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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible


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RECONCILIATION . The word ‘reconciliation,’ with its cognates, is a Pauline one, and is not found in the Gospels, or other NT writings. The chief passages in which it and related terms are employed are Romans 5:10-11 (RV [Note: Revised Version.] ), 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 , Ephesians 2:16 , Colossians 1:20-21 . In Hebrews 2:17 , where the AV [Note: Authorized Version.] has ‘to make reconciliation for the sins of the people,’ the RV [Note: Revised Version.] reads, more correctly, ‘to make propitiation.’ OT usage, where the word occasionally tr. [Note: translate or translation.] ‘reconcile’ ( Leviticus 6:30 etc.) is again more correctly rendered in RV [Note: Revised Version.] ‘make atonement,’ throws little light on the NT term. The effect of propitiation is to remove the variance between God and man, and so bring about ‘reconciliation.’ The means by which this result is accomplished in the NT is the reconciling death of Christ ( Colossians 1:20-22 ). On the special questions involved, see artt. Atonement and Redemption.

Perhaps better than any other, this term brings out in vivid form St. Paul’s conception of the gospel. As proclaimed to men, the gospel is a message of ‘reconciliation’ (2 Corinthians 5:18-20 ). It is a misunderstanding of the Apostle’s meaning in such passages to suppose that the need of reconciliation is on man’s side only, and not also on God’s. Man, indeed, does need to he reconciled to God, from whom he is naturally alienated in his mind in evil works ( Colossians 1:21 ). ‘The mind of the flesh is enmity against God’ ( Romans 8:7 ), and this enmity of the carnal heart needs to be overcome. On this side, the ‘ministry of reconciliation’ is a beseeching of men to be reconciled to God ( 2 Corinthians 5:20 ). But the very ground on which this appeal is based is that ‘God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not reckoning unto them their trespasses’ ( 2 Corinthians 5:19 ). It is an essential part of the Apostle’s teaching that sinners are the objects of a Divine judicial wrath ( Romans 1:18 ). They lie under a condemnation that needs to be removed ( Romans 3:19 ff.). They are described as ‘enemies’ in two passages ( Romans 5:10 , Romans 11:28 ) where the word is plainly to be taken in the passive sense of objects of wrath (cf. in Romans 11:28 , the contrast with ‘beloved’). It is this barrier to God’s reconciliation with men that, in the Apostle’s doctrine, Christ removes by His propitiatory death ( Romans 3:25 , Colossians 1:20 ). The ground on which men are called to be reconciled to God is: ‘Him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in him’ ( 2 Corinthians 5:20-21 ). Believers ‘receive’ a reconciliation already made ( Romans 5:11 RV [Note: Revised Version.] ). The gospel reconciliation, in other words, has a twofold aspect a Godward and a manward; and peace is made by the removal of the variance on both sides. See artt. above referred to.

James Orr.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Reconciliation'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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