This is blog #2 in “The Gospel” series that covers what Jesus Christ accomplished completely for us through His death and resurrection. We are looking at specific words describing what God did to cure our fatal sin disease.
In the first blog, we covered who Christ is and why an understanding of His finished work on the cross is so important. The gospel is an announcement to the world of an accomplished fact. When Jesus said, “It is finished” (John 19:30), He meant just that. Finished. Complete. Done once for all. We humans have a fatal sin disease. God acted on our behalf. Jesus’ death on the cross completely took care of what we needed for a cure to our fatal sin disease. What God set out to do for humans, He accomplished. God took the ugliness of the cross and made it beautiful for us.
Because of Christ’s finished work on the cross, our relationship with God is changed forever when we put our faith in Jesus Christ. It is much more than having our sins forgiven and going to heaven when we die. So, it takes more than one word to describe what Jesus’s death on the cross accomplished for us. In fact, it takes 6 terms, and these 6 terms are sometimes called the “words of the cross.” Not the words that Jesus spoke from the cross, but these are what Jesus Christ accomplished completely for us through His death on the cross. Once and for all. A done deal in God’s eyes.
In a way, each one of these 6 words answers a different question about our relationship with God. When you put them all together, you will never be the same once you see all that Jesus Christ has done for you. You need to know these 6 words because they are in your Bible, especially in the New Testament letters of Paul, Peter, and John. If you stumble over them, you are going to miss the riches of understanding your salvation. When you read them, you need to know what they mean because they are so important to your experiencing a life of freedom and joy in Christ. They are gifts of the cross for us.
In this blog, we’ll cover the first word.
Word of the Cross #1 is Propitiation. It means that “God’s holy wrath against sin is fully satisfied.”
It comes up time and time again. Women who know Christ, who have trusted in Him for salvation and eternal life, struggle with the notion that God is still angry with them because of something they’ve done in the past. Maybe that is how you feel.
Do you wonder if you have a flawed understanding of salvation? Is salvation just getting eternal life when you die? From what are Christians saved?
When you study the New Testament, you see that we are saved from many things, ourselves and our own flawed righteousness for example. But, we are especially saved from the wrath of God. What does that mean? And, how does understanding that give you confidence that God is no longer angry with you or at you?
First, it helps to understand what is meant by God’s wrath.
What is God’s wrath?
When you read or hear about God’s wrath, do you picture God raging with out-of-control anger? That is our experience with human anger so we might think that His is the same, only bigger.
I thought that way for a long time. But, several years ago, some good teaching helped me to understand that God's wrath is not a mood or a fit of temper. God's disposition toward sin and evil is as constant and unrelenting as His love and goodness. He hates and rejects evil in a perfect and holy anger. He will never bend or compromise with it. His own nature demands that He judge it through action.
Why does He do this? God loves His creation. He desires it to reflect His holiness. To preserve His creation God must destroy whatever would destroy it. (Romans 1:18-20) Every wrathful judgment of God in the history of the world has been a holy act of preservation.
Let’s put this in everyday terms that you and I can understand. How much do you hate germs like the flu virus infiltrating your home? Do you use a disinfectant to clean with gusto and keep your family from getting sick? I’m recording this podcast during the coronavirus pandemic of 2020. My disposition toward the coronavirus is wrath. It is pollution of my home. I am doing whatever is necessary to get rid of it.
Another example is an ant infestation in your home. You do not invite them in and just ignore their presence while they take over your kitchen or bedroom, do you? I bet you do whatever you can to attack their presence and restore your home to a safe environment for yourself and your family. When I spray ant killer where I’ve seen ants crawling in my kitchen, I am expressing wrath against their destruction of my safe home environment.
God’s wrath is far more serious, of course. Sin is much more awful with far more destructive consequences than the coronavirus or ants. But, you get the idea.
Our culture tends to dismiss the seriousness of human sinfulness. We blame people and circumstances for our behavior and attitudes rather than blaming our deceitful, desperately wicked hearts. God hates sin. It incurs His anger. But, God loves people. So, how can God accept you and me without punishing wrong? Something needed to be done to appease His anger and restore the relationship.
Appeasement was needed to restore the relationship.
You can probably recall a time when you incurred the anger of someone you love and needed to make some kind of restitution to “appease” their anger. The act of appeasement leads to that person now being satisfied because restitution has been made. So, the relationship can be restored. That is what God did for us.
Our loving God took action. The word “wrath” in the New Testament translates a word that not only means anger but also punishment. God’s love for His creation requires punishment for sin in order to destroy it. The punishment for sin is death.
But, God’s love for people and His mercy towards us led Him to prescribe a substitute to take the punishment for human sin. Some kind of restitution is needed to “appease” His anger against sin so our relationship with Him could be restored. Something had to die.
First, the Old Testament sacrifices temporarily appeased God’s anger against sin. But, God had a solution planned that would be so much better! Christ came to earth and lived as a perfect human. So, God presented Christ as a permanent sacrifice of appeasement for our sins. In the past, our English Bibles used the word “propitiation” to describe this. Propitiation is an old word meaning to appease, to satisfy. Some modern translations use the words “sacrifice of atonement” or “atoning sacrifice” instead of propitiation. But, the concept of God’s satisfaction is the same.
God’s wrath is fully satisfied.
God took action. Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God, took the place of all those Old Testament sacrifices as He hung on the cross and died. Every sin of every human who has ever lived or will live was placed on Him. He became the substitute for us. God’s anger at sin was directed toward Him.
God’s holy wrath against all sin is fully satisfied by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Because of that, God is able to extend mercy to everyone who believes in Christ without compromise with evil. This is truth for you to know and claim. Romans 5:9 says that we are saved through Christ from God’s wrath.
There is no longer any sacrifice that anyone can ever do to appease God’s wrath against sin apart from what Christ has already done. Picture an empty altar—never again used.
Jesus did the appeasement for you. It’s done, finished! Because you have trusted Christ and are now found in Christ, you can dwell on the fact that God is satisfied and no longer angry at your sin—ever!
God is satisfied…no longer angry at you.
Dear listener, have you been wrestling with the feeling that God is always angry with you because you make mistakes? Has someone who doesn’t know the truth made you feel that way? The Bible says that when Jesus died on the cross, God’s anger at human sin—all of it—was fully satisfied. When you put your faith in Jesus Christ, you are saved from the wrath of God against sin. You get this by faith.
God is satisfied. He is no longer angry at you for anything you have done wrong or will do wrong. Now, that doesn’t mean you won’t have to live with the consequences of your mistakes. Some He will allow because He loves you so much. Others, He blocks. You can be thankful for that.
Sometimes worship songs express truth so well that it can get implanted in our minds and completely engulf our hearts. Two beautiful songs we often sing in worship are like that. When I am tempted to think that God is angry with me, I let these beautifully penned words remind me of the truth.
The first song is In Christ Alone. The second verse says this,
In Christ alone, who took on flesh, fullness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness scorned by the ones He came to save:
‘Til on that cross as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied –
For every sin on Him was laid; here in the death of Christ I live. (In Christ Alone, Keith Getty & Stuart Townend)
On that cross as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied.
The second song is Before the Throne of God Above. The second verse of that hymn says this,
When Satan tempts me to despair, and tells me of the guilt within
Upward I look and see Him there who made an end to all my sin
Because the sinless Savior died my sinful soul is counted free
For God the just is satisfied to look on Him and pardon me
To look on Him and pardon me. (Before the Throne of God Above, Charitie Lees Smith)
“For God the just is satisfied to look on Him and pardon me.” That brings tears of gratitude to my eyes every time I sing that.
Live in confidence of God’s love for you.
Because you’ve trusted Christ and are now found in Christ, you can know and live with confidence that God is fully satisfied…no longer angry at your sin—ever! How does that make you feel? Believe it, sister. Embrace it. Dance! Shout! Sing!
Never again let your mind or emotions convince you that God is still angry with you because of something you’ve done in the past. You can now live in the freedom of knowing God’s grace-filled love more than His wrath. Isn’t that wonderful?
And, that truth should motivate you to be a grace-giver to anyone who has angered you. You can be a grace-giver like God. Propitiation is a gift of the cross you get by faith in Christ.
As Paul wrote in Colossians 3:12, you are dearly loved!
Let Jesus satisfy your heart with His finished work on the cross. Then, live in the freedom of your new life in Him.
Go to the next blog: Reconciliation.