June 14, 2024

Reconciliation in Christ

Sinclair Ferguson
Reconciliation in Christ

The disintegration of relationships in this world is rooted ultimately in our alienation from a holy God. Today, Sinclair Ferguson reflects on the reconciliation that Christ has accomplished to bring us peace and new life.


We come today to the end of a series of podcasts in which we’ve been thinking, actually for a couple of weeks, about the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ. This week we’ve been thinking about His work, how it is that Jesus provides for us a propitiation that saves us from God’s wrath, a justification that saves us from our guilt, and a redemption that sets us free from our bondage in sin. So in a sense, we’ve been visiting the temple, the law court, and the slave market. But now there’s a fourth word to think about. It’s the word reconciliation, and it has to do with personal relationships.

Of all these four words, it’s maybe reconciliation that has the most contemporary ring about it. It implies there’s been alienation. And alienation was, as you know, a big word in the Marxist philosophy. It was claimed that in an industrial society, workers were alienated from the fruit of their labor. The worker did his work, and somebody else took the real profits. But we’ve also become increasingly familiar with the idea of alienation in personal relationships. Husbands alienated from their wives, children alienated from their parents. And in the world of the individual, there’s a new psychological vocabulary that’s developed: an individual being alienated from himself or from herself. And there are all kinds of ways that this idea has taken root today. We’ve got whole organizations and specialists in all kinds of fields of life whose goal or expertise is to bring about reconciliation or a new integration, because alienation involves disintegration.

What the message of the Bible teaches us is that all of these alienations, these disintegrations, have a single root. Every human alienation is rooted in our alienation from God. We are at enmity with Him because of our sin, and He is at enmity with us in our sinfulness. So only when reconciliation takes place will our lives begin to be reintegrated. Only when our alienation from God caused by our sin is dealt with can these secondary alienations begin to find a resolution.

In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul tells us that God has provided the reconciliation we need in Jesus Christ. How so? Well, the root of the Greek word for reconciliation is actually change or exchange, and that’s what we find in Christ. In Christ, God has made what the Reformers used to love to call the great or wonderful exchange. God was, in Christ, reconciling the world to himself in this way: for our sake, He made Jesus to be sin, although He knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21). Jesus has made an exchange. He has changed places with us. He takes our sin, and in Him, we are counted righteous with His righteousness.

Jesus is the Suffering Servant about whom Isaiah 53 speaks: He was wounded for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities. Upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His stripes, we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray. We have turned—every one—to his own way. And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. It’s exchange, exchange, exchange, exchange.

But Paul also tells us that when we receive this exchange, this reconciliation in Christ, there’s a series of exchanges that begins to take place in our own lives. Yes, we exchange enmity with God for His friendship. But, he says, we also exchange the life of the old creation for that of the new: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation,” or literally, “If any in Christ—new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17). And we exchange the old way of thinking about other people. We see them usually according to merely human perspectives. But now we exchange all that, and we have new eyes to see them in the light of the judgment seat of Christ, and we have compassion on them.

And yes, there’s another exchange, says Paul. We no longer live for ourselves as we used to do, but for the Lord Jesus who has reconciled us to God. We no longer run from Him as our enemy; we run towards Him as our friend and Savior. We no longer live for ourselves, he says, but for Christ, who died for us and rose again.

Jesus has done everything we need to live the reconciled life. So, propitiation, justification, redemption, reconciliation—it’s all ours in Jesus Christ. And if we are Christ’s, and if we are in Christ, then it really is all ours. No wonder we’ve been taught to sing, “Hallelujah, what a Savior.”