Those readers who have followed closely the series 'The Greek Scriptures—Historically Considered,' and the many other associated articles, over the past fifteen years, will have perceived that many, long established and accepted teachings have been shown up as thoroughly misleading and false.
In particular is this so regarding the teaching that Acts is supposed to be a record of the re-offer of the 'kingdom' to Israel, and its final rejection by a group of representative Jews in Rome, referred to in Acts 28.
Now that this error has been well and truly exploded, the Greek Scriptures must seem to many, a NEW book. With the destruction of the many artificial schemes of interpretation built upon the 'frontier theory,' it becomes clear that other teachings closely connected with this theory, call for a reappraisal.
One such is the 'Conciliation.' This, it is claimed, constitutes a special ministry, peculiar to the apostle Paul and his associates.
The Greek term 'katallassO' which the C.V. renders in English by conciliate or conciliation, has been claimed to teach that God is now at peace with the world because He has 'conciliated' it to Himself.
As was recently pointed out, in correspondence with Mr. Bramwell Saywell, Canada, the basic meaning of the Greek term is undoubtedly that of a 'cutting-off' or 'severance,' which naturally involves a change. In harmony with this, the C.V. uses the elements, 'Down-change' for katallassO, and 'from-down-change' for the longer term apokatallassO. The late Mr. Alexander Thomson suggested DOWN-ALONG CHANGE and 'FROM-DOWN-ALONG-CHANGE' as being nearer the correct meaning, thus indicating that the change was a thorough-going one; a DOWNRIGHT change.
We may well ask whether these terms are ever used concerning God to denote a change in His attitude toward man, or if they refer to a change in man's relationship toward God.
To this may be asked the further question: Is there any indication that God, in this era, is dealing with anyone other than His saints?
In this connection, Mr. Thomson suggested that we ought to render II. Cor. 5:19, as follows: "God was in Christ conciliating a world to Himself." He stated: "We may not read THE world here. Conciliate is a transitive verb, therefore takes an object which must be affected by the action of the verb. What happens to the World when conciliation affects it? Just nothing, except that a few people here and there, are DOWN-ALONG CHANGED, towards God. The C.V. uses the word CONCILIATE in a different sense, of God BEING conciliated. But how is the world conciliated? The world as a whole is not conciliated as it knows nothing about the divine transaction involved. But there is a DOWN-ALONG-CHANGE going on in the world for all that."
II. Cor. 5:16-17 is all about a marvellous change which has come about upon those who are new creatures in Christ Jesus. These are they of whom it is said that God is not imputing to them their trespasses. It is extremely doubtful whether the term 'KatallassO' ever bears the meaning 'conciliate' as used in the C.V. The obvious sense in I. Cor. 7:11 is that the separated wife should be RECONCILED (reunited) to her husband, not merely CONCILlATED.
Allied to the claim that the 'conciliation' is a special ministry committed to the Apostle Paul and his associates, is the unfortunate translation of the Greek term 'presbus' by the English word 'ambassador.' Readers will recall the most illuminating paper, 'Are You An Ambassador?' by Mr. Thomson, in the October, 1952, issue of The Differentiator, Vol. 14, NO.5, pp. 223-227, where it is clearly shown that neither Paul nor any of his contemporaries was an ambassador in the modern sense. (See also the article by Mr. D. W. Osgood, in the September, 1951, issue of 'Theopneustos').
Mr. Thomson wrote: "The importance of this lies in the fact that some teach that God will, like human governments, withdraw His ambassadors from the earth ere He declares war upon it." This teaching pre-supposes that the 'conciliation' and the 'reign of grace'—considered as synonymous—will cease with the rapture of the church, the body of Christ.
Two reigns are contrasted in Romans 5. The reign of sin, issuing in death, through the unrighteousness of Adam, and the reign of life eonian, by grace, through righteousness, by our Lord Jesus Christ. As it is necessary to be 'in Adam' to share in the sin and death, so it is necessary to be 'in Christ' to be an enjoyed of the grace His reign brings. The Grace and the Truth, came with Jesus Christ. John 1:17. With the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, Satan's kingdom suffered an invasion from which it has never recovered, nor ever will. Into the sphere where sin reigned in death, came the LORD of LIFE, from Whose presence disease and death fled at His word of command. On Calvary, what was seeming defeat, became the scene of our Lord's greatest triumph; the gateway for the outflow of that Grace which was first heralded by the angels at His birth.
When the Lord came to His own, they received Him not. A remnant believed, but the rest were 'blinded.' Thus the asidefall of Israel became "nations' riches," or "Gentiles' riches" (Romans 11:12). There is no definite article here nor in verse 15, where we ought to read: "world-conciliation." But the 'aside-fall' of Israel does not become riches to the WHOLE world necessarily. We should read it adjectivaly, "world-riches" or, "world-enrichment." Indirectly, perhaps, the world has benefited, but the whole world is by no means evangelised or enriched.
What then is WORLD-CONCILlATION, but the EXTENSION of the glad-tidings with all its possibilities, beyond the narrow limits of Israel, reaching out to embrace ALL NATIONS. With the 'casting-away' of Israel, the scope of the evangel became WORLD-WIDE.
The DOWN-ALONG-CHANGE which began in Israel on those who believed, has gone on steadily throughout the age, among those of the nations, the CALLABLE, who have laid hold upon the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ and acknowledged Him as their Saviour.
All along God has left the nations to walk in their own ways. He is still doing so. There is absolutely no reason to suppose that in world-conciliation, God is acting upon the whole world in any transitive sense. It is the saints upon whom He acts. We see, from II. Cor. 5:19, that God was in Christ, conciliating-world to Himself, not reckoning THEIR offenses to THEM. Whose? Does THEIR and THEM refer to the WORLD? The plural pronouns which follow the singular term World, indicates plainly that Paul has in mind individuals, rather than the world as a whole.
God is not conciliating the whole world, and will therefore have no need to 'reverse' His attitude when He declares war upon it.
There is no vestige of Scriptural evidence to support the claim that the DOWN-ALONG-CHANGE which God wrought in Christ, was ineffective ". . . until it was evident that the renewed offer of the kingdom to Israel would be refused"—(U.R. No. I, Volume XVIII., Page 42—year 1927).
When the basis for it was laid—the death of God's Son—it went into operation immediately. It was the burden of the message of the Twelve. A rich harvest of believers had been enjoying the grace of God for many years out of Israel and from among the Gentiles, long before Paul reached Rome. As he then informed the company of Jews who had come to hear him, the Gentiles had been hearing the glad tidings for themselves long since, whereas, the nation of Israel had fulfilled, a generation earlier, the prediction of Isaiah centuries before.
Not until the fulness of the Gentiles may be entering will there be any healing for Israel and the setting up of their promised kingdom in the earth.
And later still, in eons yet future, the reign of Christ will go on ever widening its borders until All sin's victims are freed, and as a final enemy, death itself is made of none effect.
M. A. Meredith Last updated 9.10.2008