The Doctrine of Reconciliation
by A. W. Pink
In our last we dwelt chiefly upon the fearful breach which the entrance of sin made between the thrice Holy One and His fallen and rebellious creatures. In this we must point out some of the consequences and evidences of that breach, thereby showing in more detail the urgency of the sinner’s case. By his act of disobedience in Eden man invaded God’s right of sovereignty, spurning as he did His authority, throwing off the yoke of submission, determining to be his own lord. The outcome of such revolt we are not left to guess at. It is plainly made known in the Scriptures. By his fearful offence man lost the favor and friendship of God and incurred His holy displeasure and righteous indignation. The Creator became the punishing Judge. Our first parents were promptly arraigned and sentence was passed upon the guilty culprits. Man had fallen into sin and the Divine wrath now fell upon him. God drove man out of Paradise and unsheathed the flaming sword (Gen. 3:24), thereby making it manifest that Heaven and earth were at variance. As the result of the fall sin became man’s delight and henceforth he was an enemy to all holiness and consequently of the Holy One.
1. Fallen man became separated from God. It is easy to write or read those words, but who is competent to fathom their fearful import! Separated from God, the Fountain and Giver of all blessedness! Cast out of His favor. Severed from communion with Him. Cut off from the enjoyment of Him. Devoid of His life, of His holiness, of His love. Such is the terrible and inevitable consequence of sin. Sin snapped the golden cord which had united man to his Maker. Sin broke the happy relationship which originally existed between man and his rightful Lord. Sin made a breach between its committer and the Holy One. Not only did sin conduct man to a guilty distance from God, but sin necessarily placed God at a holy distance from man. God will not suffer those who are hostile to Him and offensive to His absolute purity to dwell in His presence. Therefore do we read that "God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to Hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment"(2 Pet. 2:4). They were banished from Heaven, excluded from the company of the Most High, imprisoned in the place of unutterable woe.
God had plainly made known unto our federal head the penalty of his disobedience: "But you shall not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil—for in the day that you eat of it, you shall surely die"(Gen. 2:17). Thus at the very beginning of human history the Lawgiver announced that "the wages of sin is death"—death spiritual, death judicial, death eternal if pardon was not obtained. And death is not annihilation but separation. Physical death is the separation of the soul from the body, expulsion from this earth. So spiritual death is the separation of the soul from God, expulsion from His favor. In that tragic yet hope-inspiring parable of the prodigal son our Lord represented the sinner as being in "the far country"a "great way off"from the Father’s house (Luke 15:13,20), and when he returned in penitence the Father said, "this My son was dead (separated from Me) and is alive again (restored to Me); he was lost and is found."When Christ as the Substitute and Surety of His people bore their sins in His own body on the Tree (1 Pet. 2:24) He received the wages of sin, crying to God "why have You forsaken Me!"
But the death inflicted upon Adam and all whom he represented was also judicial. Fallen man is a malefactor, dead in Law, lying under its sentence, a criminal in chains of guilt, held fast in fetters until the day of execution, unless he obtains a pardon from God. If no pardon is obtained, then he shall be cast into "the lake which burns with fire and brimstone,"and that is expressly denominated "the second death"(Rev. 21:8), because it is a being "punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord"(2 Thess. 1:9). Man then, every man while unregenerate, is living "without God in the world" "far off"from Him (Eph. 2:12,13). Being "dead in trespasses and sins" he is cut off from God, having no access to Him. He is a castaway from the Divine presence. God will have no commerce with him, nor receive any offering at his hands. He is outside the kingdom of God, and cannot enter it save by the new birth (John 3:5). He is born into the world alienated from the life of God (Eph. 4:18). When the Lord came down upon Sinai Israel was not suffered to draw near Him (Ex. 19). Sin had imposed an effectual barrier.
2. Fallen man became an object of abhorrence to God. Once more we use language the meaning of which no mortal is capable of fully entering into. It is not that we have employed terms which the case does not warrant, for we have but paraphrased the words of Holy Writ. Nor can it be otherwise if God is what Scripture affirms and if man has become what he is represented to be. God is light (1 John 1:5) and man is darkness (Eph. 5:8).God is holy, man totally depraved. God is our rightful Lord and King, man is an insurrectionist, a defiant rebel. God is immaculately pure, man a loathsome leper. If man saw himself as he appears to the Divine eye or even as he is portrayed by the Divine pencil, it would be evident that he must be an object of repugnance unto Him who sits enthroned on high. "From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it, but wounds and bruises, and putrefying sores. They have not been closed, neither bound up, neither soothed with oil"(Isa. 1:6). What a repulsive object! Yet that is precisely what you and I (by nature) look like in the eyes of God.
"You hate all workers of iniquity"(Ps. 5:5).In this Psalm God’s alienation from and detestation of the wicked is set forth in six steps. First: He has no delight in them. "You are not a God that has pleasure in wickedness"(v. 4). Second: they cannot reside in His presence "neither shall evil dwell with You"(v. 4). Third: they have no status before Him. "The foolish shall not stand in Your sight"(v. 5). Fifth: He will pour upon them the fury of His indignation. "You shall destroy them that speak leasing" or "lies" (v.6). Sixth: they will for all eternity be abhorred by Him. "The Lord will abhor the bloody and deceitful man"(v. 6). None would be shocked at such frightful declarations as these if he had anything like an adequate conception of the exceeding sinfulness of sin and of the infinite holiness of God. Though they are scarce ever heard from any pulpit today, whether we believe them or not, they are the words of Him who cannot lie and throughout eternity their verity will be borne amply witness to. "You hate all workers of iniquity."Not merely their evil works, but the workers themselves; not some of the most notorious of the workers but all of them. My reader, if you are out of Christ, still unregenerate, whether you are British, American, or Australian, you are an object of God’s hatred. Rightly did C. H. Spurgeon point out from these words, "It is not a little dislike, but thorough hatred which God bears to workers of iniquity. To be hated of God is an awful thing. O let us be very faithful in warning the wicked around us, for it will be a terrible thing for them to fall into the hands of an angry God. . .How forcible is the word ‘abhor’ (in the next verse). Does it not show us how powerful and deep-seated is the hatred of the Lord against the workers of iniquity!" It is the very nature of righteousness to hate unrighteousness. Those who are so corrupt and abominable must be loathed by One who is ineffably holy. It is the very perfection of the Divine character to hate the totally depraved.
3. Fallen man came under the condemnation and curse of the Divine Law. "It is written, Cursed is everyone that continues not in all things which are written in the Book of the Law to do them"(Gal. 3:10). Those words are a quotation from Deuteronomy 17:26—a verse which contains the conclusion of the maledictions pronounced upon the disobedient of the context, being really the sum and substance of them all. It is the solemn declaration that those who have despised God’s authority and trampled His commandments beneath their feet are exposed to the Divine displeasure and to condign punishment as the expression of that displeasure. The "curse of the Law"is that sentence and penalty which is due unto sin. Sin and the curse are inseparable. Wherever the one is, the other must be. Therefore the unrestricted "every one," and that not only for multiplied transgressions but for a single offence. The Divine Law is perfect, and demands perfect and perpetual conformity to it. A single transgression brings down upon its perpetrator the Divine curse, as was evidenced in Eden, and in consequence of our representative participation therein, all of us entered this world under the maledictions of God’s Law.
"Cursed is every one." Those solemn words, so little known, so faintly apprehended even by those who are acquainted with them, reveal the fearful situation of every soul out of Christ. They are under sentence of execution. Their position is identical with the convicted murderer in the condemned cell, awaiting the dread summons of vindictive justice. If you are unregenerate, my reader, at this very moment you are under sentence of death: "condemned already."Since the curse of the Law falls upon men for a single sin, then what must be the punishment that will be meted out upon those with multiplied transgressions to their account! "The curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked" (Prov. 3:33). That unspeakable malediction rests upon all that he has and all that he does. "You shall be cursed in the city and you shall be cursed in the field. You shall be cursed in your basket and your store," (Deut. 28:17). Nay, God has said "I will curse your blessings; yea, I have cursed them already"(Mal. 2:2). To those out of Christ He will yet say. "Depart from Me you cursed into everlasting fire"(Matthew 25:41).
4. Fallen man came under the wrath of God. This follows inevitably from what has already been pointed out. Since a rebel against the Divine government is necessarily an object of abhorrence unto his holy Lord, since he has come beneath the curse and condemnation of the Divine Law, justice cries aloud for vengeance. The Maker of heaven and earth is no indifferent Spectator of the conduct of His creatures. He was not of Adam’s. The father and head of the race was summoned before His judgment bar, fairly tried, justly condemned, and made to experience the beginnings of God’s wrath, for the full measure thereof is reserved for the transgressor in the next life. As the consequence of their sin and fall in the person of their representative all of Adam’s posterity are "by nature the children of wrath"(Eph. 2:3). Not only defiled and corrupt, but the objects of God’s judicial indignation. "The children of wrath." Those words should be to the ungodly reader as the handwriting on Belshazzar’s wall (Dan. 5:5, 6). They should blanch his countenance, trouble his thoughts, and make his knees smite together.
This fearful expression "the children of wrath"is more forceful than many conclude. In the previous verse we read of "children of disobedience," which means more than disobedient children, for such may the regenerate be. It means such as are addicted to disobedience, who make a trade of it. So "children of wrath" signifies more than to be liable to wrath. It connotes the objects of God’s wrath, wholly devoted thereto, born to it as their portion and heritage—the corruptions of their nature being its fuel. When the angels sinned the wrath of God was visited upon them (2 Pet. 2:4), thereby evidencing that no natural excellence in the creature can exempt it from the judgment of God. Further demonstrations of His wrath were given when the flood was sent to drown the antediluvian world, when fire and brimstone destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, and when Pharaoh and his hosts were overwhelmed at the Red Sea. And the execution of God’s wrath upon you, my unsaved reader, is hourly drawn nearer. Ignorance cannot shield you from it. Outward privileges will not save you from it. Nor will a mere profession of religion. The only way of deliverance is for you to "flee from the wrath to come"by betaking yourself to Christ for refuge.
"God is angry with the wicked every day"(Ps. 7:11), on which Spurgeon remarks, "He not only detests sin, but is angry with those who continue to indulge in it. We have no insensible and stolid God to deal with. He can be angry, nay, He is angry today and every day with you, you ungodly and impenitent sinners. The best day that ever dawned on a sinner brings a curse with it. Sinners may have many feast days, but not safe days. From the beginning of the year even to its ending, there is not an hour in which God’s oven is not hot and burning in readiness for the wicked, who shall be as stubble." And on the words of the verse which immediately follows—"If He turn not, He will whet His sword" —that faithful preacher declared: "What blows are those which will be dealt by that long uplifted arm! God’s sword has been sharpening upon the revolving stone of our daily wickedness, and if we will not repent, it will speedily cut us to pieces. Turn or burn is the sinner’s alternative."
Fallen man is the subject and slave of Satan, under a more terrible bondage than ever the Hebrews were to Pharaoh, for it is a bondage of the soul. Yet this is justly inflicted. At the beginning our first parents preferred Satan’s lie to God’s truth, and therefore did He allow Satan to obtain dominion over them. Yet with each of his descendants it is a willing bondage therein. As the Jews desired Barabbas rather then Christ, so we entered this world with a nature that is in harmony with Satan’s. Yes, without a single exception, every member of our race is born so depraved that he voluntarily serves and obeys the arch enemy of God. There are but two spiritual kingdoms in this world: that of Christ’s (Col. 1:13) and that of Satan’s (Matthew 12:26), and every human being is a subject of the one or the other. Those who have not come to Christ and surrendered to His sceptre are ruled by Satan and are fighting under his banner against God. Therefore when Paul was sent forth to preach the Gospel it was in order to open the eyes of men "to turn them from darkness to light and from the power of Satan unto God" (Acts 26:18).
The Devil is the sinner’s master, as he was the Christian’s before Divine grace regenerated him. "And He has made you alive who were dead in trespasses and sins—in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the Prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience"(Eph. 2:1, 2). He not only tempts from without but dominates them from within. As God works in His people "both to will and to do of His good pleasure"(Phil 2:13) so the devil operates in the hearts of his subjects to perform his fiendish pleasure. He "put into the heart"of Judas to betray Christ (John 13:2). He made Pilate and Herod condemn Him to death, for it was "their hour and the power of darkness"(Luke 22:53). He "filled the heart"of Ananias to lie to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3). Yet each of them acted freely and according to the inclinations of his own evil nature. Satan’s subjects render him a voluntary and cordial obedience. "You are of your father the Devil, and the lusts of your father you will do" (John 8:44).
6. Fallen man is under the reigning power of sin. This abominable thing which God hates has entered the human constitution like a deadly poison that has completely corrupted our whole being. Sin has full dominion and undisputed sway over the human soul. The mind makes no opposition to it, for it is sin’s servant (John 8:34) and not captive. It exerts a determining power on the will. Sin so reigns in the heart of the unregenerate that it directs their affections and controls all the motives and springs of their actions, causing them to walk after their own evil imaginations and devisings. As the air is the native element of the birds, so sin is the natural element of fallen man. "Abominable and filthy is man, who drinks in iniquity like water"(Job 15:16). Like a parched traveler in the desert who craves water, seeks after it, and greedily swallows it when found, so is iniquity unto the sinner.
The course of the natural man is described as "serving divers lusts and pleasures"(Titus 3:3), as "bringing forth evil fruits"(Matthew 7:17), as yielding his members "servants to uncleanness and to iniquity"(Rom. 6:19). The service rendered by the unregenerate to sin is a whole-hearted one, voluntary, and cordial. Man is in love with sin, preferring darkness to light, this world to Heaven. His lusts are his idols. Therefore does he persist in sin despite all pleadings, warnings, threatenings, chastisements. While he is unregenerate he does nothing but sin in thought and word and deed. Solemn it is to think that every one is in continual remembrance with God, set in the light of His countenance, recorded in that book which will be opened in the day of judgment. Not one of them is pardoned, or can be, while he is out of Christ. So much guilt lies upon his soul as is sufficient to sink it into the lowest Hell, and will do so unless blotted out by atoning blood.
7. Fallen man hates God. "The carnal mind is enmity against God, and is not subject to the Law of God"—and so inveterate is that "enmity" it is at once added—"neither indeed can be"(Rom. 8:7). We may not believe it, or be conscious of it, but there is the Divinely-revealed fact. God is an Object of aversion unto the natural man. The language of the hearts of sinners unto the Almighty is, "Depart from us; we desire not the knowledge of your ways,"(Job 21:14). They do not hate Him as their Provider and Preserver, but as a Being who is infinitely holy and who therefore hates sin and is "angry with the wicked every day."They detest Him as a sovereign Being, who dispenses His favors according to His absolute pleasure. They abominate Him as the Moral Governor of the world, demanding obedience to His Law, and pronouncing cursed all who break it. They abhor Him as the Judge, who shall yet cast all His enemies into the Lake of Fire. Proof of this was furnished when God became incarnate and was manifested unto men. They crucified Him.
"Can two walk together except they be agreed?"(Amos 3:3). Obviously not; then how much less could rebels dwell together with a holy God for all eternity! For that reconciliation must be effected. But how is peace possible? How are alienated sinners to be restored to friendship with God without Him denying His own perfections? Some grand provision must be made whereby the wrath of God is appeased, whereby His Law is magnified, His honor vindicated, His justice satisfied. Some wondrous redemption is imperative if sinners are to be delivered from that dreadful state of enmity, darkness, and slavery into which the Fall conducted them. Some marvel of wisdom and miracle of grace is necessary if those so far off are to be made nigh, if the unholy are to be made holy, if those dead in sin are to be quickened into newness of life. Some unique Mediator is indispensable if the breach between an offended God and offended creatures is to be healed. A Mediator who is capable of conserving the interests and promoting the glory of God, and who also can win the hearts of those in revolt. The needs be for reconciliation is crystal clear; the effectuation of it is the grand subject of the Gospel, the wonder of angels, and will be the theme of the song of the redeemed throughout the unending ages of the future.