The word reconcile means to restore a relationship or cause to coexist in harmony. Reconciliation is needed for mankind because of sin. Reconciliation is provided for mankind on the basis of Christ's sacrifice on the cross. In the 1st chapter of Colossians, we learn some things about this reconciliation that is made possible on the basis of Christ's death on the cross.
1. Reconciliation means peace with God. (Colossians 1:19-20)
For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. (Colossians 1:19-20 NASB)
God is going to reconcile all things to Himself and He is going to do it through Jesus Christ. This is why all the fullness of Deity had to dwell in Him. This is why He had to be the God-man. That is the only way Christ’s sacrifice could make atonement for sin and reconcile all things back to the Father.
Verses 19-20 state that Christ's death made peace with God.
Why was peace needed?
There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one. Their throat is an open grave, with their tongues they keep deceiving, the poison of asps is under their lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; their feet are swift to shed blood, destruction and misery are in their paths, and the path of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes. (Romans 3:10-18 NASB)
We are sinners. We are born “in the flesh.” We are enemies of God and hostile towards God as we will also see in our main text in Colossians as well. There are none who seek after God which puts to rest the whole "God-seeker, Seeker-friendly" movements. This idea that everyone is just basically good and we just need a little nudge from God to seek Him and find Him is not biblical.
This is why you should never base your church operations or your worship services to gear towards unbelievers. The church is for believers by nature and by definition. If an unbeliever were to come into our church they should see what Christianity looks like, not what the world outside the church looks like. The church is a hospital for sinners and the unbeliever not only doesn't see their need for this hospital but they love their sin and would choose their sin all of their life without the intervening grace and mercy of God on those He has elected.
The unsaved, unregenerate mind according to Scripture is openly hostile towards God and is an enemy of God. If left to ourselves, zero people would populate heaven because every single person that has ever lived would die choosing their sin and would live in eternity in a place called hell separated from God. So, man if He is to be reconciled to God, if He is to be at peace with God would need something outside of himself to provide that peace for him. Thankfully our peace with God is found in the cross of Jesus Christ.
How was this peace made?
God’s wrath for sin was poured out on Jesus on the cross. He suffered in ways that none of us could ever comprehend or experience and we won’t have to experience it because that price was paid for us and in our place. Christ died so that we can live. When Jesus Christ died and shed His blood on the cross of Calvary, God's wrath for sin was satisfied and Christ obtained eternal life for all that will repent and believer. Notice what the book of Hebrews says on this subject.
But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. (Hebrews 9:11-12 NASB)
This passage in Hebrews makes it clear that when Christ died it didn't just make salvation possible and that God would somehow then be in waiting to see if someone would take Him up on it. No, it states very clearly that when Christ offered Himself on the cross as our high priest, He did so having offered His body, the more perfect tabernacle (or sacred tent), that was not made with hands but is not of the creative work. Christ is eternally existent and is therefore not part of the created order. It was necessary that something outside of the creative order enter the creation to make the sacrifice for sin because that is the only way you could guarantee that the sacrifice for sin would not have been affected by the very sin that they were making payment for.
Christ after rising from the grave and ascending to heaven, sat down at the right hand of the Father, entering the holy place once for all, having already obtained eternal redemption. After His death on the cross, God's wrath was satisfied and now He could rightfully withhold judgment from the believing ones in His Son. So, that means that His Son actually obtained eternal redemption for them when He died on the cross. It is not required for God to wait until the sinner "chooses" to place faith in Christ before He can redeem them. No, they were redeemed the very second Christ offered Himself on the cross to take the full wrath of God for sin on Himself. Yes, a sinner does have to repent and place their faith in Christ for salvation but their salvation was obtained on the cross when Christ actually died on it.
What this means is that not one person can ever boast in anything but Jesus Christ for their salvation. Nothing on our part up to and including the very faith we place in Christ can be credited with obtaining our eternal redemption and our reconciliation to God. Only Christ can be credited with obtaining our reconciliation. So it could be said that,
Our peace with God is found in Jesus Christ.
Our redemption by God is found in Jesus Christ.
Our salvation and eternal life is found in Jesus Christ.
Our righteousness is found in Jesus Christ.
Our reconciliation is found in Jesus Christ.
Our changing from enemies to friends with God is found in Jesus Christ.
Our high priest is found in Jesus Christ.
Our perfect sacrifice, our atonement for sin is found in Jesus Christ.
Our adoption into the family of God is found in Jesus Christ.
Our sanctification, our holiness, is found in Jesus Christ.
Our justification before God is found in Jesus Christ.
Everything will be reconciled back to God on the basis of the shed blood of Jesus Christ on Calvary. The creation, the universe will be reconciled back to and restored to a right relationship with God. The creation was cursed and affected by sin and one day it will be made right and it will be done on the basis of Jesus Christ and His death.
Now, because all things will be reconciled back to God and made right does not mean that the Bible teaches universalism. It doesn’t. The Bible makes it abundantly clear that only the believing ones will inherit eternal life and be reconciled back to God in salvation. The unsaved are reconciled back to God but in a different way.
John MacArthur speaks about the unsaved being reconciled back to God in the following quote from his commentary on Colossians:
On the other hand, there is a sense in which even fallen angels and unredeemed men will be reconciled to God for judgment - but only in the sense of submitting to Him for final sentencing. Their relationship to Him will change from that of enemies to that of the judged. They will be sentenced to hell, unable any longer to pollute God's creation. They will be stripped of their powers and forced to bow in submission to God (MacArhthur, 1992. p. 59).
Everything will be reconciled back to God on the basis of the shed blood of Jesus Christ. For mankind, one will either find peace with God through Jesus or they will find eternal judgment, punishment, and separation from God in their unsaved state.
2. Reconciliation means we will stand perfectly holy, blameless, and righteous before God. (Colossians 1:21-22)
And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach. (Colossians 1:21-22 NASB)
v. 21 - Formerly (once being, previously, hence not anymore) alienated (estranged from God) hostile (hated, an enemy, openly hostile) in mind (disposition, thought, understanding, intellect) the idea of thoroughly from side to side we were hostile in mind. Engaged in evil deeds. Our alienation from God, our hostility in mind towards God expresses itself in our evil deeds.
v. 22 – He has now reconciled you. This is a thorough and complete reconciliation of the believer. We who believe are reconciled to God in salvation through Jesus Christ. When Paul says in v.22, “He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death,” this is a very real reconciliation that is a present reality for us, spiritually.
We are declared righteous which means that at any moment after we are saved we could be presented before God as perfectly holy, blameless (unblemished, spotless), and beyond reproach (not convictable in God’s court).
There will be no surprise witnesses, there will be no last-minute sins that will reverse the righteous judge’s decision. We will stand forgiven, we will stand righteous, we will stand reconciled, we will stand holy, blameless, and beyond reproach before God.
3. Reconciliation means that Evangelism matters.
We need to tell everyone about this good news! We need to let the world know that there is salvation, that there is reconciliation in Jesus Christ!
Yes, we are rebel sinners.
Yes, we deserve death.
Yes, we hate God and are His enemies in the natural state.
Yes, we are hostile towards God in our mind.
Yes, we are alienated from God.
Yes, we are under the condemnation of our sin when we are born.
Yes, we are spiritually dead.
But in Christ when we repent of our sin, when we place our faith and trust for salvation in the only Savior then we can say…
Yes, I am saved!
Yes, I am redeemed!
Yes, I am a new creature in Christ!
Yes, I am forgiven!
Yes, I have peace with God!
Yes, I have peace with my Creator!
Yes, I am spiritually alive!
Yes, I am no longer a slave to sin!
Yes, I am now a slave to righteousness!
Yes, I am now reconciled in Christ.
MacArthur, John. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Colossians & Philemon. Chicago, Illinois. Moody Publishers. 1992.