The Treasure of Propitiation
by Barbaranne Kelly, Guest Writer
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.
Yesterday we rejoiced in the treasure of forgiveness: a gift of God’s grace. By this grace, our sins are cleansed by the blood of Christ so that we may walk in God’s light. I know this to be true and can quote the verses that declare it. For Lisa, voices of doubt crept in, convincing her that she’d fallen through the cracks. To silence this fear, we must know how this cleansing satisfies our holy God, the righteous Judge of the entire world, so that he forgives our sins. How does the cross cancel our massive sin-debt? John gives us a clue:
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
1 John 2:1-2
The term “advocate” conjures up images of a courtroom. I could imagine myself trembling in the dock, shackled by my sins, and Jesus arguing as my defense attorney before God, the heavenly Judge. Yet my status before God’s bar of justice is not that of a guilty criminal before a judge, but a beloved child before my father. The accusations against which Jesus defends me come not from God, but from our mutual enemy, Satan (Job 1:7-11). Though he is clever, every accusation he hurls at me is repelled by the effective intercession of my Savior.
In verse 2, John explains how Jesus is such an effective advocate. “He is the propitiation for our sins” 1 John 2:2. Propitiation is the effect that Christ’s satisfactory offering on the cross has upon God—turning away his wrath and causing him to look in favor upon those from whom his wrath has been turned away. Jesus is the propitiation which turned away God’s wrath for my sins and caused him instead to look upon me with favor.
Scripture makes it clear that God’s holy response to sin is wrath (Rom. 1:18), and therefore the price tag for sin is death (Rom. 6:23). Bringing a bloody sacrifice was how God arranged for his people to pay for their sins in the Old Covenant by the blood of another, rather than their own death. But the blood was really only a sign, pointing to the future sufficient sacrifice of Christ which would effectively cleanse God’s people from their sins.
When Jesus suffered and died on the cross, he was substituting his holy, righteous, and sinless self in my unholy, unrighteous, and sinful place. The spotless Lamb of God was the perfect propitiatory sacrifice to atone for my sins and the sins of everyone who would believe in him. At the cross, the Son of God offered himself on our behalf, so that when God the Father raised him from the dead three days later we could be made alive together with him, with all our trespasses forgiven!
Furthermore, Christ’s advocacy and propitiation cost believers nothing! Emblazoned across the pages of Scripture is a crimson banner— Free Gift! Free Gift! Free Gift! The grace of salvation is freely given by our Lord Jesus Christ so that we may be justified and made righteous (Rom. 5:15-17, 6:23; Eph. 2:8-9). This is good news indeed! Jesus isn’t claiming that I am innocent, and therefore deserving of salvation. He acknowledges that I’m a sinner, but he has taken my place, paid my debts and satisfied the legal demands of God’s law on my behalf.
Dear one, there are no cracks in the gospel. In light of this freely-given grace, confession and repentance are transformed from drudgery and duty into a privilege which overflows with gratitude and joy! Because Jesus took our place and paid our debt of sin, you and I may approach the throne of grace, and there confess our sins, knowing our Father God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
Father, thank you for the cross, where Your Son Jesus Christ gave himself to be the perfect sacrifice for my sins, paying my debts and purchasing for me the forgiveness I could never earn. In light of the costliness of the gift, help me to repent quickly when I sin, and give me complete joy in my salvation.
Barbaranne Kelly reads, writes, cooks, runs, and shoots an occasional photo in Texas. She and her husband Jim are the parents of five of the neatest people they know and grandparents to the first two of (hopefully) many grandchildren. She has been blogging ever since she accidentally signed up for a blog while attempting to comment on a friend’s post and figured, “Why not?” Barbaranne and Jim are members of Christ Presbyterian Church in New Braunfels, Texas, where she leads a Bible study for women in the hope that she and they may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge Enjoy and be inspired by more of Barbaranne’s writing on her blog.
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