Thursday, April 22, 2010

Propitiation, Atonement, Sacrifice, Penal Substitution

Recently Marvin in his sermon spoke of propitiation. Leong Tien Fook (LTF) in the Hebrews class explained to us about penal substitution. Then he talks about at “one”ment (atonement). I have heard about how Jesus’ blood covered us from God’s wrath because He hates sin. I know that Jesus paid the price for us by sacrificing himself on the cross to take away our sins (past, present and future) and washed us clean again.

Blood covering, white as snow, penal substitution, propitiation, atonement. Why does there seem to be so many explanations for just one act? So, I mustered my courage and asked LTF whether these terms contradict each other. He explained that they are all different things discussed from different angles but talking about what Jesus did for us on the cross.

Oh, so that’s what it is all about. The bible is actually very deep once you start exploring it. Someone once commented that the book of John is shallow enough for a baby to wade in but deep enough for an elephant to bathe in!

The reason why I dig so much is to root myself in His word so that I will not be easily shaken again about why Jesus had to die on the cross for me. On the surface, it seems like just a mere man dying on the cross for us. So what? Are we to be taken in by gruesome pictures of Jesus dying on the cross? I am sure it goes deeper than that.

Despite all these questions, I am glad that I am still experiencing Christ’s love everyday and He did not ridicule me for asking all these basic questions. You need not know everything in the bible to believe in Jesus because you can spend a lifetime learning. We just need childlike faith to admit that we are sinners and we need a savior to save us and Jesus died on the cross for us so that we can be right with Father God again. And on the third day he rose again and by His resurrection, Jesus demonstrated that He is God.

A simple meaning to big jargons in the context of what Jesus did for us on the cross:

1. Propitiation – the removal of God’s wrath/ appeasing God’s wrath by the offering of sacrificial blood of Jesus Christ

Romans 3:25
“whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed,”

2. Atonement –The act of reconciling man and God to become one again - at “one”ment.

3. Sacrifice – Jesus is the slain lamb of God (the sacrifice) whose precious blood took away the sins of the world.

Hebrews 10:12
"But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God,"

4. Penal substitution – It should have been us facing the wrath of God directly. But throughout history, He sometimes turned His anger away or is slow to anger. The bible says in Hebrews 10:31 “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God”. However, Jesus substituted us on the cross. He was pierced for our transgression, crushed. He laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53) For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21). Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us for it is written, --Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree (Galatians 3:13).

It may seem crude and hard to believe that a God who is loving would demand penal substitution. God is both righteous and loving. And as a righteous God, He must deal with our sins. Only God can forgive our sins because WE offended Him. No human can substitute us for sins that we committed against God (definitely, no amount of charity, act of repentance, good works that we do can appease God). However, Jesus is God. As a loving God, Father God sent his son Jesus, to be the perfect sacrifice to take the punishment for us and to pay the price for our sins so that our debts are cancelled. Jesus fulfilled Isaiah 53 to the minutest detail! Prophet Isaiah gave the prophecy over 700 years before Jesus Christ’s sacrifice.

Jesus, I believe that you were the perfect sacrifice that took away the sins of the world once and for all. I thank you for being my substitute. I thank you that you suffered God’s wrath that was meant for me. I thank you that by your blood sacrifice, you appeased God’s wrath and gave me a clean slate so that everything is alright between God and I again. Thank you Jesus that I can now call Father God, Abba Father.

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