All reconciled; some redeemed

GCI president, Dr. Joseph Tkach
Trinitarian theologians use various terms to distinguish between the universal/objective scope of what God has done in Christ and the personal/subjective realization of that work in the lives of those who have come to faith. For example, some speak of all humanity as reconciled already to God in Christ, while only believers are redeemed.

GCI president Dr. Joseph Tkach makes this distinction in one of his Speaking of Life videos (click here to watch it).

Here is an excerpt from the program script:
[The words reconciliation and redemption] can be used to describe aspects of God’s work of salvation for the world through Jesus Christ. To reconcile means to patch up a quarrel, or to make a relationship that has become strained right again. To redeem means to buy back, or to claim ownership.

Christ has accomplished both for us since there is but one whole and single work of his. But what he inaugurates is a healed, restored relationship making us his very own brothers and sisters. This relationship of belonging to him calls for our involvement in it, our participation. His provision for us includes enabling us to receive and respond and so live in that restored relationship. So, we can say that the fruit of Christ's reconciliation is our redemption in Christ.

Through most of history, humans have been in a state of alienation from God. That is, they have been unreconciled. We can see this by the record of the collective human failure to get along with each other. This is simply a reflection of alienation from God.

As the apostle Paul wrote in Colossians 1:21-22 “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” (NKJV).

First, we should note that it was never God who needed to be reconciled to us, but we who needed to be reconciled to God. As Paul said, the alienation was in the human mind, not in God’s mind. God’s response to human alienation was his forgiving and cleansing love fulfilled in Christ.

Second, notice also that according to Paul reconciliation leads to a further development of that restored relationship. It leads to a fullness of life that is characterized by holiness, blamelessness and being above reproach because face to face ("in his sight") we freely and gladly enter into the healed relationship and so receive all that God has to give us through Christ.

Getting at the same point, Paul wrote to the church in Rome to say: “For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” (Romans 5:10 NIV).

God has turned to us before we ever made a move in his direction. So God reconciles us even while we were enemies and alienated. But note that the restoration of right relationship with us leads to greater fruit that unfolds as the fullness of life, joyfully receiving the fullness of salvation itself.

And Paul tells us that it does not stop there. “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people's sins against them” (2 Corinthians 5:18-19 NIV).

In his letter to the church at Colossae, Paul explained how in Christ, God reconciled the whole world to himself, “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Colossians 1:19-20 NIV).

God has reconciled all humans to himself through Jesus. No one is excluded from the love and power of God. Everyone who has ever lived has a place reserved for them at God’s banquet table. But all have not yet believed God’s word of love and forgiveness for them, or embraced their new life in Jesus. They have not donned the wedding garments Jesus has prepared for them and taken their seat at the table. In other words, we could say that although they have been reconciled, they have not yet entered into their redemption. Some have yet to share in or participate in their redemption accomplished for them in Christ. Consequently they are not yet experiencing the full benefits of Christ's work set out for them at his wedding feast.

And that’s what the ministry of reconciliation is all about – we announce the good news that God has already reconciled the world to himself – through the blood of Christ – and invite all people to trust in, receive, believe in just this good news. All of what God has for us in Christ calls for a response to receive it and enjoy it— turning to God in repentance, taking up the way of Jesus' reconciling cross and following him daily. What wonderful news we have to proclaim. May God bless us all as we share in his reconciling work so that others may, even now, receive all the benefits of their redemption.

Comments

  1. Anonymous5/14/2013

    So you are universalists? Where does it say in God's inspired scripture that "everyone who has ever lived has a place reserved at God's banquet table"? Furthermore, how would you explain Daniel 12:2, Matthew 7:13-14, 22-23, Matthew 25:46, 2 Thessalonians 1:9, and Revelation 20:15, not to mention John 3:16-18 and a plethora of other scriptures, in defending the aforementioned quote? In this article, you have turned Paul's gospel message on its ear to create a god after your own image.

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  2. If by "universalist" you mean the teaching that all paths lead to salvation and thus all are saved, then, no, we are not universalists--see a couple of posts ago when we addressed this very issue. As to the texts you raise, please search this blog where we've given detailed explanations that include most all of these verses.

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  3. Ted, If I may be so bold, you have failed to answer Anon questions. If you are prepared to teach that "everyone has a place reserved for them at God's banquet table," then you also have to explain why the bible teaches that some people will be cast into the lake of fire.

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  4. To say that all have a place reserved for them at God's banquet table is not the same as saying that all will accept. Indeed, in the parable that speaks of that table (Matt 22.2ff), some refuse to go into the banquet and thus fail to receive its benefits.

    In 2Cor 5:19-20 Paul states that God has, in Christ, reconciled the world (all humanity) to himself. This is an accomplished reality. It means that the door is wide open into the banquet for everyone. However, a gift universally given must personally be received/accepted. So Paul says, in effect that the gospel truth and its invitation is this: "You are reconciled---now be reconciled," or as Dr. Tkach is saying in the article I quoted in the post above, "you have been reconciled, now turn to Christ in faith and receive the redemption that he has for you."

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  5. Ted, If CGI is teaching that all men have been reconciled to God through the sacrifice of Christ, and yet concedes that all men will not be saved, because some men will regect God's reconciliation with them, you are in reality, teaching that man is able to successfully resist the will of God, by refusing to be reconciled with him! Now, any such teaching is bound to be rediculous, as no one can successfully resist the will of God.

    The reconciliation of the world, is similar to the saying: "In Adam all die, in Christ, all shall be made alive." Yet we know that "all" does not mean that everyone will be saved.

    In addition, you stated or implied that the offer of salvation must be accepted or rejected by man. This belief in nowhere to be found in the bible! Acceptance of God's offer of salvation is part of the gift. If man is able to accept or reject salvation, you are teaching salvation by works, and not by grace! Do you believe that Abraham, Moses, David, the Apostles or Paul, just to mention a few faithful men of God, could have rejected their calling, thereby resisiting the will of God?

    Anyway, here is not the place to explain the doctrine of grace, which it is sad to say, was never fully understood in WCG, and certainly not now understood in CGI - if what you have written is what is being taught as the truth.

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  6. Hi Tom, for a previous Surprising God post that addresses the substance of your objection, see http://thesurprisinggodblog.gci.org/2011/09/can-people-get-out-of-hell.html. What you are wrestling with is the apparent paradox of divine sovereignty and human freedom. I presume that you embrace a 5-point Calvinism which posits a limited atonement together with irresistible grace to try to resolve the paradox. Another attempt to do so is the posit the idea that, in the end, all will be saved. The viewpoint advanced in this blog departs in various ways from both of these viewpoints, seeking to account for all of the biblical information as understood through the lens of the person and work of Jesus Christ who as the vicarious (representative/substitutionary) human died for us all and rose victorious for us all. It is here that we encounter the universal scope of God's reconciling work, while then extending to these reconciled individuals opportunity to receive or reject what is their in Christ. This does not frustrate the will of God, but is real (though contingent) freedom that is within the will of God. We must be careful not to apply to God's decrees our own (human) sense of what seems logical or even possible. God has said that he "desires" that all come to repentance (and thus receive the salvation that is theirs in Christ), yet Scripture also holds out at least the possibility that some will refuse to do so.

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  7. Ted

    Firstly, I have never read Calvin, and I don't have any intention to ever do so.

    Secondly, lots of people assert that man has free wil, without understanding what they are saying or whereof they affirm. Yet, the bible nowhere teaches that man has free will. On the contrary, the bible teaches that man is a slave of sin, goaded by the devil to fulfill his lust.

    The devil is described as, "the spirit that works in the children of disobedience"(Eph.2:2). So anyone who is not obeying the teachings of the bible is a slave of sin, and is in the captivity of the devil.

    However, Christ came to set God's elect free from the tyranny of the devil! Note the words of Jesus: "If you continue in my word, then you my disciples indeed, and And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free"(John 8:31-32). If it is the truth that makes men free, how can those who live a life of lies and duplicity be considered free?

    Thirdly, you have failed or refused to answer the following: "Do you believe that Abraham, Moses, David, the Apostles or Paul, just to mention a few faithful men of God, could have rejected their calling, thereby resisiting the will of God?" Refusing to answer this question will not make it go away. So please let me have your biblical answer to my question?

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  8. Sorry for my incorrect assumption about your theological perspective. What you are wrestling with is the age-old paradox as to how God is sovereign, yet God grants to humans freedom of choice. I see that you want to deny that this freedom is real. My comment is that it is real, but it is "contingent" - that is it exists within the realm of, not apart from, God's sovereignty.

    You want me to state whether or not Abraham or Moses, etc., exercising this freedom could have rejected God's call on their lives. That is nothing more than a speculative question, but it is clear from the overall testimony of Scripture that God does not force his will on humans in a coercive sense. He desires a real relationship with us grounded in love, not force.

    Part of the problem that I see in your implied reasoning here is that you are positing a position that either God is sovereign or man is free, but both can't be true. What I am asserting is that Scripture shows that both are somehow true, even if we can't fully rationalize how. The mistake, as I see it is to insist that only one is true. I can't go there with you.

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  9. Tom, you may never have read Calvin, but you are certainly a Calvinist. The theology you are espousing is textbook 5-point Calvinism. That being said, Limited Atonement, is the Great Foolishness that came out of the Reformation and is easily debunked by the Old Testament itself. Much of the OT is a foreshadowing of the coming of the Messiah and the atonement that would result for the world.

    As theologian T.F. Torrance declared, Israel was the "womb of the incarnation". Israel's relationship with God and their participation in it was a preparation for the coming Messiah. Jewish Temple practices were very much apart of that. Probably the greatest example of this preparation and ultimately, its foreshadowing was Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. In the Holy of Holies, the High Priest laid his hands upon the head of a goat - the scapegoat - and whispered into its ear, confessing the sins of the nation. Here are the actual instruction from the Lord:

    “And when he (Aaron) has made an end of atoning for the Holy Place and the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall present the live goat. And Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it ALL THE INIQUITIES OF THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL, AND ALL THEIR TRANSGRESSIONS, ALL THEIR SINS. And he shall put them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who is in readiness. THE GOAT SHALL BEAR ALL THEIR INIQUITIES on itself to a remote area, and he shall let the goat go free in the wilderness." (Leviticus 16:20-22)

    As is plain to see, all of Israel was included in this act, not just those Israelites who were especially devout. The sins of every Israelite were confessed and forgiven by way of the scapegoat. Every Israelite was reconciled for another year. This was a clear foreshadowing of our Great High Priest to come and the scapegoat that he would become. Through Christ, all of humanity's sins were forgiven, past, present and future, not just those who repent and not just once every year, but once for all! Universal Atonement is undeniable, based strictly upon Jewish Temple practices. Throw in many New Testament verses - John 12:32, 1 John 2:2, Colossians 1:20, Ephesians 1:10,22,23, 4:6, 2 Corinthians 5:14, Romans 5:18,19, 6:5,7, 11:32, 2 Peter 2:1, 1 Timothy 4:10, Titus 2:11, Isaiah 45:25 and many others and the house of cards that is 5-point Calvinism collapses in a heap.

    One of the biggest problems in Western theology is the misunderstanding of "reconciliation" and "salvation". Most Western Christians conflate the two, but they are different animals. "Reconciliation" is God making things right between humanity and himself and that was accomplished through the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ. "Salvation" is the result of embracing that reconciliation. Salvation isn't avoiding hell and going to heaven when you die. In the Hebrew mind, salvation was associated with deliverance from oppression, protection, physical and mental healing, being blessed with a bountiful harvest, living a life of love, peace, joy and abundance. So, salvation in the Christian context is the river of living water flowing through the believer's life, here and now, and yes, in the life to come. There are plenty of Christian "believers" who are not "saved" because, though they believe in God and Jesus and what he did, they are unable to truly embrace it and allow the Spirit to bring healing, joy, peace and a passion for the things of God to them. I'm sure we all know one or two of those folks!

    If the Church could just get past the Roman, Greek, Pagan, Enlightenment influences that have infected it for the last 1600 years, we could see the truth of scripture and indeed be set free!

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  10. Well said Dick. Thanks for your contribution to this important discussion.

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  11. Dick,

    Firstly, The Azazel goat or the scapegoat did not represent Christ as it was not killed. After the sins of Israel were laid on the head of the scapegoat, it was taken by a fit man and released in the alive in the winderness. The Azazel goat represented the devil, who is responsible for deceiving man into disobeying the laws of God!

    The goat that was killed, and its blood brought into the Holy of Holies, represented Jesus. This was made clear by the Apostle Paul in Hebrews chapter 9, particular.

    Secondly, although I have never read Calvin, I am well aware that many nominal Christians object to his explanation of the doctrine of predestination. But doctrine of predestation is not Calvin's, but God's, which he revealed to Paul, and wrote about in many of his epistles. For example, "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his son...Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified"(Romans.829-30). The doctrine of predestination is also concealed in the allegory of Galatians 4:22-31, and Romans chapter 9,10,11 and Eh.1:3-5. There are also other references that you might care to look up.

    As I wrote to Ted, one cannot teach that the whole world has been reconciled to God, and yet some people will reject God's offer of reconciliation. Such teaching makes God helpless to fulfill his will. Yet Paul was inspired to ask, "Why does he find fault? For who has resisted his will?"(Rom.9:1920). And the answer, nay, or no one!

    So no man is able to resist the will of God. Hence, my question to Ted thus: "Do you believe that Abraham, Moses, David, the Apostles or Paul, just to mention a few faithful men of God, could have rejected their calling, thereby resisiting the will of God?"

    Thirdly, salvation a gift of God to the people he predestinated to be saved. Nothing can separate them from him.(Roms.8:35-39).

    The divine drama, as it may be called, was written in eternity, and is being enacted in time. For known unto God are all his works from the foundation of the world(Acts 428).

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