Studies in the Epistle to the Colossians Part IV: From Enmity to Amity -- By: S. Lewis Johnson, Jr.

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 119:474 (Apr 1962)
Article: Studies in the Epistle to the Colossians Part IV: From Enmity to Amity
Author: S. Lewis Johnson, Jr.

Studies in the Epistle to the Colossians
Part IV:
From Enmity to Amity

S. Lewis Johnson, Jr.

Vincent Taylor has said: “The best New Testament word to describe the purpose of the Atonement is Reconciliation.”1 While many, no doubt, would like to debate this verdict—support could be easily mustered for justification, or salvation—few, if any, would care to dismiss the subject of reconciliation as unimportant for New Testament theology. Reconciliation is of vital concern both for doctrinal clarity and pulpit vitality. Dwight L. Moody’s preaching was colored for a time by the unscriptural notion that God did not love sinners. Through Henry Moorhouse, a young Brethren preacher, who spoke in Moody’s church for an entire week on the one text, John 3:16, Moody learned of the love of God for sinners, and it transformed his ministry. The hymn’s chorus has a message for all who desire to preach in the Pauline tradition,

“Sing it o’er and o’er again;
Christ receiveth sinful men;
Make the message clear and plain;
Christ receiveth sinful men.”

Add to these thoughts the fact that Paul referred to his vocation as “the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:18), and we are able to begin to grasp the vital significance of this truth.

In the face of the obvious importance of the doctrine of reconciliation, it is somewhat surprising to find so much fuzzy thinking about it. One is not so surprised to find hymn writers confused about the doctrine, because they are notoriously deficient in preciseness of theological thinking. For example, we often are forced to sing this piece of questionable

theology from Charles Wesley’s “Arise, My Soul, Arise”:

My God is reconciled,
His pardoning voice I hear;
He owns me for His child,
I can no longer fear:
With confidence I now draw nigh,
And ‘Father, Abba, Father!’ cry,
And ‘Father, Abba, Father!’ cry.”

But one is startled to discover the same doctrinal aberration in Article II of the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion of the Church of England. Here we read in the midst of an otherwise excellent statement that the eternal Son, the Word of the Father, very God and very Man, was crucified “to reconcile His Father to us.”2

Just what is Paul’s teaching on reconciliation? What are its leading features? While not every facet of the New Testament doctr...

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