by Rev. D. MacLean, Glasgow
THE way of approach by sinners to God is a question of paramount importance. It is one which has exercised the minds of the Lord’s people in every generation. Moses prayed, “Now therefore, I pray thee, if I have found grace in thy sight, show me now thy way that I may know thee, that I may find grace in thy sight” (Exodus 33: 13). David pled, “Show me thy ways, O Lord; teach me thy paths. Lead me in truth and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day” (Psalm 25: 4). And when the Saviour was on earth, Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?” To this the Lord Jesus replied, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14: 5, 6).
By these words of the divine Redeemer, “No man cometh unto the Father but by me,” we are taught that men are at a distance from God, and that it was necessary that Christ should come into the world and carry out the work the Father gave Him to do, before the way could be opened up whereby sinners could return to God whom they had forsaken. That which causes the distance between sinners and God is their sins, the number of which no man can estimate and the evil of which no tongue can tell. God is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity. Although He hates putting sinners away, yet the requirements of His holy nature and the claims of His inflexible justice ensure that sin and all who are guilty of sin shall be driven from His presence.
While the distance between God and guilty sinners cannot be measured, yet some idea of its greatness may be illustrated as follows. Suppose a father of a large family, born and brought up in Scotland, decides to leave his native land and seek a home and living in some distant part of the earth. He leaves his wife and family behind, purposing to send for them in due course. He takes his departure and constantly writes home to tell of his progress. We can be sure that his wife will miss him and his children often long for reunion with him. Yet, however far away he is, they are always buoyed up by the hope that some time, sooner or later, they will see him again. Although the way to him is far, yet they hope soon to go on that journey to meet him. One day, however, the sad news comes that their father has died. The distance is now so great between them that the disconsolate widow and the fatherless children can no longer entertain any hope of going to be reunited to him. Death has made that distance so very great.
It is death that has made also the distance between God and man so great; even that death which is the consequence of sin, for the “wages of sin is death.” By our sin we died in our souls and can have no place in the presence of the living God. The only suitable place for a dead person is the grave, and the only place for us is the grave of a lost eternity if we die in our sins. The sentence of death has been passed upon us and, as life lies in God’s favour so death lies in His wrath. There is no hope of this distance ever being bridged by man or angel. The journey is too great for us all and no endeavours or efforts on our part can effect our reconciliation to God when the separation is caused by death. This was and is the experience of all who came, in the mercy and kindness of the Lord, to seek the way. “I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me: refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul” (Psalm 142: 4). Of the Ephesian believers the Apostle said they had been “without God and without hope in the world.” How great is the distance!
It is in view of this sad and desperate condition that the Lord Jesus appears in His glory and beauty as THE WAY. In His glorious person as Mediator we see united two natures between which there was an infinite distance before. He is both “God and man in two distinct natures and one person for ever.” Death cannot, and did not, and never will, cause a separation between His two natures, world without end. But it was necessary that the Lord Jesus would be more than God and Man. It was necessary that He would take away the distance. He could only do this by taking away sin, and this could be accomplished only by His dying the death due to the sins which He bare “in His own body on the tree”. This was in the cup which the Father gave Him to drink. By His death a way is opened up to God, for death was swallowed up by His death.
The apostle speaks of this as “a new and a living way” and the triumphant note of the joyful sound on the lips of the ambassadors of Christ is: “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed to us the word of reconciliation. . . We pray you in Christ’s stead be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5: 9-21).
If the question be now asked, “Where shall we find this way?” the answer is: In Christ’s words that He is not only the Way but also the Truth. Through and by Him, the way is revealed in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. The Christ, who is the Way, is revealed in the Word of God alone and all other Christs are false and will never bring any soul back to God. To the two disciples on the way to Emmaus the way seemed to have become so dark, and they feared that it was for ever closed when Christ died. Consequently, as they walked they were sad. When Christ drew near He began at Moses and all the prophets and expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. Their hearts burned within them as they saw the Way revealed to them in the Word of God. “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” It is, then, in the Word of God alone that the way is to be found.
But another solemn question arises. “How are those who are dead in trespasses and sins to walk in this new and living way?” Here again the answer is to be found in Christ alone. He is not only the Way and the Truth but He is also the Life. By the Holy Spirit, He imparts spiritual life to the souls of sinners. In the exercise of that life they see the exceeding sinfulness of sin, feel to some extent its guilt and power, find themselves far off from God, cry for mercy, and are brought to see that Christ is the way, and the only way, whereby they can return to God and find peace and pardon. At the same time the Holy Spirit makes Christ known to them in the Word of God, and they are enabled to close in with Him in the everlasting gospel. Upon their grieved minds comes the truth like the balm of Gilead, in words such as these of the Apostle, “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2: 13).
What a wonderful Saviour is the Lord Jesus! His riches are unsearchable, His love passes knowledge, His grace can reach the most unworthy, and in Him there is an inexhaustible fullness to meet the every need of all who come to Him. How great is the guilt of those who despise Him and who neglect the great salvation! Surely your own conscience will agree that such are worthy of death. Seek with your whole heart and mind to find Him as the Way, for it is written, “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord” (Isaiah 55: 6-8).