Chronicle number one of God’s gospel dealt with the great problem man has before God. It showed the doctrine of condemnation because of sin. Chronicle number two dealt with God’s Savior. The Savior is not a philosophy or a religious program but a unique Person: the son of God and the son of man, Jesus the Lord.
This third chronicle looks at the performance required for one’s sin that is satisfactory to God the Father. The ethics, teachings, miracles, moral values, example and popularity of the Lord Jesus are powerless apart from His performance for sin. His Person apart from His right performance for sin saves no one.
For example, take Abraham Lincoln. His presidential performance of signing the Emancipation Proclamation is what freed the slaves. While the moral person he was provided the character for him to do a successful performance, it required his official performance to actually free the slaves.
The performance of the Lord Jesus Christ was His lifeblood’s sacrifice on the cross.
His death was not a martyr’s death where one dies to uphold a belief. It was not cause-suicide where one might kill himself to gain national press to bring a social issue to public awareness. The Lord wasn’t saying, "I believe so much in the morality of the 10 commandments that for you to be aware of how important they are, I will die." It also wasn’t just a love statement where a lover might do something where he gets hurt to let the girl know how much he really cares. Christ wasn’t saying by dying on the cross, "You’re worth so much to me, I’m willing to die so you will know your value and the depth of my love for someone so nice."
Rather, the death of Christ Jesus was a payment unto God on our behalf to satisfy our debt to our Creator.
The full payment of a debt, such as for a delinquent mortgage, accomplishes several things:
a. satisfies the lender’s claim against you
b. stops the lender from prosecuting
c. brings peace of mind
d. relieves the responsibility of future payments
e. gives you full possession of the product
f. takes away the power of the mortgage holder to ever repossess
In considering the Lord’s death, we want to see the payment’s sacrifice, satisfaction, scope and strength.
Sacrifice of the Payment
Being justified freely by his grace through the
redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Rom. 3:24).
What performance does God require to satisfy our sin-debt owed Him? There are thousands of religious answers to that vital question. However, the performance that God requires is already performed–and by someone else. It was the death of Christ Jesus which God viewed as redemptive: a sacrificial payment.
To "redeem" carries the meaning that by paying the right price, one has freed, regained, or rescued something from the power or control of another.
At a simple level, to redeem something might involve redeeming a coupon so the product will be released to you at the discount price. At a higher level it might involve a ransom payment to rescue someone held captive by another. Both involve the payment of a price. Expressions like "the price of his redemption" and "redemption money" explain the concept in the Scriptures.
Redemption implies captivity and slavery in sin, and is a deliverance out of it. Redemption is a contemporary need because sinners are under sin’s dominion. They cannot be legally released unto God from Satan’s domain without the legal price being paid. And that price is death. From Adam onward, God has demonstrated in sacrificing animals that death – not penance, bad luck, or religious rituals – is the price to be paid for sin. "For the wages of sin is death," says Rom. 6:23.
God is a God of justice. The right price must be paid to release one from their sins. Sweeping sin under the rug and "letting bygones be bygones" would show mercy but not justice. A judge who releases a guilty criminal might have mercy but he did not show legal justice to the victim, the victim’s family–or the law.
How can a God of love show mercy to the sinner and yet uphold justice? The answer is "the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." Because God’s only Son was sinless, His sacrificial death on the cross (via shedding of blood which is the life) counts as the full and legal payment that sin requires in God’s court.
Now that full payment has been made, the sinner who trusts God in Christ, can say with certainty:
a. God is satisfied with Christ’s performance for my sins (Rom. 3:25).
b. I am saved from God’s wrath (Rom. 5:9).
c. I have peace with God (Rom. 5:1).
d. Christ’s one payment is all-sufficient: no future works are necessary (Heb. 9:14, 10:12).
e. I now possess forgiveness of sins by redemption through His blood (Eph. 1:7).
f. Sin, Satan or even God Himself can never take salvation from me (Rom. 8:31-39).
The good news of redemption in Christ Jesus is that it is history. Therefore, it is final and secure.
One characteristic of something historical is that it is unchangeable. It is completely untouchable by the present. For example, nothing done in the present can change the history of the deaths of World War II. We can learn from history but we cannot change it.
Redemption, the payment for sins, is something done yesterday I trust in, not what I do today to cause it.
Satisfaction of the Payment
Whom [Jesus Christ] God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood…(Rom 3:25a).
Paying a price is one thing, but paying the price that satisfies is another. One might try to buy a new car for twenty dollars, but the car will never be released – for twenty dollars is not the satisfactory payment.
Propitiation means to render favorable; to satisfy; to appease.
For example, suppose someone vandalizes your new Cadillac. He smashes the windows, spray paints it pink, shreds the leather seats and pours water in the engine. Are you angry? Do you have the right to prosecute? What will it take to propitiate (satisfy) you? Will candy do it? How about a pizza? Will a simple, "I’m sorry and I won’t do it again" be enough? Or will it take full restitution by putting it back into mint condition?
Our sin has offended God and damaged His Name, glory and creatures. He is "angry with the wicked" (Psalm 7:11). Whatever is offered to God for our sin must satisfy Him. He must accept it for it is His wrath that must be abated. It doesn’t matter if "Christianity" is satisfied with the sacrifice of Christ. It only matters if God accepts it as a real and valid payment first.
Propitiation tells us God is satisfied.
The Person of Propitiation. "Whom God has set forth to be a propitiation." It is not what God has set forth but whom. God has not set forth rules, rituals, or religious penances to satisfy Him, but the Person of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Isaiah 53:11 says, "He shall see the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied."
As 1 John 4:10 says, "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins."
The Place of Propitiation. "Whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in [by] his blood." The blood takes us not to the manger nor to the sermon on the mount, but to the cross. It was here He made the necessary payment to satisfy God the Father.
Old Testament Picture
Propitiation is also translated as mercy seat (Heb. 9:5). The mercy seat is the exact place in the OT temple where sacrificial blood was sprinkled on Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) to satisfy God’s claim against Israel’s sins for another year.
Israel was to do no work on that holy day. It would be the high priest that would do the work for their forgiveness of sins. And his work was not good deeds but "he shall take of the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it with his finger upon the mercy seat [place of propitiation] eastward; and before the mercy seat shall he sprinkle of the blood with his finger seven times" (Lev. 16:14).
The results were "that ye may be clean from all your sins before the Lord" (Lev. 16:30).
Yes, it was Jesus’ work on the cross which is the payment that satisfied God. And as the high priest of old approached the mercy seat with blood, so the risen Lord Jesus as High Priest ascended once into the holy place of heaven "by His own blood." He obtained, not yearly redemption as in the old way, but "eternal redemption" (Heb. 9:12). Praise Him! In Christ we have a mercy seat!
The Proof of Propitiation. "Whom God has set forth to be a propitiation." When a price is paid, what assures you that it has been accepted so that you now own the product? A receipt is your proof that the seller is truly satisfied. God has graphically demonstrated that He has fully accepted His Son’s sacrifice. He raised Him from the dead to His own right hand. And that is our assurance that the payment of Christ is enough. "… He hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead" (Acts 17:31). If God is satisfied with Christ’s payment – are you?
The Lord Jesus cried out from the cross as He died, "It is finished." God surely believed the payment was full for "Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more" (Rom. 6:9). It’s a satisfactory sacrifice.
Resurrection not only says that God has accepted Christ in His death-payment – but also that there is nothing more required for He now lives to die no more.
As Hebrews 10:12 reveals: "But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God." And He "ever liveth" there.
To repeat something that’s finished is an insult. If somebody re-sweeps the rug after you have just finished, it means that he did not believe your work was good enough.
Now that God has raised Christ from the dead, for one to add things to propitiate God for his sins implies the following about Christ’s sacrifice:
a. It wasn’t good enough
b. The Lord needs my help to get it finished
c. I’m not completely satisfied with Him
d. I believe my way over what God has declared
OT & NT BELIEVERS
Scope of the Payment
“… His blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins THAT ARE PAST, [afore time] through the forbearance of God” (Rom 3:25b).
Old Testament Picture
David committed adultery and murder–both meriting death under the law. Yet he was told upon confession that God hath "put away thy sin: thou shalt not die." (2Sam. 12:13). On what basis did God transcend His law and show righteous mercy to David? It was the coming sacrifice of Christ that would indeed meet the demanded penalty of death for him. No wonder David said, "Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin."
OT believers as well as the NT believers are forgiven only by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Because of God’s foreknowledge and forbearance, He applied Christ’s propitiatory sacrifice to OT believers in advance. In the NT age He applies the payment that Christ already made (Eph. 1:7). In both cases it’s the same payment: Christ’s blood. He’s the Savior of all the ages.
For example, we use both credit cards and debit cards to purchase a product.
Credit Card Way – It releases the product because the money is to be deposited in the future. David was forgiven by credit.
Debit Card Way – It releases the product because the money was already deposited. A believer today is forgiven by debit.
The difference is in the mind. The credit way leaves the worry of having the product repossessed if the expected payment is never made. However, the debit way gives joyful assurance for the payment is already made.
Strength of the Payment
“… God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, NOT IMPUTING their trespasses unto them …” (2 Cor 5:19).
Redemption in the Lord Jesus is not just a sentimental act of love, but it is efficacious: it has the power to take away all of one’s sins from God’s record book – forgiveness, cleansing and remission.
In 2nd Corinthians we are told that this is "the day of salvation." In contrast to the coming "day of the Lord," also known as the "day of judgment," we are in a time period where God has declared a spiritual amnesty.
Amnesty. For example, during the Vietnam War many young men burned their draft cards and fled to Canada. The government eventually declared an amnesty for a certain period of time. During amnesty, a young man could come back and be reconciled to his government and none of his crimes would be left on his record book. All was gone, if he came back during that time.
Because the sinless Christ was made to be sin for us on the cross, God is not counting (imputing) the sinner’s sin against him. If the sinner will come back to God and be reconciled to Him through the person and performance of Christ, God will forgive rather than punish the sinner (2Cor. 5:18-21). This is amnesty – and love.
The believer is promised that "the blood of Jesus Christ his Son, cleanseth us from all sin" (1John 1:7). There is power in the blood.
The church’s ministry is not redemptive for Christ has already died. Its ministry is not propitiatory for God is already satisfied. It’s not to grant forgiveness for the power of Christ’s blood is what forgives. The church is told that we have "the ministry of reconciliation" (2Cor. 5:18). We can confidently invite sinners to be reconciled to God knowing that during amnesty, God will not hold their sin against them because of Christ.
God is not looking for peace makers but peace takers.
God’s righteous wrath is fully propitiated by the redemptive sacrifice of His beloved Son. He does not ask that we do religious penance to make peace with Him. He does ask that we trust Him and take the peace that Jesus Christ the Lord has already made: "And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself… ." (Col. 1:20).
The solution for the problem of the sinner’s guilt and God’s wrath is not just the Person of Jesus Christ but the cross-performance of the Lord Jesus.