Suppose I had a son who was very, very bad. One day, after he beat his mother and broke all the windows and killed the cat, he stomped out of the house and swore never to return. I searched for the naughty boy until I found him.
“Son,” I said, “now you can come home: Your mother is mostly healed, the windows are repaired, and I bought a new cat. Yours sins are taken care of—your debt is paid.”
But is the problem really solved? Can the sinner just pop back into the family? Would he even want to? What of the hostility and alienation that was the problem from the beginning?
When we look to Christ’s death on the cross, we must understand that he was doing more than just paying the bills for naughty, ungrateful rebels. He was also making the Father’s appeal to the fallen sinner: “Be reconciled!” (The Greek word for “reconcile” is katallasso -- kah tah LAH so.)
Two important points are involved in the word reconcile. First, the word means to change enemies into friends. It means that hostility is changed to love. “While we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son” (Rom 5:10). The magnificent appeal of Calvary was meant to draw men back to God (John 12:32).
Second, it is always man being reconciled to God; never God being reconciled to man. This is true because the problem was not with God, but with man. It was man’s debt; it was man’s hostility. The cross of Christ was God’s plan to solve both problems. “In Christ all God’s fullness was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things . . . making peace by the blood of his cross” (Col 1:21).