Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Romans 3:25

God presented Him as a sacrifice of atonement [Or as the One who would turn aside His wrath, taking away sin], through faith in His blood. He did this to demonstrate His justice, because in His forbearance He had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished...

We'll look at verse 25 today and tomorrow.

God presented Christ as a substitutionary atoning sacrifice for propitiation. Paul is saying that our justification, our being legally declared righteous, is based on Christ having born our sin in our place and having turned aside and satisfied the wrath of God. It is final and permanent. Once a person is justified, that person cannot be punished. Paul points us to the work of Christ on the cross; God’s free forgiveness of us is right and just, because He did not slide our sins under the carpet. He paid for them by the blood of His own Son. The picture is not of a merciful Jesus trying to turn away the wrath of a mean, vindictive, narrow-minded, mean-spirited deity. No, it’s God Who displays publicly His Son as a propitiation through His blood. The Father is the author of justification, redemption, and propitiation. The Father’s love is upon His people, and the cross is the means of accomplishing the purposes of His love. Jesus is not on the cross trying to get God the Father involved in salvation. He’s on the cross because the Father has been involved in salvation from before creation. What do think of that?

Jesus was a substitionary, atoning, propitiatory sacrifice. We don’t use words like “justification,” “redemption,” “propitiation,” “atonement,” or “substitionary” very much. And it’s a shame, because all of these words are very important. Understanding their Scriptural meaning correctly is critical for having a consistent theology. We’ve already discussed “justification.” It means to declare righteous what is not.

“Redemption” speaks of purchasing back something that was in bondage, a prisoner of war or a slave. Redemption is like a ransom. Redeem means to set-free or release at a price. “Propitiation” means a “wrath-removing;” it speaks of turning away a deserved wrath. It means to pacify or appease or satisfy. “Atonement” (often considered as “at-one-ment”) means to extinguish guilt, to make amends for wrongdoing so that oneness and unity is accomplished or restored. It is reconciliation; and we can’t reconcile ourselves to God. We can’t atone for our own sins. We have nothing of atoning value to offer God that would reconcile us to Him. But Christ did. He had the blood of a perfect, sinless life.

See Hebrews 9:12-15,22,25-28; 10:4. “[Christ] did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but He entered the Most Holy Place once for all by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. The blood of [animals] sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, Who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that He has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant…Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness… Nor did He enter heaven to offer Himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now He has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of Himself. Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him… It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”

When we speak of a “substitutionary” atonement, we mean that Christ reconciled those for whom He died to the Father. Christ substituted Himself for them. Will this not be honored by God? 2 Corinthians 5:17-19 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, Who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.” All of these words bring freedom in the Christian life. Do you have guilt? Here’s justification. Are you bound to addictions? Here’s redemption. Do you fear the wrath of God? Here’s propitiation. All of these are freely offered, and I suggest applied, in the gospel, because Christ is a substitutionary atoning sacrifice.

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