The Bible Insights Weekly e-letter is freely available upon request.

Yes! Please Subscribe Me

Bible Insights Weekly

Enrich your spiritual thinking.

UCGia Bible Insights Thursday, February 22 2024

Reconciliation: a vital part of Christ's message

Jesus Christ began His 3½ year ministry by declaring the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. He called people to repentance, forgave their sins, healed their diseases and gave them hope. But His teachings weren't always warmly received, because sometimes they clashed with long-held ideas and traditions.

A major part of Christ’s message was that all of mankind could be reconciled to God. His disciples were shocked when he talked with a Samaritan woman (John 4:27), telling her He was the Messiah and that eternal life was available to all, both Jews and Gentiles, through Him (verses 10-14, 25-26).

Some Jews, who heard Jesus teach this, felt threatened and did not want to share what they viewed as their God-given right with gentiles. When He brought the subject up in a synagogue in Nazareth they tried to kill Him (Luke 4:24-29).

That God would offer salvation to all was also taught by the disciples after Christ's death, resulting in hostility and opposition spreading to this part of the Gospel message. The Apostle Paul wrote about the breach between the Jews and gentiles in Ephesians 2.

A wall in the courtyard of the temple had been erected to keep the gentiles away while the Jews worshiped. Paul addressed this wall of separation, because no such barrier was to exist in the Church: "For He Himself [Christ] is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation…so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross….And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both [Jew and gentile alike] have access by one Spirit to the Father" (Ephesians 2:14-18).

The prophet Isaiah explains what separates us from God: "....your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear" (Isaiah 59:2). Our sins stand between us and God, and we are powerless to remove the penalty that sin brings.

The only solution is a divine act of grace. Christ lived His life without sinning, and was then sacrificed in our place so we could be reconciled to God: "In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world… to be the propitiation for our sins" (1 John 4:9-10). The word ‘propitiation’ conveys sin being covered and remitted (Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, 1985, "Propitiation"). The New English Bible simply states God sent His Son "as the remedy for the defilement of our sins."

Christ's sacrifice is the remedy for our sins, but we must respond by repenting of our wrong doing for the process of forgiveness and reconciliation to take place. Only when we have submitted ourselves to God, as symbolized by baptism, will our sins be blotted out. At that point in the process we are justified (made right) by the blood of Jesus Christ and reconciled to God so we can be saved (Romans 5:1, 6-11).

Our relationship with God should also affect our relationships with other people, “....if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another" (1 John 4:11). Reconciling with each other is a necessary part of our calling. God, through the supreme sacrifice of His Son, is not only reconciling us to Himself; He is reconciling us to each other. The two processes are inseparable. "Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift" (Matthew 5:23-24).

God clearly links our relationship with Him to our responsiveness to each other (Romans 12:18). God intercedes to help us fulfill His will and restore us to a right relationship with Himself and with each other. Ultimately, that's what the Kingdom of God is about: being reconciled to God and man. We can be thankful God allows us not only to experience reconciliation, but to share it with others as He proceeds with His plan to offer salvation to all of mankind.