Tuesday, March 16, 2010

ALIENATION AND RECONCILIATION

“…when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son…” (Romans 5:10).

Most believers in Christ have some understanding of the above fact. We were alienated from God through sin and the fall. God gave His Son, Jesus, to pay the penalty for our sin. This death accomplished our reconciliation. We have been restored to a right relationship, a friendship with God.

However, there is another alienation and reconciliation that we often overlook. Some are even ignorant of it.

First we need to understand the alienation. For that we need to go back to the Garden of Eden (see: WHAT HAPPENED?). The man and his wife were alienated from God through their sin and separated from Him by being cast out of the Garden.

But there’s more. The man and his wife also experienced an alienation from each other. We see it starting when the man attempts to shift blame for his sin to the woman as well as to God. “The woman you gave to me, she gave me from the tree and I ate!” (Genesis 3:12). God tells the woman, “Your desire will be for your husband and he will rule over you!” (Genesis 3:16). (The word translated “desire” most likely has the meaning of “desire for control” – see 4:7; Song of Solomon 7:10.) The “battle of the sexes” began in the Garden!

And it gets worse in chapter 4. Their son murders his brother and is driven from God’s presence and sets up an apparently godless civilization characterized by violence.

In other words, humankind – man – has experienced alienation within the race. This continues through history, both biblical and secular, but finds its ultimate expression in Genesis 11, with God’s judgment by the confounding of languages and the dispersion of the nations over the whole earth (11:7, 8).

So not only is man alienated from God, he is alienated from his fellow human beings. I believe we can conclude that both alienations are the result of man’s sin against God.

But God had a plan and that plan was put into play right from the beginning. We see it first stated in God’s promise in Genesis 3:17, that the woman’s “seed” would crush the head of the serpent. In the 12th chapter of Genesis, we see God calling Abraham from among the nations to become the father of “a great nation” and that through him “all families of the earth” would be blessed (12:1-3). Later Abraham is told that it is through his “seed” these blessings would come.

As we look, however, at the rest of the Old Testament, we see Abraham’s “seed” not being a blessing to “the families of the earth,” but separating themselves. The alienation still seems to be in effect today. Humankind is divided into two groups – Jews (the children of Abraham) and Gentiles (everybody else). Not only that, but the Gentiles – the word can also be translated “nations” – are alienated from each other.

Fast forward 2000 or so years from Abraham’s time. A young man, a descendant of Abraham is put to death on a Roman cross – Jesus the Messiah, the Christ, whom we are told is that promised “seed” of Abraham (Galatians 3:16).

Paul tells his readers – non-Jewish believers -- what they were in Ephesians 2:11, 12, “…you the Gentiles in flesh…you were separate from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and godless in the world.” A description of people who were not only alienated from God, but from God’s covenant people. And we might add, from one another.

“But now, in Christ Jesus, you who once were far off have been brought near in the blood of Christ” (verse 13). Near to whom? Near both to God and to His people!

Christ fulfilled the requirement and took the penalty of the Mosaic Law, including the Ten Commandments. This Law had had a twofold effect. For the Jew – the physical child of Abraham – it held forth a set of requirements that it was impossible to fulfill. For the Gentile, the one outside of God’s covenant community, it was a barrier keeping him permanently outside this community. Paul uses some bold language in the next verses. “For He is our peace, who made the both one and broke down the dividing wall, the fence, the enmity – in His flesh, having nullified the Law of Commandments in decrees, that He might in Himself create the two into one new man, making peace…” (verses 14, 15).

Christ by His death on the cross we are told, nullified the Mosaic Law, thus reconciling both Jew and Gentile to each other and to God, uniting us together as God’s people in the church, the New man, the body of Christ. “…and might reconcile the both in one body to God, through the cross, having killed the enmity in it (or in Himself)!” (verse 16)

We who are believers in Christ have been reconciled not only to God but to each other. The cross of Christ has removed the barrier. And though in this passage, Paul is speaking of that between Jew and Gentile, it is clear from other passages that all barriers have been eliminated. When the Christ broke down the barrier of the Law, all other barriers are removed as well. They are insignificant!

“…you have stripped off the old man with his practices and have clothed yourselves with the new…in which there is neither Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free, but Christ is all and in all!” (Colossians 3:9-11)

“For you, those who were baptized into Christ, have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no Jew or Greek, there is no slave or free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus!” (Galatians 3:27, 28)

Could anything be clearer? Christ has accomplished reconciliation. He has eliminated all barriers that could possibly be placed between believers in Christ: religious (denominational?), ethnic, national, gender, socio-economic status, race. We are all one in Christ.

So why don’t we behave that way?

Bill Ball
3/16/2010

2 comments:

Sherry said...

Dad - this is EXCELLENT. You're right, I'd never thought of it in this way. I know Christ teaches us we should love our neighbors and our enemies, but I never thought of it in terms of being reconciled.
HE has made us RIGHT with each other. There is no excuse for us to make it wrong again.
ps - I think you should forward this to Mark since he's preaching thru Ephesians

Bill Ball said...

Thanks, Sherry!