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What Is Conciliation?

27-09-2006 - Posted by Andre Piet

Only in Paul’s letters we find the word “conciliation”. Very often the word is confused with ‘propitiaton’ (Hebr. kaphar), which is a quite tentative translation. The real meaning of the Hebrew word is ‘covering’ or ‘making shelter’. Sins are covered, enemies conciliated. That’s a big difference! References are mostly from the Concordant Version, which makes an clear distinction between the original words. In other occurrences the references are from the King James. 1 Corinthians 7 is the only chapter (out of 6) where conciliation is spoken of, within “everyday life” human relations. It’s about a woman leaving her husband and that she should remain unmarried and try to conciliate with her husband.
1 Cor 7:11

We are used to thinking that eating of the forbidden fruit in the garden of Eden, was disobedience, which is correct. But why were men disobedient? What was the cause of that disobedience? It was this: they believed the serpent, who characterized God as hostile (“…..God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened…..”). Since that lie, mankind distrusted God. All religions are based on fear for a hostile God. God must be conciliated (satisfied), that is the idea in every religion. But that thought is, in fact the very essence of the alienation!
Gen 3:5

Most atheists are afraid that God is hostile. The existence of evil in the world (the suffering, pain, death and so on), motivates them in that thought. By reasoning God out of the picture, they suppress that fear.

Nowhere does scripture say that God was or had to be conciliated. On the contrary, men and the world are being conciliated to God, not the other way round. God has never been hostile to man(kind) at any time.

Romans 5:10: “… we were conciliated to God…
2 Corinthians 5:18: “…conciliating the world to Himself…
2 Corinthians 5:19: “…God, Who conciliates us to Himself…”

Starting at the garden of Eden, God is blamed for being hostile. When God would find it sufficient to make an end to sinners, the echo of that accusation would still remain. If an accusation is the reason of hostility and alienating, then there is only one way to end hostilities: refute the accusation! Only by the convincing evidence of His love, God can win the hearts of the alienated men. Or: conciliate the world to Himself.

In Romans 12 we read:
“… If your enemy should be hungering, give him the morsel; if he should be thirsting, give him to drink, for in doing this you will be heaping embers of fire on his head.”
This verse shows beautifully how conciliation works. It is impossible to maintain hostilities, if your “adversary” gives you food when you are hungry. When your enemy is vulnerable and helpless, the ideal ocassion arises, to dismantle its hostility. That is exactly what God is doing. He gives life (bread, drink), to a hostile and starving world.
Roman 12:20

The word for “conciliating” in Greek (katallasso) is composed out of two words “down” and “change”. The idea is that he who conciliates, hembles himself before the other. Paul writes that someone might have the courage to die for a righteous person. That already is a very good deed. But God goes much further. He lets His Son die for ungodly and sinners. That is the proof of His love.
Romans 5:7,8

In orthodox theology it is said that, God must be conciliated. Calvin wrote: “God has been an enemy to men (…) God the Father is, through Christ’s sacrifice, satisfied and conciliated; His wrath has, by this Mediator been appeased”. In this presentation God is the enemy and Christ is The One that functioned as “the lightning conductor” warding off Gods wrath.

In Romans 11:15 Paul writes: “….For if their casting away is the conciliation of the world, what will the taking back be if not life from among the dead?
“Their casting away” is about the Jews who as a people are enemies of the Gospel. They are not enemies of God. In the book of Acts we read how Jerusalem rejects the Gospel of the risen Messiah. And all this very officially when the Sanhedrin stoned Stephen. The name Stephen means “crown” and designates the preaching that the King, was about to return. Thatt is why Stephen saw Jesus standing on the righthand of God…. But Israël rejected this Gospel and at that occasion Saul of Tarsus comes in the picture. He watches over the garments that the leaders temporarily laid aside at his feet. How illustrative! The garment stands for glory in the Bible. And now by rejecting the Gospel, Israël laid aside its glory.. Temporarily the glory comes to Saul from the gentile city of Tarsus. The message of the unveiling of the Kingdom makes place (temporarily) for the message of Paul. The conciliation of the world, is the current Gospel on this present day. Even though (especially by christendom) it is rejected and execrated.

Romans 11:15,28 (“..As to the evangel, indeed, they are enemies because of you. ..”);
Acts 7:56-58; the garments as an image of glory: (among others) Gen 37:3, Joshua 7:21, 1 Sam 15:27-28, Ezra 9:3

For the love of Christ is constraining us, judging this, that, if One died for the sake of all, consequently all died…“, Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5. Why did He die? From human perspective Christ died as a victim of hostility. But from Gods perspective Christ died… to be risen. (“… the One dying and being roused for their sakes…). Through Adam death became part of all of humanity. Through Christ, the last Adam, that same humanity receives the Life.
2 Cor 5:14-15, 1 Cor 15:22

How does God conciliate the world to Himself? Paul gives the answer: “…God was in Christ, conciliating the world to Himself, not reckoning their offenses to them...”. The world convicted Jesus illegitimately, they beat Him, scourged Him, mocked Him, nailed Him to the wood, etc. But from the cross He said: “Father, forgive them, for they are not aware what they are doing…”. Indeed they did not know what they were doing. But God knew what He was doing. He gave His Son over to give the ultimate proof of His love. He was not reckoning their offenses to them, because this is His way to give humanity Life! And so God heaps coals of fire on the head of a hostile world.

2 Corinthians 5:19 (‘paraptoma’ literally means: beside falls. It is a ’trip’. Romans 11:11 illustrates this clearly. The word ’transgression’, as in Romans 4:15 is a different Greek word and has to do with things that are forbidden by law); Luke 23:34, Romans 12:20

Undoubtedly, the clearest illustration of conciliation we find is in the history of Josef, who, of course, is a type of Christ. Loved by his father, rejected by his brothers, ending up in a well (symbolically a grave), thought dead by Jacob, he stays hidden outside the country and reaches a position at the top of society. Then, driven by starvation the brothers of Josef come to Egypt and Josef gives them bread… After a lot of going back and forth, Josef reveils himself to them and says to his totally stunned brothers:
“…Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life (…) And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God…”
Josef did not attribute the offences of his brothers, because it was through their offence that God saved them. God had complete control (into each detail) of the entire story.

Christ had to be crucified. It was “by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God”. God needed the darkest background (the cross) to prove His indisputable love once and for all.
Luke 24:26, Acts 2:23

The worst twisting of conciliating is from orthodox Christianity. To them God is an enemy who demands satisfaction. The suffering on Golgotha is the pay back (=attributing the offences) in which God found appeasement and was conciliated.
But God is not an enemy; He never was. At the cross there was not payment to God but by God.

At Golgotha God was not conciliated but God was conciliating the world to Him. The cross is Gods instrument to conciliate the world to Him. The conciliation is completed when there is no enemy left and every tongue cheers, to the glory of God the Father.
2 Corinthians 5:19, Philippians 2:11

In the prison letters Paul uses a word for conciliating, that is found nowhere else in Greek literature: ‘apo-katallasso‘. Literally: from-conciliating (Concordant Version: reconciliation). In Ephesians 2 Paul writes that God, takes away hostility between Jews and heathens (illustrated by the soreq, the middle wall of partition on the temple square). “…making peace; and (…) reconciling both in one body to God through the cross, killing the enmity in it …”. So not only conciliating with God but also conciliation to each other. That is ‘apo-katallasso ‘.
Ephesians 2:14-15

In Colossians 1:20 we read in most translations:”…having made peace through the blood of his cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself…”. But: “having made peace” is in the aorist-form, meaning a timeless verb form. Aorist means: without horizon. God did not make peace through the blood of the cross (as if finished) – He makes peace through the blood of the cross. This is: through the cross, God conciliates all to Himself. The cross demonstrates a love to which all hostility will end!
Colossians 1:20

With the prospect of conciliation of all, believers are they, who are already conciliated (vertically and horizontally). They have already “acknowledged the grace of God in truth”.
Colossians 1:21, 1:6

Apo-katallasso‘ in Colossians 1:20 points both at vertical conciliation (“the all unto Himself”) as to horizontal conciliation (all enemies unto each other). And note also the comprehensive effect of the cross, not only conciliating all enemies on earth but also those in the heavens, including all hostile principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness of this world, spiritual wickedness in high places. God doesn’t conciliate a bit, nor a lot, but “the all“!
Colossians 1:20, Ephesians 6:12