This has been one of the most difficult chapters to write because there is so much to be packed into the doctrine of propitiation. The only way I could approach this is to start at the beginning and start at the high altitude and work our way down. To understand propitiation, we must understand God, his law, his love and his holiness.
What can incite the wrath of God? It is when we decide that we don’t need his way but we insist on own our way. Parents recognize this in their own kids. But what about our own lives. We are not talking about wanting cookies for breakfast and not getting them. We are talking about dismissing God’s words for life entirely and try to save ourselves. In that vein, the world thinks that surely because God is love, then he can simply overlook such details and give us a free pass, perhaps even grade on a curve.
You might laugh but some Christians actually think that.
Have you ever heard, perhaps in a church, bible study or even a Christian conference, “Are you saved?” to which someone has responded, “Man, I sure hope so.” Brothers and sisters, don’t be surprised! I overheard that exchange not 10 feet away and waited with bated breath to hear the punchline. But there was none. He was serious.
That exchange happened at a Pastor’s conference.
This is why we must understand His holiness. Yes, the holiness of God can big and scary but if by the Spirit alone, we can grasp and understand it, we can rest assured of His goodness and salvation.
In the beginning, in Genesis 2:15-17, God gives us just one law. Follow this one simple rule and I can take care of the rest. Let see how that unfolds:
Genesis 3:1-7 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.
He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.
In other words, this is what I think Eve was thinking “Hmm, I want my way. Man, it sure does feel like God is holding out on me. If I do this thing, sure I will get what God has been keeping from me.”
What did God say would happen?
Genesis 2:15-17 The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
Forthwith, the wages of sin is death.
Did God kill them right away? No. But what cannot be denied, evident by the entire history of mankind, is that when sin came into this universe, all of the cosmos shattered and broke into a million pieces.
Because of sin, God’s wrath and judgment fall in three ways: eventual death, sudden death and a giving over to what we want. All three ways lead to separation from God.
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”
To the woman he said,
“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children.
Your desire shall be contrary to your husband,
but he shall rule over you.”
And to Adam he said,
“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.”
The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.
Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.
In other words, life is going to be hard and at the end, you are going to die.
But let us take a quick look at the sudden execution of God’s judgment:
Genesis 13:13 Now the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the LORD.
Genesis 18:20-21 Then the LORD said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know.”
So based on Genesis 2 and Romans 6:23, what do you think is going to happen to the Sodom and Gomorrah? The judgment here is obvious, “Well, that is easy, they were wicked and they deserve to die.”
Let’s go to other places where it is not so obvious.
God commands. Pharaoh disobeys. Pharaoh pretends to confess his sins but as soon as the current plague disappears, he sins and hardens his heart.
God warned Pharoah of his judgment and wrath . God’s own people believed.
But Pharaoh did not believe. Genesis 12:29-32 At midnight the LORD struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock. And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians. And there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where someone was not dead. Then he summoned Moses and Aaron by night and said, “Up, go out from among my people, both you and the people of Israel; and go, serve the LORD, as you have said. Take your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and be gone, and bless me also!”
Judgment of the family within camp
Judgment of idol worshippers
The judgment of nations that surrounded Israel
Judgment of entire nations
I am not going to sugar coat this at all. Sometimes, the women and the children were judged. Upon hearing that, our minds instantly click and thinks, “Those are women and children, they are innocent. They have done nothing wrong. They have been not been tried and judged.”
Perhaps they were innocent in the laws of their land. But did they sin against God? Strike that—did we not all sin against God?
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned
For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.
If this is your first time hearing this or this is your millionth time hearing this, it is not easy to hear. This is not soft chew candy. This is tough, gristly meat cooked burnt to a well-done crisp that you have to chew on for days and even then, it’s painful to swallow.
Let’s hammer this point and let us see how you, me, my kids, my future little babies, your babies, even my sainted grandma all were born into:
Ephesians 2:1-3 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
We were all born by nature children of the wrath of God. To simply put it, we were born dead.
John 3:36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
Finally, beyond sudden judgment and eventual judgment, there is a wrath that is not so obvious but it is where God simply gives us over to what we want. We keep suppressing His truth and we keep doing what we want. God simply goes, “You think your way is better, fine, go. Have it your way.”
That should scare the living daylights out of you.
So what then?
Here is the greatest news that the world has ever known or will ever know:
For those who would believe in the Son of God then all the wrath, hatred and judgment that was rightfully meant for those same sinners fall then upon the Son of God, Jesus Christ our Lord. His perfect obedient life, called out to us by the Father, empowered by the Holy Spirit, as he gives his life over, nails himself to the cross and takes on the full wrath of the Father and the forsaking of the Spirit so for that those who believe in Him would never experience that.
God loves you so much. Before the creation of the world, he loved you. He looks upon all eternity and declares, “I must have you in my family. You are my son. You are my precious daughter. Yet you are running from me and you are so far from me. I cannot count on you to come back to me. You have no power to do so. Yet, I have all the power. I will send my Son and he will close that gap with his own life.” God the Father loved you so much that it pleased Him to send His Son to the cross . Father’s joy. Likewise, Christ loved you so much that for His glory, he saved you to Himself and he did it with all humility and joy . How do we know this? The evidence of the Spirit of God within us who produces His fruit , leads us, guides us, bears witness with our spirit that we are His children , comforts us, reminds of us everything that God has taught , convicts us of sin when we do not believe but reminds us of our righteousness because of everything that God has done in us .
From the Lord’s furious righteous anger against sin is meant to make all things right. All things right is joy, love, and happiness forever and ever.
Jesus Christ being our sacrificial lamb (propitiation) and scapegoat (expiation) is that singular righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled. In a nutshell, the law required in order for you and me to be in the presence of God, you will have to sacrifice a spotless lamb and take all the sins of the people, place them on a goat and release the goat into the wilderness never to return back again. Those rituals in the Old Testament was a foreshadow to whom Jesus Christ is and what he does. But those were just that: foreshadows. Never the real thing. The real thing is that man must shed his blood to atone for his sins. Herein lies the problem: Man is not perfect. Man cannot atone for his sin.
There is only One who is not only willing to save and able to save but he is the only one who has the power to save.
God came down from heaven, His Son, the Word of God and became flesh and entered into our jacked up, messed up, broken world as God but yet as a son, stepson, citizen, missionary, priest, and king. And by the word ‘king’, He did so not appear as an all-powerful warrior-king figure. He did so, humbly and mildly, as a tiny infant. He didn’t come into a wealthy family with all resources at his fingertips. He is born into a poor working-class family of an out-of-wedlock pregnant junior girl and with a stepdad. He didn’t live in a big huge metropolis where he could easily gain fame. No, he begins his life in a little rural small town and he begins his life on the run, like a fugitive, because the ruler of that time wanted him dead.
He faced the same temptations that we did, yet he did not sin.
He faced the same brokenness, heartache, sadness, loneliness, poverty, loved ones being sick, loved ones with terminal diseases, loved ones dying. He faced betrayal, distrust, fair-weather friends and faced people who would cheer for him one moment only turn around and want to murder him the next. Just like any of us but he did not sin.
He lived the life that we should have lived.
In doing so, he was the only one qualified to die the death that we should have died.
He was then taken to be stripped naked and then severely beaten, flogged and whipped to within an inch of His life. His body was so shredded to a point that you could see bones and muscle and guts underneath where there was skin as His body was covered in blood. A crown of thorns shoved upon His head, His beard yanked off His face. He was spat upon, slapped and mocked. His clothes and belongings were seized by the soldiers and bid upon in a game of craps. To top of all that, He was made to carry a wooden cross up a hill. There, upon that same, He would be nailed to that cross with spikes about 12 inches long through both wrists and one through both of his feet. They raised the cross up into a hole in the ground.
Jesus Christ is then crucified.
His body drained out of his own blood, sweat, tears, urine, and feces that gathered into a pool at the bottom of His cross. He faced the scorching heat of the day and the freezing coldness of the night. His bones never broken but just to be sure that Jesus was surely dead, a soldier stuck a spear through his ribcage straight into His heart where blood and water poured out.
It was at that moment, Jesus became every single sin ever committed by anyone who has put their faith and trust in God alone. Since the moment Adam and Eve disobeyed God to every sin that is being committed today to every sin that will ever be committed to the end of time by those God calls His people. In essence, He became a murderer, a rapist, a child molester, a thief, a hacker, a liar, pornstar, extreme fundamentalist and tax evader. He became religious, bitterness, deception, gluttony, lust, laziness, idolatry and pride. Not only did He bore the weight of all of the sins for all of His people but He bore all the sins ever committed against His people.
It was in that same moment, that His only begotten Son was indeed the only True Perfect Sacrifice and that His Son had become all of our sins, God the Father unleashed His wrath upon His Son and killing Him. That wrath was meant for you and me. We were meant to die that way. But because God loves us so much, Jesus Christ stood in our place and took the full force of God’s wrath that was meant for His people. It was in the moment, God the Father and God the Spirit turned their backs and forsook God the Son because Christ was the only one who could bear the weight of the sins of His people, of those who would believe and trust Him for eternal life.
Hebrews 2:17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
1 John 2:2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
1 John 4:10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
God made Jesus to be the bearer of all the wrath that was in store for us. Listen, if you think that the wrath of God is simply contained to fire out of the heavens that take our temporal life on earth, think less of that and think about being separated from the love of God forever. That is called hell.
But with God’s will, by the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ knew us so intimately and loved us so dearly, gives his life up and faces the wrath of the Father and the forsaking of Triune God, and allows his body to break so that we would be with Him forever.
This work was done once. Only once. We don’t need to crucify Christ again.
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit
For those who are in Christ, God is not out to get you. God is not out to pour his wrath on you. Will God discipline you if you try to go astray? That is to be sure. That is because He is your Father in heaven who loves you and would only do what any good Father would do but do so without shame, condemnation, abuse, torment, affliction. He would do so in perfect love, gentleness, kindness, never leaving you nor forsaking you forever.
But Christ, with his life and his love, protects and saves His people so that God can make all things right-standing with Himself.
Matthew 1:21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”