Don’t Confuse the Sufficiency of the Cross with its Efficacy

To be sure, Christ’s propitiation on the cross is unlimited in its sufficiency or value.  In this sense Christ makes an atonement for the whole world.  But the efficacy of this atonement does not apply to the whole world, nor does it ultimate design.

The atonement’s ultimate purpose is found in the ultimate purpose or will of God.  This purpose or design does not include the entire human race.  If it did, the entire human race would surely be redeemed.

Sproul, R.C.; Grace Unknown: The Heart of Reformed Theology; Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI; copyright 1997; p. 177

Christ is Our Expiation and Propitiation

The remission of sins is tied to the atoning work of Christ.  In the atonement both the propitiation and expiation are involved.  Propitiation refers to Christ’s satisfaction of God’s justice, making it “propitious” for God to forgive us.  Propitiation may be seen as a vertical act of Christ directed to the Father.  At the same time, Christ is an expiation for our sins, removing or carrying away from us our sins.  As the Lamb of God, Jesus is our sin-bearer, taking our sins away and bearing them for us.  On the cross, Christ fulfills what is symbolized both by the slain lamb of Old Testament sacrifices and by the scapegoat on whom the sins of the people are transferred.  The scapegoat was not sacrificed, but was sent into the wilderness to take far away the sins of the people.  This action symbolized the remission of sins.

Sproul, R.C.; Grace Unknown: The Heart of Reformed Theology; Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI; copyright 1997; p. 76

Two Points Worth Noting About Propitiation

We should notice two important points about this propitiatory act of Christ.  First, God presented Him, or set Him forth as an atoning sacrifice.  It is God the Father who initiated the whole plan of salvation.  It is God the father who provided the sacrifice of His Son to satisfy His justice and appease His own wrath…

The second point is that this propitiation is appropriated by us as sinners through faith in his blood.  The blood of Christ, referring to His death, is to be the object of our faith by which we appropriate His propitiation.

– Bridges, Jerry; The Disciplined of Grace:God’s Role and Our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness; NavPress; Colorado Springs; copyright 1994; p. 56-57

The Answers to Important Questions

Furthermore, the church has as its answer to every important question the good news of the person and work of Jesus…:

  1. Jesus is our victor who conquered Satan and demons on the cross so that we could live a life free of slavery to sin, of vain regrets for past sin, of condemnation and torment.
  2. Jesus is our redeemer who freed us from slavery to sin and death…
  3. Jesus is our new-covenant sacrifice and out great high priest who offered his own body as a sacrifice in our place for our sins in fulfillment of the Old Testament sacrificial system.
  4. Jesus is our justification who takes away our sin and gives us his righteousness as a gift by exchanging places with us on the cross so that we can be justified in the sight of God.
  5. Jesus is our propitiation who stood in our place to divert the just wrath of God away from us by enduring it himself in love.
  6. Jesus is our expiation who cleanses us from the sins we have committed and the sins that have been committed against us, which commingle to make us dirty and defiled.
  7. Jesus is our ransom who has mediated between us and God and paid the price fo our sins.
  8. Jesus is our example who has shown for us the perfect human life, which includes laying down our lives for brothers and sisters by the power of the Holy Spirit.
  9. Jesus is our reconciliation who has taken awa our sin and reconciles us back into loving relationship with God and others.
  10. Jesus is our revelation and on the cross we see God’s wrath and love, justice and mercy, holiness and compassion revealed in perfection.

– Driscoll, Mark and Gary Breshears, Vintage Church: Timeless Truths and Timely Methods, Crossway Books, Wheaton, IL, 2008, p. 21-22

What is Propitiation?

In John’s mind, the great manifestation if God’s love is that God sent his Son –  John says this twice (I John 4-9-11).  The aim of that sending , he says, was to be the propitiation for our sins.  That’s what makes the sending to be his love.  And what is propitiation?  It means that he came to bear the punishment for sin and thus be the one who removes the wrath of God from us.  (Romans 8:3; Galatians 3:13)

– John Piper, Finally Alive, Christian Focus Publishers, copyright 2009, page 155

The Shield of Christ

God’s wrath is His righteousness reacting against unrighteousness; it shows itself in retributive justice.  But Jesus Christ has shielded us from the nightmare prospect of retributive justice by becoming our representative substitute, in obedience to His Father’s will, and receiving the wages of our sin in our place.

by, J.I. Packer

Knowing God, copyright 1993, page 169

The Doctrine of Propitiation

The Doctrine of propitiation is precisely this: that God loved the objects of His wrath so much that He gave His own Son to the end that He by His blood should make provisions for the removal of His wrath.  It was Christ’s so to deal with the wrath that the loved would no longer be the objects of wrath, and love would achieve its aim of making the children of wrath the children of God’s good pleasure.

by, John Murry (The Atonement, page 15)

Knowing God, copyright 1993, page 185