Let me call your attention, then, to these five points, which you will find immanent in what I have subsequently to say.
First, you will note that the reconciliation is between two persons who have fallen out, and not between a failing person on the one hand and a perfect, imperturbable process on the other.
The second thing is a corollary from the first, and is that the reconciliation affects and alters both parties and not only one party. There was reconciliation on both sides.
Thirdly, it is a reconciliation which rests upon atonement and redemption.
Fourthly, it is a reconciliation of the world as a cosmic whole. The world as one whole; not a person here and another there, snatched as brands from the burning; not a group here and a group there; but the reconciliation of the whole world.
Fifthly, it is a reconciliation final in Jesus Christ and His Cross, done once for all; really effected in the spiritual world in such a way that in history the great victory is not still to be won; it has been won in reality, and has only to be followed up and secured in actuality. In the spiritual place, in Christ Jesus, in the divine nature, the victory has been won. That is what I mean by using the word “Final” at the close of the list.
I will expound these heads as I go along. Let me begin almost at the foundation and say this. Reconciliation has no moral meaning as between finite and infinite – none apart from the sense of guilt. The finished reconciliation, the setting up of the New Covenant by Christ, meant that human guilt was once for all robbed of its power to prevent the consummation of the Kingdom of God. It is the sense of guilt that we have to get back today for the soul’s sake and the kingdom’s; not simply the sense of sin. There are many who recognize the power of sin, the misfortune of it; what they do not recognize is the thing that makes it most sinful, which makes it what it is before God, namely, guilt; which introduces something noxious and not merely deranged, malignant and not merely hostile; the fact that it is transgression against not simply God, not simply against a loving God, but against a holy God. Everything begins and ends in our Christian theology with the holiness of God. That is the idea we have to get back into our current religious thinking. We have been living for the last two or three generations, our most progressive side has been living, upon the love of God, God’s love to us. And it was very necessary that it should be appreciated. Justice had not been done to it. But we have now to take a step further, and we have to saturate our people in the years that are to come as thoroughly with the idea of God’s holiness as they have been saturated with the idea of God’s love. I have sometimes thought when preaching that I saw a perceptible change come over my audience when I turned from speaking about the love of God to speak about the holiness of God. There was a certain indescribable relaxing of interest, as though their faces should say, “What, have we not had enough of these incorrigible and obtrusive theologians who will not let us rest with the love of God but must go on talking about things that are so remote and professional as His holiness!” All that has to be changed. We have to stir the interest of our congregations as much with the holiness of God as the Church was stirred – first with the justice and then latterly with the love of God. It is the holiness of God which makes sin guilt. It is the holiness of God that necessitates the work of Christ, that calls for it, and that provides it. What is the great problem? The great problem in connection with atonement is not simply to show how it was necessary to the fatherly love, but how it was necessary to a holy love, how a holy love not only must have it but must make it. The problem is how Christ can be a revelation not of God’s love simply, but of God’s holy love. Without a holy God there would be not problem of atonement. It is the holiness of God’s love that necessitates the atoning Cross.