Christians should learn big words.
No, not big words like extemporaneous or preponderous or perspicacious. Although it might not be a bad idea. I mean words like propitiation, atonement, substitution, reconciliation.
Why learn these big words? To impress folks at parties or prayer meetings? “So as I was driving my Jag to my stock broker’s house, I was just so thankful for penal substitution.”
We should learn certain biblical and theological words because they will help us love God more. They will help us appreciate the depths of what he has done for us, in turn fueling our love for him and joy in him.
Take, for example, “propitiation.” It is one of the most important concepts in the New Testament. Why?
Our biggest problem is sin, for sin brings the wrath of a just and holy God upon us. Though sin ruins relationships, destroys our peace of mind, and enslaves us, the worst thing about it is that it brings God’s righteous, furious anger upon us.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth (RO 1.18).
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him (JN 3.36).
God’s righteous anger is not simply against sin, but sinners. Here is our problem – how do we remove God’s wrath from ourselves and make him favorable toward us? All the good deeds in the world – giving to charity, going to church, praying – none of these things fend off God’s retribution that’s bearing down on us.
Here is where propitiation comes in.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a PROPITIATION by his blood, to be received by faith? (RO 3.23-25).
Propitiation is God’s action in removing sin that blocks our fellowship with him AND quenching his wrath, making him favorable, or “propitious” toward us. It would not have been enough merely to remove our sin. God also needed to remove his wrath in order for his face to shine upon us.
So God put Jesus forward as a propitiation, a Substitute for sinners, and poured out his wrath on him. In his passion, Christ drank to the dregs the cup of God’s unimaginable fury against sin, absorbing it in his own person, thus removing that fury forever from the redeemed.
We could never have put away our sins or quenched God’s anger. But God did what we couldn’t do when he provided Jesus as a propitiation. And we are the beneficiaries, for now he will be forever favorable and gracious toward us. Praise God!
Propitiation – not a bad word, huh? Read The Atonement by Leon Morris or In My Place Condemned He Stood by J.I. Packer and Mark Dever and learn some more big words.