Desert Hills Bible Church | Jesus Christ is Our Propitiation

Jesus Christ is Our Propitiation

The word propitiation, as used by the apostle John in 1 John 2, has been the subject of much debate throughout the centuries. The question is this: does John mean that Jesus Christ, through His death on the cross, obtained forgiveness for us, or does John mean that through His death, Jesus not only obtained forgiveness for us but also satisfied the wrath of God against us? How you answer this question will lead you to the gospel of Jesus Christ and a saving knowledge of God, or to a faulty understanding of who God is and what He requires as payment for our sins.

This distinction is important because some would say that God is not a God of wrath. They would say that God does not demand blood sacrifice to satisfy His wrath against sin and sinners. They claim that God is pure benevolence – a loving God, who would never have this kind of wrath that needed to be satisfied against sin. These people argue that this word means that Christ came and died and brought forgiveness, but that God did not need to have His wrath appeased because a loving God is not angry.

The problem with this view is that the Bible very clearly presents God as angry not only with sin itself but also with sinners. In Psalm 2:12, we see very clearly that our God is a God of wrath who becomes angry with sin – especially the sin of rejecting His Son, and this anger toward such sinners is just and warranted. It is the just anger of a holy God who rightly exercises wrath against what is truly evil and wicked.

David writes in Psalm 7:11 that God “has indignation every day.” What is it that makes God’s wrath necessary? It is the fact that He is a righteous judge, and the world is full of wicked people. God is not a petulant deity who becomes angry without cause at the slightest provocation. Our God, as a righteous judge, must exercise wrath against those who are wicked and defy His divine law. Those who do what is evil provoke God to wrath every day because of God’s righteousness, which demands He be utterly intolerant of sin.

Because we are all sinners, we are under the wrath of a just and righteous God if we do not have Christ as our Advocate and Propitiation.

In every ancient religion, and indeed every religion throughout all history besides biblical Christianity, the angry god(s) must be placated by the sacrifice and suffering of sinners. But what is unique about Christianity is that God’s wrath is not satisfied by our sacrifice, or by our suffering, or by something we have done. God Himself provides the sacrifice for our sins that will appease His just wrath against us.

1 John 4:10 says that “God loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” The situation was not that we loved God and figured out a way to appease God’s wrath against us. Quite the opposite! We were sinners who loved sin. But God, because He loved us, sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Christ, then, became the sacrifice that satisfied God’s just wrath against us for our sins. All of God’s holy and just anger towards us for our sins was poured out on Christ on the cross. His fury is thus extinguished, not because we did something to appease Him, but because Christ died in our place, bore our curse, and took the wrath of God upon Himself on the cross.

And so John’s point in 1 John 2 is this: When we sin, we remind ourselves that standing with us before the Father is Jesus Christ. Jesus accomplished a perfect righteousness in our place and died on a cross, bearing the full weight of the wrath of God for us. Our total trust, our total reliance, our total dependence is not on any notion that we are sinless (because we are not), but our total trust, reliance, and dependence is on the truth that Jesus, through His sacrifice and perfect righteousness, makes us acceptable in the presence of God.

As the hymn writer penned: “Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness! I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus’ name!”

What is it that gives us such confidence that Christ stands for us as an Advocate and as our propitiation? He’s not just the propitiation for our sins, but for the sins of the whole world. That means that the only way anyone is ever going to be saved, no matter where they are from or who they are, is through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. No one at any time or at any place can ever say, “Jesus’ sacrifice has no relevance to me because of my ethnicity or my status or my parents or my heritage.”

The fact that Jesus died as the propitiation for the sins of the whole world means that He is the only hope in the whole world for sinners. We dare not say that Muslims get to God through their god, and Hindus through their gods, and Buddhists through their gods, and Jews through their Torah observance, and so on. Jesus died to satisfy God’s wrath for the sins of the whole world, and that means that He alone is the source of eternal life for sinners the world over.

This is the gospel. The gospel is not become a better you, or be a good citizen, or be a loving neighbor. The gospel is that Jesus Christ is the righteous one who satisfied God’s wrath for the sins of the whole world, and that those who trust in Him, no matter who they are, where they are, or when they live, receive eternal life and know God through their faith in Jesus Christ.

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