Sunday, January 18, 2009

Free From God's Wrath, Firmly Rooted in His Favor: Reflections

I understand that if you tried reading this, you may have fallen off at some point. The paragraphs are long and I may not be a strong enough writer to keep your attention for that long. Totally understandable. But here I conclude with my reflections on this biblical doctrine that has a profound affect not only on my life, but on the entire world.

If we're honest with ourselves, we can't ignore it. We can try and suppress it as much as we want--we think we are succeeding in that--but it stares us all right in the face. The bloodied body of Christ on the Cross has had a deeply profound affect on every corner of the globe, impacting every life that has ever entered or will ever enter this world. He reigned gloriously as King from the Cross when he died and continues to reign over us all as our risen Lord.

Here are my reflections.
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The doctrine of propitiation carries with it enormous practical implications. For one, it is very personal to me as I struggle with feeling accepted by others and by God. To know that out of love God sent his Son, Jesus “to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10) and that “the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20b) is extremely assuring in the midst of this constant battle. A consistent gratitude for this reality allows me to experience God’s unsurpassing grace and extend it to others.

Secondly, the doctrine of propitiation presupposes God’s wrath of all man because of our sin, thus I am not only grateful for Christ’s sacrifice for me, but I am motivated to evangelize those who do not know Jesus because God’s wrath still remains on them (John 3:36). However morbid the warning may be, the promise is all the more amazing because it is wrapped up in God’s love, grace, and mercy all found in Christ on the Cross. Propitiation tells us that we do not need to work hard for God’s acceptance or to appease his wrath because Jesus has accomplished it all! This is beautiful news to those like me, always striving to be accepted by someone, whether it be parents, a significant other, a superior at work or God himself.

Thirdly, the doctrine of propitiation should not be minimized by any means. In the introduction, I alluded to an ongoing debate over the so-called controversy surrounding Christ’s propitiatory sacrifice where some see it more as expiatory. The Bible leaves no room for this substitution of terms because it robs the very clear attribute of God’s wrath and his hatred of sin, of which he does not merely wipe clean, but actually satisfies throughout Scripture (see Isa 5:25; Jer 6:11ff). We are by nature children of wrath, dead in our trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1-3) so knowing that Jesus, who knew no sin, became sin on our behalf that we might be called the righteousness of God (2 Cor 5:21), he also became on the cross the vessel of God’s wrath that we are supposed to be (Rom 9:22). This only intensifies the exquisite harmony of Scripture and the complete, sacrificial love of God found in his redemptive story, allowing not just for sins to be dismissed as expiation suggests; propitiation instead addresses sin, its weight, and its punishment all in Christ’s death on the Cross, fulfilling his own words, that he came to give his life and be a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).

Therefore, from a systematic theological perspective, we as lay Christians, pastors, and theologians, must seek to defend humbly the key doctrine of propitiation against those who attack it in the name of love because its bearing on our personal lives, our worldviews, our ministry, and most importantly our view of God is too great to ignore, for as A.W. Tozer once wrote, “Low views of God destroy the gospel for all who hold them.” In doing so my hope is that we all will grow to know God’s love even more greatly that we in turn can share Christ’s magnificent propitiatory sacrifice with the world out of joy and gratitude for what he accomplished, and ultimately glorify him with fervent worship forever as favored saints in his kingdom.

By His Grace.

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