Reconciliation as Described by Paul
By George F. Howe
In biblical Greek, large words sometimes consist of smaller ones linked together. The meaning of the larger word has a direct relationship to the smaller ones in it, but can also connote new dimensions not entirely delineated by the conjunction. This is true in English and many other languages as well. Three rather long Greek words can be dissected to see what their parts imply and what they themselves mean: katallassō, apokatallassō, and katallagē. In the transliterated Greek words here, the Greek letters omega and eta are symbolized by ō and ē respectively, while o stands for omicron and e for epsilon.
katallassō. “Reconcile” is this verb’s overall meaning. Its two parts are kata (down) and allassō (change.) The word “reconcile” involves a “down-changing” because there is much within each human that is in need of being changed and brought down in order that the individual may be made one with God.
Two of katallassō’s five appearances in the Bible occur in Romans 5:10: “For if being enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much rather having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” Reconciling occurred while we were enemies of God. The special salvation afforded only to believers should not cause people to deny this reconciliation of unbelievers being discussed in Romans 5. Christ’s death was for the ungodly or impious ones (5:6) and was accomplished when all were “weak” (5:6.) This Romans 5 reconciliation was effected by one righteous act (verse 18), which will bring life’s justification into all people. Often believers pray or sing thanking God that Christ died for their sin (“our sin,” “my sin,” etc.). While there is nothing wrong with this, we ought also fervently thank God that Christ died for the sins of the whole cosmos, for everyone, as the Bible so often tells us! Let us not be fearful to praise God for the vast scope of what He has done for all humanity.
Once a person has been down-changed (reconciled) a continuing process of salvation starts, according to Paul. When Christ begins living His life through us (vs. 10) “…we shall be saved by His life.” God said much the same thing through Paul in Philippians 2:12b wherein believers are told to “work out” their own salvation because God works in them to work and to will according to His good pleasure.
Paul stated that “reconciliation” (katallassō) was enacted by God, through Jesus Christ: “…God…Who has reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ…” II Corinthians 5:19. God had to handle the task because the people needing reconciliation are unable and unwilling to make the changes necessary in themselves.
The word “world” In II Corinthians 5:19 (“God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself”) shows that God will ultimately reconcile all those who have ever lived, including those who died outside of Him—something that is to be accomplished in God’s own timing. If the people who die in a lost condition were not ultimately reconciled, then the whole world would not be reconciled, indicating that verse 19 was not be fulfilled. The unthinkable would have taken place (the impossible): one of God’s promises would have gone unfulfilled! According to Joshua 28:14 not one of God’s good promises will ever fail.
The reconciling of dead lost
people is not a “purgatory” in which sinful believers are purified by their own
suffering. Instead, it is a mysterious
scheme of atonement in which God will bring unrepentant people to full trust in
Christ. It is not altogether “mysterious” in light of what happened to Saul of
Tarsus in an instant when he confronted Christ on the
Paul was led to beseech and beg people, on behalf of Christ, to “…be reconciled (katallassō) to God” II Corinthians 5:20. The Creator provided reconciliation on behalf of each person and then prompted the human to respond favorably. He does this for His own chosen Jewish Nation, for all of them are going to be saved (Romans 11:26a) and also for all the scattered children of God—that He might gather them together into one, as John reported (John 11:52). He is, of course, “…God and Father of all…” (Ephesians 4:6), the Father “of whom all is” (I Corinthians 8:6), and the Father of compassions (II Corinthians 1:3).
apokatallassō. This is a similar Greek word in which apo indicates “from” or “away from,” emphasizing the need of sinful people to be reconciled from their evil status. It is an intense word, showing that reconciliation involves a movement away from elements that would prevent the demolition needed for a person to interface with the holy God.
The word is used in Colossians 1:20: “and through Him to reconcile the all into Him, making peace by the blood of the cross; through Him, whether on the earth or in the heavens.” Through Christ’s blood, God will somehow make peace for all. This verse is one of the most direct Bible passages teaching the ultimate reconciliation of all people. Colossians 1:20 should be memorized by all believers! Yet sermons are seldom preached on Colossians 1:20 and it is often ignored. It is often misinterpreted to protect the orthodox proposition that people who die outside of Christ will languish forever in hell, separated from God. Yet the great Christian spokesman Dr. G. Campbell Morgan preached and wrote about this verse extensively and excerpts of his essays available on request. Let those who truly believe that ALL scripture is God-breathed humbly acknowledge the error of eternal punishment and embrace the total reconciliation of Colossians 1:20.
Many religions teach that
people need some kind to a self-enacted “up-change” to be acceptable to
God. On the contrary, the Bible teaches
that they need to be “down-changed” and removed from elements preventing union
katallagē. The first two words in this series were verbs but katallagē is a noun meaning “reconciliation.” Reconciliation is an event figured by the atonement sacrifices of the Old Testament. The King James Version even used the word “atonement” to speak of Christ “…by whom we have now received the atonement [katallagē]” Romans 5:11. As a fulfillment of Old Testament blood sacrifices, Christ’s blood sacrifice was the key to reconciliation.
This noun form was also used
in Romans 11:15 to show that because people in