CHRIST, THE PROPITIATION FOR OUR SINS
The second concept is propitiation. To propitiate someone is to remove his anger by satisfying justice. The concept is closely related to the sacrificial work of Christ, but has a different end in view. As expiation purges from sin and guilt, propitiation deals with the satisfaction of God’s wrath and justice. Many despise the concept of propitiation, thinking that it suggests a God who has uncontrollable fury, which is inconsistent with God’s love.
Wrath in God, however, is his settled, holy disposition toward sinners. His justice demands their execution. He hates them as well as their sins.
Moreover, there is no disjunction between love and propitiation. John writes, ‘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’ (1 John 4:10). God loved some objects of his wrath (Eph. 2:3) so much that he gave his own Son to be the sacrifice for their sins.
As the Old Testament sacrifices picture the expiatory nature of Christ’s work, they also depict the propitiatory nature of his work. The cover of the Ark of the Covenant, which the Priest sprinkled with blood on the Day of Atonement, was called the propitiatory seat, signifying that the sacrifice removed God’s wrath.
The New Testament writers describe the atoning work of Christ as propitiation (1 John 1:2, 4; 4:10; Heb. 2:17). In Romans 3:24 and the following verses Paul teaches that God justifies us on the basis of the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ:
Being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus: 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; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
On the cross of Calvary, Christ bore the full stroke of God’s wrath (Matt. 27:46).
CHRIST MAKES RECONCILIATION
The third concept is reconciliation. The meaning of this word lies close to the biblical idea of propitiation. The sinner is alienated from God and is looked upon as God’s enemy (Isa. 59:2). Reconciliation is the divine provision for the removal of that alienation and for the reestablishment of harmony, peace, friendship, and fellowship between God and the sinner.
This notion is depicted in the peace offerings of the Old Testament, in which the worshipper ate the flesh of the offering (Lev. 7:15 and the following verses). By this act God demonstrated that the worshipper was in communion with him. Two New Testament passages particularly teach about reconciliation: Romans 5:8–11 and 2 Corinthians 5:18–19. We will look at 2 Corinthians 5:18:
Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
Paul views reconciliation as accomplished by the finished work of Christ. Because of that work, God does not count trespasses against those reconciled to him. The emphasis here is upon God’s enmity toward us being removed. Even though we are commanded to be reconciled to God, this language always refers to the removal of the enmity of the one to whom we are to be reconciled. Thus it is not our antipathy toward God that is dealt with in the work of reconciliation, but God’s enmity against us. Every time we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, God declares that this reconciliation has fully been accomplished by the Lord Jesus Christ.
CHRIST OUR REDEEMER
The fourth concept is redemption. Redemption views the atonement from the perspective of a payment made to God. Redemption views Christ’s work as a ransom by which the bondage of sin is removed and the lost inheritance is restored. Jesus says in Matthew 20:28 that he came to give his life a ransom, and Paul in Acts 20:28 refers to the church purchased (redeemed by the blood of God).
In the Old Testament two basic ideas were attached to the idea of redeem, ransom and redemption. The first is deliverance from punishment.
In Exodus 21:30 the man who was liable to death, because he carelessly allowed his dangerous ox to gore someone to death, could be delivered from the death penalty by paying a ransom: ‘If a ransom is demanded of him, then he shall give for the redemption of his life whatever is demanded of him.’ Paul applies this to Christ in Galatians 3:13, ‘Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us – for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.”’
That ransom to God is made clear in Revelation 5:9. ‘Worthy art Thou to take the book, and to break its seals; for Thou wast slain, and didst purchase for God with Thy blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.’
The second aspect of redemption is the restoration of inheritance. In Leviticus 25:25, a kinsman-redeemer could pay a family debt, restore the land, and raise up an heir (as in the case of Boaz and Ruth). In Galatians 4:5–7 Paul applies redemption to our adoption:
In order that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons . . . Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son than an heir through God.
Adam not only plunged us into the morass of guilt and corruption, but he lost also the family farm. Our inheritance as sons of God was forfeited.
Christ paid the debt of our sin so that God could restore the right and privileges of adoption. Christ, therefore, by his active and passive obedience, fulfilled the Father’s commandment. In his suffering he accomplished four things: expiation, propitiation, reconciliation, and redemption. Through his work he fully accomplished salvation.
Moreover, in John 10:17–18, Jesus says he also has ‘authority to take it (His life) up again’. The resurrection is the great proof that God has accepted the work of Christ on behalf of sinners. If Christ had remained under the power of death, he would have been rejected by God. His enemies would have been correct. But, on the third day, he was raised. By the resurrection God vindicated his Son; the Father declared that he accepted the Son and his work (Rom. 1:4).
When Christ accomplished redemption he was working out God’s eternal plan of salvation. Thus the work of God could not fail; all whom the Father gave to the Son, the Son redeemed perfectly and fully. Only divine wisdom could have devised a plan for the salvation of sinners that enabled God to be just, while justifying sinners.
– Joseph Pipa