Paul presents a new revelation of God that is also found in his epistle to the Romans. This is the message of the conciliation.
“God conciliates us to Himself through Christ” (2 Cor.5:18). God has established a change between us and Himself. The Greek word for conciliate is a compound term composed of the elements “down” and “change.” Without claiming too much concerning these elements, we would, nevertheless, draw attention especially to the idea of “change.” This is a concept also involved in the English word “conciliate.” To conciliate is to effect a change from estrangement and antagonism to agreement and even good will. A good picture in our own day is the breaking down of the Berlin wall, which was (from a human standpoint) a bulwark of enmity.
In the evangel dispensed by Paul we learn that God has effected a change in the relationship of human beings to Himself. And He has done this through Christ, that is, through His death. The change is one from enmity to peace toward God and access in God’s grace into His presence as our Father. This is how Paul presents it in his epistles:
“Being, then, justified by faith, we may be having peace toward God, through our Lord, Jesus Christ, through Whom we have the access also, by faith, into this grace in which we stand . . .” (Rom.5:1,2). “For if, being enemies, we were conciliated to God through the death of His Son, much rather, being conciliated, we shall be saved in His life. Yet not only so, but we are glorying also in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom we now obtained the conciliation” (Rom.5:10,11).
“For you did not get slavery’s spirit to fear again, but you got the spirit of sonship, in which we are crying, ‘Abba, Father!’ The spirit itself is testifying together with our spirit that we are children of God” (Rom.8:15,16) “Now, seeing that you are sons, God delegates the spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba, Father!’ ” (Gal.4:6).
In Ephesians and Colossians the word of the conciliation is expanded to a revelation of reconciliation which is applied to the body of Christ and finally the entire universe: “And coming, He brings the evangel of peace to you, those afar, and peace to those near, for through Him we both have had the access, in one spirit, to the Father” (Eph.2:17,18). “In [Christ Jesus] we have boldness and access with confidence through His faith” (Eph.3:12). “In [the Son of God’s love] the entire complement delights to dwell, and through Him to reconcile all to Him (making peace through the blood of His cross) . . .” (Col.1:20). This change from enmity to peace, from estrangement to access, from alienation to sonship, is what God establishes in Christ, making Himself known in a new and glorious way. Paul calls it “the secret of the evangel” in Ephesians 6:19, where he speaks of a genuine need when he requests prayers for boldness in making it known.
Although we seem to want things that are new, we also hesitate to give up the old. Believers from Paul’s day to the present have often vacillated in their attitudes toward the evangel. We see it is a message of grace, peace and glory that is wholly out of God. “Yet all is of God . . .” (2 Cor.5:18). But the flesh keeps doubting and even denying that this can be true. It is great that God has conciliated us to Himself, but, we reason, there must be some catch. We suppose that it would be safer to qualify this bold declaration of peace with some “if’s” and conditions, in order to insure restraints on the flesh. In this way we make the discipline of the flesh dependent on the flesh. Hence the power of the evangel of peace is, in fact, denied.
Let us not hesitate to take these words of 2 Cor.5:18 candidly and unreservedly as they are written. Through the death of our Lord Jesus Christ, God has achieved for us the removal of enmity and all the barriers to His heart that we have erected. He has brought forth a change from estrangement to peace toward Himself as our Father. Let us hold to this evangel tenaciously as we continue to live in these perilous times of increasing agnosticism and outright enmity toward God (cf 2 Tim.3:1-9).