What Does it Mean that Jesus is the Propitiation for Our Sins? - Radical

What Does it Mean that Jesus is the Propitiation for Our Sins?

How can God be just and loving to sinners? How can sinful humans be welcomed into heaven? In this video, Pastor David Platt explains that Jesus is the propitiation for our sins, showing love to humanity and satisfying God’s justice. When we think of Jesus’s sacrifice, we often emphasize that it takes our sin away. However, Pastor Platt makes a biblical case that Jesus’s sacrifice was ultimately for God, showing him to be holy, perfect, and loving to the world. When we say that Christ was the propitiation on the cross, we can point to his love for humanity and the grandeur of God.

  1. God’s Love and Justice
  2. Our Unworthiness
  3. Christ’s Worthiness
  4. What Propitiation Is
  5. The Glory of the Cross

Watch Full Message of Why Jesus Died and How We Live

What Does it Mean that Jesus is the Propitiation for Our Sins?

This is the most important question in the Bible. How can God be true, be just, and be kind to us? We’ve got to feel that because I don’t think we really think about that as a problem. We don’t think that’s a problem at all. How many people in our country today are losing sleep at night because God is being so kind to sinners? Now on the contrary, we actually point the finger at God and we say, “How can you punish sinners? How can you tell us what’s right and wrong? And who are you to condemn someone? How can you let people go to hell?” That’s what we think. But the question of the Bible is the exact opposite.

The question of the Bible is, God, how can you be just and let sinners into heaven? One is a very man-centered perspective, us centered. One is a very God-centered perspective. And my hope in diving into the theological deep end for a second here is to help us see life through a God-centered lens.

Jesus is the Propitiation for Our Sins

The question in the Bible is, how can God be just and loving towards sinners at the same time? And that’s the problem we can’t solve, because no matter what we do, we still stand as sinners before a holy God, deserving of eternal death. There’s nothing we can do, no amount of good. That’s what I told an Uber driver earlier this week who was a pretty wild driver, and seemed like a pretty wild dude. Matched. And so we got to know his story. He’s professing a Muslim, originally from Kuwait. And he has convinced himself, he’s trying to convince me that if he does enough good, God will just overlook the bad. And it’s not true. I said, “That’s not true. God is holy. He’s much more holy than you can imagine. He’s a good, just judge, which means He can’t just overlook sin. And we can’t escape the reality that we are sinners.” This is a problem, Martin Luther said, that needs God to solve it.

Which leads to the third piece of news. The good news, God is holy. The bad news, we are sinners. All that leads to the best news. Jesus died for God. The best news in all the world is that Jesus died for God. Now, you might think I misspoke there. You might think, wait, didn’t you mean Jesus died for us? That’s the best news. Now remember, we’re trying to shift perspective here a little bit. So before we just think about us, let’s think about God. I want to show you and stay in the deep end for a minute, that the best news is that Jesus died for God. So it’s true. Yes. We’ll see in 1 John, absolutely, Jesus died for us.

Atonement for our Sins

But follow this, we need to realize it. I think many Christians, even today, have never realized that Jesus’ death wasn’t just for us. That Jesus’ death was ultimately for God, because we’re not the center of the universe. God is. Everything ultimately revolves around Him. That’s what 1 John is teaching us. God is light. That’s where it all starts, with God.

In Him there’s no darkness. Yet you get to verse seven, and we find the blood of Jesus, His son, cleanses us from all sin. How is that possible? How can Jesus’ blood cleanse guilty sinners from all their sin? And the answer to that question is chapter two, verse two, where John writes, “Jesus is the propitiation for our sins.” That’s a great word. I’m pretty sure you won’t hear it anywhere else this week. I’m pretty confident you won’t hear it anywhere else in the world. You’ll only hear it in the Bible and you hear it twice here in 1 John.

What is Propitiation?

Can you say it out loud with me? Propitiation. Say it one more time without spitting on the person in front of you. All right, let’s say it one more time. Propitiation. Oh, that’s a good word. I hope there’s kids in here. I hope there’s five-year olds walking out of here today and just like, “Propitiation, I know what that is.” I want you to remember this word and what it means. So propitiation is a word that refers to a sacrifice that settles judgment or satisfies wrath.

So get a picture, all throughout the Old Testament, when God’s people deserved judgment for their sin, they would offer a sacrifice, a propitiation. They would offer this sacrifice as a symbol that the penalty for sin, which is death, had been doled out, had been paid. And as a result, God’s just wrath towards sinful people was satisfied, His judgment settled, and so the people were spared.

But the whole point, by the time you get to the New Testament in the Bible, is that those Old Testament sacrifices were not enough. None of those sacrifices could pay the full price for people’s sin against a holy God. So the question still stood, how can a holy God show His love to guilty sinners who are rightly, justly due His wrath? As we’ve said, this is a problem, not just for us, it’s a problem for God. Only God can solve it. So we find out in the New Testament that God has solved it. God has solved it by sending His son, Jesus Christ, the righteous.

1 John 2:1 says, “The promised Savior, who never sins.” See what I mean? For Him to be righteous, He never broke God’s law. He kept God’s law perfectly, which means He did not deserve the penalty due sin, death. Making Him, God in the flesh, uniquely qualified to pay the divine penalty due sinners to settle the judgment of God, to satisfy the wrath of God. And this is what Jesus did at the cross. This is why Jesus went to the cross. He was dying first and foremost for the glory of God. Listen to Him. In the Gospel of John, right before He goes to the cross, He says, “Now it’s my soul troubled. And what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour, but for this purpose, I’ve come to this hour. Father, glorify Your name.”

Jesus’s Sacrifice for our Sins

What drove Jesus to the cross? The glory of the Father drove Jesus to the cross. That’s what Paul says in Romans chapter three, where he uses this word, propitiation. He says, if Jesus, God put Him forward as a propitiation, the sacrifice, by His blood, to be received by faith. Why did Jesus offer himself as a sacrifice on the cross? Paul answers. This was to show God’s righteousness. Because in God’s forbearance, He had passed over former sins. Think David’s sins, for example, which could not ultimately stand. So Paul continues. The purpose of the cross was to show God’s righteousness at the present time so that God might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Follow this. Jesus died to show that indeed God is holy. God is perfect, He is righteous, and He is just. And He is good, and He is loving. And one crowning moment in all of human history, Jesus died to satisfy the wrath of God due sinners, while showing the love of God to sinners at the same time. Chinese church leader once said, “If I would appreciate the blood of Christ, I must accept God’s valuation of it. For the blood is not primarily for me, but for God.” Jesus died for the glory of God and all of His holiness and His justice and His love. This is so key. We’ve got to realize, we’ve got to turn the tables, have a God-centered view even of the cross. The cross is first and foremost about God. It is a declaration to the world that God is holy, that His love is holy, and His wrath is holy. His justice is holy, and His mercy is holy.

The Cross

We say things like, I wonder what Jesus saw on me that would send him to the cross. He saw nothing good in you. That’s why He went to the cross. The cross is not a display of our value as much as it is a display of God’s value. The cross is not intended to make us think highly of ourselves. The cross is intended to make us think highly of God. We look at the cross and we see God is high, He is holy. He is just. He is righteous. He is rightly full of wrath towards sin. And praise God, He is also mercifully full of love towards sinners at the same time. All glory be to God.

David Platt serves as a pastor in metro Washington, D.C. He is the founder of Radical.

David received his Ph.D. from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and is the author of Don’t Hold Back, Radical, Follow MeCounter CultureSomething Needs to ChangeBefore You Vote, as well as the multiple volumes of the Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary series.

Along with his wife and children, he lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area.


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