For it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell;…
1. There are only two kinds of goodness possible, that of those who have never erred, that of those who have been recovered. It is plain that ours must be the latter.
2. Appointed to these are two kinds of happiness, the blessedness of entire ignorance of guilt, and the blessedness of forgiveness, the latter of which is superior in intensity and fulness.
3. There are two kinds of friendship, that which has never had a shock, and that which, after having been doubted, is at last made sure. The happiness of the last is perhaps the greater, as illustrated by the parable of the Prodigal. This leads us to our subject — Reconciliation.
1. Its cause. "Wicked works," voluntary deeds. Sin is not merely a foreign disease introduced into the constitution. You are a responsible individual, have done deeds that are wrong of the mind, hand, tongue.
2. Its result.
(1) Alienation — the feeling that God is our enemy. Alienation was a more forcible expression then. There is now little difference between the alien and the citizen. But the alien from the Jewish commonwealth had no power to share in its religious privileges, and was popularly regarded as a "dog." In the Roman commonwealth the word had a still stronger meaning; it was to be separated from the authority and protection of Roman law, and to be subject to degrading penalties. Hence Paul's protest at Philippi against scourging, as he was not an alien. Paul's conception of alienation is given in Ephesians 2:12 it is to have no place in the universe, to feel God your enemy, to be estranged from Him and banished from His presence. What is this but hell?
(2) Enmity against God. The illustration of the process we have seen in every day life. Strength of attachment settles down to indifference, and at last to hatred.
2. secret sense of wrong intrudes, and we cannot escape, save by throwing the blame somewhere. By degrees a cankered spot begins, you irritate it until the mortification becomes entire, and alienation settles down into animosity. And such is the history of alienation from God. Different characters arrive at it in different ways.
(a) Weak minds throw the blame on circumstances, and regard themselves as victims of a cruel fate, the blame belonging not to them, but God.
(b) In the case of stronger and more vicious characters, humiliation degrades, and degradation produces anger. The outcast turns with defiance on respectability merely because it is respectable. So some sinners stand at bay, as it were, to their Maker.
1. Christ has reconciled man to God.
(1) By exhibiting the character of God. The sacrifice of Christ was the voice of God proclaiming love.
(2) When the mind has comprehended this, then comes the blessed feeling of reconciliation. The change of feeling within us changes God to us.
2. Christ has reconciled man to man.
(1) Men have tried other methods. Let the political economist come forward with his principle of selfishness and tell us that this is that by which alone the wealth of nations can accrue. He may get a nation in which there are a wealthy few and a miserable many, but not a brotherhood of Christians. Try the principle of moral rule; say that men should love one another — will that make them? You may come forward with the crushing rule of political authority. Papal Rome has tried that and failed. She bound up the masses of the race as a gigantic iceberg; but she could give only a temporary principle of cohesion.
(2) Therefore we come back to the Cross: through this alone we learn that there is one Father, one Elder Brother, in whom all can be brothers. Catch the spirit of that Cross, the spirit of giving, suffering, loving, and man will be reconciled to man.
3. By the Redeemer's atonement man becomes reconciled to himself. That is necessary because it is so hard to forgive ourselves. You may obtain remission, but you cannot get back the feeling of self-respect and unity within. The sacrifice of Christ was surrender to the will of God; go and sacrifice yourself for the happiness of others, and the calm feeling will come.
4. Man becomes reconciled to duty. There is no discord more terrible than that between man and duty. There are few of us who fancy we have found our proper places in this world. We think that we are fit for higher things. But study that marvellous Life and you will see that the whole of its details are ungenial, mean, trivial, wretched circumstances. It is not by change of circumstances, but by fitting our spirits to the circumstances in which God has placed us, that we can be reconciled to life and duty. If the duties be not noble, let us ennoble them by doing them in a noble spirit.
(F.W. Robertson, M.A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell;