To determine who was to receive reconciliation we need to determine why reconciliation was needed. It is clear from the definitions given, and Scripture, that Christ’s death and shed blood were the means by which this reconciliation was accomplished (Eph. 2:13). The blood atonement of Christ was a substitute for the blood of goats and calves (Heb. 9:12). The only people that needed to sacrifice goats and calves to God for atonement was Israel or those that believed in the God of Israel (Lev. 4 & 9); and it is Israel that needed a better sacrifice derived from the blood of Christ (Heb. 9:23,24). The reconciliation spoken of in the New Testament involves Christ as a “mediator,” being the one who intervened between God and spiritual Israel. Christ is the mediator of the New Covenant, and that covenant was made only with those that enter into it (Hebrews 8:6-8).
Paul, in speaking to the Christians in Rome said, “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son” (Romans 5:10). The concept of enmity or having enmity with God is used in other places by Paul to show who needed reconciliation (Eph. 2:15, 16; Col. 1:21). Israel had enmity with God since they were under the Old Covenant and in constant violation of its terms, causing God’s wrath against them (2 Kings 18:12; 22:13; Jer. 11:10, 11). The reconciliation that needed to be performed was between God and faithful Israel. Furthermore, in the letter to the Romans Paul was writing to his “brethren” and “kinsmen” Israelites (Romans 9:3,4). The writer of Hebrews also indicates who reconciliation is for:
For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.
Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people (Hebrews 2:16,17).
Jesus was made like “his brethren” for their benefit, or their reconciliation. The reconciliation was for “the people,” a term used to mean the Israel people. It only makes sense that the reconciliation spoken of here pertains to this race of people, since this book was written to the Hebrews. Matthew Henry states that, “Reconciliation supposes a quarrel, or breach of friendship.” (5) Thus when there is a separation of a husband and wife, the wife can be “reconciled” to her husband (1 Cor. 7:11); but she cannot be reconciled to another man. Only Israel was married to God, with God as the husband and Israel as the wife (Isaiah 54:5; Jer. 3:14). But since God divorced Israel, there was an estrangement between God and Israel. Thus Israel needed to be reconciled to God by being remarried to Him with Christ in the role of the bridegroom (Hos. 2:19; Matt. 9:15; 2 Cor. 11:2; Rev. 19:7). Only spiritual Israel can be reconciled to God in this manner.
Then why do Universalists have a doctrine of universal or ultimate reconciliation? Because they are humanists and simply do not like what God has done in the world regarding this matter. They realize that God never “knew” or had any type of relationship with the great mass of people of the earth except for those who held the God of Israel as their own (Amos 3:2). To the humanistic mind this is totally unfair of God, so they have to modify God so that He will do what they think He should do. Reconciliation does not mean to start up a new relationship, but to mend or change an existing one gone bad. You cannot have reconciliation between two parties who never knew each other and had no adverse relationship.
As to when this reconciliation is to take place, it is clearly perfected in the death and shed blood of Christ. Thus this reconciliation is something God has already done, as indicated by Paul:
Romans 5:10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
2 Corinthians 5:18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;
Colossians 1:21 And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled.
Reconciliation as used by Universalists is something that God will ultimately do with all people, nations and races. However, the reconciliation Paul speaks of in these verses is a completed and perfect act, not something God will do in the future. God has already reconciled Israel to Himself. Through Christ He has removed the enmity-relationship of His people by not imputing their trespasses to them (2 Corinthians 5:19). Paul also told the Ephesians that Christ had perfected reconciliation:
But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;
Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;
And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby (2:13-16).
Note how this whole message of reconciliation, or the act of “making peace,” is all in the past context. There is nothing in Scripture that speaks of a future reconciliation beyond the cross, in which Christ or God performs some act to bring it about. Therefore, there can be no such thing as an “ultimate reconciliation” or a “universal reconciliation” except by sheer speculation or wishful thinking on the part of the Universalist. If reconciliation has already occurred, there can be no “ultimate reconciliation” in the future. Thus it is not surprising that Universalists do not quote most of the common verses dealing with reconciliation to support their position.
Note: BA sent this post to me as a private letter first, apparently before posting it here generally (at the time he sent it as part of the topic of another thread). In hindsight, it seems likely he only copy-pasted it from somewhere else and sent it without really bothering to pay attention to anything I had actually written anywhere, ever. Or even without paying much attention to what he had sent! (Yes, shocking I know. )
But this will explain why, later in my reply, I treat his post as though it was actually written to me.
That’s pretty scripturally clear: because all have sinned and (as rebels) have fallen short of the glory of God. (Though the Greek there actually reads that all are wanting of the glory. But that’s true, too; it works as a double meaning. Or maybe even a triple-meaning.)
Col 1:21-22 puts it very well (I assume you already know which famous Romans verse I was quoting a minute ago): “Now you were being once estranged and enemies in comprehension by wicked acts, yet now He reconciles in His body of flesh, through His death, to present you holy and flawless and unimpeachable in His sight.” Paul does go on to warn (as he does in some other epistles) not to go back to being enemies in comprehension again, but that only means such backsliders are no longer accepting God’s reconciliation of us. It doesn’t mean God will stop acting to reconcile us to Himself (and to each other.) It does mean that such backsliders will be falling into the hands of the living God, which is a terrifying thing: but not hopeless (as the Hebraist, who at least was a compatriot of Paul, knew very well.)
So, who needs reconciliation with God? All sinners. Who has sinned? Everyone. And St. Paul certainly includes “things in the heavens” among that list of beings who need reconciliation–thus also in the list of things which God makes peace with through the blood of the cross, reconciling “the all” to Himself (a specially emphatic statement of everything, just in case the rest of his statement at Col 1:18-20 wasn’t emphatic enough. )
That doesn’t mean there won’t be some butt-kicking coming to the rebel “sovereigns and authorities”, as St. Paul certainly affirms elsewhere (as well as all throughout the scriptures). It only means that the butt-kicking isn’t hopeless; no moreso than the butt-kicking we pray to come to ourselves whenever we pray the Shepherd’s Psalm. (Though due to wimpy translations, this is unfortunately obscured for modern readers. It’s rather more obvious when one knows some Hebrew, as well as when one knows what an iron rod is used for when shepherding sheep.)
Also in Col 1, as noted.
Incidentally, near both those places, Paul talks about X secrets which have been now revealed. The prepositional phrase there is usually translated “eternal” or even “everlasting”, but obviously it can mean something else, too. Just thought I would mention that. When we do in-depth exegetical studies of how those prepositional phrases, and the adjective “eonian”, are actually used in the OT and the NT, we aren’t just pulling things out of our butts. Keeping those various interpretive possibilities in mind for each occasion makes things admittedly more complicated to suss out; but, hey: Scripture.
More like the other way around, surely!–the Hebraist is hardly talking about the previous things being the reality and Christ’s sacrifice being the image of that reality. Rather, the previous things were a typological figure or metaphorical enactment of the reality of Christ’s sacrifice. (“Examples of things in the heavens”, to give one of many examples of how he puts it–exemplary pun half-intended --at Heb 9:23.)
Which may have been what you meant. If so, not a problem, I agree. (So do most universalists, in my experience.)
I’m pretty sure that the Hebraist isn’t restricting the sacrifice of Christ to Israel alone. Certainly it isn’t Israel alone who has sinned and so needs reconciliation. And in fact, the Hebraist explicitly states a little after where you quoted (10:4) that it wasn’t the blood of bulls and he-goats (etc. is implied) that eliminated sins, even for Israel. He is quite explicit about that elsewhere, too. (10:11 comes to mind off the top of my head.)
As for me, I believe the scriptures testify to trinitarian theism being true; which means that “Christ” does not personally intervene “between” God and spiritual Israel. It is not as though “God” wanted to do one thing and so “Christ” stepped between Him and His target in order to convince Him to do something else. The mediatorial function is being wrongly interpreted in that case.
Hopefully you meant something else. Otherwise, our disagreements are rather more theologically fundamental. (As between ortho-trin and some kind of Arianism or neo-Arianism; though perhaps only inadvertently so. )
I hope you meant to say “is made”. Otherwise, you’ll be denying any hope of a salvation covenant at all to anyone born later. (Like for example yourself. )
But fixing the tenses in your sentence, I have no objection; and I have no problem affirming: Christ is the mediator of the New Covenant (also of the old one, not incidentally), and this covenant is made only with those who enter into it. (Surely you don’t think I think people are saved without being in covenant with God, including with Christ?!–I have certainly never said that.)
Which is similar to what I quoted from Col, also, btw.
Well and good! – though I can go even further than that, by considering the scope of who needed (and who gets) reconciliation back one verse in 1:20!
Which simply amounts to a particular kind of sinning. Surely you are also aware that “There is no partiality with God [in regard to Jew or Gentile]. For whoever sinned without law, without law shall also perish; and whoever sinned in law, through law will be judged. For not the listeners to law are justified by God, but the doers of law shall be justified. For whenever those of the nations, the ones who have no law, by nature may be doing that which is law, these having no law, are law themselves: all who are displaying the act of the law written in their hearts *, their conscience testifying together and the reckonings between one another, accusing or defending, in what day?–when God will be judging the hidden of persons [literally the crypts of persons!] through Jesus Christ, according to my good news!” (Rom 2:11-16)
Well, you don’t seem to be aware that they shall be defended as well as accused coming out of hades in the day of judgment through Jesus Christ–which St. Paul considered to be good news! (Most non-universalists kind of gloss over that part. ) But surely you know about the other things??–that Jew and Gentile both are without excuse, even though Gentiles weren’t given Torah?! (I recall Paul having had something to say about that back in chp 1, too!)
Certainly not stated anywhere the term reconciliation is used, including where you’ve quoted it. On the contrary, it is blatantly obvious (including where you quoted) that the reconciliation that needs to be performed is between God and any rebels–including, as it happens, rebel Israel. Or did you think that in continually breaking the old covenant, and constantly being in violation of its terms, Israel was being FAITHFUL??!
Maybe you only made a typo or something? I’m finding it hard to believe you could possibly think that faithful Israel is who needed reconciling with God.
Also to Gentiles, though (which is much of the point to the warnings in chapter 11, not to diss Israel even though she has been unfaithful.)
More specifically, Paul is writing Romans to a mixed congregation of Jewish and Gentile Christians, talking about not only their relationship with each other–which was strained because each was claiming superiority in salvation over the other–but also about hope for the non-Christian Gentiles and non-Christian Jews.
Which is exactly the right thing to write to a Jewish Christian congregation (not a mixed congregation like in Romans and some other epistles), who are under pressure from their non-Christian Jewish peers (and very likely their own non-Christian Jewish past) to consider these or those other persons as adequate mediators of reconciliation of man to God. (From his topic list, by the way, it seems very likely these had been Philonic Jews, much impressed by the Jewish philosopher Philo; which in turn makes it likely the congregation was Alexandrian.)
Trying to make out from this that only the Jews needed reconciling to God, just seems to go against a huge amount of other scripture. Sure, “It only makes sense that the reconciliation spoken of here pertains to this race of people, since this book was written to the Hebrews”, but so what? That is extremely far from being the same as saying that the reconciliation only pertains to this race of people.
I think I must be misunderstanding what you’re trying to argue.
In the sense of a formal covenant, that’s true; but there are other instances, even in the OT, where other peoples are considered to be part of the harem (so to speak) of God, even if they don’t have the pre-eminence of Israel. To pull one example off the top of my head, “Babylon” (both in Rev 18 and in Is 47; in the former case Rome appears to be in view but identified as being of the same spirit or character as the original Babylon) is treated as a queen who has set herself up with Satanic pride to be self-existent–and her statement is, “I sit as a queen and I am not a widow.” This statement makes no sense, even as allegory or metaphor, unless in effect she is disowning wifehood with God and setting herself up in His place and on His throne considering Him to be dead. Her description as a sinner, though, is extremely similar to that given by Ezekiel against Israel in (what we call) his 16th chapter, whose harlotries are that of an adulterous wife.
(It is of no small importance that in Ez 16, not only is Israel denounced for destruction in language harsher than that against Sodom, but that Sodom as well as Israel will one day be restored by God to fellowship with Him. And Ezekiel definitely means the totality of rebel Israel punished to death and destruction in her sins, if his vision of the valley of the dry bones (chp 37) has anything at all to do with the coming general resurrection.)
This could be exemplified at very much greater length; but the upshot in the OT (which is carried over, somewhat less metaphorically, in the NT), is that the other nations are in fact the brides of God, or rather were meant to be but like Israel they went their own way in adultery against Him; but Israel shall be queen over them in the day of the Lord to come when all of them are brought back into communion with Him.
(Heck, if it comes to that, the Lord will be taming Leviathan and making covenant with him, too! The whole point to Job 41:4 is lost, if God does not perform this deed which only God can do. But who is Leviathan and Bahamut, the rebel cosmic monster?)
Rather, only by being reconciled to God can anyone be spiritual Israel. As Paul in Rom 9:24-26 paraphrases from Hosea – which is a book about spiritual marriage and adultery and reconciliation if ever there was one! – “I shall call her who was not beloved, ‘Beloved’.” Paul is extremely clear that he is applying this and similar Hosea refs to Gentiles being brought into union with the vine (as in chp 11 also); yet in Hosea, those verses he references are very clearly about adulterous Israel. The upshot is that Paul is saying that all people, Jew and Gentile both, are in effect adulterous Israel, originally chosen to be the bride of God but committing spiritual harlotry instead. God shall reconcile both these and those; consequently as St. Paul stresses in Rom 11 that even all non-believing Israel shall be brought back into the vine and reconciled with God (for “they have not stumbled so as to fall, have they? May it never be!”), so shall all Gentiles by parallel.
What is more interesting to me, at the moment, is that in trying to defend a doctrine of limited reconciliation, you seem to have been driven to limiting sinners only to Israel: only Israel has broken covenant with God, and only faithful (??!) Israel can be (or even needs) reconciling to God! (“The reconciliation that needed to be performed was between God and faithful Israel.”)
Or put another way: by trying to limit atonement (or reconciliation) only to a limited spiritual elect, you have been driven to claim that only they need reconciliation: as though the ‘non-elect’ have no need for it! Yet even though to do this you have to apply a letter to Hebrews, speaking to Hebrews (instead of to Gentiles), as though its precepts were uniquely limiting to Hebrews (instead of also applying in principle to Gentiles, for whom Israel was supposed to be a light from God), you still find that there has to be a distinction between Hebrews who need and shall receive reconciliation and those who do not. (A distinction Paul outright denies, as well as outright denying some special distinction between Hebrews and Gentiles other than that Gentiles shall be grafted into Israel and into her promises.) Who are the Hebrews then who need and shall have it?–since after all the covenant was made with all Israel and all Israel has broken the covenant. By that logic (which Paul actually agrees with, though he extends out beyond Israel according to the flesh) it is all the Hebrews who need it and all who shall have it. But then there is no distinction of salvation offered and accomplished by God! Who shall have it then?–Israel who is faithful or Israel who is unfaithful? Well, who needs it? Obviously it would be unfaithful Israel, since if there was any faithful Israel then they wouldn’t be adulterers in the first place and so have no need of reconciliation with their husband (as you seem to understand clearly enough sometimes). How then can you possibly get to the statement that it is faithful Israel who needs and shall receive reconciliation?!
It sure looks as though you are setting up and arriving at a theology where people somehow create their own election by repenting unto faithfulness, thus signing up to need reconciliation, which God in response to their righteousness then provides. Because if God was instead leading them to repentance, then He would be doing the reconciliation of them from the outset before they even had repented; their repentance would be in response to His action to reconcile them to Himself.
That last sentence is what Calvs and Arms, each in their own way, actually affirm, formally speaking; and I certainly agree they are correct to do so. But to claim that it is faithful spiritual Israel who (in her faithfulness) needs and thus receives reconciliation, goes completely against what either Calvinists or Arminians formally teach; it also, I am quite sure, goes against scriptural teaching (including St. Paul, whom you’ve been quoting from extensively.)
Would it not be better instead to believe that those who need and so receive reconciliation are those who are the faithless rebels?–so that they shall be led to be righteous and faithful instead? Was it the healthy, i.e. the faithful (whoever they are!), for whom Christ came?–or was it for the sick? And was He not rebuking someone when He said that He had come not for the healthy but for the sick?
(And were the Pharisees He was rebuking not also sick, even though they tried to claim instead that they were not blind? But what were the Pharisees teaching among the people–what was the reason for the whole existence of their party in the first place? To call the people to repentance so that God would then decide to send the Messiah to save them.)
By that logic, the great mass of people must not need saving from sin, thus also not from God’s punishment, wrath, judgment etc. Because, by this logic, they have no adverse relationship with God.
By contrast, I believe the great mass of people–by which I happen to mean ALL PEOPLE–are sinners against God, who have fallen short of, and so also are wanting, the glory of God. I think this is a key moral truth; and I find (and so believe) it to be taught in the scriptures; and not incidentally I also find that most Calvinistic and Arminianistic theologians (whether Protestant or otherwise) teach this, too. (Well, Calvinists don’t typically teach that we all need the saving grace of God, reconciling us to God; because then they would have to also combine that with the persistence of God in salvation. And they know very well where that is going to lead. But to their credit, they do most often affirm and teach the doctrine of total depravity. It even has its own letter in the TULIP! )
But to be a sinner against God, obviously involves being in an adverse relationship with God. And you do seem to see clearly enough what God could be expected to do, or to have already done, in the world concerning such a situation.
Which would explain why you are going to such an effort to try to deny that the great mass of people have an adverse relationship with God (instead of affirming that all of us do.)
Meanwhile, good luck trying to suss out how my belief in universal original sin counts as some kind of anti-Christian humanism…
I agree; though Paul also teaches that, in another way, it isn’t completed yet. “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as of God entreating through us. We are beseeching for Christ’s sake, ‘Be reconciled to God!!’” (2Cor 5:20) In fact he puts it both ways back through verse 18: on one hand God reconciles the world to Himself through Christ, giving us the dispensation of the reconciliation–an already completed event–and on the other hand He entreats and beseeches through us as His ambassadors for people to be reconciled to God–an event to be completed. The word of the reconciliation which He places in us is of both a completed event and an event to be completed.
(Obviously you know of verse 18; not unsurprisingly, you didn’t go on to verse 20. Did you at least quote the scope of the reconciliation?–I think you skipped verse 19, too. It does not read that God was reconciling only faithful Israel to Himself, or only Israel at all… )
Well, it isn’t like you have the excuse of not having been right on top of it when Scrip-reffing.
As it happens, some universalists only hold that reconciliation will be accomplished by God; and some only hold (though you don’t realize it, having not studied enough) that reconciliation has been accomplished by God. And then some of us, like myself, read verses 18-20 instead of only 18 or only 20.
(Very roughly speaking, Calvs by comparison tend to read only verse 18, and Arms by comparison tend only to read verse 20. I think they both have a good case. That might be because I came from a congregation and a convention that respects both Calv and Arm theologians. But there are universalists who were once Calvinistic and stayed Calvinistic; and universalists who were once Calvinistic and went to being Arminianistic instead; and universalists who have done one or the other coming out of Arminianism. So it isn’t surprising that there is such a spread.)
Well I don’t think I have heard the universality of original sin described that way before (even by liberal theologians!) But, ooooookay, if you think that’s wishful thinking or sheer speculation on my part… Not real sure how I could convince you otherwise it isn’t.
I do hope I can convince you that my belief in universal reconciliation is directly connected to my belief that all have been shut up into stubbornness, though; even if you think that belief of mine has no scriptural basis (or even any logical basis from principle analysis) but is only wishful thinking or sheer speculation instead.
Apparently you don’t realize you’re talking to the guy who in recent months hunted up all NT refs to atonement/reconciliation and to propitiation, and wrote them down for reference sake in a couple of forum posts. (But admittedly it wasn’t, at that time, for the sake of grounding universalism exegetically from them. That’s because most of us already realize they amount to universal salvation; we were discussing penal substitution at the time.)
In any case, I’m obviously more conversant in the contexts (and even in the particular details) of the verses you quoted than you are. In fact, I think I may have reffed more reconciliation texts than you did!–I am not the one who didn’t refer to the reconciliation verses immediately after 2Cor 5:18; and I am not the one who ignored the verses on reconciliation immediately prior to Col 1:21. Each of which, not incidentally, goes far beyond some limited selection of ‘spiritual Israel’ (and certainly isn’t about how the faithful are the ones who need reconciliation!) Nor am I the one who has ignored the scope of sin and of salvation in the verses immediately after Rom 5:11 where, summing up later in v.18: “Consequently, then, as it was through one offense into all mankind, into condemnation, thus also it is through one just (act) into all mankind, into life’s justifying. For even as, through the disobedience of the one person, the many were appointed sinners, thus also, through the obedience of the One, the many shall be appointed just.”
And why? Because where sin exceeds, grace hyper-exceeds. For not as the sin, is the grace. *
Yes, you dittoed it there, too (as usual. Which I’m not complaining about, btw. )
However, when you pm’d me this exact same piece, it was under the heading of “Final Thoughts on UR…” as a reply to that thread.
This is why I thought at first it was actually supposed to be a real pm to me, since this post certainly didn’t show up anywhere on the “Final Thoughts” threads (either of them). I only learned recently (while catching up with your numerous posts in various places) that you had actually just posted it as a blanket publicly.
As it happens, the time stamps clarify that you posted it here first, then pm’d it to me as though it was a reply to the FT thread instead.
Anyway, as I said when I pm’d my reply back: if this was actually a public post somewhere, I would post my reply there whenifever I found it (or if you would tell me where it was at–obviously not in the FT threads).
I found it! So, there it is for public consumption, too.