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You, Me, the Wrath of God and the Cross of Christ

By Pastor Sean Cole

“…we are justified by his grace as a gift, through he redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith…” – Romans 3:24–25

What does it mean that God put forward Jesus as a propitiation by His blood?

Propitiation is the Biblical term for Jesus exhausting the unmitigated brunt of God’s wrath against sin. We need to understand that God does hate sin and because of His holy, unchanging nature, He has to rightfully punish sin. The righteous punishment of sin is His wrath.

We must never confuse wrath with rage. Rage is out of control, petty, vindictive, and sometimes senseless. Wrath is always under control and righteously administered to those who deserve punishment.

We should not view God’s wrath as a sudden flaring up of anger that is soon over, but instead a strong and settled opposition to sin.

J.I. Packer has one of the best definitions for this: “God’s wrath is not the capricious, arbitrary, bad-tempered, and conceited anger that pagans attribute to their gods. It is not the sinful, resentful, malicious, infantile anger that we find among humans. It is a function of that holiness which is expressed in the demands of God’s moral law… it is a righteous anger.”

Propitiation involves the turning aside or absorbing of God’s wrath. Jesus on the cross experienced the full justice of God in His body against our sin by absorbing God’s righteous anger against sin.

John 3:36 – Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

Matthew 27:46  – And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Hebrews 2:17 – Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

1 John 2:2 – He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

Listen to how Martyn Lloyd-Jones describes propitiation: “On the cross, God did not spare His Son any of the punishment. He did not say, because he is my Son, I will modify the punishment. I will hold back a little, I cannot do that to my own Son. I cannot regard Him as a sinner. I cannot smite Him, I cannot strike him. He did not say that! He did everything He had said He would do. He poured out all his divine wrath upon sin, upon his own dearly beloved Son.”

It is imponderable. It blows our minds. It shocks us. It levels us. It drives us to our knees in utter humility to think that Jesus stood in our place condemned. That He who never knew one iota of personal sin Himself, became sin on our behalf!

Philip Graham Ryken describes this wonderful cross like this: “It was as if God had taken a giant bucket and scooped up all the sins of His people—all the jealousy, and the anger, and the lying, all the rebellion, and the stealing and the incest, and the hypocrisy and the envy and the swearing—and dumped them all out on Jesus Christ.”

On this Good Friday, may we be humbled by the wonderful cross.

Sean Cole is pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Sterling, Colorado. He posted this on Facebook on Good Friday and this is reprinted with his permission. Sean’s father, Greg Cole, served as interim pastor here about nine years ago.

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