Irreconcilable differences is a common excuse for most divorces today. The differences are too great to overcome in the marriage. The prophet Hosea was commanded to endure a similar circumstance to understanding what God was dealing with because of the people’s sins. Hosea was married to a woman who was an adulteress, a prostitute. God was showing the faithlessness of the people who were full of sins.
“There is no faithfulness or steadfast love, and no knowledge of God in the land; there is swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and committing adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed.” (Hosea 4:1-2 ESV) “The more they increased, the more they sinned against me.” (Hosea 4:7 ESV) God has every right to reject humanity because of their sins. The statements in Hosea sound like a commentary on society today. Amazingly, God however did not put us away for irreconcilable differences, as he has the right to do. God instructed Hosea to take back his wife to represent the reconciliation that God desires to have with his people.
Who Are Reconciled? (1:21)
You were once alienated.Paul is writing about the condition of the Gentiles. People who were not part of the physical nation of Israel were outside the sphere of God’s blessings. They were alienated from the hope of Israel that salvation would come through the Messiah. Gentiles were not part of the covenant relationship. If the Law of Moses continued through today then we would be outside the covenant family of God. We would not be able to worship and serve God with the nearness and intimacy that the Jewish people had. We are distant, far away, and at arms length.
Hostile in mind.Not only were we distant from God because of our heritage, we are distant from God because of our actions.We are enemies in mind and heart against God. We are doing evil deeds, as the rest of verse 21 charges. Doing evil deeds results in our separation from God. To use similar language used by Paul, we all “lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind” (Ephesians 2:3).
We live in a culture that tells us to do what we want to do. We are told to do what makes us happy. Fulfill your desires. However, this is the problem according to God. We have made a mess of things. Paul said in Colossians 1:16 that all things were created for Christ. This world was not created so that our enjoyment of creation would be found in this world. Rather, everything exists to point to something greater beyond itself, that is, the Creator. We get stuck chasing the things of this world, which do not bring us lasting satisfaction, but we continue to pursue them anyway. So we buy into the lie that having more of the things that do not satisfy us will bring us lasting satisfaction. We have these things and we are not happy. So we think having more will now make us happy. We are lost in our foolish thinking. Creation was to direct us to God who satisfies, not into thinking that the creation will satisfy us. The things in this world are supposed to cause us to be thankful and worship God. Instead, we are carrying out the desires of our bodies and minds. We are enemies of God because of our actions. Rather than put us away for irreconcilable differences, notice what God does.
The Purpose of Reconciliation (1:22)
God has reconciled us. Rather than send us away God has reconciled. God’s reconciliation is restoring people to a right relationship with God. This restoration of the relationship occurred in Christ, “in the body of flesh by his death.” This is a really important statement that we cannot pass over too quickly. Paul emphasizes that Jesus was flesh and blood. Paul is emphasizing the true impact of Christ’s suffering. Jesus died! Paul does not say that God has reconciled by his death. Paul emphasizes that reconciliation occurred in his body of flesh by his death. Jesus had a body of flesh. He was in human form just like us. Earlier the apostle Paul emphasized the deity of Jesus. “He is the image of the invisible God” and “in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.” Jesus is fully God. Now Paul does not want us to get the wrong idea. Jesus was also human. While Jesus is God, he came in a human body and he was nailed to the cross. Paul emphasizes the physical nature of the sacrifice. What was done redemptively was done in the body and through the body.
The purpose of our reconciliation was “to present us holy and blameless and above reproach before him.” We have been set apart from sin and set apart to serve God. We are to be without blemish and free from accusation. The death of Christ has placed us in a special position before God. This imagery is prophesied by Zechariah.
Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. 4 And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.” 5 And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. (Zechariah 3:3–5 ESV)
We are presented before the Lord with clean clothing, set apart from sin and set apart for serving as priests of God. We are without blemish and without accusation because Christ has reconciled us through his death. As Gentiles we had no access to God. We were alienated. As sinners we had no access to God because we obey our passions and desires. God has restored the relationship. God has cleaned us up and transformed us so that we can have a relationship with him.
The Condition of Reconciliation (1:23)
Paul presents a conditional conclusion to this thought. We are reconciled to God and presented holy, blameless, and above reproach IF we continue in the faith. We remain in this blessed reconciled relationship if we continue in the faith. We must continue to choose to follow Jesus. We must continue to put Christ as first place in our lives. We must continue putting trust in Jesus which is shown in our obedience to his commands. Paul is calling for our faithfulness. Paul describes this faithfulness as “stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard.” Paul is picturing our lives built upon the foundation of Jesus and the word of God. Jesus described this foundation in Christ as building one’s lives on the rock (Matthew 7:25). Faithfulness to Christ to the end is essential in the Christian life. There is no value to starting strong but not finishing the journey with Christ. We need to hear the warning for faithfulness because once we leave it is extremely difficult to return.
For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. (Hebrews 6:4–6 ESV)
The writer of Hebrews says that there is great chance that you will not come back if you are not stable and steadfast in the faith. The writer says it so strongly that he says that other Christians will not be able to bring you back if you forfeit your faith. Notice that the paragraph began with the word, “For.” What is the writer trying to get us to do so that we are faithful until the end and complete the journey? Read the first three verses of chapter 6.
Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And this we will do if God permits. (Hebrews 6:1–3 ESV)
The writer is encouraging us to press forward toward maturity. We need to leave behind the basics of the scriptures and seek the deeper truths of God’s word. Christ must be central in our lives and our desire must be for his word for us to grow to maturity. We are approaching a new year. There are reading plans in the back to guide to read the scriptures every day. Commit yourself to read the scriptures every day so that you are not one who does not continue in the faith. Dedicate yourself to getting to know God deeper.
The Acts of the Reconciled (1:24-29)
Rejoicing in suffering.The thought of rejoicing in our sufferings always takes us by surprise. It simply is not a natural response to suffering. Yet the scriptures repeatedly remind us that we have cause for joy in the face of suffering. Our suffering is the inevitable accompaniment of the great commission. Those who go into all the world and proclaim the gospel are going to suffer for the cause of Christ. We must understand that Christ suffered and those who follow him and proclaim him will also suffer. Are you ready to suffer to share the good news? Or will our fear and comforts prevent us from proclaiming?
Making the word of God fully known.Our mission is the same as the apostle Paul. We make the word of God fully known to the world. Our preaching and teaching accomplishes the purpose God has for his word. God’s word was intended to be proclaimed and shared. Who do you know that needs to hear the good news of reconciliation?
Christ in you.Verse 27 shows the ultimate reality of reconciliation. Christ in us, the hope of glory. Christ cannot dwell in us when we are continue to follow the desires and passions of our hearts. When we are continuing in the faith, stable and steadfast, then Christ is united to us and we have a relationship with him. Gatorade had a commercial with the tag line, “Is it in you?” Paul asks us a more important question. Is Christ in you? Your lifestyle reveals if he is living in you or not.
Proclaiming Jesus.It is not enough to only be an example. No one will be saved by our Christian examples alone. We must open our mouths and proclaim Jesus to save souls. No one can know the gospel message without our proclamation. We proclaim Jesus, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom. We are growing to maturity in Christ through warning and teaching one another. It is a responsibility that all of us have. There are many who need to hear the warning. Who will you warn to save their souls from the coming wrath?
Toiling with Christ’s energy.Our energy comes from Christ. This is not some sort of mystical statement that Christ somehow infuses us with a new power or new energy. The point Paul is making is simple. When you see what God has done through Christ for us, that becomes your motivation and energy to rejoice in suffering, proclaim Jesus to the lost, warning everyone until we are all mature in Christ. Plug into the energy of Christ by reminding yourself each day about the restored relationship we have through Christ. This reconciliation is completely undeserved and has come to us only through the love that God has for us.