Saturday, June 2, 2012

The removing of God's wrath = propitiation

Romans 3:25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed;

Yesterday we considered what must be removed in order for the atonement to work in the life of the one who by grace, through faith believes on Christ - namely sin's offense.  We noted a term used by theologians to describe that effect - "expiation".  Expiation means "to remove or take away the offense of sin" (ex=away from and piare=to appease, to satisfy).

Why must my sin's offense be removed?
When we share the Gospel, we often ask the question: "are you saved"?  This of course begs the question: "saved from what"?  In quoting Romans 5:9, we discover that the sinner's problem is that they are under the "wrath of God".  God's wrath is not anger out of control.  If anything, the "wrath of God" tells me simply what God does not love.  If God loved everything, that would include things like "evil and sin".  Wrath is related very closely to both His love and holiness.  We could say that wrath is a form of holy love.  In order for God to be the Eternally Good God, wrath must be included in the list of attributes assigned to Him by scripture.

Certainly the sinner must be saved from their sins, however it is the wrath of God on their sins that has them in their predicament.  In order for God to have a real relationship with human beings, his just wrath against sinners must be pacified, appeased and satisfied. 

Propitiation = the satisfaction of God's wrath
In some sixteen places in Leviticus 16 and 17 and in almost half a dozen passages in the New Testament do we find reference to the term "propitiation" (pro-pich-ee-aish-shun).  This term originated from the lid on top of the Ark of the Covenant where the High Priest would sprinkle the blood of a Bull and Goat in the Most Holy Place in the High Holy day in Israel called "The Day of Atonement".  That lid, called "the mercy seat", quite literally could be translated "propitiation" or "the place of satisfaction" or simply "atonement".  In the original setting of this idea, God had revealed the means by which the accumulated wrath against the accumulated sins of the people and the sanctuary could be satisfied. 

The term "propitiation" comes from the same Latin root of the term "expiation" which we looked at yesterday. When we take the prefix "pro" (meaning on behalf of) and the root "piare" (meaning to appease, to satisfy), we have the meaning: "to make satisfaction on behalf, or to appease".  

The word "propitiation in the New Testament
Thus when we come to the New Testament, English versions like the NASB, KJV, NKJV and the more literal versions use this term propitiate:

1. Romans 3:25 Which we saw quoted above, uses "propitate" to describe what Jesus came to accomplish on the cross.  The NIV uses the term "atonement".  Paul shows that not only did Christ's work on the cross effect forgiveness of sins for believer's into the future, but also appeased God's wrath for the sake of Old Testament Believer's too. 

2. Hebrews 2:17 states: "Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people." 

3. 1 John 2:2 reveals: "and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world."

4. 1 John 4:10 explains: "In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins."

Why propitiation is vital to our understanding of the Gospel
For the believer in Jesus Christ, God's declaration of the sinner's innocence at saving faith (called "justification" or "just-as-if-I-never-sinned") is based upon Christ's work of propitiation.  When the Father credits you with Christ's righteousness at saving faith (justification), He is declaring legally what is the case actually - that His wrath on you has been removed.  How does this work?

1. The Spirit comes to you, revealing God's desire to save you
When God sent His Spirit to convict you of your sin, He was excercising His desire to save you from His wrath.  Unless He intervened by working Grace in your heart, His wrath would remain. (John 1:12-13; 3:16; 16:7-16; 1 John 4:10,19)

2. The Spirit convinces you to come to The Son, the Savior
However when the Spirit of God does His work, your eyes are opened to your plight, and you flee to Christ by faith.  (Ephesians 2:8-9; 2 Timothy 2:25; Romans 10:8-10)

3. The Father clears you of wrath based upon the Son's propitiation
At the moment of faith and repentance, the wrath of God is lifted, based upon the Father's will as it was accomplished in Christ's work of propitiation.  God looks at what the Son did on your behalf, and is "satisfied, pleased" to "lift away" the dark clouds of His Justice and shine into your life the bright sun of His mercy (Ephesians 1:7; 2:1-8)
By His Grace, through faith, you are now in the position to receive such mercy.  Truly salvation is God's working on your behalf! (Romans 5:8)

4. The Father communicates your innocence in His sight by means of your reception of Christ's work by faith
Now through means of saving faith, the Father declares to you that He is not mad at you anymore - thus the link between propitiation and justification. (Romans 3:25-26; 4:3,9; 2 Corinthians 5:15-21)  The accomplishment of the Son (propitiation) is why the Father is pleased to apply through the Spirit's work His declaration of your justification in His sight by means of faith and repentance. 

When the sinner is told that they are under God's wrath, and that there is only one away that wrath can be removed - we are getting to the heart of the Gospel.  The phrase that we so often use - "saved", is shown once again to be truly powerful!  When anyone believes on Jesus Christ by grace through faith, all that we spoke of above occurs instantly.  Salvation is truly a miracle!

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