Surely that cannot be true! God must be angry—angry with the wickedness of humanity—angry because mankind breaks His com-mands—angry because they fail to give Him the honour and worship that is His due. Most of all, God must be angry because He is righteous and cannot tolerate sin. If we are to uphold the righteousness and majesty of God, then, reason tells us, God must be angry.
Having reasoned thus far, it would astonish the average person to learn that God is not angry. They would immediately ask, where in the Bible does it say that God is not angry ? Let us quote that Scripture at once. It is found in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, chapter 5, verse 19. It reads:–
“God was in Christ, conciliating the world unto Himself, not reckoning their offences to them, and placing in us the word of the conciliation.”
We suggest that you pause a moment, and read these words again. Read them a third and fourth time. They will remain in your mind when you consider that they are indeed the inspired word of God. Note how they break naturally into four small clauses:
(1) God was in Christ
(2) conciliating the world unto Himself
(3) not reckoning their offences to them, and
(4) placing in us the word of the conciliation.
GOD WAS IN CHRIST
The only unerring source of truth is the inspired Word of God. These words are not our words, nor are they the plausible deductions of learned men, or even religious men. They are part of His revelation to us —God was in Christ! Here is truth indeed, stated in the words of inspiration. Jesus said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” We further learn in Colossians 2:9 that “In Him the entire complement of the Deity is dwelling bodily.” Truly, God was in Christ.
The truth that God was in Christ has been constantly attacked by all manner of men. They will accept Jesus as the Perfect Example, or the Great Reformer, or a Teacher come from God, or as a good Man who died for His beliefs. There is some truth in all of these statements, but none of them approach the lofty declaration we are considering: God was in Christ—that He might reconcile us to Himself !
CONCILIATING THE WORLD TO HIMSELF
Conciliation is a form of the better known word ‘reconciliation.’ It means being favourably disposed towards a person, even though they have not a favourable disposition towards us –friendship –but a one sided friendship. As an example we might consider two friends who have ‘fallen out,’ – have become estranged. Both feel hurt by the words or actions of the other. They have gone separate ways, and no longer spend time together. Both feel a sense of great loss. Then one friend resolves to do all possible to restore matters to the previous harmony, and realises that someone will have to make the first move. In his heart he puts aside the hurt he feels, and speaks to the other in conciliatory words, for in his heart he is now conciliated to his friend. But his friend is not conciliated, and will not listen, so the estrangement continues. Then after a few days he also puts aside the hurt suffered, and is conciliated to the other. When both are conciliated, then there is reconciliation –a mutual matter. The enmity, hurt, and estrangement is put aside by both, and they are reconciled to each other. One alone cannot be reconciled, only conciliated. It takes two to effect reconciliation.
The Scriptures speak of both conciliation and reconciliation, but the subject before us now is conciliation, later we will take note of reconciliation.
Note that God is conciliating to the world to Himself. It is not just the church He is conciliated to, nor a specially good person here and there. God is conciliated to the world, to every human, no matter how bad or undeserving. This defies human logic, for it is God Who is offended by sin. It is He Who has been rejected by His creatures. It is God’s Son who was crucified. It would be understandable if God were estranged, aloof and remote. Indeed, this is the way religion thinks, and men are ever trying to interpose themselves between God and man, seeking by some ritual or ceremony to appease the wrath of an offended God. But such things are foreign to God’s gospel of grace, for we read in Romans 5:20 that “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” Grace is unmerited favour to the undeserving.
NOT RECKONING THEIR OFFENCES TO THEM
When something dreadful happens, our first thought is often “Why has this happened to me ?” We look around for the cause, we search our conscience and memory to find a reason for our misfortune. The greater the tragedy, the more certain are we that we must have done something to cause it. Because we are so hurt, the cause must be our own doing, for surely God would not afflict us for no cause. Human reason rebels against the thought that something can happen without a cause, and when humans fail to find any probable cause for their misfortune, they are indignant. But such reasonings are not part of God’s gospel of grace. Look at our Scripture again —“God was in Christ, conciliating the world to Himself not reckoning their offences against them." —Not reckoning their offences them! God is not pressing the matter of men’s sins, for He is bent on reconciliation —and that takes place when the sinner becomes conciliated to God. God is not reckoning your offences against you, for they have already been dealt with in the death of His Son.
Religion would tell us that we need to do something to placate God, for He is offended by our sinful character, but God’s evangel tells us that God is not reckoning our offences against us. It is not us who make the move, it is God. Just think of it, God is not reckoning our offences against us! He has removed every obstacle between Himself and us, and is entreating us “be conciliated.” Let us also understand that this peace is established on a righteous basis. The question of sin is not swept under the carpet, but is dealt with by God in the death of His Son. “He (God) has made Him (Jesus) Who knew no sin, to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.”
So it is not us, but God Who is pleading —“Be conciliated.” When Christ died, Sin itself was crucified. Nothing now stands between us and our loving Father!
PLACING IN US THE WORD OF CONCILIATION.
Paul tells us in another Scripture that he is not ashamed of the gospel. The word of the conciliation is indeed the gospel of which we are not ashamed. It is the gospel of the grace of God, Who is not reckoning offences against the sinner, but is beseeching them —“be conciliated.” It is the word of conciliation which turns men’s hearts to God —the realisation that God is already conciliated to you, through the death of His Son, so you need do nothing to make yourself right with Him. He has already done everything necessary to fulfil the demands of His righteousness, and has removed every barrier between God and mankind.
Let us now look at how Paul summarises the gospel in the next verses.
20. “For Christ, then, are we ambassadors, as of God entreating through us. We are beseeching for Christ’s sake ‘Be conciliated to God!”
21. For the One not knowing sin, He makes to be sin for our sakes that we may be becoming the righteousness of God in Him.”
There is a common belief that mankind must do something to show God that we are sorry for our sins. But that is not God’s gospel for today. It once was, when God was dealing with His ancient people, Israel. (And it will be once more, during the future time known as the millennium, when all His promises to Abraham and David will be fulfilled.) In the verse just quoted, we notice the words “entreat” and “beseech.” Have you noticed Who it is entreating, and who it is beseeching ? It is not sinful humanity, but God Who is entreating “Be conciliated!” It is as God’s ambassadors that we are beseeching “Be conciliated.”
Those who preach God’s gospel of grace are God’s ambassadors. The apostle Paul was God’s ambassador as he declared the gospel to the nations —how that “God was in Christ, conciliating the world to Himself, not reckoning their offences to them.” Then a remarkable thing happens. God has His ambassador shut up in prison in Rome. This is very significant, for God in this is demonstrating that He is not reckoning men’s offences against them. There can scarcely be a greater insult to a country than to imprison its ambassador, yet God’s ambassador is put in prison. And while Paul is in chains, God reveals to him the wonderful truths contained in Paul’s letters known as Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians! God continues to pour blessings on His church to demon-strate that he is conciliated to the world.
Let us now look at the word “Reconcile.” This precious word is found only twice in Scripture: once in Ephesians, where Jew and Gentile are reconciled, and once in Colossians where we read,
“And you, being once estranged and enemies in comprehension, by wicked acts, yet now He reconciles."
Notice who was estranged — us ! and Who made the reconciliation — God ! We were estranged in our comprehension, could do nothing to make the peace, could see no farther than our wicked acts, yet God has reconciled us to Himself through the death of His Son.
Law cannot reconcile us to God, nor can sacrifice nor pardon, nor good works. Only God’s love can reconcile the creature to Himself. God was in Christ, conciliating the world to Himself !