PROPITIATION -- THE HEART OF THE GOSPEL
A. Prince Paris had carried off Princess Helen to Troy. The Greek expeditionary force had taken ship to recover her, but was held up half-way by persistent contrary winds. Agamemnon, the Greek general, sent home for his daughter and ceremonially slaughtered her as a sacrifice, to mollify the evidently hostile gods. The move paid off; west winds blew again, and the fleet reached Troy without further difficulty.
This bit of the Trojan war legend, which dates from about 1000 B.C., mirrors an idea of propitiation on which pagan religion all over the world, and in every age, has been built. The idea is as follows. There are various gods, none enjoying absolute dominion, but each with some power to make life easier or harder for you. Their temper is uncertain; they take offence at the smallest things and then they take it out on you by manipulating circumstances to your hurt. The only course at that point is to humor and mollify them by an offering. The rule with offerings is the bigger the better, for the gods are inclined to hold out for something sizeable. In this they are cruel and heartless, but they have the advantage, and what can you do? Thus pagan religion appears as a callous commercialism, a matter of managing and manipulating your gods by cunning bribery.
II A Monstrous Distortion of the Truth
A. That whole "illustration" of the doctrine of propitiation.
1. In place of a cluster of gods who are made in the image of man and who behave like a crowd of Hollywood stars, the Bible sets forth one Almighty God and Creator.
2. In Him is all goodness and truth and to whom all moral evil is abhorrent.
(a) With him there is no bad temper, no vanity and no ill will.
(b) One might expect that there would be no place for propitiation in the Christian faith.
3. But that isn't true - the whole idea of propitiation runs through the entire Bible.
(a) In the O.T. it underlies the rituals of the sin offering, the guilt offering and the day of atonement. (Lev 4:1-6) (Lev 7:16)
(b) In the N.T. the word "propitiation" is used four times. (Rom 3:23-26) (Heb. 2:17) (I John 2:2, 4:10)
4. A gospel without propitiation at its heart is another gospel than that which Paul preached.
B. If you look at the RSV or NEB you will not find the word propitiation in any of the four texts.
1. They replace it with the word expiation.
2. What's the difference? Expiation only means half of what propitiation means.
(a) Expiation is an action that has sin as its object. It denotes a covering, putting away or the rubbing out of sin so that it no longer constitutes a barrier between man and God.
(b) Propitiation includes all of that and the pacifying of the wrath of God.
3. The book of Romans makes this abundantly clear. Rom 1:18
(a) In Rom 2:1-16 Paul confronts us with the certainty of the "day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God who will render to every man according to his works"
(b) Unto those who obey not the truth but obey unrighteousness shall be wrath and indignation.
4. Every man then in his natural state without the gospel whether he is aware of it or not, is under the active anger of God.
5. But now Paul says those who were ungodly (Ron 4:5) and enemies of God (Ron 5:10) but will place their faith in Jesus Christ shall be saved from wrath through him. (Ron 5:9)
6. What has happened? The wrath of God against us both present and future has been quenched
(a) How was that effected? Through Christ's death (Rom 5:10).
(b) The blood of Christ has forever quenched God's anger against us.
(c) His blood has insured that His treatment of us forever will be favorable.
C. By His sacrificial death for our sins, Christ has pacified the wrath of God.
I. The wrath of God is as potent as His love.
2. Just as His shed blood was the manifestation of the Father's love for us - so it was also the direct averting of His Father's wrath against us.
III Propitiation is the Work of God Himself.
A. In paganism man propitiates his gods and religion becomes a form of bribery.
1. In Christianity, God propitiates His wrath against sin by His own action.
2. The Bible says - He (God) set forth Jesus to be the propitiation for our sins.
(a) It was not man who took the initiative to make God friendly.
(b) It was God Himself who quenched His own wrath, It was God who so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.
(c) God loved the objects of His wrath so much that He gave His Son to the end that His shed blood would make provision for the removal of this wrath.
B. So it was God the Father who devised this plan of salvation in order that we might have loving fellowship with Him.
IV. Propitiation was made by the Blood of Christ.
A. Lev 17:11 - It is the blood that makes atonement.
1. Paul in Romans points to the death of Christ in terms of representative substitution.
2. The innocent taking the place of the guilty, in the name and for the sake of the guilty.
(a) Two passages illustrate representative substitution.
(b) Gal 3:13 - II Cor 5:14, 18-21
B. It was taught in O.T. sacrificial System
I. (Lev 4:4,24,28,33) When the animal was offered the sinner was required to lay his hands on the animal and then slay it: -Thus identifying himself with it.
2. On the Day of Atonement two goats were used.
(a) One was killed as a sin offering and the other after the priest laid hands on its head was led away into the wilderness. (Lev 16:21)
(b) This dual ritual taught a single lesson - through the sacrifice of a representative God's wrath is averted and sins are borne away out of sight.
V. The Sum of the Matter
A. The Gospel tells us that our Creator has become our Redeemer.
1. It announces that God the Son has become man and has died on the Cross to save us from eternal judgment.
2. As a propitiation, Christ has quenched God's wrath against us by obliterating our sins from His sight.
(a) Christ received the wages of our sin by taking our place.
(b) By means of His death justice has been served and mercy can now be extended to the vilest of sinners.
(c) At the Cross, God showed Himself to be just and the justifier of him that has faith in Christ.
B. Do you understand this? If so, you are seeing through to the very heart of the Gospel message.
C. Propitiation also offers us Peace with God.
1. The peace of God then is fundamentally a new relationship of forgiveness and acceptance.
2. When Jesus came to His disciples in the upper room after his resurrection He said "Peace be to you"
(a) When he had said that, He showed them His hands and His side. (John 20:19)
(b) Why did he do that? Was it to establish his identify?
3. Absolutely not! It was to remind them of His propitiatory death on the Cross whereby He made peace with the Father for them.
(a) Col 1:20 - Jesus made peace through the blood of His Cross.
(b) It is a true knowledge of this fact that brings about the peace with God.
(c) Have you seen clearly His death for your sin and have you received that death as the means whereby you have Peace with God?