I have tried to make it clear that at the place which is called Calvary a work was done which set the human family-you and me-free from the penalty incurred by the sin of Adam; that Jesus of Nazareth assumed all the liabilities which were the result of that sin, and met them; and that no one ever has been or ever will be punished for that sin. I wish now to consider the cross as the way of reconciliation between man and God.
First let us note the wide difference between Christianity and heathenism in this matter of reconciliation. In Christianity it is man who is reconciled to God, and reconciliation is an act of God; but in heathenism it is the gods who are reconciled to man, and an attempted reconciliation is an act of man. In saying this I do not forget that some who profess to represent Christianity have presented the sacrifice of Christ as a means of appeasing the anger of God, but this does not seem to me to be the teaching of the Scriptures.
I do not mean to proclaim a soft gospel. There is such a thing as God’s anger. The wrath of God is a terrible reality, and must be recognized. The willful transgressors of the law of holiness will be punished with “eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of His might.” 2 Thess. 1:9. But this wrath is love burning against sin, the result of love rejected and reconciliation refused. It still remains true that “God is love,” and that He has done all that infinite love could suggest and infinite wisdom could devise for saving men.
When a heathen philosophy is deliberately chosen in place of the gospel of God, and when a sinner attempts to do the work of reconciliation himself instead of accepting the work of reconciliation which has already been accomplished, God cannot be held responsible for the failure. The eternal principles of justice and righteousness are not subject to revision by a merely human philosophy, and God cannot imperil the stability of His government by accepting a pseudo-holiness as a satisfactory atonement for the willful transgression of the law of holiness. When God justifies, He Himself must still remain just.
The classic passage which deals with reconciliation presents the matter thus: “All things are of God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave unto us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, not reckoning unto them their trespasses.” 2 Cor. 5:18, 19. A brief analysis of this teaching will show:
- That reconciliation is an act of God: it was “God who reconciled.”
- That we are by God’s act reconciled to Him, rather than that He is reconciled to us: “God who reconciled us to Himself.”
- That this act of reconciliation was accomplished “through Christ.”
- That it was not God apart from Christ, or Christ apart from God, who accomplished this act, but “God was in Christ reconciling.”
- That the act which was effective in reconciling “us” who are Christians, was effective for the world: “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself.”
- That although the world is still in sin, and may refuse to recognize the fact, it is nevertheless a reconciled world. God has reconciled it to Himself.
- That in accomplishing this work of reconciliation, the trespasses of the world were not reckoned to them.
Putting it rather briefly, but I hope correctly, I may say that reconciliation is not a process, but an act performed at a definite time; that this act was not performed in order to induce a change of feeling on the part of God toward us, but as an expression of an existing feeling; that as the result of this act God could maintain His righteous character, and yet not reckon their trespasses to a race of sinners. I have here stated what appear to me to be some of the fundamental facts of the gospel-facts which ought to be proclaimed everywhere, and which ought to be more clearly understood than they are at present. In the face of the blasphemous utterances of atheism, in defiance of the evolutionary philosophy of modernism, and regardless of the lack of appreciation of the grace of God on the part of many nominal Christians, the message that God by His own act has reconciled the world to Himself should be proclaimed in every land, heathen and Christian, in the power of the Spirit. Christ came to a world not reconciled in fact; He left it a reconciled world. This is the good news.
But I must now ask, How was this reconciliation effected? The answer is simple and clear: Reconciliation rests upon the atoning sacrifice made upon Calvary. Jesus bore our sins.
“We were reconciled to God through the death of His Son.” Rom. 5:10. Because sin was reckoned to Christ, although He knew no sin, and was judged upon Him, sin is not reckoned to those who have sinned, but they are reckoned righteous, if they are willing to be identified with Christ, their representative.
And here I must make the distinction between being reconciled and being saved. While I maintain that the world is a reconciled world, I do not maintain that it is a saved world. Universal salvation is not the same as universal reconciliation. The inspired teaching makes this plain: “If, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved by His life; and not only so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.” Rom. 5:10, 11. The death of Christ reconciles; the life of Christ saves; the reconciliation made through the death of Christ must be received through faith in the living Christ who died and rose again and ever liveth. The reconciliation is universal, unlimited; but the salvation is limited to those who personally appropriate the reconciliation.
The great announcement is that God has reconciled the world to Himself; the great exhortation is, “Be ye reconciled to God.” 2 Cor. 5:20. Every reconciled sinner is urged to accept the reconciliation provided by confessing that he is a sinner and in need of reconciliation, by recognizing the fact that through the death of Christ reconciliation has already been made, and by accepting the risen and triumphant Christ as his life. The final result of the whole transaction is thus stated; “Him who knew no sin He made to be sin on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Cor. 5:21.
“Guilt rests on God’s charging up sin; reconciliation rests upon God’s non-imputation of sin; God’s non-imputation of sin rests upon Christ’s being made sin for us. . . . God made Christ sin in this sense, that God as it were took Him in the place of sin, rather than of the sinner, and judged the sin upon Him. . . . God made Him to be sin in treatment though not in feeling, so that holiness might be perfected in judgment, and we might become the righteousness of God in Him, so that we might have in God’s sight righteousness by our living union with Christ, righteousness which did not belong to us actually, naturally, and finally. Our righteousness is as little ours individually as the sin on Christ was His.”
I hope that the reality of this good news has not been hidden under too many or too large words. I greatly desire that the simplicity of the gospel should plainly appear, and that all my readers might be moved to accept the reconciliation made through the death of Christ. Again I emphasize the atoning value of the cross. Again I lift up the crucified and risen Jesus as our only and our all sufficient hope. “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved.” Acts 16:31.
“In the matchless gift of His Son, God has encircled the whole world with an atmosphere of grace as real as the air which circulates around the globe. All who choose to breathe this life giving atmosphere will live, and grow up to the stature of men and women in Christ Jesus. . . . Our growth in grace, our joy, our usefulness,-all depend upon our union with Christ.” (SC pp. 68,69)
I testify the gospel of reconciliation. I testify the gospel of reconciliation received and salvation assured. Will you receive my testimony?
–WW Prescott, “The Saviour of the Word”, 1929, pp. 58-62.