Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Ian Hamilton on Reconciliation

Last week I attended a Bible Conference at Eastwood Presbyterian Church (Montgomery, AL). The speaker for these few days was the Rev. Ian Hamilton (see a brief introduction here), and the theme was the Glory of Jesus Christ.

On Sunday evening, Rev. Hamilton spoke on the doctrine of justification from Gal. 1 (for a few notes on this message, see here).

On Monday evening, he spoke on the doctrine of propitiation from Romans 3:25-26 (see here).

On Tuesday evening, he spoke on the doctrine of reconciliation from Romans 5:1-11. I offer here a few thoughts from my notes on this message.

To begin his sermon, Hamilton posited that "The gospel of God's grace in Jesus Christ is at the heart of the Reformation." Today, the Evangelical church, if I may summarize his words, finds itself battered. What will keep us on course in our lives and in our churches is to be grounded in these doctrines (i.e. justification, propitiation, reconciliation, and assurance). "We can never hear these too often," he stated emphatically.

Alienation is the separation that keeps God from us.
Renewal is friendship restored; it is the overcoming of enmity.

At the heart of the drama of redemption (the message of the Bible), is a two-fold enmity: 1) Our alienation from God because of our sins, and 2) God's alienation from us because of His holiness. "It is not just that our sins have turned us away from God," Hamilton explained, "but our sins have turned God away from us. This God is against you for who and what you are in your sins."

"What did He do to overcome the alienation?" It is in the death of Jesus Christ that God overcomes this alienation. In this, "God effected a glorious exchange. All that was ours was exchanged for all that was Christ's. And, all that was Christ's was exchanged for all that was ours." At this point Hamilton introduced the illustration of Joseph bringing his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, to his aged and sickly father, Israel (Gen. 48). This narrative states that Joseph took his two sons and place Ephraim at Israel's left hand and Manasseh to Israel's right hand. When they were brought near "Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on the head of Ephraim, who was the younger, and his left hand on the head of Manasseh, crossing his hands (for Manasseh was the firstborn)" (Gen. 48:14 ESV). The great exchange is "God, as it were, with crossed hands. The well-beloved became the cursed one."

Hamilton offered us seven theses on the doctrine of reconciliation, which are as follows:

  1. It was done for enemies
    • Not one of us had any redeeming feature.
    • The gospel ultimately rests in the inexplicable love of God.
  2. It was effected at the cross by the death of God’s Son
    • This is the centerpiece of the Christian faith.
    • It is hard to fathom the depths of the cry of Jesus upon that cross: “Why have you forsaken me?” Surely the Father’s answer was along the lines of “For enemies, my Son, so that we may be friends.”
  3. Reconciliation was accomplished to make us God’s friends
    • Thomas Goodwin argued that “[God] could have created new friends cheaper” (Thomas Goodwin, The Works of Thomas Goodwin, Volume VI containing “The Work of the Holy Ghost in Our Salvation,” Edinburgh: J. Nichols, 1863. III: ch. IV, 148. Digitized Sep 24, 2007; Reprinted by Reformation Heritage Books, 2006)
  4. Reconciliation is something we receive
    • Salvation is all of grace, but it is received by faith.
    • When God give grace He gives Himself.
    • Faith receives Christ and all His benefits.
  5. It is God, Himself, who takes the initiative to reconcile us
    • The offended (injured) God who steps forward that we might become His friends.
  6. The blessing of reconciliation
    • The most basic of blessings—access to God.
  7. The goal of reconciliation
    • We tend to hyper-individualize the gospel.
    • God’s ultimate purpose in the gospel is the glory of the Son.
    • The ultimate goal of reconciliation is a reconciled God in the midst of a reconciled community (ultimately in the New Heaven and the New Earth). This is not just Eden restored, but Eden plus Christ.
    • To reconcile us to Himself. To reconcile us to one another.

Conclusion: “The gospel makes enemies into friends.”