Raymond Arthur Waugh, Sr.
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Reconciliation Between God and Man
Ray Waugh, Sr.
Perhaps it would be presumptuous to come to a subject such as this while in the mortal frame and expect to arrive at a conclusion, or sequence of conclusions which would be at all absolute. Yet, it would also be presuming on the grace of God to remain in willful ignorance of a subject such as this, which has troubled the minds of men for so many generations and for so many centuries. So, conscious, in a measure, of the scope of the subject and also of the frailty of the finite mind, I set about in humility -- though avidly -- not only to hear the words of some who have gone before me, but also to listen anew to the Spirit of God as He speaks through the writings of the Word of God, the Bible!
New Testament Doctrine
The New Testament doctrine of reconciliation, or the means whereby peace may be restored between God and man, entails a state of "at variance," a sacrifice which must have the quality of dispensing with guilt and satisfying God, and finally that of bringing about reconciliation or "at-one-ment" [atonement] with God. Initially, the term reconciliation presupposes or implies an absence of peace, and the fact that there are at least two who are at variance. Such inference need not be thought of as difficult to prove. In a sense, "This fact is too apparent to require detailed proof. Its record is found in the deepest consciousness of mans nature. The sense of guilt and condemnation, to which it inevitably and legitimately gives rise in the human conscience, is a testimony so universal, so profound, and so overwhelming as to call for little if any external corroboration."
Many have gone to considerable effort and have expended much energy in trying to dissolve this "at variance." From time immemorial, man has striven by one means or another to appeal to God or to satisfy Him. Such endeavors on the part of man have resulted in the various religions and religious practices that are abroad in our world. Today, in this present world generation, we are the recipients of the total of all that remains of all former religions.
Except for those processes of thinking such as modern skepticism, atheism, agnosticism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and other such realms of unbelief, all men follow the same general pattern of appealing to Deity for reconciliation. Many of these appeals incorporate certain simple or elaborate ceremonies that have their origins in antiquity. So we state, if man in all ages has found it necessary to appease Him whom he deemed to be God, and we in this day of supposed higher learning find it satisfying to court the favor of a higher than we, and go to greater or lesser extremes to make peace with God, there must be something more than biased speculation behind the implied "at variance" in the word reconciliation.
Man Left Perfection
It may be that we need to ask, when was it that man first left the realm of perfection, wherein he was at peace with God? Without any question, we may reference that which we find in the Word of God called "The Garden of Eden." In the Scriptures, we learn that in the day when man was in the Garden of Eden, he was in regular conversation with God. We read that "God created man in his own image, in the image of God created He him, male and female created he them" (Gen. 1:27). God in that day talked with Adam, saying, "Behold I have given you every herb bearing seed . . . the fruit of the tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat . . . And God saw everything He had made, and . . . it was very good . . ." (Gen. 1:29,31).
God, however, went on to command, "But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die" (Gen. 2:17). It, then, was in the Garden of Eden, in an hour when power was Adams and the presence of God was a reality, that he and his wife listened to the seductive voice of Satan and disobeyed Gods Command. This open opposition to God, however, need not be a final state of existence.
Though the term that we are using may imply "at variance," it specifically refers to the change produced between parties by some measure of mercy, whereby Gods moral displeasure is appeased. The Scriptures to which we may refer as marking this change are very many. We read, "For it was the good pleasure of the Father, that in Him [Jesus] should all fullness dwell; and through Him to reconcile all things unto Himself, having made peace by the blood of His Cross" (Col. 1:20). Further, "And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ . . . " (2 Corinthians 5:18).
We see a further emphasis of this truth in, "For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life" (Romans 5:10). The ultimate result of reconciliation, then, is not an implied "at variance," but a turning away of anger, and a restoration to favor. So, it follows that God is not a despot who desires that any should perish. Rather, He who is responsible for the creation is also responsible as well for the laws by which His creation is governed, and also for this provision whereby man may become reconciled to God.
The latter provision is what we may speak of as a distinct mark of Gods unique mercy. Thankfully, we can know that as our Righteous God, He has a unique immutable nature, in that from eternity His gracious mercifulness toward men is gloriously constant. Though the disposition of God toward man is immutable, the fact that man, through his original disobedience in the Garden of Eden and in all of his subsequent failures to comply with Gods Law has put himself "at variance with God." This makes mans status to be a legal one. This failure to comply with Gods law makes man the sinner that he is. In his own writings, Paul states that "I had not known sin, but by the law" (Romans 7:7).
It is evident, then, that he who knows no law cannot be said to sin -- [Herein rests our assurance concerning those little ones and all of those others who never come to a consciousness of right and wrong that troubled Calvin so very deeply, and resulted in his "Baptism of infants"] -- but all to whom the law of God has come, in whatsoever manner, are required by the righteousness of God to believe on His Son! Those who never know the law of God or who are blind to it or who are mentally inept are never able even to see the Law in the very nature of His creation.
Though you and I may have some trouble with such thinking, we need to realize that the Apostle Paul is bringing to our attention that in such a state of blindness no judgment can be passed, for there is no criterion by which to judge. Another has wisely noted, "From the dawn of volition, of thought or ideation, and of morality," however, "our blind springs of action cease to be blind." Then we are bound to be appraised by Gods own standard. God, then, is the Sovereign Lawgiver and Judge, and man is the criminal who has broken the Law. It is this judicial variance and opposition between God and man which is referred to in the term reconciliation.
Consequently, we look for a means of reconciliation that will satisfy the legal demands of a righteous God who must judge on the basis of the broken law. We find such provision in the Scriptural record of Gods saying: "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased" (Mt. 3:17). These words, of course, came from God the Father in Heaven concerning one who was known as Jesus of Nazareth, immediately after his immersion in the River Jordan. The reference of John, the Immerser, at that crucial moment in time gives us some insight to the true aspect of Gods design. We find, too, that the terminology specifically refers to Jesus in His Sacrificial Character:
Our Lord is announced by John as "The Lamb of God," and that not with reference to any meekness or other moral virtue. It was with an accompanying phrase that should have been a very special communication to the Jews of the time. John, the Immerser, was directing their attention to the sacrificial sense of the term employed, "The Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). The ultimate teaching of God in their many, many sacrifices that had been indulged for many generations was wonderfully wrapped up in these few words.
Somewhat later we note in the Scriptural account that again Jesus is referenced as "My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased" (Mt. 17:5). Though only three disciples are involved in this experience, they are brought face to face with matters of eternity. Both Moses and Elijah appear, and the disciples recognize them as such though they certainly had never seen them while they lived here upon the earth.
We learn that at this particular time that Moses and Elijah appeared to Jesus and to His three disciples. The Scripture informs us that Moses and Elijah had a special mission. We are informed that they "Who appeared in glory" did so for the purpose of speaking with Jesus about "his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem" (Lu. 9:31).
The Son Is The Theme
We learn, then, that the Son of God is the central theme of both of these references. In the former message, we noted that He was "The Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world," and that He was pleasing to God, the Father (John 1:29 & Mt. 3:17). In the latter, we learn that He was to accomplish his special mission in Jerusalem. God, then, was making provision that His beloved Son should be the sacrificial Lamb, and that the sacrifice would be His death at Jerusalem.
We may know with reasonable certainty that this provision of the Lamb and His death at Jerusalem had been prepared for long before He was ever in evidence in the midst of mortal men. We have the Scriptural words, "Him being delivered up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye by wicked hands have crucified and slain: whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death . . ." (Acts 2:23-24). We learn, too, that He was "The Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev. 13:8). It is this Jesus whom we find being perfect before God, bearing, as it were, the marks of legal perfection in the standard which is Gods basis for judgment. As we have noted Jesus is the Beloved of His Heavenly Father, and somewhat later, in the course of time in the courts of men, Pilate declared, "I find not fault in this man" (Lu. 23:4).
It is needful, then, that we keep in mind the truth that Jesus who was delivered up by the "Determinate Counsel and foreknowledge of God" was not to fall into the hands of wicked men because of His own disobedience. Rather, we ever are reminded that Jesus "did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth" (I Pet. 2:22). Neither was He to suffer the penalty of His own sin, for He was the beloved Son in whom God the Father was well pleased. Further, if we really have any understanding, we know that His being "the only begotten" and the "beloved Son" set Him apart as the incarnate and sinless co-author of righteousness. It follows, then, that Jesus, in being eternally consistent in His holy purpose could accomplish no sin.
The Act of Reconciliation
Rather, we learn from those who knew Him both in the spirit and in the flesh that His death was for others. One has written, "God sent His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and condemned sin in the flesh" (Rom 8:3). Another informs us, "Christ also suffered for sins once, the Righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God" (I Pet. 3:18). Further, we can rejoice that "Now, once in the end of the ages, He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself" (Heb. 9:26). Then, another message from God the Father, "God commendeth His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us" (Romans 5:18).
In the previously quoted Scriptures, there is both prophecy of the work of Christ and comment upon it. In every instance -- consistently and wonderfully -- they point in one direction; that is, toward the Cross of Calvary. The words of John, the Immerser, Jesus Himself, and God from Heaven, are all in anticipation of the Cross. The comments of some of those who lived afterwards look back and interpret all in the light of the Cross. The Apostle John summed up many of the written words by saying, "But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name" (John 20:31).
The focal point of the prophecies and the comments, then, is that place where Gods Son accomplished the work which we find to be the means of reconciliation for all men, everywhere. Therefore, there is never any sense in which reconciliation can ever be thought to have originated and really never any sense in which it can be thought to have originated with men. Instead, we learn, "Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life" (Romans 5:9-10).
Here, the act of reconciliation is ascribed to God, and not to men. If it were possible that this reconciliation consisted in our laying aside of our own enmity, the act would be ours alone. We are informed, however, that we could not and that we cannot lay aside our enmity toward God. Rather, God clearly informs us that we are "reconciled to God by the death of his Son" even while "we were enemies" of God!
The Hope of All Men
The hope of all men who will be redeemed, then, lies in this reconciliation as the means whereby sin is removed and the obligation to punishment is canceled. The "at variance" which is indicative of mans transgression of Gods Law is really the mark of sin. Any right reconciliation between God and man will have to begin with the settling of Gods righteous claim of judgment. It has been shown that man himself can do nothing toward his own reconciliation. As we have learned in Romans 5:10, man remains the enemy of God until the initial phase of reconciliation has been accomplished in or on his behalf.
Jesus uses several means to dramatize for us this eternal truth. In one place He is noted as saying, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit" (John 12:24). Though this word was designed to dramatize what He was about to do, He followed immediately to give this truth application in our own personal lives. He says, "He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal" (John 12:25).
"Freudian" psychologists, psychiatrists, or counselors have never grasped the import of these truths. It is quite probable that few preachers, pastors, evangelists, or ministers who indulge in a counseling process or procedure have ever understood what Jesus is declaring here in John 12:24 and in John 12:25. Consequently, if we have any insight as to what is transpiring as "Church Work" and "Church Activities" -- too often "Church entertainment -- in these latter years of this twentieth century, we can know that "though the gates of hell shall not prevail against" (Mt. 16:18) the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ, most of those institutions that are called Churches are out of touch with the Word of God.
Needless to say, "except a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die" cannot be separated from the sacrificial death that Jesus was to accomplish at Jerusalem. He says just a little further on, "Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour; but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name . . . " (John 12:27-28). The hour to which reference is made is verbally portrayed in each of the Gospel accounts and in each one of the New Testament messages that have been left by our Lords Disciples, His Apostles, and Luke.
From Pilates word, "I find no fault in him" that should have meant acquittal to the intense moment when "they crucified Him" (Mt. 27:35), the Deity of our Lord was evidenced by His humility, and by His silence. Yet, no human cry and no divine utterance has ever equaled that hours climatic and utterly agonizing expression as it was given by the Son of God. As He hung between Heaven and earth on that "Old Rugged Cross," we hear His climactic cry that rings across all of the corridors of time before and across all of the corridors of time since. That cry will continue to ring across all of the corridors of time that are yet to be:
"Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabacthani?"
"My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?"
(Mt. 27:46 & Mk. 15:34)
In that hour when Jesus poured out his soul with "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me" (Mt. 27:46 & Mk. 15:34), we can know that the initial phase of our reconciliation was accomplished. It was there on the Cross at Calvary and Golgothas Brow that Jesus was made or became a curse for us. There, as Peter so wonderfully informs us, "He bore our sins in his own body, on the tree; that we being dead to sin should live unto righteousness . . ." (I Pet. 2:24). The penalty incurred by the disobedience of man was there laid upon Him. There, as the Scriptures so wonderfully advise, "Now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself" (Heb. 9:26).
He bore our sin and suffered in our stead. The purposes of punishment are answered with honor to the Lawgiver. For one who has believed on this Jesus as the Son of God, the Apostle Paul says: "There is, therefore, now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1). Thereby, he is declaring that all who know the Lord Jesus Christ in saving faith are absolved of all guilt, and that the penalty of the law cannot justly be inflicted upon them. "Who," he asks, "can lay anything to the charge of Gods elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ who died; yea rather that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us" (Romans 8:33-34).
The Forgiveness of Sins
Thus, by Gods own provision, He has so ordained that man might secure forgiveness for his sins -- not by any work of righteousness that he might do, but by the Word of Christ. If I am understanding the import of Ephesian 2:8-9, this is the message, "For by grace are you saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God; not of works, let any man should boast." If we are understanding the Scriptures aright, we can know that the Apostle Paul was aware that the sacrifice of Christ had the significance of the death of an innocent victim in the room of the guilty.
We can believe, then, that he wisely employs the idea of substitution, and this involves the conception of imputation or transference of legal standing. He dramatizes this truth with the word, "David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works . . . Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin" (Romans 4:6,8). The saving efficacy of Christs work is attributed specifically to His death, or His blood, or His Cross.
All that Christ does for us in the breadth of His redeeming work, in the view of those who followed Him closely, is to be found in His bearing our sins in His own body on the tree. The fundamental characteristic of the New Testament conception of redemption, then, is that deliverance from guilt stands first. That Jesus took our place, and suffered in our stead is clearly stated by the Apostle Peter, "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust; that He might bring us to God; being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit" (I Pet. 3:18). Perhaps, we can therefore note that the Apostles regarded the death of Christ as a sacrifice of expiation. Too, we can know that the convinced and convicted sinner can never find peace until he lays his burden of sin on the Lamb of God; until he apprehends that his sins have been punished, as the Apostle says, "In Christ" (Romans 8:3).
Reconciliation More Than Covering
If we have even a measure of understanding, we should be able to realize that the term reconciliation incorporates more in the comprehensive whole that the act of dispensing with or "covering" the guilt of sinful man. It certainly has the expiatory quality which permits Christ to give Himself as "a peculiar sacrifice for the sins of men." We need to know, too, that the death of Christ has the quality of a propitiatory sacrifice or "a sweet-smelling savor"; truly, a propitiatory offering to God whereby the saved sinner finds both fellowship with God and peace.
We need to realize that this aspect of reconciliation is not considered "a sweet-smelling savor" because God delighted or delights in torture, as a heathen despot might delight in it. Rather, because the sacrifice of His Son was a sacrifice made by that Son Himself, and under no compulsion other than the compulsion of love -- love for God the Father and love for His human fellow-beings who hated Him.
We can know that this "sacrifice of Love" in which Jesus participated alone -- joined as it was to self-sacrificing love -- was the noblest act that God had ever looked upon. This was a voluntary exhibition of highest virtue that we cannot do otherwise than presume that it was something in which God delighted. This was "that sweet-smelling savor" which is just another way of saying that this was one element in the suffering and death of Christ which made it a propitiation unto God.
Our Lord bears out the emphasis of our words. He says, "Therefore doth the Father love me, that I lay down my life that I may take it again." The Apostle Paul speaks expressly of his faith being in the Son of God who loved him and gave Himself for him. Again, " . . . Christ also loved us, and gave Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for an odor of a sweet smell" (Eph. 4:2). "Now, once, in the end of the world has Jesus appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself" (Heb. 9:26). It was "by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us . . . who through the eternal spirit offered himself without spot to God . . . and for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance" (Heb. 12,14-15).
Expiation and Propitiation
If we have comprehended what we have discovered in the blessed and infallible Word of our Holy God, we can know now that this propitiation is that quality of reconciliation that has the property of disposing, inclining, or causing the judicial Authority to admit the expiation; that is, assent to it as a valid reason for pardoning the offender. As such, it lies upon the expiatory quality of sacrifice in a marvelous manner. We may even go so far as to suggest that we may be reconciled to God by the death of His Son, but we must note that the expiatory quality -- that which provides for the removal of sin and cancels the obligation to punishment -- does not alone produce reconciliation.
Instead, there is the additional propitiatory aspect, which will accomplish the restoration to Gods favor and fellowship. Very simply, a person may believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be eternally saved, but he or she may never enter into the joy of his or her salvation because there is never any fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ. These are some of those of whom it is said, they "will be saved, yet so as by fire" (1 Corinthians 3:15). It may be that the Apostle John also is referencing some who have not yet participated in the propitiatory aspect of reconciliation when he says, "And now little children, abide in him; that when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming" (I John 2:28).
The nature of Christs sacrifice, then, is two-fold and consists of the expiatory quality whereby our pardon is obtained. Thereby, we become the children of God even though we may never do anything for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Then, it is by means of the propitiatory quality of sacrifice whereby our restoration is accomplished. These, in the one desired change, effect reconciliation between God and man, resulting in both salvation and fellowship and peace.
Christ is represented as the expiatory sacrifice for our sins, and His blood alone atones for and covers our guilt; as has been noted, "When we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son . . ." (Romans 5:10). Then, when on our part faith is exercised in the blood of this sacrifice, the propitiatory effect is produced. The wonder of Gods Grace, thereby, is made to be understandable for the least and for the greatest of us.
We may conclude, then, that, according to the New Testament, the man who has believed on Jesus Christ and whose faith is in the Lord Jesus Christ, the expiatory sacrifice and the sufficient propitiation, has partaken of the reconciling power of the particular work of the Lamb of God. Truly, he or she is "at-one-ment" with righteous God; no longer "at variance," but saved and in fellowship and at peace: RECONCILED!
Last updated Friday, October 17, 2008
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