God's Answer to Man's Question
How may I,
a sinner, draw near to Him in whom there is no sin, and look upon His face
the great question which, at some time or other, every one of us has asked.
This is one of the awful problems which man in all ages has been attempting
to solve. There is no evading it: he must face it.
answers to this question should have been altogether wide of the mark, is
only what might have been expected; for he does not really understand the
import of the question which he, with much earnestness perhaps, is putting,
nor discern the malignant character of that evil which he yet feels to be a
barrier between him and God.
many elaborate solutions of the problem which has perplexed the race since
evil entered should have been unsatisfactory, is not wonderful, seeing his
ideas of human guilt are so superficial; his thoughts of himself so high;
his views of God so low.
when God has interposed, as an interpreter, to answer the question and to
solve the problem, man should be so slow to accept the divine solution as
given in the word of God, betrays an amount of unteachableness and self-will
which is difficult to comprehend. The preference which man has always shown
for his own theories upon this point is unaccountable, save upon the
supposition that he has but a poor discernment of the evil forces with which
he professes to battle; a faint knowledge of the spiritual havoc which has
been wrought in himself; a very vague perception of what law and
righteousness are; a sorrowful ignorance of that Divine Being with whom, as
lawgiver and judge, he knows that he has to do; and a low appreciation of
eternal holiness and truth.
always treated sin as a misfortune, not a crime; as disease, not guilt; as a
case for the physician, not for the judge. Herein lies the essential
faultiness of all mere human religions or theologies. They fail to
acknowledge the judicial aspect of the question, as that on which the real
answer must hinge; and to recognise the guilt or criminality of the
evil-doer as that which must first be dealt with before any real answer, or
approximation to an answer, can be given.
God is a
Father; but He is no less a Judge. Shall the Judge give way to the Father,
or the Father give way to the Judge?
the sinner; but He hates the sin. Shall He sink His love to the sinner in
His hatred of the sin, or His hatred of the sin in His love to the sinner?
sworn that He has no pleasure in the death of a sinner (Eze. 33:11); yet He
has also sworn that the soul that sinneth, it shall die (Eze. 18:4). Which of
the two oaths shall be kept? Shall the one give way to the other? Can both
be kept inviolate? Can a contradiction, apparently so direct, be reconciled?
Which is the more unchangeable and irreversible, the vow of pity or the oath
love must be reconciled, else the great question as to a sinner's
intercourse with the Holy One must remain unanswered. The one cannot give
way to the other. Both must stand, else the pillars of the universe will be
reconciliation man has often tried; for he has always had a glimpse of the
difficulty. But he has failed; for his endeavors have always been in the
direction of making law succumb to love.
reconciliation God has accomplished; and, in the accomplishment, both law
and love have triumphed. The one has not given way to the other. Each has
kept its ground; nay, each has come from the conflict honored and glorified.
Never has there been love like this love of God; so large, so lofty, so
intense, so self-sacrificing. Never has law been so pure, so broad, so
glorious, so inexorable.
been no compromise. Law and love have both had their full scope. Not
one jot or tittle has been surrendered by either. They have been satisfied
to the full; the one in all its severity, the other in all its tenderness.
Love has never been more truly love, and law has never been more truly law,
than in this conjunction of the two. It has been reconciliation, without
compromise. God's honour has been maintained, yet man's interests have not
been sacrificed. God has done it all; and He has done it effectually and
not have done it, even though he could have devised it. But truly he could
do neither. God only could have devised and done it.
done it by removing the whole case into His own courts of law, that it might
be settled there on a righteous basis. Man could not have gone into court
with the case, save in the certainty that he would lose it. God comes into
court, bringing man and man's whole case along with Him, that upon righteous
principles, and in a legal way, the case may be settled, at once in favour
of man and in favour of God. It is this judicial settlement of the case that
is God's one and final answer to man's long unanswered question, "How shall
man be just with God?" "Wherewith shall I come before the LORD, and bow
myself before the high God?" (Micah 6:6).
provides the basis of the reconciliation; a basis which demonstrates that
there is no compromise between law and love, but the full expression
of both; a basis which establishes both the authority and the paternity of
Jehovah, as Lawgiver and Father; a basis which reveals in infinite awfulness
the exceeding sinfulness of sin, the spotless purity of the statute, the
unbending character of God's governmental ordinances; and which yet secures,
in and by law, the righteous overflow of His boundless love to the lost sons
of reconciliation between law and love God has Himself not only provided,
but brought into His own courts of law; proposing to the sinner that all the
questions between Himself and the sinner should be settled on this basis
,-so equitable, so friendly, so secure; and settled in judicial form, by a
legal process, in which verdict is given in favour of the accused, and he is
clean absolved, -"justified from all things."
consent of parties to the acceptance of this basis is required in court. The
law consents; the Lawgiver consents; Father, Son, and Spirit consent; and
man, the chief party interested, is asked for his consent. If he
consents, the whole matter is settled. The verdict is issued in his favour;
and henceforth he can triumph, and say, "It is God that justifieth; who is
he that condemneth?"
Sin is too
great an evil for man to meddle with. His attempts to remove it do but
increase it, and his endeavours to approach God in spite of it aggravate his
guilt. Only God can deal with sin, either as a disease or a crime; as a
dishonour to Himself, or as a hinderer of man's approach to Himself. He
deals with it not in some arbitrary or summary way, by a mere exercise of
will or power, but by bringing it for adjudication into His own courts of
law. As judge, seated on His tribunal, He settles the case, and settles it
in favour of the sinner, -of any sinner on the earth that will consent to
the basis which He proposes. Into this court each one may freely come, on
the footing of a sinner needing the adjustment of the great question between
him and God. That adjustment is no matter of uncertainty or difficulty; it
will at once be granted to each applicant; and the guilty man with his case,
however bad, thus legally settled, retires from court with his burden
removed and his fears dispelled, assured that he can never again be summoned
to answer for his guilt. It is righteousness that has reconciled God to him,
and him to God.
As sin is
too great an evil for any but God to deal with, so is righteousness too high
for man to reach; to high for any but God to bring down and place at our
disposal. God has brought down, and brought nigh, the righteousness. Thus
the guilt which we have contracted is met by the righteousness which God has
provided; and the exclusion from the divine fellowship, which the
guilt produced, is more than reversed by the new introduction which
the righteousness places at our disposal.
May I then
draw near to God, and not die? May I draw near, and live? May I come to Him
who hateth sin, and yet find that the sin which He hateth is no barrier to
my coming, no reason for my being shut out from His presence as an unclean
thing? May I renew my lost fellowship with Him who made me, and made me for
Himself? May I worship in His holy place, with safety to myself, and without
dishonour to Him?
the questions with which God has dealt, and dealt with so as to ensure a
blessed answer to them all; an answer which will satisfy our own troubled
consciences as well as the holy law of God. His answer is final and
it is effectual. He will give no other; nor will He deal with these
questions in any other way than He has done. He has introduced them into His
courts of law, that there they may be finally adjusted; and out of these
courts into which God has taken them who can withdraw them? Or what end
would be served by such a withdrawal on our part? Would it make the
settlement more easy, more pleasant, more sure? It would not. It would
augment the uncertainty, and make the perplexity absolutely hopeless.
tendency of modern thought and modern theology is to refuse the judicial
settlement of these questions, and to withdraw them from the courts into
which God has introduced them. An extrajudicial adjustment is attempted; man
declining to admit such a guilt as would bring him within the grasp of law,
and refusing to acknowledge sin to be of such a nature as to require a
criminal process in solemn court; yet admitting the necessity or
desirableness of the removal of the sore evil under which humanity is felt
to be labouring, and under which, if unremoved, it must ere long dissolve.
history of six thousand years of evil has been lost on man. He refuses to
read its awful lesson regarding sin, and God's displeasure against the
sinner, which that history records. The flood of evil that has issued forth
from one single sin he has forgotten. The death, the darkness, the sorrow,
the sickness, the tears, the weariness, the madness, the confusion, the
bloodshed, the furious hatred between man and man, making earth a suburb of
hell,-all this is overlooked or misread; and man repels the thought that sin
is crime, which God hates with an infinite hate, and which He, in His
righteousness, must condemn and avenge.
If sin is
such a surface thing, a trifle, as men deem it, what is the significance of
this long sad story? Do earth's ten thousand graveyards, where human love
lies buried, tell no darker tale? Do the millions upon millions of broken
hearts and heavy eyes say that sin is but a trifle? Does the moaning of the
hospital or the carnage of the battlefield, the blood-stained sword, and the
death-dealing artillery, proclaim that sin is a mere casualty, and the human
heart the seat of goodness after all? Does the earthquake, the volcano, the
hurricane, the tempest, speak nothing of sin's desperate evil? Does mans
aching head, and empty heart, and burdened spirit, and shaded brow, and
weary brain, and tottering limbs, not utter, in a voice articulate beyond
mistake, that sin is GUILT, that that guilt must be punished,-punished by
the Judge of all,-not as a mere "violation of natural laws," but as a breach
of the eternal law, which admits of no reversal, "The soul that sinneth, it
shall die"? For without law, sin is nothing. "The strength of sin is the
law" (1 Cor 15:56); and he who makes light of sin must defend moral
confusion and injustice; he who refuses to recognize sin as guilt,
must dissolve the law of the universe, or ascribe imbecility and injustice
to the Judge of all.
has grown old in sin, and has now more than ever begun to trifle with it,
either as a necessity which cannot be cured, or a partial aberration from
good order which will rectify itself ere long. It is this tampering with
evil, this refusal to see sin as God sees it, as the law declares it, and as
the story of our race has revealed it, that has in all ages been the root of
error, and of wide departure from the faith once delivered to the saints.
Admit the evil of sin, with all its eternal consequences, and you are shut
up to a divine way of dealing with it. Deny the evil of sin, and the future
results of that evil, and you may deny the whole revelation of God, set
aside the cross, and abrogate the law.
law is the knowledge of sin." Therefore the connection between sin and law
must be maintained, both in condemnation and in pardon. God's interposition
in behalf of man must be a confirmation, not a relaxation of the law; for
law cannot change, even as God cannot change or deny Himself.
the sinner must also be favor to the law. Favor to the sinner which would
simply establish law, or leave its sanctities untouched, would be much; but
favor to him which would deepen its foundations, and render it more
venerable, more awful than before, is unspeakably higher and surer. Even so
has it been. Law has not suffered at the hands of love, nor love been
cramped and frozen by law. Both have had full scope, fuller scope than if
man had never fallen.
know that love is not law, and that law is not love. In law, properly, no
love inheres. It is like the balance which knows not whether it be gold or
iron that is laid upon it. Yet in that combination of the judicial and the
paternal, which God's way of salvation exhibits, law has become the source
and vehicle of love, and love law's upholder and honourer; so that even in
this sense and aspect "love is the fulfilling of the law."
that was against the sinner has come to be upon the sinner's side. It is now
ready to take his part in the great controversy between him and God,
provided he will conduct his case on the new principles which God has
introduced for the settlement of all variances between Himself and the
sinner; or rather, provided he will put that case into the hands of the
divine Advocate, who alone knows how to conduct it aright, and to bring it
to a successful issue,-who is both "propitiation" and "Advocate,"-the
"propitiation for our sins" (1 John 2:2), "the Advocate with the Father,
Jesus Christ the righteous" (1 John 2:1).
Click for printer friendly page
Bible Commentary Index