A Miracle of Miracles
It is a rare person who at one time or another doesn’t have need of reconciliation with someone whom they have offended. Opportunities for reconciliation are one of the means that Providence uses to develop character.
The Oxford dictionary defines to “reconcile” as to “restore friendly relations between.” A secondary definition reads to “cause to coexist in harmony; make or show to be compatible.” Strong’s Concordance is more direct: “Atonement; restoration to divine favor.”
Nothing is more in need of reconciliation, of “restoration to divine favor,” than the relationship between man and God after the Fall in the Garden of Eden. God has been working tirelessly for six thousand years to restore man to divine favor and bring about the reconciliation that must occur between God and the pinnacle of His creation before Christ returns to gather His saints. The big question is, Are we cooperating with that effort?
In one sense, reconciliation is simply another term for atonement. If we are reconciled to God, our character is once again aligned with the divine purpose of the plan of redemption—restoring the image of God in man.
Achieving that reconciliation, that atonement, requires exactly what Jesus told Nicodemus he needed during their nocturnal conversation recorded in John 3:3: “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
No other Bible writer wrote more about this need than Paul. In his second epistle to the Corinthians, he wrote in great detail regarding the need for reconciliation and about how God is working to fulfill that need: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 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 [attributing, assigning] their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:17–21).
What an incredible statement! How clearly this passage shows the love of God for man. We are moved to cry out, “Abba, Father!” as we realize the intense longing that reigns in our Heavenly Father’s heart for the reconciliation of mankind to Himself.
In commenting on this text, Inspiration records, “ ‘If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new’ (2 Corinthians 5:17). Through the power of Christ, men and women have broken the chains of sinful habit. They have renounced selfishness. The profane have become reverent, the drunken sober, the profligate pure. Souls that have borne the likeness of Satan have become transformed into the image of God. This change is in itself the miracle of miracles. A change wrought by the Word, it is one of the deepest mysteries of the Word. We cannot understand it; we can only believe, as declared by the Scriptures, it is ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory’ (Colossians 1:27).” The Acts of the Apostles, 476.
Note the harmony between reconciliation, atonement, and the new birth experience. They are bound together by one divine purpose: the restoration of the image of God in man. Still another term for this miracle of miracles is “redemption.”
“The work of redemption involves consequences of which it is difficult for man to have any conception. ‘Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him’ (1 Corinthians 2:9). As the sinner, drawn by the power of Christ, approaches the uplifted cross, and prostrates himself before it, there is a new creation. A new heart is given him. He becomes a new creature in Christ Jesus. Holiness finds that it has nothing more to require. God Himself is ‘the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus’ (Romans 3:26). And ‘whom He justified, them He also glorified’ (Romans 8:30). Great as is the shame and degradation through sin, even greater will be the honor and exaltation through redeeming love. To human beings striving for conformity to the divine image there is imparted an outlay of heaven’s treasure, an excellency of power, that will place them higher than even the angels who have never fallen.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 162, 163.
Man, in and of himself, is completely incapable of achieving this reconciliation, this rebirth, without divine power.
“Nothing but divine power can regenerate the human heart and imbue souls with the love of Christ, which will ever manifest itself with love for those for whom He died. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. When a man is converted to God, a new moral taste is supplied, a new motive power is given, and he loves the things that God loves; for his life is bound up by the golden chain of the immutable promises to the life of Jesus. Love, joy, peace, and inexpressible gratitude will pervade the soul, and the language of him who is blessed will be, ‘Thy gentleness hath made me great’ (Psalm 18:35).” Selected Messages, Book 1, 336.
We can add yet another term to this miraculous process of reconciliation: conversion.
“Conversion is a work that most do not appreciate. It is not a small matter to transform an earthly, sin-loving mind and bring it to understand the unspeakable love of Christ, the charms of His grace, and the excellency of God, so that the soul shall be imbued with divine love and captivated with the heavenly mysteries. When he understands these things, his former life appears disgusting and hateful. He hates sin, and, breaking his heart before God, he embraces Christ as the life and joy of the soul. He renounces his former pleasures. He has a new mind, new affections, new interest, new will; his sorrows, and desires, and love are all new. The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, which have heretofore been preferred before Christ, are now turned from, and Christ is the charm of his life, the crown of his rejoicing. Heaven, which once possessed no charms, is now viewed in its riches and glory; and he contemplates it as his future home, where he shall see, love, and praise the One who hath redeemed him by His precious blood.” Testimonies, vol. 2, 294.
A bit of meditation on this passage will reveal the incredible “broadness” and all-encompassing nature of the reconciliation process. It becomes plainly evident that reconciliation, conversion, atonement, redemption, and the new birth experience are one and the same. Man can succeed in this process only through cooperation with the divine agencies that God in His mercy has tasked with guiding man along the path of truth and righteousness.
God uses ways to achieve the new birth experience in each individual that we often do not recognize until after the fact—if at all. There are angelic hosts who intercede on our behalf in unseen ways; God moves upon those with whom we interact, often unbeknownst to them, to speak words of encouragement and edification at exactly the right time; the Holy Spirit speaks to us in that still small voice. How many times have we suddenly experienced an epiphany, a “a sudden intuitive leap of understanding,” when reading a familiar Scripture or a well-known passage in the spirit of Prophecy!
Often when we examine our lives and the daily activities—the thoughts, words, and deeds that make up a day’s activities, we become lost in despair of ever being able to meet the high standard that God’s law demands. That is not an unusual perplexity. It is at times like this that we must remember the Cross of Christ.
“Christ suffered in order that through faith in Him our sins might be pardoned. He became man’s substitute and surety, Himself taking the punishment, though all undeserving, that we who deserved it might be free, and return to our allegiance to God through the merits of a crucified and risen Saviour. He is our only hope of salvation. Through His sacrifice we who are now on probation are prisoners of hope. We are to reveal to the universe, to the world fallen and to worlds unfallen, that there is forgiveness with God, that through the love of God we may be reconciled to God. Man repents, becomes contrite in heart, believes in Christ as His atoning sacrifice, and realizes that God is reconciled to him. …
“The reconciliation of God to man, and man to God, is sure when certain conditions are met.” Fundamentals of Christian Education, 369.
“Through Jesus, God’s mercy was manifested to men; but mercy does not set aside justice. The law reveals the attributes of God’s character, and not a jot or tittle of it could be changed to meet man in his fallen condition. God did not change His law, but He sacrificed Himself, in Christ, for man’s redemption. ‘God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself’ (2 Corinthians 5:19).” The Desire of Ages, 762.
What does the manifestation and subsequent sacrifice of God in Christ mean to fallen, degraded mankind?
“God was to be manifest in Christ, ‘reconciling the world unto Himself’ (2 Corinthians 5:19). Man had become so degraded by sin that it was impossible for him, in himself, to come into harmony with Him whose nature is purity and goodness. But Christ, after having redeemed man from the condemnation of the law, could impart divine power to unite with human effort. Thus by repentance toward God and faith in Christ the fallen children of Adam might once more become ‘sons of God’ (1 John 3:2).” Patriarchs and Prophets, 64.
By meditation on the incredible and incomprehensible miracle of the Word made flesh, the mysterious blending of the human with the divine, we can begin to appreciate the holiness of God’s character as revealed through His Law and how the plan of redemption enables us to meet the standard that the Law enjoins.
“Says the apostle: ‘God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself’ (2 Corinthians 5:19). Only as we contemplate the great plan of redemption can we have a just appreciation of the character of God. The work of creation was a manifestation of His love; but the gift of God to save the guilty and ruined race alone reveals the infinite depths of divine tenderness and compassion. ‘God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life’ (John 3:16).” Testimonies, vol. 5, 739. [Emphasis author’s.]
The worshipers in the church at Corinth were not the only ones to whom Paul explained the need of reconciliation. The converts in Ephesus were also given the benefit of Paul’s experience in the third heaven. His epistle to the Ephesians explained that through a common belief in Christ, there is reconciliation between Jew and Gentile, the “middle wall of separation” being “broken down,” so that “He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross.”
“Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands—that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, 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, thereby putting to death the enmity” (Ephesians 2:11–16).
That same dissolution of enmity between disparate mindsets is necessary today if the unity that Christ desires in His people is to be accomplished.
In his letter to the Colossians, Paul addresses another aspect of reconciliation. Not only is mankind in need of reconciliation with God, but Paul explained that creation itself lost the perfection that it possessed in the connection it enjoyed with the divine when the world was new. Christ’s sacrifice not only enables mankind to be reconciled to God, but it also provides a means of restoring nature to its original brilliant reflection of the holiness of God.
“For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight—if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister” (Colossians 1:19–23).
As we contemplate this aspect of the plan of redemption, we can only be amazed at the unfathomable love that God through Christ revealed—not only to humankind, but to the universe. What an incomprehensible value this epitome of selflessness places on man.
“Jesus did not yield up His life till He had accomplished the work which He came to do, and exclaimed with His departing breath: ‘It is finished’ (John 19:30). Satan was then defeated. He knew that his kingdom was lost. Angels rejoiced as the words were uttered: ‘It is finished.’ The great plan of redemption, which was dependent on the death of Christ, had been thus far carried out. And there was joy in heaven that the sons of Adam could, through a life of obedience, be finally exalted to the throne of God. Oh, what love! What amazing love! that brought the Son of God to earth to be made sin for us, that we might be reconciled to God, and elevated to a life with Him in His mansions in glory. Oh, what is man, that such a price should be paid for his redemption!” Testimonies, vol. 2, 211, 212.
Again we cry, “Abba, Father!”
John R. Pearson is the office manager and a board member of Steps to Life. He may be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.