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The Pauline Doctrine of Reconciliation

Colossians 1:19-26 (KJV)
19 For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; 20 And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.
21 And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled 22 In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: 23 If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister; 24 Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church: 25 Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God; 26 Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints:

2 Corinthians 5:17-21 (KJV)
17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. 20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.
21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

Ephesians 2:11-18 (KJV)
11 Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; 12 That at that time ye 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: 13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. 14 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; 16 And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: 17 And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. 18 For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.

Certainly one of the most blessed and glorious of the Pauline doctrines connected with the gospel of the grace of God and the revelation of the mystery is the doctrine of reconciliation. For sure it is interesting to study the Word about God’s work of reconciliation as we find it in Paul’s epistles. The doctrine of reconciliation is in fact central to the revelation that the apostle received from the Lord Jesus Christ. The believer will never fully understand what the apostle calls “…the preaching of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery…” (Rom 16:25; Eph 3:1-3; Col 1:26; etc.) until he or she understands the doctrine of reconciliation. This study explores four passages that address this basic Pauline doctrine involving reconciling of antagonistic parties in which God does the reconciling work. All four of these reconciliations have to do with the work of redemption that the Lord accomplished on Calvary.

Let’s consider what it means to be reconciled. To be reconciled to someone is to have the status that you have with that particular person been changed in a positive way. It might be a change from alienation to friendship or simply from hostility to peaceful coexistence. If you were angry with someone because of some bad thing that that person intentionally did to you, you would have a sense of being alienated from that person. But if that person then came to you and sincerely apologized and you gladly accepted that apology, you and that person would be reconciled. That person’s status with you would have been changed from alienation to friendship. The term “reconcile” has reference to our relationship with someone and presupposes alienation over something that has to be addressed before a change of status can be effected.  It is an important Bible term that deals with God’s relationship to us and our relationship to Him.

There are four different reconciliations that can be identified in Paul’s epistles. Two of them are in 2Cor 5:18-21, another is referenced in Col. 1: 20 & 21, and yet another is referenced in Eph. 2:14 & 15. In verses 18 through 21 of 2Cor.5 there are two different relationships that are in view. In both cases, the relationship that is affected is with God. In verse 19, relationship is between God and the world. Today, in the dispensation of grace, God has changed the relationship that He has with the world from being ready to pour out His wrath on the world for it’s rejection of His Son to offering terms of peace to every man, woman and child in the world. This is a reconciliation that put the whole world in a position where anyone the world over can come to salvation by God’s grace through faith in the shed blood of Christ apart from works or human merit and apart from Israel and Israel’s Law of Moses. In short, this reconciliation made the salvation of lost souls as we find it in Paul’s epistles possible. Romans 11:25 to 36 also talks about this reconciliation.

Let’s consider the four different reconciliations that Paul talks about in more detail:

1. The reconciling of the world: “To wit that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them, and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.” (2Cor 5:19).

This work of reconciliation that God performed involves the changing of the status of the entire world (saved and lost alike).  This raises some important questions relative to exactly what was the status of the world before God before this reconciliation took place and what is the status of the world before God now. One important question is: “Is this a once for all time act by God of reconciling the world unto Himself or is this a continuing action by God that is on going?”  Another important question with regard to this reconciliation is: “In what sense did God reconcile the entire world to himself?” To get the sense of this passage, we need to go to another Pauline passage that also talks about the reconciling of the world to get the background on this status change. That would be Romans 11:15 where Paul talks about the casting aside of Israel being the reconciling of the world.

15 For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead? Romans 11:15

We need an understanding of the passage (Rom 11:15) and the context of Romans chapter 11 in order to get a clear understanding of this passage in 2Cor. 5:19. In fact, it is the understanding of the dispensational significance of what Paul is saying in all of Romans chapters 9, 10, and 11 that gives us the background for understanding our passage here or any passage in that portion of the Bible that we call the Pauline epistles. The casting away of Israel as Paul presents it in Romans 11 is what enables God to reconcile the World to Himself. Until the Lord sent the apostle Paul to the world with the information concerning the dispensation of grace, salvation was of the Jews (John 4:22). When God set Israel aside temporarily and started the dispensation of grace, He reconciled the world to Himself in the sense that He concluded all in unbelief so that He could have mercy on all (Rom. 11:32). That is to say, He made the whole world savable without having to come through Israel and Israel’s law.

What was due and on the schedule when God saved Saul of Tarsus was the tribulation period (the seventieth week of Daniel chapter 9:25 thru 27). Daniel 9 is one of he most fascinating passages of scripture because of the significance of the prophecy regarding a Kingdom set up on the earth under the reign of Israel’s Messiah and the present dispensation of the grace of God in which we live today.  

“24 Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. 25 Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. 26 And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. 27 And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.” Dan 9:24-29

In this amazing passage of scripture, God is defining a measurable period of time until the establishing of a kingdom on this earth that starts with the going forth of a commandment to restore and build (actually rebuild) Jerusalem and which culminates in the arrival of Israel’s Messiah in a period of 69 weeks. We understand from passages such as Gen 29:27 that a week in Scripture is (or can be) seven years long. We understand further then that there will be a period of 483 years from the issue of that commandment to Messiah the prince. Then after an undefined period of time will be a seventieth week or another 7 years. We can see too from the passage in Daniel 9 that there will be a break in the action between the end of the 69th week and the beginning of the seventieth week during which Messiah will be cut off. We understand now that this is a reference to His death for the sins of the world. We see too in Dan 9:26 that there will be a destruction of the city between the end of the 69th week and the beginning of the seventieth week. Then at the end of the seventieth week a number of things will occur that brings the promises that God made to Israel to fruition. Note what they are:

  1. “…to finish the transgression, …” (this is the transgression of the Old Covenant–Hebrews 9:15)
  2. “…and to make an end of sins,…” (that is the bringing of Israel’s sins to and end – i.e. the New Covenant of Jer. 31:31 and Ezekiel 36: 24-28)
  3. “…and to make reconciliation for iniquity, …” (this we understand to be the cross and the redemption through the blood of Christ – Isa 53:5))
  4. and to bring in everlasting righteousness, (this is the eternal Kingdom in which Messiah reigns in righteousness – Isa 32:1)
  5. and to seal up the vision (this is the vision of Daniel chapter 8 concerning the four coming kingdoms and the last days).
  6. and prophecy, (All of the Old Testament prophecy focused on a Kingdom prepared from the foundation of the world for those who will inherit it – Mat 25:34)
  7. and to anoint the most Holy (i.e. to have Israel’s Messiah sit on the throne of David on earth in an eternal kingdom – Dan 2:44).

In Daniel 9:27 we see that the prince that shall come (see verse 26) will make a covenant with many for one week and then in the midst of that week he shall break that covenant. That coming prince is the one that John calls the antichrist (1John2:18; 2:22; 4:3; 2John 1:7). The seventieth week spoken of in Dan 9:27 is described by Gabriel to Daniel in Daniel 12:1 saying it will be “…a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people [Israel] shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book…” The 69th week ended with the Lord riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. For those who would like to check out the mathematics of the chronology, I would refer you to an excellent study on the subject by Sir Robert Anderson entitled “The Coming Prince.”

What would have followed the 69th week would have been the seventieth week – though we can see in the narrative from Gabriel that there was a break in the action at the end of the 69th week foreseen. However, the Lord personally defined the duration of that break as being another year in Luke 13:8 in the parable of the fig tree. In that parable, a certain nobleman (Christ) had a fig tree (a type of religion in Scripture) in his vineyard (a type of Israel as a nation). For three years (the duration of the Lord’s public ministry to Israel) He came looking for fruit on that fig tree but found none. The fruit that He was looking for is repentance in the nation (Luke 13: 3-6). The vinedresser (in this case – the Holy Spirit) said that He would hoe around it and dung it (a type of the Holy Spirits ministry to Israel at Pentecost through the believing remnant) for one year.  One year later after the Lord presented Himself to Israel as her King takes us to the stoning of Stephen.

Stephen is a significant character in the events surrounding the official offer of the Kingdom of Heaven to Israel. There is a misconception among Christians that the nation of Israel was set aside by God at the cross. While it is true that Israel’s guilt was real in the crucifixion of her Messiah, the nation was none the less forgiven of that deed by the Father in response to the Lord’s plea from the cross – “Father forgive them for they know not what they do. “(Luke 23:34).

The official offer of the kingdom to Israel was then made by God through Peter at Pentecost (Acts 2:38-41) as the Holy Ghost ministered the Word to Israel through the believing remnant of Israel. Remember that the Lord said to the then leaders of Israel (i.e. the Scribes and Pharisees and that ruling class of Israelite) that “…the kingdom of God was going to be taken from them and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits of thereof…” (Mt 21:33-43) The nation that the Lord had in view was the little flock of believing Israelites (Luke 12:32) who was to receive the Kingdom. It was the rejection by Israel as a nation of the testimony of the Holy Spirit as He testified through the little flock at Pentecost that God regarded as the unpardonable sin of Mat 12:31; Mark 3:29; and Luke 12:10. The nation of Israel under the leadership of the Scribes and Pharisees blasphemed the Father by rejecting the ministry of John the Baptist (Mat 21:25). They then blasphemed the Lord (i.e. the Son) by attributing the work that He did to devils (Mat 12:22-32). Finally they blasphemed the Holy Ghost by rejecting the testimony that the Holy Ghost made when they stoned Stephen. Stephen is the messenger that the nation sent to Christ after His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension back to heaven. The message that Israel intended to convey to God with the stoning of Stephen was simply “…We [Israel] will not have this man [Christ] reign over us…” (Luke 19:14)

The posture that our Lord has when Stephen sees Him is also significant. David speaks of the Messiah saying “The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” (Psa 110:1) We understand this to be the Father’s words to the Son. Peter at Pentecost set the time frame for this as at the Lord’s ascension back to heaven after His resurrection.

32 This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. 33 Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. 34 For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, 35 Until I make thy foes thy footstool. 36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:32-36)

We understand from Luke 13:6-9 that the duration of the Lord’s sitting at the Father’s right hand was for one year. One year takes us to the stoning of Stephen. Stephen, as he is being stoned, sees “…the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God…” (Acts 7:55) The Lord is standing because it is time for His enemies to be made His footstool. This is what would happen in the seventieth week of Daniel. That is when it will be said “…The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever…” (Rev. 13:15). The process of the Lord taking what is rightly His by right of creation was not going to be pretty. Isaiah says of that day “Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it. 10 For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine. 11 And I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible.” (Isaiah 13:9-11). The world was in for the wrath of God to be poured out and for The Lord coming to take what is rightly His. The world’s status before God was not good.

The Lord did come right on schedule. However instead of bringing the Day of the Lord, He saved the leader of His enemies. He saved Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus and revealed the mystery concerning the dispensation of the grace of God and the calling out of the Church which is His Body through him.

Israel had finally after so many years joined the Gentiles in rejecting the Lord and His Christ as stated in the second Psalm. Historically the Gentiles rebelled against God and rejected His reign over them at Babel and were set aside in Genesis 11. The Gentiles rejection of God’s reign over them was followed by God calling Abraham and making of him and his seed a nation through which He would eventually reconcile the world to Himself. Now with the stoning of Stephen, Israel did as the Gentiles did in Genesis 11. God would now have to return to establish His kingdom by force if his purpose in creation is to be realized. The second Psalm tells the story of the state of the world at that time and of what would have come on this world as a result of the world’s rejection of Christ.

Psalm 2:1-6 (KJV)
Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, sayingLet us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.

This passage (verses 1 thru 3) is a prophecy of what happened with the stoning of Stephen. The heathen had been raging since God gave up on them at Babel. Now with the stoning of Steven, the people (of Israel – God’s people) now take counsel together with the heathen to reject God and take action to exclude Him from His right to enjoy His creation. 

He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.

This is prophecy of what should have happened when Israel joined the heathen in rejection of Christ. God was to pour out His wrath on the world for its rejection of Christ and the Kingdom. That is not however what happened. Instead of bringing in the seventieth week of Daniel and the tribulation period, God chose to instead reveal the dispensation of grace in which He deals with the whole world on the basis of grace. God has in doing so changed the status of the world before Him. Instead of the world population being vessels of wrath for rejection of His Son, the world is in a position to receive grace, mercy and peace from God. In doing so, God reconciled the world onto Himself so as to make the whole world savable by grace through faith apart from works. God demonstrated the greatness of this by saving the leader of Israel’s rejection and using him as the revealer of grace. Today therefore, any one (Jew or Gentile) could come to Him by faith and be saved (Rom 11:15). Today and as along as the dispensation of grace continues (and it has for almost 2000 years so far), God has made a resolve that He would postpone the pouring out of His wrath on this world for it’s rejection of Christ but that He will save anyone who will come to Him in faith and simply trust in the finished work of redemption that Christ accomplished on Calvary.

If the casting away of Israel was the reconciling of the world (Romans 11: 15), the receiving of them will mean the end of the reconciling of the world by means of the dispensation of grace in the sense that the seventieth week of Daniel will then come upon the world. Then the Lord will speak to the world in His wrath for the world’s rejection of Christ and of His grace.

Paul speaks of the casting away of Israel and then again the receiving of them being life from the dead. We understand from Paul that the setting aside of Israel and Israel’s program is only temporary. Paul addresses this matter in Romans 11 in his discussion of the olive tree (which in Bible typology represents access to God). Note his warning to the Gentiles in this passage as he warns them that the dispensation of the grace of God can and will end and then the tribulation period will come.

24 For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree?
25 For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.
26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:
27 For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.
28 As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes.
29 For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.
30 For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief:
31 Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy.
32 For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.
33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!
34 For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?
35 Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?
36 For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen. (Rom 11:24-36)

The significance of the olive tree needs to be addressed here. The olive tree in Scripture represents access to God. The door to the temple was made of olive wood (1Kings 6:32 & 33). The two cherubim around the mercy seat were of olive wood (1King 6:23). Here in Romans 11, the olive tree is again representing access to God. Israel is the natural olive tree. However, some of the branches were broken off – those being the unbelievers of the nation. The Gentiles were then grafted in. The Gentiles (which now includes unbelieving Israelites) are now grafted into the olive tree and have access to God. That does not mean that all of the branches represent believers. It means that everyone the world over can now come to God to be saved by grace through faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ as the full payment of their sin’s debt. One day the dispensation of grace will end and the Gentiles will again be broken off. Then salvation will again be of the Jews.

There is an important note to make at this point regarding trespasses that will not be imputed to the men that comprise “the world” as a result of the reconciliation of 2Cor 5: 19. We understand what the transgression is from Romans 11: 17-20 as we understand what it was that resulted in Israel being cast away to bring in the reconciling of the world. Israel was set aside because of their unbelief (Rom. 11:20). Israel was set aside for her rejection of God’s reign over her. This was her transgression. The Gentiles had committed a similar transgression back in Genesis chapter 11 when they rebelled against God in an effort to keep God from enjoying His creation. These are serious transgressions that will one day bring the tribulation period upon the world. However, today during the dispensation of grace, God is not imputing these trespasses to the men of this world. Today, God is holding back His wrath and postponing His judgment of the world for its rejection of His Son and is instead calling out and building a body of believers that He will use to bring honor and glory to His name both now and will in eternity future by showing forth His wisdom to men and angels. This body of believers is called the Church which is His [Christ’s] body.” That is the only church that God is forming today and what a wonderful work of grace it is. That is the theme of the second reconciliation that we find in Paul’s epistles.

Peter refers to this present dispensation of grace as the long suffering of the Lord in 2Peter 3: 8&9. “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” The Lord in His great mercy and patience is withholding His wrath and dispensing grace mercy and peace instead. However, that dispensation of grace will continue only so long. It will one day be as Joel said: “1Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the LORD cometh, for it is nigh at hand; A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains: a great people and a strong; there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations. A fire devoureth before them; and behind them a flame burneth: the land is as the garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness; yea, and nothing shall escape them. The appearance of them is as the appearance of horses; and as horsemen, so shall they run. Like the noise of chariots on the tops of mountains shall they leap, like the noise of a flame of fire that devoureth the stubble, as a strong people set in battle array. Before their face the people shall be much pained: all faces shall gather blackness. They shall run like mighty men; they shall climb the wall like men of war; and they shall march every one on his ways, and they shall not break their ranks: Neither shall one thrust another; they shall walk every one in his path: and when they fall upon the sword, they shall not be wounded. They shall run to and fro in the city; they shall run upon the wall, they shall climb up upon the houses; they shall enter in at the windows like a thief. 10 The earth shall quake before them; the heavens shall tremble: the sun and the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining: 11 And the LORD shall utter his voice before his army: for his camp is very great: for he is strong that executeth his word: for the day of the LORD is great and very terrible; and who can abide it?” Joel 2:1-11

2. The reconciling of Jew and Gentile in one body:

14 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; 16 And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: “Ephesians 2:14-16 (KJV) 

This reconciliation made the forming of the church which is Christ’s Body possible. God has only one elect agency through whom He works in the world at one time. Prior to the saving of Saul of Tarsus, the Lord worked though Israel as His elect agency through which He would accomplish salvation of souls. Salvation then was of the Jews (John 4:22). Today however, He has concluded Israel in unbelief so that he can have mercy on all (Rom 11:32).

The term “church” needs to be defined and understood here. The term church means literally “the called out ones” or “the called out assembly.” The term implies that the group referred to has been called out from a larger group for a defined purpose.  The term church therefore needs a qualifier to clarify which or what called out assembly is being referred to. To identify the particular church then one must understand what the assembly is called out from and what the assembly is called out to. There are three different churches that can be identified in the New Testament. They are:

  • The church in the wilderness as Stephen referred to it in Acts 7:38 was a nation that was called out from Egypt by God to be planted in the land promised to Abraham.
  • There is the church that the Lord referred to in Mathew 16:18 which is going to be built on the confession that Peter had just made that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. That church was called out from among the unbelieving nation of Israel and called to be the Little flock of believers to whom God was going to give the Kingdom (Luke 12:32).
  • There is the church which is Christ’s body that Paul refers to as the one new man of Eph 2:15 (See also Eph 5:23; Col 1:18, 24). This is a body of believers called out from the lost masses of humanity during the dispensation of grace and called to live and reign for the honor and glory of Jesus Christ in the heavenly places in eternity future.

There is only one church that God is forming today – that being a body of believers comprised of Jew and Gentile both saved by grace through faith in Christ’s work of redemption on Calvary. This church (the church which is Christ’s body) together with Jesus Christ the Head forming the one new man is what the apostle refers to as the preaching of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery. The term “the mystery” as we find it in Paul’s epistles refers to a body of doctrine that tells us how the one new man is formed, how he is designed by God to live and function in the world today, and what God has for him to do in the ages to come. In the above passage, this union of believer today in the dispensation of grace with Jesus Christ is referred to as “…one new man…” This one new man is what 2Cor 5: 17 refers to as a new creature. The Lord Jesus Christ together with the church which is His body composed of Jew and Gentiles in one body saved by grace through faith apart from works and apart from the law is a new creature in the sense that he did not exist until Christ started forming him by saving Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus in Acts chapter 9. Every believer since the saving of Saul of Tarsus who responded in faith to believe the gospel of the grace of God is a member of this one new man. This one new man is God’s elect agency for doing the work of evangelism in the world today and will in eternity to come be the means by which God in Christ will one day reconcile the heavenly places to Himself (as will be discussed below).

This one new man is formed by the Holy Ghost as He baptizes believers into Jesus Christ and into His death, burial and resurrection. Paul explains this in 1Cor 12:12 & 13

12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

Note the words “…so also is Christ…” with reference to this body of believers referred to as the Body of Christ. The Body is so totally identified with Christ as to be called Christ. This total identification of each believer (each member of Christ) with Christ enables Christ to take our sin and guilt upon Himself (Rom. 6:1-4) and not only that but our old sin nature upon Himself so as to crucify the old man (Rom. 6:6).

The apostle states that there is a seven fold unity for this body of believers in Eph 4:4-6. “There is one body [only one body of believers during the dispensation of grace], and one Spirit [that being the Holy Spirit Who forms the one Body], even as ye are called in one hope of your calling [the hope of believers today is the rapture in which we will be given celestial bodies in which to live and reign for the honor and glory of Christ in heaven], One Lord [the Lord Jesus Christ], one faith [the Pauline epistles as the one body of doctrine for the one body], one baptism [the baptizing work of the Holy Spirit to form the one body], One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all [One Father under whose authority all of this happens]. Paul also states in Eph 1:10 that God will use this one new man “…to gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth even in him…” in the dispensation of the fullness of times.

3. The personal reconciling of sinners to God

18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;” 2 Corinthians 5:18 (KJV)

This reconciliation is what changed our status (individually) as believers from being under God’s wrath for sin to being in God’s family as children. This reconciliation is what makes personal soul salvation possible today in the dispensation of grace. This personal reconciliation takes place in the life of a believer only when (and not until) the believer makes a heart decision to trust Jesus Christ as Savior. It becomes operative by the Holy Ghost baptizing the individual into an eternal spiritual union with Jesus Christ so as to make the believer spiritually one with Jesus Christ. This operation of God is done by the Holy Spirit in response to the believer’s heart decision to trust Jesus Christ as Savior.

21 And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled 22 In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: Colossians 1:21-22 (KJV)

This reconciling work is done by God as the Holy Spirit baptizes the believer into the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Roman 6:1-4). The baptism of Romans 6 has nothing to do with water. It is a spiritual baptism but it is a very real work wherein the believer is totally identified with the Lord Jesus Christ and in fact the Lord becomes the owner of the believer –body, soul, and spirit (1Cor 6:20). When the Lord received the believer to Himself (Rom 15:7), He received to Himself our sin and our guilt as well so that He could legitimately pay the dept for our sins. Jesus Christ died for the sins of everyone but the transfer of sin and guilt is not made until the believer comes to Him in faith and decides to trust in the death burial and resurrection of Christ for his sins. Not only did Christ take our sins on Himself but He went further in taking the old sin nature that produced the sin on Himself so as to crucify the old man so that He can set the believer free from sin’s power. (He was truly “made to be sin for us… that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” (2Cor 5:21) This reconciling work is all of God’s work and none of ours. We are but the receivers of the action. This personal reconciliation involves at least eight things that God does the instant that one first trusts Jesus Christ as Savior. They include:

  • Being baptized into a living and eternal spiritual union with Jesus Christ. (Rom. 6: 1-4; 1Cor 12:12 & 13; Gal 3:27; et al.)
  • Being forgiven of all of our sins (Col 2:13) through the redemption that is ours in Christ because of the cross (Eph 1:7).
  • Being circumcised with a spiritual circumcision (Col2:10) that makes us complete in Christ and frees us from having to perform anything in the flesh to make ourselves acceptable to God (Phl 3:3).
  • Being regenerated so as to have genuine vital spiritual life within our previously dead human spirits (Tit. 3:5; Eph 2:2)
  • Indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God (1Cor 6:19; Rom 8:9) so as to have the Holy Spirit give personal testimony to our human spirits that we are the children of God through Christ (Rom 8:14&15) and to enable us to live the life of Christ in our mortal bodies (Rom 8:11).
  • Being sealed with the Holy Spirit so as to be absolutely secure in Christ (Eph 1:123 & 13; 4:30; 2Cor 1:22; 2Tim 2:19)
  • Being set apart from the rest of unsaved masses to be God’s possession (1Cor 6:11; 2Thes 2:13)
  • Being justified (1Cor 6:11; Rom 3:24;-26) by faith (Rom 3:28; 5:1) without the Law of Moses (Rom 4:5) so as to be reckoned as having the righteousness of Jesus Christ imputed to our spiritual bank account (2Cor 5:21).
  • Being spiritually washed of the stain of our sin so as to be clean in God’s sight (1Cor 6:11).

4. The Reconciling of all things to God:

16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: 17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. 19 For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; 20 And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.” (Colossians 1:16-20 KJV) 

This passage starts out with a presentation of Jesus Christ as the creator of all things in heaven and in earth. Other similar passages include:

  • John 1:1-3 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
  • Hebrews 1:1-3 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;…”
  • Rev. 4:11
    11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.

All things in heaven and earth whether they be the visible things in the earth or the invisible things in heaven belong to The Lord Jesus Christ by right of the fact that He created all things. We note however, that the focus in the passage in Col. 1 is not on the created elements themselves but on the thrones and dominions, and the principalities and powers – i.e. on the governing structure of the all things in earth and the things in heaven. The passage is addressing the issue of who is in charge of all things that were created by Christ and for Christ. Though all things are created by and for Christ, not all things are under His direct control today. There has been a usurper who has taken control of what is rightfully Christ’s by right of creation. We understand this from passages that speak of the 40 days of fasting by which the Lord started His public ministry.  In Mathew 4, the Lord after he had fasted for forty days and nights was tempted of the devil. In the third of the threefold temptation “…the devil took Him to an exceeding high mountain, and showeth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.” (Mat 4:8&9). It is interesting to note that the Lord did not refute the devil to deny that the kingdoms of this world had indeed fallen into the hands of the Satan. It is truly as the apostle Paul says in 2Cor 4:4 But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.”

It is also interesting to note that Satan was willing to offer the kingdoms of this world to Christ. We might ask why? The answer is that he still had the rulership of the kingdoms of heaven in his hip pocket. The apostle writes in Ephesians 2:2 “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:”

We need to understand that for all that was said by the Old Testament prophets in the scripture there was no indication that the heavens were at risk of being reconciled back to God. The prophets wrote of a kingdom in which Israel’s Messiah would have the government upon His shoulder and that of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end. (Isa 9:6&7). “…The earth shall be full of the knowledge of  the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” (Isa. 11:9). “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.” (Jer. 23:5)

This reconciling involves God removing the rebellious occupants of the positions of responsibility in both heaven and earth to replace them with genuine believers who He has personally reconciled to Himself by means of the cross. This reconciling will enable Jesus Christ to be preeminent in all things.

With an understanding of the Reconciling of all things back to God, let’s look at the prophetic future with this in mind. The benchmark events in the prophetic future as we see them laid out in the Word of God are:

  • The rapture of the Church which is Christ’s Body (1Cor 15:51; 2Thess 4:15-18). This event will take the one new man to heaven where we will spend eternity in resurrection bodies designed to live there (Phil 3:21;1Cor 15:40).
  • Judgment Seat of Christ (2Cor 5:9&10; 1Cor 3:12-17) in which the fitness of each believer for positions of responsibility in heaven will be determined (2Tim 2:10-12).
  • War in heaven in which Satan and his angels are expelled from heaven so that the one new man can assume its place in God’s plan for the ages (Rev. 12:8&9; Isa 34:5)
  • Armageddon (Rev 16:16) in which the armies of this world unit in a futile attempt to keep the Lord Jesus Christ from taking possession of what is His by right of creation.
  • Kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ (Rev 11:15)
  • All things will be made new so as to remove the stain and damage that sin had wreaked on God’s creation (Rev 21:5). This will be the culmination of God’s work of reconciling of all things back to God. There will be a new heaven, a new earth, and a New Jerusalem. This will be the beginning of God’s eternal kingdom in which righteousness reigns from shore to shore.


There are four reconciliations presented in Paul’s epistles. Understanding these four reconciliations will enable the believer to understand God’s purpose for the mystery that was hid in God from before the foundation of the world but was revealed through Paul for our understanding. Understanding these four reconciliations also enables us to understand where we fit into God’s program for the ages and how it is the through the church the body of Christ, that Christ will be preeminent in all things. To summarize then:

  • The reconciliation of the world in 2Cor 5:19 postponed the seventieth week of Daniel chapter 9 to make the present dispensation of grace possible.
  • The reconciling of Jew and Gentile in one body (Eph 2:11-18) made the formation of the church which is Christ’s body (the one new man of Eph 2:15) possible.
  • The reconciling of sinners to God as we see it in Paul’s epistles (Col 1:21-22 and 2Cor. 5:21) made the salvation of souls apart from the law and apart from any human merit possible.
  • The reconciling of all things to God (Col 1:16-20) enables Christ to have the preeminence in all things – not only the things in the earth as the Old Testament prophets stated would happen through Israel but also all things in heaven as we learn from Paul’s epistles through the church which is Christ’s body.
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