affected culture and society as part of their work of restoring the reconciled world?
3. The world today seems increasingly not in the process of being reset and realigned with God. Why do you think this is so?
Next Steps – Transformation: Commit the day ahead to God. Ask Him to show you one area, besides your soul, where you can begin working more pointedly to restore the reconciled world.
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.