We read in the Bible where the apostle Paul talked about having a ministry of reconciliation in 2 Cor.5:18 and revealed in several Scriptures what being reconciled is all about. Why do so many religious denominations, calling themselves “Christianity” today, teach the modern “Once saved always saved” idea instead of teaching what the Bible says about this “reconciliation” and what it means? (I will be using the NKJ throughout, unless otherwise noted.)
How do people in various religions come up with the idea that little children can be “sprinkled” with water and they are saved—then once they are “saved” they will always be saved? You may hear someone comment “I was saved as a child or a teenager in the _____ church” or “my parents had me baptized and saved as a baby”? Someone else may say, about a dying loved one; “I am afraid for him/her, as they have not been saved”! Where does the reconciliation Paul spoke of fit into this, or DOES IT? Where in the Scriptures do we even find such a teaching that anyone who is reconciled to God accomplishes a guaranteed salvation? The Bible nowhere teaches these doctrines of “sprinkling” or baptism of children—but baptism by being completely submerged in water and only those who are mature enough to know what they are doing in making that choice. No one is “once saved and then always saved” as that is another false teaching and not really from the Bible! Many believe in going to heaven as a place of reward and salvation, however king David, as a man after God’s own heart, wrote a lot about receiving salvation but has not gone to heaven. (Acts 2:29, 34) He was still in his grave when the Church Jesus was building through His disciples had begun to be built. Even all other faithful of the Old Testament period (Heb.11) are still in their graves and will not come forth until Christ returns and resurrects them. So this dispels yet another false teaching!
Then there are those today, who believe that all they have to do is accept Christ as Savior “into their hearts” and they are saved, without obeying all the Commands of God. This belief is based on a false understanding of Acts 2:21 & 4:12 and Rom.10:13; this belief contradicts other Scriptures, so is also a false teaching. Any true Christian must come to an understanding about what the Bible teaches on reconciliation and what that entails. Christ did not do it all for us on the cross or stake, regardless of what worldly religions claim, which is very easily proven by many other Scriptures. There are yet others who have come to accept that no human can really keep the Commandments of God; therefore they must have been done away by Christ, as many religions also teach today.
(See the newly updated article titled “The white horse of Rev.6” for more understanding of how that horse is false Christianity/religion and how it came down to us today.)
Some rely on and teach grace alone, for salvation, using some Scriptures out of context that mention salvation through grace, to substantiate that belief. (Eph.2:5-8 is an example) After the apostasy in the WCG in the mid-1990’s, some ministers & members in newly forming COG groups began to succumb to some very relaxed and watered down approaches to several things. Such as the Gospel of Christ, what it is and whether to preach it or not, how much effort and zeal is required, etc. Many decided that the Government for the COG found in Scripture can be whatever the ministers decide, doing away with rank in the Church, belief in authoritative ordinations and true apostleship, certain doctrines—etc. I have touched on many of these issues from various perspectives over the last several years, as well as many others have. However the lukewarm approach to these truths has continued and many other splinter groups have arisen.
In this article I want to deal more specifically with reconciliation and Scriptures that show how it does NOT grant anyone unconditional salvation—but does make possible for one to have the potential to gain salvation! Please read on, as there is a clear difference. Christ said in John 14:6— "I am the way, the truth, and the life. (Right here some will say “see, all you need is Christ” while ignoring the rest of it.) “No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Does this indicate to you that all you need is Christ? What about the Father and what role does He play in your salvation? So now if we think about this and compare this statement with John 6:44, do these passages contradict one another? Notice; John 6:44 (Christ speaking) "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him;”--so how can anyone “just believe on Christ” and be saved, if they cannot come to Christ without first being drawn by the Father? How do they get to know the Father and how does the Father draw one? These are subjects of other articles & Bible studies. On the other hand, how does one come to the Father through Christ, if they do not really know the true Christ and what His purpose for coming was? The vast majority today have not been called or “drawn”. There are false christ’s and false prophets who try to deceive even the elect of God, as Christ Himself said. (Matt.24:24)
Most people today think that God was trying desperately to save the world and so when all else seemed to fail He sent His Son to just forgive them of all sin with His death and resurrection. However we need to think about this; if that was the case, why would Christ have told the disciples to continue to preach repentance & Baptism, forgiveness of sin in His name, after His resurrection? Luke 24:47 – “that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”
Here is another thing to think about; Satan still appears to be winning the battle and even fewer today know the difference between true Christianity and the False. (See Christianity or “Christianity” for more.) These false beliefs are partly based on the mistranslation found in 2 Cor.6:2, about salvation. There is more than one time for human salvation! What is not understood about this is the fact that Paul quoted that from Isa.49:8 and the KJV, NAS and the RSV all have that passage as saying; “in A day of salvation”, so it should actually say; “Behold, now is A day of salvation” which then fits with what other Scriptures reveal about all having a chance at salvation—just in different time frames. The ESV has also corrected this error and gives the quote correctly. Those in this life, time or age as Christ said, have to be called out of this world by the Father, before they can come to Christ, as we have seen. They cannot approach God the Father—come before the throne of God—even hope for salvation—again as Christ said, without it being through Christ, by accepting His shed blood for that first step of reconciliation to the Father! So let us begin to see what this means and what it has to do with salvation!
Understanding Paul’s ministry of reconciliation
Going back now to where we began; 2 Cor 5:18-21 “Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us (True COG leadership-more than just Paul) the ministry of reconciliation, 19 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. (Here again, this does not apply to those whom God has not called, as there is an order to the fulfilling of God’s plan! 1Cor.15:22-24) V.20 “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, (If called and converted) as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God. 21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (and of course that can only happen after repentance, baptism and receiving the Holy Spirit to be working in us from then on.)
Now if we just think about what is being said here, this goes along with both of those statements from Christ about the Father drawing people to Christ and then them coming to know God the Father, through Christ. Again, think back on those false beliefs and teachings discussed earlier and ask these questions; Why does man even need to be reconciled to God, based on those teachings? Doesn’t everyone have access to God whenever they choose to call on Him through the name of Christ? Doesn’t God forgive every sin whenever we acknowledge and accept Christ as Lord and Savior? There are so many misunderstandings of the truths of the Bible, God, Christ and true salvation and certainly reconciliation.
Many people get hung up when reading John 3:16 and think Christ’s sacrifice is all it takes but I am trying to help you see in your own Bible that without reconciliation to God through the proper steps, no one can be a Christian or receive salvation! Paul and others in the COG were given this ministry of reconciliation in the NT and that is true. There was no “ministry of reconciliation” like this mentioned for the Old Testament times. (Though the word is used several times in the KJV, it usually means atonement) The “atonement” by the priesthood for sin was not exactly the same thing, being only temporary, meaning “to cover” specific sins and did not offer eternal life. We need to see what this “reconciliation” means in the New Testament and see how it comes. We can gain a better perspective if we look at it from some different sources, or Bible helps. While we do this, also keep in mind that these are only to help in understanding, they are not inspired as Scripture is.
RECONCILE; RECONCILIATION (from International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Electronic Database Copyright (C) 1996 by Biblesoft) “The word "to reconcile" means literally to exchange, to bring into a changed relationship.” (That of turning back to God from a sinful way of living! Sin cuts off the relationship with God and has to be repented of.)
This “change” cannot come without repentance and forgiveness, which is reconciliation. We see this next definition from Strong’s Greek/Hebrew Bible dictionary; #2643 katallage (kat-al-lag-ay'); from 2644; exchange (figuratively, adjustment), i.e. restoration to (the divine) favor:”
We find another revealed part of this reconciliation/reconcile that is fairly accurate from Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary—for 2 Cor. 5:19 [God was in Christ, reconciling.] Translate, `God in (the person of) Christ (in virtue of Christ's intervention) was reconciling, -- the act of reconciliation, --The compound of "was" and "reconciling," instead of the imperfect (Greek), may also imply the continuous purpose of God, from before the world, to reconcile to Himself man, whose fall was foreseen.” Then we come to this, from the same source; 2 Cor. 5:20 [Be ye reconciled to God.] “The Greek expresses God was the RECONCILER in Christ ... let this conciliation have its designed effect. Be reconciled to God. Accept the reconciliation already made (possible)”—and of course that is a reference to the Sacrifice of Christ made (pre-planned) before the foundation of the world. (Rev.13:8—last part) These things give some insight but there is more to be seen.
Peter is the first one to actually begin this ministry of reconciliation through Christ, by stating in Jerusalem on Pentecost; Acts 2:38-40 -- "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 "For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call." 40 And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation." This being “saved” here actually means “deliver or protect yourselves” and only applies to the COG at this time. (1Pet.4:17-18)
Another thing to reflect upon, when considering the false “Christianity” of the world today; Christ did not even pray for the world, (John17:9) but only those whom the Father had given Him, (and all who are the predestined—to be called later, John17:20 & Rom.8:29-30.) showing that God is not trying to save the world in general at this time and this reconciliation does not apply to everyone in the world today. The vast majority are still cut off because of sin not recognized or repented of; not yet having a right relationship/reconciliation with God, through Christ’s crucifixion and now His life. It is only those who would become true Christians that could receive this reconciliation in the NT dispensation, as Peter proclaimed. We read that many are called but only the few are chosen. (Matt.22:14) The chosen have been reconciled to God.
This reconciliation would only come after acceptance of Biblical truth, the Father first calling and beginning to teach through the Word of truth; then repentance and the sacrifice of Christ being applied. Notice how Paul begins to reveal this to us in Rom 5:8-11 “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified (made right or brought back in line) by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, (His sacrifice—once accepted by us) much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. (The resurrected and living Messiah now working/living in us to bring us to an obedient life, through the Spirit of God!) V.11 And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.” This has to come before we can have salvation—but it is not a guarantee of salvation, as we can still fail.
This reconciliation comes to us through our acceptance of Christ as Savior and His sacrifice/death for forgiveness of our sins through faith—which is not temporary—the slate is wiped clean of all past sin—the death penalty now paid, at that point. But, sin does reoccur! Paul was inspired to write it as reconciliation back to God by Christ paying our death penalty and then us accepting that as grace, or unmerited pardon to forgive upon repentance! However, that sacrifice only pays for (wipes clean) past sins and we are bound to sin again, so let us understand. With the help now given through the Holy Spirit, we must begin to come out and away from sin, constantly going to God for forgiveness in the name of Christ, when finding more flaws and physical weaknesses reoccur. We gain strength through the Holy Spirit to grow in grace and knowledge! (2 Pet.3:18) We have to remain in a repentant attitude daily and re-commit ourselves to this obedient way of life—showing this through the Passover ceremony every year and by how we live and address sin in our everyday life.
Paul brings this out in various ways, that we must maintain this reconciliation and repentant state of mind, striving to live in obedience to God to remain in this relationship with God, once reconciled. The Holy Spirit will guide us into the truth found in Scripture (John 16:13-15) and as long as we, from the heart desire to continue the relationship, Christ will continue to live in us! (Gal.2:20) Christ as the Head of the COG, has paid our death penalty for us and by His shed blood we remain reconciled to the Father—redeemed or begotten by the Holy Spirit for potential birth thru resurrection, no longer cut off from an understanding of truth (Eph.1:13-14) and a relationship with God.
He now lives in us through the Holy Spirit, helping us overcome sin! Col 1:18-22 (RSV) “He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that in everything he might be pre-eminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. 21 And you, who once were estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him,”—This is the ministry of reconciliation/forgiveness of sin to begin overcoming—not a granting of automatic Salvation. Christ said this ministry would begin after they had received the Holy Spirit and in Jerusalem—(It was on that very day—Acts 2:38)—to be preached in His Name (Authority) from that time forward! (see Acts 8:12 as well)
Matt.24:14 show the Gospel of the kingdom was to be preached as a witness to the world, not as something to convert the world! The Father will call through the Gospel and knowledge about the kingdom, reveal the very purpose of man and the believers of that truth will be saved, so said Christ, (Mark 16:15-16) but only if they “endure to the end”! (Matt.24:13) Christ’s shed blood pays the death penalty for us to reconcile us back to God, once repentant and accepting truth, then baptized. Those yet to go through this process will then receive the impregnation of the Holy Spirit, then must allow Christ to live and work in them to bring them and all other begotten children to the point of being made Spirit—to be born into the Family or kingdom of God at the resurrection. (Listen to the Gospel page message titled “Are you Born Again” for more on that subject by just clicking this link. There is also an article with the title of Born Again.) This process begins with our calling but it cannot move forward spiritually without our forgiveness/reconciliation—the barrier of sins removed by the death penalty being paid. This however, is not yet salvation. It is only the beginning of being able to work toward that, through the remainder of this physical life.
Reconciliation is simply that and not guaranteed salvation—Christ’s sacrifice does not give us salvation, only forgiveness of sins repented of—only the beginning step to a relationship with God is now made possible, through reconciliation. That relationship must be worked at and maintained by the willingness to repent of subtle deceptions to sin and human weaknesses when realized and these are not by deliberate choice and selfish living in sin that continues in ignoring the Law of God. That is NOT reconciliation!
(Written for TCOGMSO by the editor)