In this post, I want to deal with how I believe that a propitiatory sacrifice has practical ramifications for the believer. If you just read the word 'propitiatory' and thought, "Huh?", then you need to go back and read the other two posts. Either that or grab a dictionary and try to keep up.
Let's begin by pointing out the obvious and move on from there. If Jesus' death was a propitiation, then it means that God was angry with sin. If God is holy and without sin, then it is possible for one to be angry over sin and yet not sin through this anger. Is this difficult for a human being? Yes. Is it impossible? No, I don't think so. Anger is deadly and destructive if we do not learn how to deal with it properly, and it can certainly cause us to sin. But I believe that understanding Christ as a propitiation helps to cool the fires of anger through faith. Here is what I mean.
There are only two kinds of people in this world: Christians and non-Christians. The previous group has been atoned for; the latter group has not. Pretend for a moment (do you need to pretend?) that a Christian has sinned against you and you are angry. How do you deal with this? Do you simply "swallow" your anger and act like it didn't happen? Do you simply "forgive" and act like it didn't happen? If you forgive, on what grounds do you do so?
I have often heard people counsel others to simply "let it go". As if you can make sinful actions and their consequences disappear in a puff of smoke. Forgiveness does not work that way. To feel that injustice should be corrected and that sin should be punished is not an impulse that we should discourage. We are right to feel this way. Instead, we need to learn that forgiveness flows from the cross of Christ.
Let's begin with Paul. In Ephesians 4:32, Paul writes, "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you." Here we see that if a brother sins against us, we are to forgive him as God in Christ forgave us. If Christ's death worked as a propitiation for our sin, then it worked as a propitiation for theirs as well. This means that justice has been fully satisfied for the person who sinned against you in Jesus Christ. It means that God saw how this brother treated you, He was angry about it, and He punished Christ for the sake of your brother for the very sin that angers you. Forgiveness now becomes a faith issue for you. Do you believe that Jesus Christ really suffered for the sins of the elect of God? Do you believe that He fully and totally satisified all the requirements of justice on the cross? Do you truly feel that is both "just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus"? (Romans 3:26).
Because we are fallen, we do not even know what proper punishment and justice should look like. Every parent has struggled to meet out the proper rebuke against a disobedient child. If we cannot fully understand how to behave properly against such smaller matters, how will we be certain that justice is met towards someone who has sinned against us in a larger way? Through faith in Jesus' propitiatory sacrifice, I believe that God has fully satisfied any longing for justice I may have against my brother. I believe that He will deal with my brother appropriately. This gives me freedom from my anger.
For example, let's say a brother from the Church asks me to loan him $5000. He promises that he will pay me back in six months when things work out. Though it is a burden to me, I give the brother the money. Six months go by, and I know that the brother is rolling in the dough now, but he refuses to repay. I'm angry and rightfully so. However, I believe that if he is a Christian that Jesus Christ has paid the brother's sin debt.
Now you say, "Okay, this guy doesn't sound like a real Christian. What then?" Because I believe that Jesus Christ only paid for the sins of Christians, then I believe that justice will be met against those who sin against me in hell. Hell is a place where sin such as theft will be paid for in full. If Jesus Christ did not bear it on the cross, it will be paid for in hell. Justice will be served. Vengeance is the Lord's; He will repay (Deut. 32:35).
In the end, I am satisfied that no crime goes unpunished. God is just, and He sees everything. He will balance the accounts at the end. I do not have to worry myself with it for one moment. This does not exclude confronting sinful behavior or asking for my money back. I just do not have to pursue such things out of vengful or spiteful motives. I do it in order to seek reconciliation and for the sake of the sinner. The cross of Jesus Christ frees me from sin and from worry about retribution for sin. And that is freeing indeed.
We Must Do the Impossible
4 years ago