Monday, October 20, 2008


In Sunday School yesterday I was teaching on that marvelous truth of the freedom of the believer in Christ from condemnation for sin. As the apostle Paul so directly puts it in Romans 8:1, "Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." The born again Christian is completely, totally and eternally freed from the just judgment of God on their sin. The demands of God's holy and righteous justice were satisfied fully by the death of Jesus Christ as a substitutionary sacrifice in our place. The complete payment has already been rendered, imputed to the believer's account through faith. There is no more payment for sin required, or even possible. Hebrews 10:18 says it this way: "Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin."

The theological term for this satisfaction of God's justice is propitiation. This is in fact a legal term. It refers to the complete and satisfactory payment of a judgment. If someone sued me and the court rendered a judgment against me of, say, $1000, and I paid the full $1000 dollars to the plaintiff, then the judgment would be said to have been propitiated. In other words, fully paid, satisfying the demands of the judgment. There would be nothing left to pay, and the offended party could never come back and ask for more. In the same way, God has judged my sin and found me guilty. And as a result, He, the ultimate Judge, has rendered the sentence in accordance with His character and His law - death, eternal death. As stated in Ezekiel 18:4, "The soul who sins will die." Reiterated in Romans 6:23: "For the wages of sin is death." I, like all people apart from Christ, am under the condemnation for my sin. But due to Christ's penal substitutionary atonement and my faith in that atonement, His perfect death and righteous life is imputed to me. As an act of God's sovereign grace. And therefore God is satisfied with His payment on my behalf.

But why is the idea of propitiation such a big deal? Why does it matter that God's justice has been completely satisfied? Well consider for a moment what it would mean if your sin was not completely paid for, if God was not fully satisfied. Suppose that Christ's death on your behalf was sufficient to make payment for 99.9999% of your sin. Leaving you having to make payment for just .00001% of your sin. That's not so much, right? Well, consider that any sin, even those that we would consider inconsequential, are an act of rebellion against an infinitely holy and righteous God. And as such, any sin is justly deserving of infinite punishment. In other words, eternity in hell. If Christ's death is not fully satisfactory, then you and I are still in our sin, still accountable before God's just condemnation, still guilty and sentenced to eternal punishment. Anything less would be a violation of a perfectly just and righteous God. If Christ's death on our behalf is not propitiatory, then the Gospel is not good news. Praise God that this is not the case!

So then how do we apply this doctrinal truth in our daily lives? Is this just some academic theological premise that has no practical value? Well, have you ever been in the midst of a trying time in life, and thought to yourself, "I am being punished by God for some sin."? Truth be told, I think all of us have at least entertained this idea at one time or another. But according to this great doctrine of propitiation, can that be true? Does God punish His people for their sin? Absolutely not. Again, if He did, then that would mean Christ's sacrifice was not satisfactory. And that would also mean that our punishment would not be just some crisis or trial, but eternal death. To be sure, God may be allowing the consequences of our sin to remain with us, as a means of disciplining us in order to train us in righteousness and show us the seriousness of sin in our life. But this is not an act of justice, as punishment is. Instead it is an act of love. It is a sign of His perfect fatherly love for us, as stated in Hebrews 12:7: "God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?"

So don't ever let the lies of the evil one convince you that God is punishing you for some past sin. The promise of Jesus in John 5:24 is truth that will dispel this lie: "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life." Praise God for His amazing grace that has completely satisfied His justice for your sin through Christ. Praise God for His loving discipline, a mark of your position as His child.

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