By Larry Ray Hafley
“And that He might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby” (Eph. 2:16). Four great questions are answered in our text. The questions are: (1) What did God purpose to do? (2) For whom did he propose to do it? (3) Where did God fulfill his plan? (4) How did he effect his goal?
(1) What? The Plan: God’s plan was to “reconcile.” To reconcile is to make peace with alienated, separated parties. “Re” means “again.” “Conciliate” means peace; hence, to make peace with again.
Man is estranged from God by sin. “Your sins have separated between you and your God” (Isa. 59:2). “And you that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works yet now hath he reconciled” (Col. 1:21). Note the past condition contrasted with the present state – were alienated enemies, now reconciled. This forever destroys the false doctrine of total hereditary depravity. Calvinism says men are born in sin, having never been at peace with God. However, this cannot be true, for God reconciles, makes peace with again. How could man be again reconciled if he has never been at peace with God in the first place?
(2) Who? The Persons: Whom did God seek to reconcile? The text says “both.” “Both” whom? The context shows that Jews and Gentiles are under consideration (Eph. 2:11). So, God sought to reconcile “both” Jews and Gentiles. This corresponds with “every creature” (Mk. 16:15), “all nations” (Matt. 28:19), “every nation” (Acts 10:34,35), “whosoever will” (Rev. 22:17), “all” (Matt. 11:28), “to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Rom. 1:16; cf. Acts 1:8; 2:21,39; Eph. 2:11-13; Rom. 1:5; 16:26).
Primitive Baptist doctrine, Calvinism, denies that God loved and that Christ died for all men (Jn. 3:16; Heb. 2:9; 2 Cor. 5:14). They limit the love of God and the efficacy of the death of Christ, but our text shows that “both” (all men) are objects of reconciliation. Calvinists say Christ died for the elect, not the non-elect, but John says that, “He (Christ) is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 Jn. 2:1,2).
(3) Where? The Place: Where are all men reconciled unto God? The passage says “in one body.” But what is the body? Lenski says it is “one spiritual organism.”
Paul says Christ has been made “head over all things to the church, which is his body” (Eph. 1:22,23). “Which, ” is a relative pronoun of apposition. The church, then, “is his body.” Thus, those reconciled are reconciled in the church. If you are not in the body, the church (Col. 1:18,24), you have not been reconciled. To be reconciled is to be justified (Rom. 5:1,9, 10). If you are not “in one body,” “the church” (Eph. 1:22,23; 2:16), you are neither saved, justified, redeemed nor reconciled (Rom. 3:24; 5:1,9, 10; 2 Cor. 5:18-20).
The church, therefore, is the realm of redemption, the sphere of salvation and the place of pardon. If we are not “members of his body” (Eph. 5:30), we are not reconciled unto God. Hence, those who say, “I am not a member of any church, but I am reconciled unto God,” are deceived. One might as well say, “I am a member of his body, but I am not reconciled.” Both statements are equally absurd in view of Ephesians 2:16.
(4) How? The Process: By what means are all men reconciled unto God in one body? Our text says “by the cross.” “We were reconciled to God by (dia) the death of his Son” (Rom. 5:10). We are “reconciled in the body of his flesh through death” (Col. 1:21,22). Surely, none who profess the faith in Christ will deny the process, the “how” of reconciliation. Suppose I did? Suppose I said, “It is true that all are reconciled unto God in one body, but it is not accomplished “by the cross”? If I were to say that, objections would be long and loud. “You cannot deny the process,” they would insist.
True, but if one cannot deny the process, can he deny the place where one is reconciled? Many do. They say that all men are reconciled “by the cross,” but they deny the place, the location of reconciliation. They say one may be reconciled whether he is a member of any church or not. By what authority can they ignore the place (“in the body”) but refuse to neglect the process (“by the cross”)? The truth is that all four aspects are essential.
Reconciliation unto God in one body by the cross is conditional. How else could Paul beg or “pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20)? Christ indeed made “reconciliation for the sins of the people” (Heb. 2:17), but men are not reconciled until they hear and obey the “word of reconciliation. ” Have you heard and obeyed it (Acts 2:38; 18:8)?
Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 20, p. 615
October 19, 1989