By Charles H. Welch
The following Greek words enter into the make-up of the word here considered: katallasso, apokatallasso, katallage, allasso and allos. The root word is allos, which means ‘other’, and indicates a change. allasso is translated ‘change’ as follows:
As will be seen by the three examples given, the word indicates a change of a very radical kind. The change from law to grace was profound; the changing of the glory of God to the likeness of animals was a terrible departure; and the changing of the body at the resurrection, while most essential, is beyond our understanding.
The translation of katallage by ‘atonement’ in the A.V. is somewhat misleading today, as the word no longer means ‘To make at one’ as it did in Shakespeare’s day. The fact that the A.V. uses the word ‘reconcile’ in the immediate context, shows that the translators must have chosen the word ‘atonement’ in Romans 5:11 with intention. They evidently felt it necessary to link the Old Testament typical offerings, that foreshadowed the true Atonement, with the one great antitypical Offering of Christ. We must accept the R.V. rendering, as being more in accord with modern usage, but we must avoid blaming the translators of the A.V. for the changes that time produces in language, for which, naturally, they cannot be held responsible. We should also be grateful that the A.V. rendering is a forceful reminder, that there can be no reconciliation that is not based upon the finished Work of Christ.
Generally speaking, the Hebrew word translated ‘atonement’, corresponds with the Greek word translated ‘propitiation’ in Romans 3:25. No man can be said to ‘receive’ the atonement in the modern sense of the word; he does
receive the at-one-ment, the result of the atoning sacrifice of Christ, which the reading of Romans 5:11 in the A.V. teaches.
Cremer’s note on the two words katallasso and apokatallasso is suggestive:
Exclusive to Paul
Of all the New Testament writers, it will be observed that the words katallasso, katallage and apokatallasso are used only by Paul, for to him was committed the message of grace that provided complete acceptance in Christ for the sinner and the ungodly. Moreover, to Paul was entrusted that stewardship towards the Gentiles which:
Let us pass in review these five aspects of Reconciliation:
(1) Reconciliation as it deals with the Alienation of Man
This aspect of human need and Divine provision is scarcely touched upon in the Old Testament or in the Gospels. Paul is the only one who has anything to teach regarding Adam and his one great act of disobedience. This is the mystery of Romans 16:25 and this feature is discussed in the article entitled Romans (p. 126).
When we commence reading at Romans 5:12 we leave behind the question of ‘sins’ for the deeper question of ‘sin’; we leave the disobedience to the law of Sinai for the one transgression of the garden of Eden. Moses and Abraham fade from view, and Adam is revealed as the channel of sin and death, and of its dominion. Here we are to learn the utter ruin of the creature as something deeper than the failure of the Gentile under the law of conscience, or of the Jew under the law of Moses. Here we shall plumb the depths of the depravity of our nature; here we shall come face to face with the dread fact that in our flesh dwelleth no good thing. This is a more terrible revelation than that of Romans 3:12. There, we read that there is none that doeth good; here we are to learn that, apart from deeds altogether, there is none that isgood, or that has any hope or possibility, in himself, of pleasing God.
The cry of Romans 7:24 ‘O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?’ will startle us, as though we heard the echo of our own heart’s beat cry back to us. One great dominant theme runs through Romans 5:12 to 8:39, and this may be expressed in the language of Romans 8:2, ‘For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death’. A study of this section will reveal what is the nature and effect of this law of sin and death, and what is the nature and effect of this law of the spirit of life. The one we shall see is derived from Adam, the first man, the other comes alone from Christ as the last Adam, the second Man. Both of these titles of Christ belong to Him in resurrection triumph, and lead up to the words, ‘The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (1 Cor. 15:56,57).
Here, in this quotation of 1 Corinthians 15 is written an anticipation
of Romans 5:12 to 8:39. Romans 5:12-21 shows that by one man sin entered
into the world and death by sin -- ‘The sting of death is sin’. Romans 6 to
8 proclaims that sin shall not have dominion over those who are not under the
law, but under grace; that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he
liveth, and that this dominion can be broken only by death and resurrection --
‘The strength of sin is the law’. Romans 7 ends in the cry for
deliverance, which is answered, in Romans 8, by the law of the spirit of life
in Christ Jesus, the spirit of sonship, the spirit whereby we cry, Abba,
Father. It reveals the present intercession of Christ -- ‘saved by His life’
-- and ends with the triumphant words, ‘more than conquerors’, words which
echo 1 Corinthians 15:57: ‘Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ’.
The Deep Things of God
We enter, therefore, upon the study of Romans 5 in no unchastened spirit of curiosity. Too often the deep things revealed in Romans 5 have been abused by immature reasonings concerning election and predestination, all of which partake somewhat of the spirit of rebellion rather than humility. Here we are going to be told simple facts, not the underlying principles hidden in the heart of God. And yet, in His condescension, Romans 5:12 does open with a revelation of grace showing that all the true seed were included in Adam that they may be also included in Christ. (See the article IN ADAM). This gracious purpose is found in the words of Romans 5:12 ‘Wherefore as’ (dia touto hosper). Dia touto means ‘because of this’, ‘on this account’, and is translated ‘wherefore’ in Ephesians 1:15 and 6:13, where the connection with that which goes before is obvious.
The Ephesian saints were sealed until the redemption of the purchased possession, and had the earnest of their inheritance in the Spirit of promise. Because of this, Paul could pray that they might know what is the hope and the glory of this inheritance, and the power of present anticipation. So in Ephesians 6:13, the wrestling, being not with flesh and blood, but with spiritual wickednesses; the necessity for the whole armour of God is introduced by the words, ‘because of this’. In Romans itself dia touto is found in 1:26; 13:6 and 15:9 translated ‘for this cause’, and in 4:16, ‘therefore’, where the reader will find that the full sense is given by rendering the words each time ‘because of this’. Hosper, ‘as’, is translated ‘like as’ in Romans 6:4, and when read with Romans 5:12 brings into vivid contrast the two chief actors in the scene, Adam and Christ:
The theme introduced by ‘as’ in Romans 5:12 is continued in verses 19 and 21:
We now return to Romans 5:12, and ask why this section is introduced by
the word translated ‘because of this’, ‘like as’. The answer is
‘reconciliation’ -- the last word of Romans 5:1-11. Enemies were reconciled
by the death of Christ, and saved by His life ‘because of this’
reconciliation -- as Adam ... so Christ. Because one man’s one sin could
involve all who were in him in death; so one Man’s one act of righteousness
could involve all who are in Him in life. That is the simple issue. It is
further developed to prove that the Work of Christ goes further, and deals
with ‘many offences’ and in addition, ‘much more’. Moreover, there is no act
of faith in being involved in either Adam’s one act, or Christ’s one act, but
there is ‘the receiving’ of the gift and the consequent ‘reigning in life’,
but ‘reigning’ is something more than ‘living’. All this we have yet to see.
The Argument Exhibited
Before we go further, however, it will be necessary to have Romans
5:12-21 before us, as without some guide we shall find the argument very
involved. Moreover, it is vital to our peace and victory to see the teaching
of this passage with some degree of clearness, and we shall not consider the
space ill-used if we give the entire passage instead of the mere outline. It
would further complicate this already complicated passage to depart from the
A.V. here, or to insert any notes whatever: all this we reserve and
subordinate to the one necessity -- a survey and large view of Romans 5:12-21
as a whole.
It will be seen that verses 15-17 form a large parenthesis, the theme of verses 12-14 being resumed and restated in verses 18-21. Conybeare and Howson in a note to Romans 5:12 say:
The difficulty vanishes when we perceive by the structure, that the argument is restated in verses 18-21, where the needed ‘even so’, that is absent in verses 12-14, is found in its proper place. We shall make fewer exegetical errors, and practise a truer humility, if, as our guiding principle, we take the words of Psalm 119:128 ‘I esteem all Thy precepts concerning all things to be right; and I hate every false way’, and criticize ourselves instead of criticizing the Scriptures.
The first item of teaching in Romans 5:12 is continued in the reference to Adam -- ‘by one man’. The most casual perusal of the chapter can hardly fail to bring under notice the repetition of this feature, and a careful examination shows that in the ten verses 12-21, there are no less than twelve occurrences of this word ‘one’ in various connections:
Emphasis to the extent of twelve references to one subject in six
verses can hardly be equalled in passages dealing with any other doctrine.
What is there in chapters 5:12 to 8:39 to demand this forceful preparation?
It is found in Romans 6, for there we shall learn that there is something
deeper and fuller than substitution, and that is identification, a truth that
is vital to this section of the epistle. Statements such as ‘baptized into
His death’, ‘planted together in the likeness of His death’, ‘our old man
crucified with Him’, ‘if we be dead with Christ’, which are found in chapter
6, require substantiation by something more intimate than substitution.
Justification is related to the death of Christ ‘for us’, but ‘newness of
life’, and freedom from ‘the dominion of sin’, are more strictly the result
of identification ‘with’ Christ.
The Doctrine of Identification
This doctrine of identification, if it is to be something more than a legal fiction, must be shown to exist as a fact, and this is demonstrated by the Scriptural doctrine of the organic unity of the human race. Just as we find Genesis 1 essential to the teaching of Ephesians and Colossians, so shall we find the literal facts of the creation of man vital to the teaching of Romans 5:12 to 8:39. The essential oneness of the race with Adam is the insistent note of Romans 5:12-21. It reappears in Romans 6 in the reference to the ‘old man’; we have it in Romans 7:14 in the confession ‘sold under sin’, and it is plainly visible in Romans 8:19-21 in the references to the groaning creation and its subjection to vanity. Eve was created in such a way that she should share this essential oneness of the race with Adam. The careful genealogies of Genesis 5 and 10 are vital to this truth. Looked at from this stand-point our very salvation depends upon the veracity of the genealogies of Matthew 1 and Luke 3, and Paul found this truth important enough to include in his address to the Athenians -- ‘He hath made of one (blood) all nations of men’.
From time to time the theory is revived that the account of the creation of man in Genesis 1 does not refer to the same man as does Genesis 2. Let us consider this teaching. The reference to the ‘image of God’ in Genesis 9 is an allusion to Genesis 1. In Genesis 5 there is an explicit statement establishing the identity of the Adam of Genesis 1 with the Adam of Genesis 2.
This is a direct reference to Genesis 1. The passage proceeds:
This is a positive reference to the Adam of Genesis 2 and 3, and the teaching that has recently been revived that there are two Adams in view here must be repudiated.
The organic unity of the race with the first man Adam being established, we must next ascertain whether Christ, as the Second Man and the Last Adam, has a vital and real union with the race. If we find it to be so, identification becomes a glorious fact. Underlying this doctrine lies the Hebrew conception of the Kinsman-Redeemer, which makes it imperative that Christ should have been made partaker of flesh and blood. This truth is set forth most clearly in Hebrews 2:14,15 :
Christ, to fulfil His great mission, must come as the Seed of the woman, the Seed of Abraham, the Seed of David, the Son of man and the Son of God. The ‘kingdom’ purpose required that His genealogy should go back to David and to Abraham (Matt. 1:1), but the gospel committed to Paul necessitated that He should have a lineage that went back to Adam (Luke 3). The virgin birth of Christ made it possible for Him to be related to man, without partaking of the awful entail that came upon the race in Adam.
The doctrine of Romans 5 is impossible apart from the organic unity of the human race, the headship of Adam, and the new Headship of Christ. This doctrine we express in the one word ‘identification’. What this identification carries with it we learn in chapters 6 and 7; here we are but learning the basic fact.
Closely associated with this unity and headship, is the Scriptural revelation that there are two seeds in the earth. This is seen in Genesis 4, for 1 John 3:12 says, ‘Cain, who was of that wicked one’. Physicalconnection with Adam does not constitute participation in his headship or prove inclusion in his seed; a truth set forth in Israel:
Cain, Ishmael and Esau were ‘children of the flesh’, but that does not constitute them the true seed. The true seed are the children of promise, they are ‘in Isaac’ if true Israelites, and ‘in Christ’ in the wider application of the figure. The Lord had dealings with men who were literal descendants of Abraham, yet He denied that they were the true seed:
There are men therefore who, though ‘of Adam’, are not ‘in Adam’: such
was Cain. (See IN ADAM). For all ‘in Adam’ Christ became Kinsman-Redeemer.
We shall find in Romans 5 that the interchange in the use of ‘all’ and ‘many’ is because at one time the whole of the true seed are in view by themselves,
‘all’, and, at another, the whole of the physical descendants of Adam, when
the true seed are differentiated and spoken of as ‘the many’. There are,
moreover, differences observable among the true seed. Just as one star
differs from another in glory, so we shall find that, when it is a question
of receiving and reigning, ‘many’ is used, but when it is a matter of
justification unto life, ‘all’ is the word employed.
All In, But Not All Of, Adam
When once we see that ‘all in Adam’ does not include all that are ‘of Adam’, every text of Scripture can be accepted at its full value. We do not become Universalists and spoil the insistent teaching of Scripture concerning the Kinsman-Redeemer. We have no need to alter the wording of 1 Corinthians 15:22. All ‘in Adam’ and all ‘in Christ’ are coextensive. Only by closing our eyes to the divine principle of Romans 9:6,7 can we assert that ‘all Israel’ of Romans 11 is as universal as physical descent. If the objection is put forward that Romans 9:6,7 refers to an election, we have only to read on in Romans 11:28 to find that ‘all Israel’ is an election, too. The same is true of all ‘in Adam’. As a whole they are an election, a seed of ‘promise’, while at the same time different destinies and callings await them by that ‘election within an election’ of which we have spoken elsewhere.
When we examine Romans 5:12 to 8:39, it is evident that we are pursuing a very different phase of truth from that which occupies Romans 1:1 to 5:11. In the opening section the words ‘faith’ and ‘believe’ occur thirty-five times, whereas there is but one reference to them in the whole inner section 5:12 to 8:39, and that in quite a different sense from the doctrinal use of the earlier chapters. ‘We believe that we shall also live with Him’ (Rom. 6:8). This is because we are dealing with headship, representation and identification. Adam’s sin and death cover us with all their hopeless misery, whether we ‘believe’ it or not, and Christ is the new Head of all the true seed, quite irrespective of our faith. Faith lays hold of added blessings; it has to do with sins committed, not the one sin of Adam, and with reigning in life. But of all this we shall see more presently.
Some find a place of blessing in the millennial kingdom, corresponding to those who ‘reign in life’. Some are not raised from the dead until the thousand years are finished, yet it is evident from Revelation 20 that some of these have their names in the book of life, even though they have missed the reign. Personal overcoming is connected with reigning, whether in Revelation 20 or in Romans 6 to 8, and we need to distinguish things that differ if we are fully to understand the great work of the Lord. (See Millennial Studies).
Let us not allow doctrine belonging to other aspects of our need, to
intrude into Romans 5. There, we are prepared to learn the truth concerning
the ‘one man’, whether of Adam and his legacy of sin and death, or of Christ
and His blessed legacy of righteousness and life. Let us be glad and rejoice
that ‘because of this’ -- the great principle of reconciliation -- God shut
up all the seed in Adam’s guilt, that He might just as surely shut them all
up to Christ’s righteousness.
(2) Reconciliation, and the Reconciliation
One aspect of reconciliation takes us back to the days of Abraham. Up to Genesis 11 no one nation was more favoured than another, but in the days of Nimrod and Babel it appears that the nations gave up God by plunging into idolatry, and that therefore God gave up the nations, leaving them to walk in darkness. This is not only taught in Romans 1:18-32, but in Acts 17:30, where the apostle speaks of a period when the nations walked in darkness and ignorance, while Israel had light and law. In Genesis 12 we have the call of Abram, and the promise that of him the Lord would make a great nation. While this had ultimate blessing in view, it operated for a time in restricting the purpose of God to Israelitish channels, and as Israel came into prominence and favour the Gentile nations lapsed more and more into ignorance.
Just as the giving up of the nations coincided with the taking up of
Israel, so in its turn, the reconciling of the nations is made known as
Israel fall into ignorance, and are set aside: ‘For if the casting away of
them (Israel) be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of
them (Israel) be, but life from the dead?’ (Rom. 11:15). This is the
reconciliation viewed nationally.
(3) The Reconciliation of the Gentiles Viewed as Sinners
These words are a great depth: they must either be studied with some
measure of fulness, or left as they stand. For our present purpose they
speak for themselves, and the parallels with Romans that suggest themselves
will be sufficient comment.
(4) Full Reconciliation Pertains to the Mystery
The word apokatallasso is reserved for the revelation of the Mystery. Ephesians 3 establishes the complete and full agreement between every member of the Body of Christ, by totally destroying all fleshly distinctions, and creating one new man in Christ. This church is reconciled to God in One Body, complete and perfect. Colossians 1 brings reconciliation to its goal, by the final adjustment of the church of the One Body in the new creation, with its heavenly associates -- the principalities, powers, and invisible yet mighty dwellers in the super-heavenlies, which are specified in Colossians 1:16.
If Romans 5 speaks of boasting in the hope of the glory of God, Colossians 1 overwhelms us with it. There, as in Romans 5, aliens and enemies are fully reconciled. The ‘access’ of Romans 5 is filled out to the full in Ephesians 2:18; 3:12. The ‘grace wherein we stand’ of Romans 5 is eclipsed by the ‘meetness for the inheritance of the saints in light’, and the presentation of the reconciled believer ‘holy, and blameless, and irreproachable, in His presence’ is a marvellous expansion of the believer’s perfect standing in Christ. The hope of glory of Romans 5 finds its echo in ‘Christ ... the hope of glory’, in Colossians 1:27. Just as tribulations are closely associated with access and reconciliation in Romans 5, so we find them in Colossians 1:24. ‘I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and am filling up the remainder of the tribulations of Christ in my flesh, on behalf of His body, which is the church’.
Paul’s apostleship to the Gentiles is first of all indicated in
Galatians 1 and 2, and 2 Corinthians 11 and 12.
The stress upon Abraham and the Gentile in Galatians and Romans shows
that reconciliation in progress. A great preparation for its acceptance is
made in 1 Corinthians, followed by its proclamation in 2 Corinthians, and it
underlies the whole of the teaching in the epistle to the Romans, which we
summarize as follows:
Romans and Reconciliation
Reconciliation operates now, as a basis, it is not a goal in itself. Reconciliation is to be received, to be enjoyed, and the Ambassador beseeches us to be reconciled to God. The reconciliation of the world came into operation when the national privileges and distinctions of Israel were passing away, but it must not be confused with the resulting blessings that have come in its train. There is ‘much more’ than reconciliation.
If we have received this reconciliation, we have entered into peace with God. No sin is reckoned against us. We have become the righteousness of God in Christ; before us is the hope of glory, and for our present and continuous salvation He Who died for us now lives for us. The argument of Romans 5:10 is echoed in 8:31,32:
The fact that the Gentile nations stand in need of reconciliation
presupposes that in some part of their history they were alienated from or
given up by God. This is definitely stated to be the case in Romans 1.
The Gentiles Given Up
We now approach the solemn fact towards which all that has been written
since verse 18 of Romans 1 has been leading, viz., the giving-up of the
Gentile nations by God: ‘Wherefore God also gave them up’ (verse 24). The
word paradidomai, ‘to give up’, occurs in verses 24, 26 and 28. At this
point it seems advisable to take notice of the structure of the passage that
we may see the setting of this threefold giving-up.
Romans 1:19 to 2:1
A 1:19-22. a Known of God.
A 1:32 - 2:1. a Knowing the judgment of God.
This threefold giving up indicates the dispensational position of the Gentiles, from the dispersion at Babel and the call of Abraham, until the ministry of the reconciliation committed to Paul, when Israel began to pass off the scene. The Gentiles were aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise throughout the dispensation of the Law under Moses, throughout the kingdom under David, throughout the proclamation of the gospel of the kingdom during the earthly ministry of the Lord Jesus, and throughout a part of the period covered by the Acts of the Apostles. To this period Paul referred when he said to the Athenians: ‘At the time of this ignorance God winked’, but indicated that a change had come, by adding, ‘but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent’ (Acts 17:30). That the reconciliation of the world was closely associated with the setting aside of Israel may be seen by reading Romans 11:15. Referring to the structure we observe that not only is there a threefold giving up, but also that this giving-up is preceded by a threefold change:
There is a slight alteration in the words translated ‘change’ in these verses in the A.V. We have attempted to indicate the difference by using ‘change’ and ‘exchange’. First they changed the glory of God without actually giving up God altogether, but this soon led to the next step, for they exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and then worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator. It is not possible for God to take second place. ‘Ye cannot serve God and Mammon’.
Into the third item we cannot go. The defiling character of idolatry
may be gathered from its annals, and we do not feel that any good purpose
would be served by elaborating this revolting subject here. At the same time
we know only too well that human nature is not a whit better today than when
it openly practised the sins condemned in Romans 1. We need faithfully to
warn the rising generation, speaking very tenderly and lovingly, yet
nevertheless plainly; for Babylonianism in all its forms is rising like a
flood (1 Tim. 4:1-5; 2 Tim. 3:1-8), and the book of the Revelation reveals
the evils of Romans 1 in a superlative degree. We need not go so far into
the future as the book of the Revelation however, for 2 Timothy 3:1-8 uses
many of the words of Romans 1 to describe the perilous times at the close of this present dispensation. The sequence of the apostasy and its relation to
the development of the mystery of iniquity, otherwise called ‘the lie’, and
the mystery of godliness, otherwise called ‘the truth’, can be traced through
Paul’s epistles. Taking the statements of Romans 1 we find them worked out
in the other epistles.
A comparison of the list of sins in Romans 1 with that of 2 Timothy
3:1-7 shows how completely the parallel is recorded. The reader may supply
further parallels by studying the intervening epistles.
We must draw attention before closing this article to the fact that the A.V. is not strong enough in its translation of Romans 1:25. It is ‘the lie’. Of this lie Satan is the father (John 8:44), and the Babylonian delusion at the time of the man of sin is the climax (2 Thess. 2:10,11; Rev. 13:5; 21:27; 22:15, cf. The Companion Bible). This lie could not dominate the mind of man without some corresponding defection having entered into that mind at the same time. We have seen that as man robbed God of His glory, he robbed himself of his highest and best. As he degraded God to the level of a creature, so he degraded himself. The explanation is given in verse 28 of Romans 1. In this verse there is a play upon the words dokimazo (‘to try or prove’), and adokimos (‘disapproved’):
Vaughan, with a certain amount of liberty with the English, expresses it thus: ‘As they refused ... God gave them to a refuse mind’. The glory of God is the last item of importance in the ethics and culture of material philosophy, but it is the sheet anchor of all the teaching of Scripture. God knows why He placed the ten commandments in the order in which we have them in the Word. They are in the true sequence. Idolatry is ‘the lie’ in essence; murder and adultery are but ‘the lie’ in practice. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. ‘There is no fear of God before their eyes’ (Psa. 36:1) is the climax of the dreadful list of Romans 3:10-18.
Thus far we have traced the failure of the Gentiles. The apostle’s
object is to demonstrate the universal need of the righteousness revealed in
the gospel. Consequently he has to show the parallel condition of Israel
with the Gentiles before he can proceed with the opening up of the truth.
Meanwhile, it would be good for us all to heed Ephesians 2:11-13.
(3) Reconciliation, for Individual Sins (2 Cor. 5)
This aspect is summed up for us in 2 Corinthians 5:18,19.
Reconciliation is a basis. Reconciliation is an accomplished fact. Reconciliation is not a word which can be projected into the future, as though one could Scripturally speak of the ‘ultimate’ reconciliation of the universe. Reconciliation being the basis, we are prepared to find that salvation is ‘much more’. ‘Much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life’ (Rom. 5:10). The death of Christ was for all, without reference to faith, knowledge and capacity to know. Reconciliation has been effected. Salvation, however, in the epistle to the Romans is not on the same level, but ‘the gospel ... is the power of God unto salvation, to every one that believeth’, and, ‘If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved’.
Reconciliation has made justification a possibility; reconciliation is
not a future goal but a basis upon which God squarely rests the gospel
committed to Paul.
(4) Reconciliation, as it Deals with the Alienation
Romans 11 must, however, be considered before we close this article, for there we find the apostle’s words, ‘reconciling a world’, explained. Here again the whole passage demands more elaboration than it is possible at the moment to give it. We will just point out that which bears most directly upon our subject, leaving the wider context (which, however, is absolutely essential) for further study. Romans 11 speaks of things from a purely dispensational stand-point. The Jew, as a nation, is being set aside, a remnant retain the continuance of the root and fatness of the olive tree, but some of the branches have been broken off, and the wild branches, the Gentiles, have been grafted in. The apostle repudiates the notion that the Jew has stumbled in order that (hina) he might fall; the blessing of the Gentile rather is in view. Note the way in which the apostle speaks of Israel’s fall and their fulness, their rejection and their reception (Rom. 11:12,15):
Here is Paul’s inspired explanation of the term already noted in 2 Corinthians 5:19. The world, indicating, according to Romans 11:12, the Gentiles particularly, has been reconciled. No longer is there a nation on earth whose priesthood, laws, and exclusiveness keep the nations at a distance. No longer is Christ limited to the Messianic prophecies and hopes of Israel. He is declared to be the Son of God with power by the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.
The apostle gives some further statements bearing upon the reconciliation in Romans 15 which it is important to notice. Those who have studied the structure of the epistle to the Romans are aware that a new section, a dispensational section, commences with Romans 15:8. We must not forget, however, that this section is connected with the preceding verses. The true reading of verse 8 is not ‘now I say’, but ‘for I say’. What is the connection? The question that runs through chapter 14 to 15:7 is the one of ‘reception’. The chapter opens with the words, ‘Him that is weak in the faith receive ye’. It then discusses the difference between weak faith and strong faith, between the one who eateth all things and the one who eateth only herbs, between the one who regards a day and the one who does not regard a day. The section closes with the words:
It is then that the apostle says:
The words ‘glorify God’ in verse 6, as a result of the unity there established between Jew and Gentiles, are linked with their recurrence in
verse 9, as a result of the extension of the blessings (primarily sent to Israel) to the Gentiles. Two ministries are in view here:
The fact of this reconciliation is taken so much as a matter of course,
that the question as to whether Gentile worship and ministry might not be
acceptable to God never enters into our minds. Indeed, today, many have gone
to the other extreme, and deny any future blessing to Israel. It is only
because the world has been reconciled to God by the death of His Son that the
gospel can go forth to the Gentiles at all. Blessed as this is, we have not
reached the height of grace. Still further and fuller blessings were to be
made known. If the estrangement of Israel could thus be blessed to Gentiles,
we may well believe that the setting aside of Israel at Acts 28 might be the
basis of still richer grace.
The Enmity that Called Forth
The alienation, enmity and corresponding reconciliation relating to
‘the both’, i.e. the Jewish believer and the Gentile believer during the Acts
period, is symbolized by the Middle Wall, and manifested in the decrees of
Acts 15. As space is limited, the reader is referred for a fuller exposition
of Ephesians 2, to the article on THE MIDDLE WALL).
(5) Reconciliation, as Between the Redeemed
The parallel that exists between the teaching of Ephesians and Colossians, if recognized, will forbid the sudden application of this dispensational reconciliation to the entire universe at some future time, as is done by those who teach Universal Reconciliation.
The study of the reconciliation, as taught in Colossians 1:15-22, must be conducted with due regard to the limits of the epistle. If the epistle be written to an elect company of believers by a specially appointed apostle who claims an exclusive ministry, and if that ministry be defined as pertaining to the Church of the Body, and to the dispensation of the Mystery (a ministry that fills up the Word of God, and bridges the gulf which commenced at Acts 28), then we must accept these restrictions, and so interpret any detail of the epistle that it shall not transgress the spirit or the letter of these terms.
We therefore feel sure that the reader will desire a study of the context before dealing with the actual verses which contain these last references to the reconciliation.
We have seen by our study of Ephesians 2 (see EPHESIANS; THE MIDDLE WALL) that the reconciliation, the apokatallasso, the new word of the Mystery epistles, is a step beyond the katallasso of the earlier epistles, but must not be considered merely as a continuation, or fruition; it is quite distinct. The reconciliation of Ephesians 2 was effected between ‘the both’, making ‘the both one’, ‘creating of the two, one new man’, ‘reconciling the both in one body to God’. The setting aside of the unbelieving majority of Israel (blindness in part) had been overruled to the blessing of the Gentiles, ‘the reconciling of a world’; the argument of the context of that passage would lead us to expect that, possibly, the complete setting aside of Israel would be overruled to produce a greater blessing. This is what actually took place. The world, though reconciled to God by the death of His Son, as a whole did not receive the reconciliation. The distance which had been maintained ever since the threefold ‘giving up’ and the threefold ‘change’ of Romans 1:18-32 (‘change’ being cognate with ‘reconcile’) was no longer perpetuated. God had ‘opened the door of faith to the Gentiles’ (Acts 14:27) by the reconciliation (katallasso), but comparatively few ‘received’ it.
Ephesians 2 presents a deeper and fuller truth. Full and complete reconciliation has been effected with regard to the internal composition of the church of the One Body. The two opposing elements, the Circumcision and the Uncircumcision, the Jew and the Gentile, aggravated by the distinctions in the flesh and the ordinances of revealed religion, have been completely obliterated by a new creation. The two are made one, one new man, One Body, and as such are fully reconciled to God.
Colossians 1 takes us a step further, and gives the final word. Not only is it essential to the purpose of God that the unity of the One Body should be for ever secured; not only is it necessary to that end that its component parts should be fully reconciled, it became also a necessity that the place and sphere of its ultimate glory should contain no possibility of enmity or disunity. The sphere of the One Body is ‘in the heavenlies’. Its association with principalities shows that it will be administrative. Now just as the One Body was fully reconciled as to its component parts (Eph. 2), so must it be with regard to its environment (Col. 1).
Before dealing with the verses in Colossians 1 which treat of the reconciliation, it will be necessary to see what the epistle is about, or at least the opening section of it. In 1:4 we read, ‘Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints’, and we find that the words are an introduction to a prayer, which has among its prominent petitions many things which are parallel to a similarly introduced prayer in Ephesians.
The many points in common between these two epistles are sufficiently numerous and specific to provide a safeguard to interpretation, and to prevent us from interpreting Colossians in such a way as to run counter to the teaching of Ephesians. As we are writing for those who love the Word, we are sure the following list of parallels will be acceptable.
We shall find that some of the passages which form the context of the
reconciliation in Colossians 1 are to a large extent repetitions and
expansions of the truth already given in Ephesians. This being the case, it
will be exceedingly unwise to attempt an exposition of Colossians 1 without
allowing this inspired commentary a prominent place. We have not given every
parallel (they are too numerous), but we have given those which appear to be
most relevant, quoting some (author’s translations), and giving references
only to others, according as they are nearer or more remote from the subject
To save space we give a further set of parallels in references only.
These, however, should be consulted:
Arising out of these parallels comes the conviction that Colossians is dealing with the same theme as Ephesians, and that we must be careful so to interpret the passages in Colossians as to avoid conflict with the teaching of similar verses in Ephesians, and not to go beyond its ‘elective’ scope.
Summarizing, we find:
For a fuller treatment of Colossians 1, the article COLOSSIANS should
be consulted. For a fuller exposition of Romans 9 to 11, the article ROMANS(p. 126) should be consulted. In those articles the structures are set out, which present to the reader the scope of each passage. (Near the end of the
article on INTERPRETATION, structures are explained). As a concluding note,
let us consider the fact that it is Paul, not Peter, James or John, who
claims to have received ‘the ministry of reconciliation’.
Second Epistle to Corinthians
The space at our disposal will not allow us to review the whole of this epistle, nor to enter into the questions that have been raised with regard to its composition. We must leave untouched the revelations of the apostle’s own heart and sympathetic nature, and focus our attention upon the two great features contained in the words, ‘the ministry of the reconciliation’.
Ministry (diakonia) runs through this epistle as part of its structure. Speaking of the new covenant as contrasted with the old, he speaks of one as ‘the ministration of death’ (3:7), and ‘the ministration of condemnation’ (3:9); and of the other in strong contrast as ‘the ministration of the spirit’ (3:8) and ‘the ministration of righteousness’ (3:9). God had made the apostle and his associates ‘able ministers of the new covenant’ (3:6).
Closely connected with the ministry of the New Covenant is that of the reconciliation, which is referred to in chapter 5. We observe in 1 Corinthians 16:1 that the collection for the saints at Jerusalem had the reconciliation as its basis, and here in this second epistle the word diakonia is used of this service (8:4; 9:1,12,13). The last reference (9:12,13) contains a statement which is luminous in the light of the reconciliation:
At the end of this article we give the structure of the epistle as a
whole for the benefit of any who desire to carry these studies further. Here
we consider one member only.
It is not accidental that the subject of ministry is alternated with the apostle’s experiences, for these experiences emphasize the utter failure of the flesh and the necessity for the resurrection, and so complement the doctrine. In the first chapter this experience meets us:
This same twofold experience is found expressed in connection with the apostle’s ministry:
To the last chapter this twofold experience follows us, for there we read:
Paul had ceased to know Christ after the flesh. In Galatians Paul had left it crucified with its ‘affections and desires’ (Gal. 5:24); in 2 Corinthians it is repudiated in all its forms, ‘fleshly wisdom’ (1:12), and ‘fleshly weapons’ (10:4). He set aside a knowledge of Christ after the flesh as entirely incompatible with his ministry. The Corinthians were urged to cleanse themselves ‘from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit’ (7:1). Paul repudiated the charge that he ‘walked according to the flesh’ (10:2), or ‘warred according to it’ (10:3). As a ‘fool’ he makes his boast in the flesh (11:18) and lest he should be exalted above measure he received a ‘stake in the flesh’ (12:7).
We must now turn our attention to the section of the epistle that deals with the ministry of the reconciliation wherein fleshly distinctions are set aside. The references to the old covenant in chapter 3 left Israel with the veil over their hearts, parallel to the blindness that is spoken of in Romans 11. The law was used by Satan to blind the eyes to the fulness of grace in the reconciliation:
This is the background for the reconciliation of the Gentile. Let us
see the setting of the subject before going further.
The Ministry of Reconciliation
A 5:12. Not commending ourselves.
B 5:13,14. Love of Christ constrains.
A 6:4-10. Commending ourselves.
B 6:11. Our heart enlarged.
It is interesting to note that the ‘promises’ (D 6:14 to 7:1) correspond with the reconciliation. These promises, ‘I will dwell among them, and walk among them, and I will be their God’, look forward to Revelation 21:1-7. There, when all things are made new, the Tabernacle of God will be with men (no longer with Israel), and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. The ‘old things’ and the ‘new’ and the ‘new creation’ of 2 Corinthians 5 are therefore quite in line with this thought. Israel were blind to this truth. The god of this age had blinded the minds of them that believed not, ‘lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, Who is the Image of God, should shine unto them’ (2 Cor. 4:4).
Here, once again, as in 1 Corinthians 15 and Colossians 1, Christ as the Image of God is connected with the reconciliation. We found in 1 Corinthians 15 the statement, ‘In Adam all die’. In 2 Corinthians 5:14 the other side of the truth is presented, ‘we thus judge, that if One died for all, then all died’. Scripture makes it abundantly clear that there is a ‘justification of life’ for all in the death of Christ. The act of Christ in Romans 5, 1 Corinthians 15 and 2 Corinthians 5 is viewed as that of the representative and head of the race. If it can be said, ‘He died for all’, it will follow that ‘all died’. A further statement is made in 2 Corinthians 5:19 which shows the vast consequences of this great work of reconciliation:
We find the apostle as an ambassador in 5:20:
This is the other phase of the truth that makes a complete presentation. Adam’s one offence, involving all, is taken away. No longer is there a barrier between man and God, but, as Romans 5 shows, the reconciliation made by Christ must be ‘received’ (Rom. 5:11-17), and further, salvation is spoken of as being ‘much more’, and connected with ‘His life’.
Christ stands at the head of a new creation. ‘If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature’. The world is reconciled, but the world is not a new creation. Those who receive the reconciliation become such, and are a kind of firstfruits of the harvest yet to be. For this the apostle laboured and suffered; suffered as few ever have suffered. His ‘commendation’ (margin) is given in 2 Corinthians 6:4-10. The great defence of his apostleship which occupies chapters 11 and 12 was forced upon him by those who traduced the minister in order to belittle the ministry. The narrow limits of Judaistic Christianity could not hold the glorious message which ignored national distinctions and went back to the common father of all, Adam. Christ is seen also, not merely as David’s greater Son, or Israel’s Messiah, but the Son of Abraham in blessing for the Gentiles, and the Image of God as the Head of the race.
We conclude this brief account of a wondrous passage with the structure
of the epistle as a whole, in order that, if brief, our survey may not be
without some approach to completeness.
A 1:1,2. Introduction. Salutation.
A 13:11-14. Conclusion. Benediction.