The Atoning Death of Christ

     The Word teaches us that our Creator has become our Redeemer. It teaches us that the Son of God became man for our salvation and that His death on the cross was ultimately to save us from eternal judgment.

Titus 2:11 (KJV): For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,

     The basic description of the atoning death of Christ in the Bible is as a propitiation for our sins, as an aciton which satisfied God’s wrath against us by obliterating our sins from His sight.

     God’s wrath is His absolute holiness and righteousness reacting against unrighteousness as retributive justice. But Jesus has shielded us from this retributive justice by becoming our representative and bearing our sins.  He became a substitute for us, in obedience to his Father’s will, and receiving the wages of our sin in our place.

     Through this, justice has been served, for the sins of all that will ever be forgiven were judged and punished in the person of God the Son, and it is on this foundation that a pardon is now offered to us offenders through Faith in Jesus.

     God's redeeming love for us and holy justice became one, so to speak, at Calvary.  Here, God showed Himself to be the justifier of all that believe in Jesus.

Romans 3:26 (KJV): To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.

     Do you understand what this means entirely?

     We are now seeing the very core of the Christianity. No version of Christian doctrine goes deeper than this which shows mankind's root problem before God, which is our sin.  This in turn evokes wrath, and God’s basic provision for man to be propitiation, which from this wrath brings peace.

     Indeed, some versions of the Gospel are open for discussion because they never get down to this core doctrine. The Gospel is often presented as God’s triumphant answer to human issues - issues of our relationship with ourselves, our fellow brothers and sisters, and our world as a whole.

     There certainly is no doubt that the Word brings us solutions to these problems, but it does so by initially solving the deepest problem - the deepest of all mankind's problems, which is the problem of man’s relation with his Creator.

     Unless we make it plain as day that the solution of these former issues depends on the settling of this latter one, we are misrepresenting the message and becoming false witnesses of God - for a half-truth presented as the whole truth becomes a falsehood.

     If you read the New Testament and truly grasp it, there is no way one can miss the fact that it talks all about our human problems - fear, moral cowardice, sickness of body and mind, loneliness, insecurity, hopelessness, despair, anxiety, cruelty, abuse of power and more - but just as much, no reader of the New Testament can miss the fact that it solves all of these issues for us, one way or another, into the basic core issue of sin against God.

     By sin, the New Testament does not mean common error or failure in the first instance, but complete rebellion against God as in we know what we are doing wrong but continue to do it anyway; and sin, according to the New Testament, is the basic evil from which we need deliverance, and the very reason Jesus died to save us.

     All that has gone wrong in human life among mankind is ultimately due to sin, and our current state of living in the wrong with our selves and our fellow brothers and sisters cannot be fixed as long as we remain in the wrong with God.

     If you read through Romans 1—5, Galatians 3, Ephesians 1—2, Hebrews 8— 10, 1 John 1—3 and the sermons in Acts, you will find that there is really no room for doubt on this point.

     If a question is raised that the word “propitiation” appears in the New Testament only four times, the reply must be that the thought of propitiation appears constantly.  If you truly read it all and understand it, you will also understand the themes and what took place.  It is not good studying to simply just look for the literal occurrence of a word.

     Sometimes the death of Christ is depicted as reconciliation, or peacemaking after hatred and war (Romans 5:10-11 KJV)

     Sometimes it is depicted as redemption, or rescue by ransom from danger and captivity (Romans 3:24 KJV & Revelation 5:9 KJV)

     Sometimes it is pictured as a sacrifice (Hebrews 9:1, 10:18 KJV), an act of self-giving (1 Timothy 2:6 KJV), sin-bearing (John 1:29 KJV & 1 Peter 2:24 KJV) and bloodshedding (Mark 14:24 KJV, Hebrews 9:14 KJV, & Revelations 1:5 KJV).

     All these thoughts have to do with destroying sin and the restoring of fellowship between man and God, and all of these texts have, as their background, the threat of divine judgment which Jesus’ death averted. In other words, these are many pictures and illustrations of the reality of propitiation, viewed from different standpoints. It is a misunderstanding to imagine, as many scholars unfortunately do, that this variety of language must necessarily imply variation of thought.

     A further point must also be made - not only does the truth of propitiation lead us to the heart of the New Testament gospel, it also leads us to a vantage point from which we can see to the heart of many other things as well. 

     Similarly, when you are on top of the truth of propitiation, you can see the entire Bible in perspective, and you are in a position to take the measure of vital matters which cannot be properly grasped in any other terms. In what follows, five of, these will be touched on: the driving force in the life of Jesus; the destiny of those who reject God; God’s gift of peace; the dimensions of God’s love; and the meaning of God’s glory.

     These matters are vital to Christianity - that they can be understood only in the light of the truth of propitiation cannot be denied.