This could very well be the one word that has impacted my understanding of Jesus’ life, sacrifice and resurrection. In short, this word incapsulates the central promise of the Gospel. There are three realities that converge in the universe requiring the Gospel. The first is divine holiness. The second is human sin. The third is the resolution of the first two realities. We will look at each of these briefly so we can understand how Propitiation provides the answer.
The Divine Nature
When we talk about divine holiness we are talking about the nature of God’s existence. We are trying to describe how God exists within the divine essence. Basically, we are trying to say something meaningful about how God interacts with the world he created, and then how that creation responds to God’s presence in it.
The reason it is important to know something about God’s nature is because if we get this wrong we will make errors in evaluating God’s response to sin.
The hardest part of what the bible says about God regards his holiness. God is not just perfect, God is pure and undefiled. What this means is anything not equalling God’s divine standard is not only worthy of punishment, but also of damnation. The reason we have to go this far is because of the value and worth of God. We have to esteem God because he is worthy of it.
Here we begin to see the problem keeping humanity from a relationship with God. Sin is not just an act, it is also general inclination of the heart. Our hearts are not naturally focused on God, but rather toward ourselves or the things of this world. We would rather do our own thing than what God would ask or command us.
The human sin problem is more than we can comprehend. Not less. Things are worse than we would like to admit, not better. This is what causes many to take lightly the sacrifice of Jesus. If Christ’s sacrifice is what it takes to redeem a lost soul, how can we make so little of God’s love?
What we have to understand is this: sin is a real and ugly problem. No one leaves this world unscathed by sin. We all suffer, and some of us suffer more than most.
The Gospel = Propitiation
We have now arrived at the third reality of why we need the Gospel. God’s divine nature and human sin cannot co-exist. It is like oil and water.
The wonder of the Gospel is that God has made provision to fix the problem. When Jesus came into the world his mission was to take the penalty of our sin and then transfer to us (each of us who put our trust in God) his righteousness. What God required from us, Jesus fulfilled on our behalf.
When we talk about propitiation we are saying that when God punished our sin in Jesus’ body on the cross, God did not hold anything back. God unleashed the full weight of his wrath upon his son, so we could become the righteousness of God in Christ. If God does not fully punish sin, he cannot love or forgive fully. Propitiation is the evidence that God has not withheld anything of himself from us when it comes to our redemption.