In my continuation of Walter Marshall’s book, The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification, I look at his chapter on reconciliation and the role it plays in sanctification.
Direction Two: Several endowments and qualifications are necessary to enable us for the immediate practice of the law. Particularly we must have an inclination and propensity of our hearts thereunto; and therefore we must be well persuaded of our reconciliation with God, and of our future enjoyment of the everlasting heavenly happenings, and of sufficient strength both to will and perform all duties acceptably, until we come to the enjoyment of that happiness.
Reconciliation is an often floated word, but seemingly without real understanding of its significance and implications. Simply defined, reconciliation is the bringing together of two or more parties. The idea is that some sort of disunity has taken root and reconciliation is needed for relational restoration.
Reconciliation can be either superficial or profound. If reconciliation is merely saying sorry and no further, then it is incredibly superficial and its lasting effect will be very short lived. If, on the other hand, reconciliation is profound, then it is filled with prayer, confession, repentance, forgiveness, sorrow and pardon for sin, assurance of faith, and complete restoration because it rests upon the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. This kind of reconciliation, which is the heart of the gospel, is eternal.
Augustine believed that reconciliation is impossible if one continues to defend their own sins. Calvin believed reconciliation to be the sum of the gospel message (2 Cor. 5:18-21) and without end.
Moreover, the message of free reconciliation with God is not promulgated for one or two days, but is declared to be perpetual in the Church, (2Co 5: 18, 19). Hence believers have not even to the end of life any other righteousness than that which is there described. Christ ever remains a Mediator to reconcile the Father to us, and there is a perpetual efficacy in his death, viz., ablution, satisfaction, expiation; in short, perfect obedience, by which all our iniquities are covered. In the Epistle to the Ephesians, Paul says not that the beginning of salvation is of grace, but “by grace are ye saved,” “not of works, lest any man should boast,” (Eph 2: 8, 9). – John Calvin, Institutes
Furthermore, we can be assured that the reconciliation we have to God by virtue of Christ’s saving work is quite profound. How do we know this? Reconciliation in Christ allows those who were once God’s enemies (Rom. 5:10) to be adopted into his family (Rom. 8:14), given his inheritance (Rom. 8:17), granted a room in his dwelling place (John 14:2), a seat at his table (Luke 14:1-24), and called by his name (2 Chron. 7:14). This is how we know that the reconciliation Christ affords is deeply and eternally profound.
This kind of profound reconciliation affects man’s entire being. Marshall writes,
God restores His people to holiness, by giving to them ‘a new heart, and a new spirit, and taking away the heart of stone out of their flesh’ (Ezek. 36:26-27); and He circumcises their hearts to love Him with their whole heart and soul.
Justification in Christ leads to complete transformation of heart and spirit. Reconciliation and justification are intimately related, which is why Marshall seeks to impress upon his readers the importance of unfettered security in the gospel.
The second endowment necessary to enable us for the immediate practice of holiness…is that we be well persuaded of our reconciliation with God. We must reckon that the breach of amity, which sin has made between God and us, is made up by a firm reconciliation to His love and favour. And in this I include the great benefit of justification, as the means by which we are reconciled to God, which is described in Scripture, either by forgiving our sins, or by the imputation of righteousness to us (Rom. 4:5-7)…
The amazing and loving reconciliation we have to God through Christ is founded upon God’s love first granted to us. Only then can we be free to love God.
Observe here that we cannot be beforehand with God in loving Him, before we apprehend His love to us.
I love Marshall’s treatment of the doctrine of reconciliation in this chapter. He provides a much needed depth to reconciliation, which is founded on the atoning work of the Savior.
In his next chapter, Marshall addresses fullness and fellowship with Christ.