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Having sought to show from Scripture the nature of the Satisfaction which the Mediator offered unto God, and, by virtue of His acceptance of the same, its certain efficacy to procure and secure all that it was ordained to accomplish, we are now ready to contemplate in fuller detail some of the results which it has actually effected. By the “results” we mean the consequences which have flowed to the elect in their relation to God and His law. These are so many and so diversified that we shall not here presume an attempt to even enumerate them. Instead, following the emphasis of Scripture, we seek to direct attention unto the principle effects only. Once the Lord permits the regenerated soul to obtain a clear grasp of these, little difficulty should be experienced in apprehending the minor corollaries with which they are accompanied.
God Himself had a specific end in view when appointing the great Atonement, and in consequence of its having been made, certain things are effectually fulfilled and accomplished by it. As we sought to show in the 9th chapter of this book, the supreme aim of God in the Satisfaction of Christ is the advancement of His own declarative honor, and that by the manifestation of His glorious attributes therein. God’s subordinate aim in Christ’s Satisfaction, which aim is subservient to and is effectual unto His ultimate intendment, is the deliverance of His people from the curse and the restoring of them to His image and fellowship. To effect this, God has to be propitiated, sin expiated, and the elect sinner reinstated in the Divine favor.
There we read that “Christ hath also once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God.” Bringing us to God is a general expression for the accomplishment of the whole work of our salvation, both in the removal of all hindrances and in the bestowal of all requisites.
More specifically, in order for the elect — viewed as fallen in Adam — to be brought unto God, it was necessary that all enmity between them should be removed; in other words, that reconciliation should be effected. So too it was necessary that the guilt of all their transgressions should be cancelled; in other words, that they should receive remission of sin.
Further, it was necessary that they should be delivered from all bondage; in other words, that they should be redeemed. Finally, it was necessary that they should be made, both legally and experimentally, righteous.
In the four words emphasized in the closing sentences of the last paragraph we have summed up the essential results which have accrued from the Satisfaction of Christ. As those results bear upon sin, it has been expiated; as they bear upon the elect, they have been emancipated; as they bear upon God, He has been propitiated. Lest this statement should create a false impression, let us at once add that the Atonement produced no actual change in God, any more than do His acts of creation or providence. The efficient purpose existed in the Divine mind from all eternity. He acted upon it from the fall of Adam, as though the atonement was actually accomplished. The infinite justice and the infinite love which were exercised in the sacrifice of Christ, were in the Divine mind from the beginning. The effect of Christ’s Satisfaction was to render possible the concurrent exercise of Justice and Love in their treatment of the same persons. As these four “results” named are of such incalculable value and importance we shall devote a separate chapter to the consideration of each one. 1. RECONCILIATION In 2 Corinthians 5, the Gospel of grace which God has called His servants to proclaim is spoken of thus: “And hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation” (v 18), and “hath committed to us, the word of reconciliation” (v. 19). This at once shows the great importance of having clear and Scriptural views upon this mighty subject, for otherwise it is impossible to honor God in our preaching (which should ever be our first and chief concern), or to edify His people with wholesome doctrine. A mistake at this point seriously injures the whole of our evangelical ministrations and causes us to set forth a perverted presentation of God’s saving truth. The realization of this ought to bow every minister of the Gospel before God in deep humility, earnestly entreating Him for Divine light and wisdom, that he may be so taught of the Lord that the Gospel trumpet may give forth no uncertain sound when it is placed to his lips. Far better not to preach at all, than to preach that which is contrary to Scripture, dishonoring to God, and injurious to souls. Let us now consider — A. ITS NATURE The word “reconcile” means to bring together again those who are alienated, to re-unite those who are at variance, to restore to amity and concord by removing that which hinders agreement and fellowship. It is most important to observe at the outset that the term “reconciliation” is itself objective in its signification. That is to say, reconciliation terminates upon the object, and not upon the subject. This is clear from Matthew 5:23,24, where our Lord said, “If thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother.”
This is the first mention of the word in the New Testament. Here the offender is not bidden to reconcile himself, but the person whom he has offended. The person who has done the injury is to make up the difference.
He is to propitiate or reconcile his brother to himself, by a compensation of some kind. Christ did not say, Conciliate thy own displeasure towards thy brother, but remove his displeasure against thee.
The teaching of Matthew 5:23,24 is of basic importance in connection with our present inquiry. Its plain meaning is that the one who has offended should go and seek to appease the anger of the one who has been offended, obtaining his forgiveness, regaining his favor and friendship, by humbling himself before him, asking his pardon, and satisfying him for any injury which may have been done him. In like manner when Scripture speaks of God’s having reconciled us to Himself by the blood of Christ’s Cross ( Colossians 1:20) it does not refer to a subjective change which has been wrought in our hearts, producing our laying down of all enmity against God and our turning to Him in loving obedience; but it expresses one of the cardinal effects or results of His having graciously provided and accepted an atonement for us, so that instead of inflicting upon us the punishment we so richly deserve, we are, instead, received into His full favor on Christ’s account. Thus we read in Romans 11:15, “For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world”: here the reconciling of the world is contrasted from the rejection of the Jews, which must evidently be understood as signifying the extension of God’s favor unto the Gentiles.
In the application of the term to God, “reconciliation” has to do with that which is forensic. That is to say, it contemplates God in His character as the Judge of all the earth, as the moral Governor of the universe, administering law and maintaining order. It concerns our relationship to Him not as our Creator, nor as our Father, but as our King. Thus, to affirm that through Christ God is now reconciled to His people, does not mean that there has been any change in either His nature, will, or disposition — to so affirm would be blasphemy. No, “reconciliation” means that transgressors of the Divine law have been restored to the judicial favor of God, through Christ’s having closed the breach which sin had made between them. Reconciliation effects no change in God Himself, but it does in the administration of His government. His law now regards with approbation those against whom it was formerly hostile. There has been a change of relation between those for whom Christ died and the Judge of all. As this point is so little understood today, even by those claiming to be orthodox, we must amplify it a little further.
There is great need for exercising caution here, as in everything which pertains to our conceptions of the great God. Unless we are on our guard, our thought of Him will be but carnal. When one human being is reconciled to another there is an inward change: ill feelings are removed and good will is restored. But it is not so with the Lord God. It is greatly dishonoring to Him if we think of Him as possessing anything which corresponds to human passions. Reconciliation with God does not mean a change of heart in Him from an angry disposition to a friendly affection. Rather does it refer to an effect which has followed from that proper and full satisfaction which Christ offered to the violated law and offended justice of God. We repeat, it is God in His character of Judge, who insisting upon an atonement, has now no further demand to make, and therefore is most properly said to be appeased or reconciled to His sinful people. In order to understand this the better, let us next consider — B. ITS IMPLICATIONS Conciliation is a state of peace, the mutual enjoyment of friendship.
Reconciliation presupposes alienation and dis-fellowship. There is no occasion for reconciliation between parties who are in perfect accord with each other; but where that exists not, where instead there is discord and enmity, then the need for them to be reconciled is real. Thus, we say that the first implication in the term “reconciliation” is, that there has previously been a state of alienation. The second equally clear implication is that there was harmony before the discord; that, originally, peace and amity existed before strife and enmity broke it, for reconciliation is the renewal of lost friendship, the re-uniting of those who have been at variance. Thus, this one word “reconciliation” comprehends by implication the threefold relation which has existed between the elect and God, considered as their Governor or Judge. First, they were in happy fellowship together. Second, that fellowship was disrupted by the fall, and sin produced mutual alienation. Third, as the result of Christ’s Satisfaction enmity is removed, peace is restored, and God and His people are re-united. “God and man were once dear friends. Adam was the Lord’s favorite. Till man was made, it was said of every rank and species of earthly creatures, ‘God saw that it was good.’ But when man was made, ‘God saw every thing He had made, and behold, it was very good’ ( Genesis 1:31). God expressed more of His favor to him than to any other creature, except the angels: man was made after His own image ( Genesis 1:26). He was fitted to live in delightful communion with his Maker. Man was His viceroy ( Genesis 1:27). God entrusted him with the care, charge, and dominion over all the creatures; yea, he was capable of loving, knowing, or enjoying God. Other creatures were capable of glorifying God — of setting forth His power, wisdom, and goodness — objectively and passively; but man, of glorifying God actively” (T. Manton, Vol. 13, p. 255).
Let it be carefully borne in mind that in Eden Adam stood not merely as a private person but as the representative of the race, and that the elect were all in him.
The condition of Adam was happy, yet mutable. Though created sinless, yea, “upright” ( Ecclesiastes 7:29), yet was he capable of falling. Alas how quickly he fell. God had forbidden him to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and warned him that in the day he did so, he would surely die. But he heeded not. He apostatized. He disobeyed his Maker, and dragged down all his posterity with him ( Romans 5:12). By his fall, all his spiritual privileges were forfeited: he lost the image, favor and fellowship of God. God drove him out of Eden and stationed the cherubim at its entrance with flaming sword to bar his return. Thus sin separated between man and God ( Isaiah 59:2). He, and all God’s elect in him, were “alienated from the life of God” ( Ephesians 4:18).
As the consequence of the fall and man’s becoming by practice a sinful creature, there was a mutual antagonism between God and man. Of man it is written, “the carnal mind is enmity against God” ( Romans 8:7). Of Christians in their unregenerate state it is said, “and you, that were sometimes alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works” ( Colossians 1:21).
The hatred of the sinner’s heart for God was fully manifested when He became incarnate. Though He was full of grace and truth, went about doing good, preaching the Gospel, healing the sick, yet men despised and rejected Him, and were not satisfied until they hounded Him to death. Nor has the human heart changed one iota since then.
Sin has placed God and man apart from one another, so that all the harmony there was between them has been completely destroyed. By his sin man incurred the righteous hatred and wrath of God, which is “revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” ( Romans 1:18).
That God is alienated from the sinner and antagonistic to him is as clearly taught in the Scripture as is man’s enmity against God. “Thou hatest all workers of iniquity” ( Psalm 5:5). “God is angry with the wicked every day” ( Psalm 7:11). “Though the Lord be high, yet hath he respect to the lowly, but the proud he knoweth afar off” ( <19D806> Psalm 138:6). “But they rebelled, and vexed his holy Spirit: therefore he was turned to be their enemy, and he fought against them” ( Isaiah 63:10).
Herein then lay the need for reconciliation: that the breach which sin had made should be healed, the anger of God appeased, and peace and amity be restored. We are now ready to consider — C. ITS EFFECTUATION Many will not have it that the reconciliation is mutual; but God has been reconciled to His people, as truly as they to Him. Both there must be, for the alienation was mutual. God was angry with us, and we hated Him. As we have shown above, the Scriptures not only speak of enmity on man’s part, but also of wrath on God’s part, and that, not only against sin, but sinners themselves; and not only against the non-elect, but the elect too, for we “were by nature the children of wrath, even as others” ( Ephesians 2:3). Sin placed God and His people at judicial variance. We are the parties offending, God the party offended. Thus the alienation was on both sides, yet with this difference, that we were alienated in respect of affection, which is the ground and cause of Divine wrath; God in respect of the effects and issue of enmity and anger.
Now for Christ to make perfect conciliation it was required that He turn away the judicial wrath of God from His people. For this it was necessary for Christ to offer Himself a propitiatory sacrifice to God, Himself bearing that wrath which was due the sins of His people. This great fact was plainly typed out in the Old Testament again and again. For example, when Israel sinned so grievously in the making of the golden calf, we find Jehovah saying to Moses, “Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them” ( Exodus 32:10).
But the immediate sequel shows us most blessedly how that the typical mediator interposed between the righteous anger of the Lord and His sinning people, turning away His wrath from them (vv. 11-14). Again, we read in Numbers 16 that upon the rebellion of Korah and his company, the Lord said unto Moses, “Get thee up from among the congregation that I may consume them” (v. 5). Whereupon Moses said unto Aaron, “Take a censer, and put fire therein from off the altar. and put on incense, and go quickly unto the congregation, and make an atonement for them; for there is wrath gone out from the Lord, the plague is begun.” Aaron did so, and we are told, “he stood between the dead and the living, and the plague was stayed” (v. 48)!
Nothing could be plainer than the above cases, to which many others might be added. All through the patriarchal and Mosaic economies we find that sacrifices were offered for the specific purpose of pacifying God’s righteous vengeance on sin, appeasing His judicial displeasure, and turning away His wrath; the effect of which was expressly termed a “reconciliation”: see Leviticus 16:20; 2 Chronicles 29:24; etc. Surely none is so mad as to suppose that Israelites offered sacrifices to turn away their own anger from God. Then, inasmuch as those Old Testament sacrifices were foreshadowings of Christ’s Sacrifice, how can it be said that the great end of His work was to divert man’s enmity from God, rather than to divert His wrath from us? But rather than rely upon mere reasoning, let us appeal to the clear teaching of the New Testament upon this vital point.
Now a “propitiation” is that which placates or appeases by satisfying offended justice. Nor is the force of this verse in any wise weakened by the fact that the Greek word for “propitiation” is rendered “mercy-seat” in Hebrews 9:5, for the mercy-seat was a blood-sprinkled one! It was the place where the high priest applied the atoning sacrifice for the satisfying of God’s justice against the sins of His people. The Hebrew word for “mercyseat” signifies a “covering,” and it was so designated for a double reason.
Second , because the blood sprinkled upon it, covered the offenses of Israel, from the eye of offended justice by an adequate compensation. That which it was fitly designed to typify was the averting of deserved vengeance by means of a substitutionary interposition. Again in Romans 5:10 we are told, “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.” We were “enemies,” God’s enemies, obnoxious to His righteous judgments. This word denotes the relation in which we stood to God as the objects of His displeasure, subject to the hostility of His law. We were “reconciled,” that is, brought back again into His favor. And that, not by the Spirit’s work in us, but “by the death,” the propitiatory sacrifice, “of His Son.” That this statement refers to the averting of God’s anger from us, and the restoring of us to His favor, may be seen by the following considerations:
First , in that the immediate context is commending the amazing love of God to us (v. 8), whereof “reconciliation” is one of the highest proofs or manifestations. But if verse 10 were referring to the laying down of our enmity to God, it would rather be an instance of our love for Him, than of His for us.
Second , in that the terms of verse 10 are unmistakably parallel with those of verses 8, 9, and there we read, “while we were yet sinners Christ died for us,” which can only mean, Christ died for us as “ungodly,” to deliver us from the death which God’s holiness required (vv. 6, 7), and died thus to bring us into favor of God.
Third , in that “reconciled to God by the death of His Son” is only another description of “being justified by His blood” in verse 9. Now to be “justified” is God’s reconciliation to us, His acceptance of us into His favor, and not our conversion to Him; and that was in order that we should be “saved from wrath” (v. 9).
Fourth , in that in the following verse we are said to have “received the reconciliation” (v. 11), which cannot be meant of the laying down of our arms of rebellion: we cannot be said to “receive” our conversion; but we can that which Christ’s sacrifice has procured for us. “All things are of God, who hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ” ( 2 Corinthians 5:18).
As this passage will come before us again in a later chapter, only a few words upon it can now be offered. “Who hath reconciled us.” When did God do so? At the Cross, as verse 21 clearly enough shows. By whom were we reconciled? Not by the work of the Spirit within, subduing our enmity, but “by Jesus Christ.” How were we reconciled? By Christ’s being “made sin for us” (v. 21), and thus receiving in Himself the penalty of the law, and thereby appeasing God’s justice. It was by His sacrifice that the Lord Jesus reconciled us to God, for the design of a sacrifice was to propitiate God, and not to reform the offerer. “And that He might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby” ( Ephesians 2:15,16).
This important verse really calls for an exposition of its whole context, but we must content ourselves with a few brief words only. A careful analysis of verses 11-15 reveals the fact that both a double alienation and a double reconciliation is under discussion. There is first an antagonism between Jews and Gentiles, verses 11, 12. Second, there is a separation between God and His people, verses 12, 13. Conversely, through the Satisfaction which Christ has made unto God, elect Jews and elect Gentiles have been united in “one new man” (v. 15), and both have been reconciled unto God (v. 16). Thus, the “Christ is our peace” of verse 14 is amplified as: between ourselves mutually (v. 15), between us and God (v. 16); and in consequence there from “Through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father” (v. 18). “That he,” that is, the incarnate Son of God, “Might reconcile,” that is, restore to God’s judicial favor. “Both,” that is, elect Jews and elect Gentiles. “Unto God,” that is, considered as the moral Governor of the universe. “In one body” that is, Christ’s humanity — cf. Colossians 1:22. “In the body of his flesh.” Our Lord’s humanity is here designated “one body,” because the Spirit is emphasizing the One for the many, as in Romans 5:17-19. It is the representative character of Christ’s satisfaction which is here in view — Christ sustaining the responsibilities of all His people. It was in His humanity that He rendered obedience unto God; as it was His deity which gave value to all that He did. “Having slain the enmity thereby,” that is, God’s holy wrath, the hostility of His law. It should be carefully noted that the “enmity” of verse 16 cannot refer to that which existed between Jews and Gentiles, for that has been disposed of in verses 14, 15. “Enmity” is here personified (“slain”), as “sin” is in Romans 8:3. Thus, the verse means that all the sins of God’s people met upon Christ, and Divine justice took satisfaction from Him: in consequence, God’s “enmity” has ceased, and they are restored to His favor. While the gracious provision originated in the love of God, the Atonement was the righteous means of removing His holy hatred against us.
Though the precise expression of “God being reconciled to us” is not found in so many words in Scripture, phrases of precisely equivalent import most certainly are. Thus, “O Lord, I will praise thee: though thou wast angry, with me, thine anger is turned away” ( Isaiah 12:1). “Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the Lord; I will not cause mine anger to fall upon thee, for I am merciful, saith the Lord; I will not keep anger forever” ( Jeremiah 3:12). “And I will establish my covenant with thee; and thou shalt know that I am the Lord: That thou mayest remember, and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more because of thy shame, when I am pacified toward thee for all that thou hast done, saith the Lord God” ( Ezekiel 16:63).
Should it be humbly inquired, Why does Scripture throw the main emphasis on our being reconciled to God, we answer in the words of the Puritan, Thomas Manton, “First, because we are involved. It is the usual way of speaking amongst men: he that offendeth is said to be reconciled, because he was the cause of the breach; he needeth to reconcile himself and to appease him whom he hath offended, which the innocent party needeth not — he needeth only to forgive, and to lay aside his just anger. We offended God, not He us; therefore the Scripture usually saith, We are reconciled to God. Second, we have the benefit. It is no profit to God that the creature enters into His peace; He is happy within Himself without our love or service; but we are undone if we are not upon good terms with Him.”
For Christ to make perfect reconciliation it was required that He should turn away the wrath of God from His people by removing their sin from before His face by means of a propitiatory sacrifice, as also that we should be brought to turn away from all our opposition to God and brought into voluntary and joyful obedience to Him. Until both of these are effected, reconciliation is not perfected. The one is secured by Christ’s satisfaction, the other is accomplished by His sending His Spirit to renew us ( Titus 3:5). A disposition must be produced in the rebel to return unto God and desire restoration to holiness and happiness in God, for “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” ( Amos 3:3). Hence the servants of God are bidden to go forth and beseech sinners to be reconciled to Him ( 2 Corinthians 5:20), obedience to which consists of faith’s entrance into the peace which Christ has made ( Colossians 1:20); yet this will not be, till we cease from all fighting against God. When they do so, they are said to “have now received the reconciliation” ( Romans 5:11).
D. ITS AUTHOR This is the Father Himself. We do not entertain the idea for a moment that Christ died in order to render God compassionate toward His people. Not so; it was the love of God which gave His Son to die for them. The satisfaction of Christ was in order to the removal of those legal obstacles which our sins had interposed against God’s love flowing out to us in a way consistent with the honor of His justice. Reconciliation was not the procurement of God’s grace, but an effect thereof. God’s reconciling us to Himself does not imply any change either in His will or disposition toward us. His infinite displeasure with sin, His disapprobation of our persons considered as offenders, and the engagement of Divine justice against us as transgressors, are perfectly consistent with His everlasting love to us and with His eternal and immutable approbation of our persons as viewed in Christ. If we distinguish sharply between personal resentment and judicial condemnation, all difficulty at this point vanishes. “God loved us, in respect of the free purpose of His will to send Christ to redeem us and to satisfy for our sins; He was angry with us, in respect of His violated law and provoked justice by sin” (John Owen, Vol. 9, p. 172).
That the Father is the Author of reconciliation is plain from Corinthians 5:19, “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself.”
After many hours of concentrated study upon it, we give it as our matured conviction that this expression covers the whole of our reconciliation, from its conception in the mind of God before the foundation of the world, till our final glorification in heaven. This expression “God was in Christ [a name of office, not of nature] reconciling” expresses the agency of the Father in the entire work of reconciliation.
Sixth , in accepting His expiatory sacrifice: Romans 4:24; 6:4.
E. ITS SCOPE “God was in Christ, reconciling a world unto Himself” ( 2 Corinthians 5:19).
In 2 Peter 2:5 we read of “the world of the ungodly.” Here in Corinthians 5:19 it is the world of the godly or elect (as in John 6:33) — there is no “the” in the Greek. The expression is indefinite, though not universal.
Second , to show the amplitude of God’s grace: confined not to the Jews — cf. Romans 11:15.
Third , to denote the ground of the Gospel tender. All who are concerned, should be awakened to seek after this privilege. The Gospel offer is made indefinitely to all sorts and conditions of men. The added words in Corinthians 5:19, “not imputing their trespasses unto them,” is proof positive that all mankind are not included in the “world,” for God does impute trespasses unto the wicked: Ephesians 5:5,6, etc. “And having made peace through the blood of His cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself; by Him whether things in earth, or things in heaven” ( Colossians 1:20).
The key to this verse lies in noting the particular epistle in which it is found. Here the apostle was refuting a false gnosticism with angelolatry and spirit emanations, which had been introduced by human philosophy to depose Christ as the only Mediator between God and men — see 2:18, etc. The Holy Spirit here shows the true relation of angels to Christ: they were created by Him ( 1:15,16). Further, they too were the gainers by His Satisfaction ( 1:19-21). There had once been a union between angels and man, as fellow-citizens in one vast empire of God. But sin had dissolved that union. Sin is rebellion against God, and loyal angels could have no fellowship with sinners. But the great Atonement has restored the happy relationship between holy angels and God’s elect: Ephesians 1:10. They too have gained by it. Christ has restored the disrupted harmony of the universe. A clear proof and blessed illustration of this is found in Revelation 22:9, where an angel, speaking of himself to John, says, “I am thy fellow -servant!”
It may help some if we give a summary of the whole subject. 1. Its Origin was the love of God: Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:18. 2. Its Basis was the everlasting covenant, the “counsel of peace:” Zechariah 6:13. 3. Its Procuring-cause was the satisfaction of Christ ( Romans 5:10), which has “made peace:” Colossians 1:20. 4. Its Occasion was the legal alienation between God and His people through sin: Ephesians 2:16. 5. Its Need lay in a satisfaction being required by Divine justice: Romans 5:9,10. 6. Its Nature is a restoring to God’s judicial favor: Colossians 1:21,22. 7. Its Communicator is the Holy Spirit: Romans 14:17. 8. Its Requirement is that sinners be reconciled to God ( Corinthians 5:20), which means the embracing of His offer of reconciliation through Christ, and this, by ceasing all opposition to Him: Psalm 2:12. 9. Its Reception is by faith: Romans 5:1,11. 10. Its Consequence is sins remitted ( 2 Corinthians 5:19) and access to God: Ephesians 2:18. 11. Its Publication is by “the Gospel of peace”: Ephesians 6:15. 12. Its Extent is the re-uniting of all holy beings in the universe: Ephesians 1:10.