In the passage that started this series, Paul told us that the only message we have to proclaim is this: God has reconciled man to Himself, therefore we entreat you to become a friend of God. We have seen how Simon Peter demonstrates the reality of this reconciliation and invites people to come and take part in it. John spoke to us about the reason God Reconciled man to Himself. He told us God’s agape casts out our fear, bringing us intimately close to God, and that we should therefore agape one another.
This all is a big deal, and if we choose to ignore it we are choosing to ignore what hope Abba God has been whispering to us ever since the garden. Reconciliation is about relationship: restored deep, whole, and healthy relationship with Yahweh and the first bloomings of unashamed, naked relationships with other people. This is what the atonement accomplished. We must reorient our hearts and minds to embrace the whole picture of “what the atonement accomplished” rather than just the myopic view(s) of “how atonement works”.
Still, we can never lose sight of the atoning sacrifice that is Jesus. If in our eagerness to embrace reconciliation we skip over Jesus’ death and resurrection, we do injustice to the very idea of reconciliation, and choose to embrace the injustice of universalism. If we decentralize the Cross of Christ in any way, we quickly find ourselves off balance and out of step with Abba’s dance of salvation. The relationship reconciliation brings about is only possible because of the atonement.
In Paul’s theological cap stone letter to the Romans, there is one sentience that illuminates this truth more than a thousand volumes of commentary ever could:
“It (the righteousness of God) will be reckoned (counted as our own) to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was handed over to death for our trespasses (sins) and was raised for our justification.”
This is pregnant with life giving, fear shattering truth. Paul spends 3.9-4.24a preparing to say these words, and the whole of Chapter 5 telling of the results of Jesus death and resurrection being unpacked in our lives. This is the core of the Christian faith, and it deserves to be unpacked in all the Glory of God! While we could spend years in and among these verses (with our time would be well spent), I want to look now specifically at 5.1-11.
Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Peter, Paul, and John all saw it: Jesus death did something that can only be described as salvation glorious. To truly believe in the reality of God’s reconciliation of man to Himself is to embrace Jesus as the reason we can stand in this grace. It is to shout praises no matter the sufferings we face because of the hope poured into us through the Holy Ghost.
And what is this hope? This hope is that just as the blood of Christ (Jesus’s death on the cross) has wiped us clean from sin, the reality that Jesus now lives gives us blessed assurance that we are at peace with our Abba God, who is steadfast love but does not leave injustice unpunished.
This is the only/best hope of all! take this truth deep into your heart: while you were an enemy of God and had nothing to offer and no ability to offer anything anyways, Yahweh did the unthinkable: He acted where you couldn’t! You couldn’t make yourself right with Him, so God Himself made you right with Him by dying so that you would live, and then living again to give you the hope of a life that is forever in friendship with God. This is what Paul means when he stated “Jesus our Lord… who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification”. This is what Jesus our atonement sacrifice did so that you and I and all humanity might be reconciled with God.
The entire scope of reconciliation is huge, yet it all rests on one man: Jesus, our atoning sacrifice. We cannot ever divorce reconciliation from the event that caused reconciliation to be real. Like wise, we cannot become so convinced that we can box the atonement into our explanation of its mechanics that we forget what Jesus did for us while we are still in our weakness. Jesus is our hope, and it is through Him alone that we boast, sing praises, shout, and keep in a general state of Hallelujah to the Glory of Yahweh, our Abba God.