To be a useful disciple, one of the concepts with which we need to be familiar is the biblical difference between “reconciliation” and “restoration.” In the biblically cosmic sense, reconciliation is bringing the broken creation – including our souls – back into a right relationship with God, and in a sense, back into the relationships with God that he intended in creation. The Bible speaks of this transaction clearly in Colossians 1:20 -
…and through him to reconcile all things unto himself, having made peace through the blood of his cross; through him, (I say), whether things upon the earth, or things in the heavens. Col. 1:20 ASV
Scripture also speaks of this cosmic act as a one time transaction that was done once and was sufficient to bring complete balance between the broken creation and its creator. (See Hebrews 7:27, 9:12, 10:10 and Jude 3) There are many passages and commentaries that speak of this “once for all” transaction.
One implication of this truth is that the legal transaction of reconciliation between broken creation – including man – and God is completed. What is not completed is restoration from brokenness to shalom (completeness). Restoration is a process that began at the Cross and will continue until Christ returns as King and his making of all things “new.” As Jesus’ disciples, there is nothing we can do in this biblical sense of reconciliation. That has been done by God in the shedding of Christ’s blood on the cross – a once for all transaction.
What we do is not reconciliation in the biblical sense. However, Jesus’ disciples are to be ambassadors of that good news of God’s reconciliation, and we are to be laborers in the work of restoration – working from the brokenness (the vandalism caused by sin) of creation toward that ultimate shalom of God’s compassionate loving intentions.
Why is this important? I think there are several reasons. Understanding this difference helps to clarify several issues including:
- Ultimate reconciliation is God’s work not ours.
- Our work is not salvation but laboring for the fruit of reconciliation – restoration toward wholeness
- We have the incredible privilege and responsibility of working with God, in the power of the Holy Spirit, in the processes that lead to shalom.
How do we “do” the task of restoration? We meet the criteria God has established in his design for our living. That “how” is articulated in God’s instructions for how we are to live. Two of the primary locations of these instructions are found in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20) and in their summary, The Great Commandment. The relationship between living according to God’s instructions and restoration is explained in 2 Chronicles 7:14 which tells us that the healing (restoration) we anticipate and desire is brought about by a partnership between God and the people who are called by His Name. This can be stated this way: God’s people repent for not doing his will and then live the way he instructs them to live. In turn, God forgives their disobedience and then heals-restores the results of sickness caused by sin. In a formula, the same principle could be shown as: Repentance + Living as God instructs -> Forgiveness + Healing.