The idea of atonement is the covering of sin by something which God provided, and by the use of which sin looses its accusing power, and its power to derange that grand covenant and relationship between man and God which founds the New Humanity. The word katallassein (reconcile) is peculiar to Paul. He uses both words; but the other word, “atonement,” you also find in other New Testament writings. Reconciliation is Paul’s great characteristic word and thought. The great passages are those I have mentioned at the head of this lecture. I cannot take time to expound them here. That would mean a long course. Read those passages carefully and check me in anything I say – particularly, fir instance, 2 Corinthians 5:15 – 6:2. Out of it we gather this whole result. First, Christ’s work is something described as reconciliation. And second, reconciliation rests upon atonement as its ground. Do not stop at “God was in Christ reconciling the world.” You can easily water that down. You may begin the process by saying that God was in Christ just in the same way in which He was in the old prophets. That is the first dilution. Then you go on with the homeopathic treatment, and you say, “Oh yes, all He did by Christ was to affect the world, and impress it by showing it how much He loved it.” Now would that reconcile anybody really in need of it? When your child has flown into a violent temper with you, and still worse, a sulky temper, and glooms for a whole day, is it any use your sending to that child and saying, “Really, this cannot go on. Come back. I love you very much. Say you are sorry.” Not a bit of use. For God simply to have told or shown the evil world how much He loved it would have been a most ineffectual thing. Something had to be done – judging or saving. Revelation alone is inadequate. Reconciliation must rest on atonement. For, as I say, you must not stop at “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself,” but go on “not reckoning unto them their trespasses.” “He made Christ to be sin for us, who knew no sin.” that involves atonement. You cannot blot out that phrase. And the third thing involved in the idea is that this reconciliation, this atonement, means change of relation between God and man – man, mind you, not two or three men, not several groups of men, but man, the human race as one whole. And it is a change of relation from alienation to communion – not simply to our peace and confidence, but to reciprocal communion. The grand end of reconciliation is communion. I am pressing that hard. I am pressing it hard here by saying that it is not enough that we should worship God. It is not enough that we should worship a personal God. It is not enough that we should worship and pay our homage to a loving God. That does not satisfy the love of God. Nothing short of living, loving, holy habitual communion between His holy soul and ours can realize at last the end which God achieved in Jesus Christ.

In this connection let me offer you two cautions. First, take care that the direct fact of reconciliation is not hidden up by the indispensable means – namely, atonement. There have been ages in the Church when the attention has been so exclusively centered upon atonement that reconciliation was lost sight of. You found theologians flying at each other’s throats in the interest of particular theories of atonement. That is to say, atonement had obscured reconciliation. In the same way, after the Reformation period, they dwelt upon justification until they lost sight of sanctification altogether. Then the great pietistic movement had to arise in order to redress the balance. Take care that the end, reconciliation, is not hidden up by the means, atonement. Justification, sanctification, reconciliation and atonement are all equally inseparable from the one central and compendious work of Christ. Various ages need various aspects of it turned outward. Let us give them all their true value and perspective. If we do not we shall make that fatal severance which orthodoxy has so often made between doctrine and life.