Pastor’s Class Notes
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Introduction: Millions of sermons have been preached on the cross. The vast majority of them have emphasized what Jesus was doing there for man–dying for us, loving us, purchasing our redemption, suffering our shame. Jesus did a lot more on the cross than just deal with man. Calvary’s most important aspect is what Jesus did there for God. Our text tells us three things Jesus accomplished on the cross for God.
I. APPEASED GOD’S ANGER
Romans 3:25a “Whom God hath set forth to be a
propitiation through faith in his blood,”
“Propitiation” refers to “something that causes or enables someone to act mercifully or forgivingly” (Deissmann). It means to appease an injured party, to turn aside wrath, to make one favorable to an offender.
Bible writers used it to mean the appeasing of God’s wrath against sin. In Jesus’ death, the wrath of God was diverted from sinners to the sacrifice. If Divine wrath fell not on Christ, it would have to fall upon us, for God cannot let sin pass. God hates sin because He loves sinners. Sin is the great destroyer and harmer. God, who is love, is angry at what sin does to His people. God has to love sinners because He is love, and therefore He has to hate that which harms them.
God is angry at sin. In the Old Testament more than twenty different words are used to describe the wrath of God, and those words are used altogether some 580 times. The wrath of God is mentioned on almost every page of Revelation, and ten times here in Romans.
If you remove from the Bible all the teachings regarding God’s wrath against sin, you will not have much Bible left. There can be no dispute. According to the Bible, God is angry with sin and hates it.
Now do not make the mistake of thinking of His wrath in terms of human anger. God is never in a state of uncontrolled passion. His wrath is never capricious, but rather it is His settled, never ending opposition to all that is evil. It rises out of His nature.
A mere declaration of forgiveness by God would have left men with the impression God is easy-going or a “good-natured buddy.” The cross proves God is not lackadaisical about sin. He hates it. Jesus’ death proves the seriousness of His feelings.
II. CLEARED GOD’S REPUTATION
Romans 3:25b “. . .to declare his righteousness for the
remission of sins that are past, through
the forbearance of God.”
Jesus’ death removed a scandal from the reputation of God. Before Calvary the whole world seemed to be one continual scandal. Divine righteousness seemed almost asleep. Men could have easily asked, “Where is God? Does He condone sin?” Men saw God accepting and forgiving sinners without sin being dealt with.
Abraham was called “the friend of God,” yet he cowardly risked the honor of his wife to save his own skin. YHWH is described as “the God of Jacob,” but Jacob was often a liar and a cheater. Moses is counted as the Old Testament’s greatest figure, but once he killed a man, and later he committed sin unto death. David committed murder and adultery, but was “a man after God’s own heart.” These sinful men were some of God’s favorites. One could almost get the impression God did not care about sin. It puts a cloud over the name of God.
The New Testament clears the air. Calvary removes any stain from the name of God. YHWH knew in advance what Jesus was going to do. He knew the sin-debt would someday be paid for all sins, past and present.
It makes no difference to God whether He saves men before or after the cross. In His eyes, the cross was an eternal fact. Sins were forgiven before Calvary due to the fact the cross was present in God’s mind from the beginning–yea, even before the beginning. God intended all along to deal with sin once and for all, decisively and finally, at the cross. God passed over sins for awhile, leaving it until the future to deal with them fully.
The cross rayed out its power in all directions: upward to heaven, downward to hell, outward to sin, inward to man’s hearts, forward and backward in time. It took care of the past, the present, the future, and thereby cleared God’s reputation. The Lord has never been trite about sin.
III. SATISFIED GOD’S JUSTICE
Romans 3:26 “To declare, I say, at this time his
righteousness: that he might be just,
and the justifier of him which believeth
How can a just God rightly pronounce a sinner just? Men are sinful. Justice is a dark angel that casts its ominous shadow across the road of Mercy. Justice carries its sword unsheathed and thirsts for vengeance.
From our perspective, God’s justice, in and of itself, presents a barrier to salvation. Based on our own initiative, it is an insurmountable barrier.
There is no doubt God is just. Ask men of Sodom, who can tell how God rained fire and brimstone from above upon their iniquity. Noah’s contemporaries can tell how God opened windows of Heaven, released fountains of the deep, and drowned the human race. The ruins of Ninevah and Babylon scream aloud God is just. Hell is the most potent reminder God will by no means spare the guilty. Shrieks of condemned men bear testimony to God’s justice. God is just, sin must be punished. God would cease to be God if He did not punish sin, and the punishment must be death.
God told Adam, “The day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (GN 2:17). Romans says, “The wages of sin is death” (RM 6:23). Since sin causes death (death is the punishment for sin), death must be required at the hand of the sinner. Sin cannot be dealt with apart from death.
God can’t change the price required, nor change His nature, but justice could be satisfied in a Substitute. Death was required in a Substitute. Justice had to be paid in full. At the cross, Jesus met the requirement.
God’s justice required death in a substitute; God’s love provided the Substitute. What His justice required, His love provided. In the death of Jesus, the love of God was paying a fine to the justice of God (Barnhouse).
Be it known, sin is paid for, not condoned. By one man sin entered the world; by another Man its price is paid. Christ “hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (1P 3:18).
All are sinners, guilty before God. This guilt must either be retained or placed upon a substitute. There is no other place for our guilt. Our debt must be paid in the death of Jesus, or shall be required of us in death–physical death, plus spiritual death, separation from God in Hell.
Jesus has dealt with God through His shed blood. God’s anger is appeased, His reputation cleared, His justice satisfied. Now the decision is ours. William Cowper, the Christian poet, went through a long period of depression before he found peace in Christ. The periods of darkness seemed to intensify in the days before his conversion. Then this happened:
I flung myself into a chair near the window, and seeing a Bible there, ventured once more to apply to it for comfort and instruction. The first verse I saw was the 25th of the 3rd chapter of Romans, “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood. . . .”
Immediately I received strength to believe it, and the full beams of the Sun of Righteousness shone upon me. I saw the sufficiency of the Atonement He had made. . . .
In an instant I believed and received the peace of the Gospel. Unless the Almighty arm had been under me, I think I should have died with gratitude and joy.
It is small wonder that Cowper later wrote:
There is a fountain filled with blood,
Drawn from Immanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains.
E’er since by faith I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And shall be till I die.