Monday, October 9, 2017

David's Digest: Distance & Difference

I believe it is all too easy to forget who God really is and become too familiar with Him. And we can end up thinking that God is like us. And although the Bible refers to Him as a friend of Christians, and that man was originally made in His image, which is what is restored, over time and finally in heaven, in those He saves, we are quite far and quite different from Him, a gap that is impossible to overcome in and of ourselves.

However, thanks be to God for making a Way to close on those, which is through Christ! The fact that it took a mediator at all, and that it took Christ -- God taking on the nature of man to Himself -- to accomplish this, should evidence the distance and difference between God and man.

Puritan Thomas Manton discusses this in his works vol xviii, sermon upon 1 Cor viii 6. You can read the entire sermon here.

I believe it is important to understand this distance and difference, to put us in our proper perspective to ourselves, so we have a proper one of God -- that in essence He is infinitely far and different from us; to elevate Christ that much more in the great love and condescension of God toward us; and to give us great hope and love returned, that God, who is so far and different, would bother to deal with sinners thus.

From Thomas Manton:

I. The necessity of a mediator in this lapsed and fallen estate of mankind. Two things infer and enforce this necessity -- distance and
difference. Distance by reason of impurity, and difference by reason of enmity; both these occur in the case between God and men. God
is a God of glorious majesty, and we are poor creatures. God is an holy God, a God of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, and we are sinful creatures.
As creatures, we are unworthy of immediate access to God; as lapsed, and under the guilt of sin and desert of punishment, and unable to deliver ourselves, we cannot draw nigh to him with any comfort.

1. Our distance, which is so great that it is a condescension for God to take notice that there are such creatures in the world: Ps. cxiii. 6, 'Who humbleth himself to behold the things which are in heaven and earth.' The excellency and majesty of God is so great that either angels or men are unworthy to approach his presence. Now, as inferior and mean people dare not approach the presence of a great prince but by some powerful friend and intercessor at court, so our distance produceth our fears and estrangedness, and backwardness to draw nigh unto God, and so hindereth our love and confidence in him. Well, then, to depend upon one so far above us, that he will take notice of us, take care of us, relieving us in our necessities and straits, and help us out of all our miseries, and finally save us, requireth a mediator; one that is more near and dear to God than we are, which can be no other than Jesus Christ, as I shall show by-and-by. When a sinner looketh only at God as in himself, he is confounded and amazed, as quite out of the reach of his commerce.

2. Difference. A mediator is chiefly one used between disagreeing parties: Gal. iii. 20, 'Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one.' There must be two parties, and usually two differing parties. There is God angry, and man guilty. Conscience of guilt presents God terrible, and taketh away all confidence from the guilty sinner, so that of ourselves we cannot approach in a friendly manner to an offended and provoked God: Heb. xii. 29, 'For our God is a consuming fire;' and 'Who can dwell with devouring burnings?' Isa. xxxiii. 14. Who shall interpose and stand between God and us, the power of his wrath, and our weakness and obnoxiousness [liableness] to his righteous vengeance.

II. That none but Christ is fit for this high office, that, though God be high, and just, and holy, yet poor creatures and sinners may have access to him. A mediator must be one that can take off the distance, and compromise the difference between us and God: 'that there were,' saith Job, 'a day's-man between us, that might lay his hands upon both!' Job ix, 33. Now, considering this, Jesus Christ is the only fit interposing party; therefore he is called 'the Mediator of the new covenant,' Heb. xii. 24, 'And to Jesus, the Mediator of the new covenant,' and 'The Mediator of a better covenant,' Heb. viii. 6.

1. As to the distance; so in his person he is God-man. Our mediator must be one in whom God doth condescend to man, and by whom man may be encouraged to ascend to God. Now in Christ God is nearer to man than he was before, and so we may have more familiar thoughts of God. The pure deity is at so vast a distance from us while we are in the flesh, that we are amazed and confounded, cannot imagine that he should look after us, concern himself in us and our affairs, love us, show us his free grace and favour. Now it is a mighty help to think of God manifested in our flesh, 1 Tim. iii. 16; 'The Word made flesh,' John i. 14. So that while we are here in the flesh, yet we may have commerce with God. It is a mighty encouragement to consider how near God is come to us in Christ, and how he hath taken the human nature into his own person; for surely he will not hide himself from his own flesh, Isa. Iviii. 7. He came down into our flesh that he might be man, and familiar with man. This wonderfully reconcileth the heart of man to God, and maketh the thoughts of him comfortable and acceptable to us, so that we may encourage ourselves in free access to God.

2. As the person of the Redeemer, so his work; which is to take away the difference and quarrel between us and God. To understand this, observe, that the mediation between the two differing parties must be carried on so that God, who is the supreme and offended party, may be satisfied. Now God stood upon these terms that the honour of his governing justice should be secured: Rom. iii. 25, 'Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins.' And that the repentance and reformation of sinful man should be carried on: Acts v. 31, 'Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a prince and saviour, to give repentance to Israel, and remission of sins.' These must be done, otherwise man must lie under his eternal displeasure. If the one be done and not the other done, no reconciliation can ensue. Therefore we must not look to Christ's mediation with God so as to overlook his work with man, nor so look to his work with man as to overlook his mediation with God: Heb. iii. 1, 'Consider the apostle and high priest of our profession, Jesus Christ.' We have both here. The work of an apostle lieth with men; the work of an high priest with God. He hath an office with God and man, and both are necessary to bring about our salvation. And Christ cannot be a complete Saviour without doing both. To be barely a prophet would not serve the turn, but he must be a priest to satisfy God's justice also by the merit of his sacrifice. In short, his work with God is that of a priest; his work with man is that of a prophet and king.

[1.] His work as a priest is to pacify God's wrath, procure his grace, love, and favour for us; and this he doth under two relations — as a sponsor and intercessor.

(1.) As a sponsor and surety. He was the surety of a better testament: Heb. vii. 22, 'By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament' So -

(1st.) By way of satisfaction, he undertook something to be paid and performed for us. He undertaketh to satisfy God's justice by the sacrifice of himself, and so make way for his mercy on easy terms. The pacifying of God's justice was a great part of his mediation: Heb. ix. 15, '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;' that is, that penitent and believing sinners might be acquitted from the curse due to them by the first covenant, and so made capable of eternal life. What they owe he hath paid.

(2d.) By way of caution, undertaking for those whom he reconciled to God that they shall perform what God requireth of them in the new covenant. Having purchased the Spirit, he hath enabled them to repent, and believe, and mortify and crucify the flesh, and obey the gospel: Rom. vi. 6, 'Knowing that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.'

(2.) As an intercessor. He is in heaven dealing with God in our behalf. He hath not cast off his relation or affection to his people upon his advancement: Heb. viii. 2, 'A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.' In all his glory he is the church's agent, appearing for us as our attorney in court, Heb. ix. 24; pleading for us, and answering all accusations as our advocate: 1 John ii. 1, 'And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.' And maintaining a correspondency between us and God, as an ambassador between two states, promoting our desires and prayers: Rev. viii. 3, 'And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given to him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.' And obtaining all necessary graces for us.

[2.] His work with men, as a prophet and king.

(1.) As a prophet, and so as a messenger of the covenant, Mal. iii. 11. He showeth us the way how we may be reconciled with God, persuading us also to be so reconciled to God. For we are ignorant and obstinate, loath to part with sin and submit to God's terms; therefore he revealeth, and persuadeth us to accept, the conditions of the new covenant, and to cast away all our rebellion against God, and enter into his peace: 2 Cor. v. 20, 'Now then we are ambassadors for Christ; as though God did beseech you by us, we pray you, in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.' They plead in his name, and by virtue of his power.

(2.) As a king and lord; so he maketh these terms part of the new law for the remedying of lapsed mankind: Heb. v. 8, 'Though he were a son, yet he learned obedience by the things he suffered.' And not only so, but he subdueth us to himself,' Luke xi. 21; by strong hand rescueth us out of the power of the devil, and giveth us grace to serve him acceptably, Heb. xii. 28; and taketh us into his care, and ruleth us and protecteth us, till we enter into everlasting life. His lordship is a great part of his mediation.

Thanks be to God for His great condescension, love, mercies and graces! May Christ increase, and we decrease, and may we worship the Lord forever for who He is and what He has done!

-- David

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