For the Fathers Sake
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Millions of sermons have been preached on the cross. The vast majority of them have emphasized what Jesus did there for people–died for us, loved us, purchased our redemption, and suffered our shame. Jesus did more on the cross than only deal with humans. Calvarys most important feature was what Jesus did there for the Father. Our text tells three things Jesus accomplished on the cross for God.
Romans 325a Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in
One, Jesus appeased Gods anger. 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 appeasing Gods wrath against sin. In Jesus death, the anger of God was diverted from sinners to the sacrifice. Had divine wrath not fallen on Christ, it would have had to fall upon us, for God cannot let sin pass.
God hates sin because He loves sinners. Sin is the terrible destroyer and harmer of our race. God, who is love, is angry at what sin does to His people. God has to love sinners because He is love. Therefore He has to hate what harms them.
God is angry at sin. To describe the wrath of God, the Old Testament uses more than 20 different words, used altogether about 580 times. Gods wrath is mentioned on almost every page of Revelation, and 10 times in Romans. There can be no dispute. According to the Bible, God is angry at sin and hates it.
A caution do not mistakenly think 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 us thinking God is trite, an easy-going, good-natured buddy. The cross proves God is not lackadaisical about sin. He hates it. Jesus death proved the seriousness of His feelings.
Romans 325b . . .to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are
past, through the forbearance of God.
Two, at the cross Jesus cleared Gods reputation. Before Calvary the whole world seemed to be one continual scandal. Divine righteousness seemed almost asleep. People could have easily asked, Where is God Does He condone sin Humans saw God accepting and forgiving sinners without sin being dealt with.
Abraham was called the friend of God, yet cowardly risked his wifes honor to save his own skin. YHWH is described as the God of Jacob, but Jacob often lied and cheated. Moses, called the Old Testaments greatest person, killed a man, and later committed sin unto death. David committed murder and adultery, but was a man after Gods own heart. These sinful men were some of Gods favorites. One could get the impression God did not care about sin. It puts a cloud over His name.
The New Testament clears the air. Calvary removes any stain from the reputation of God. YHWH knew in advance what Jesus was going to do. The Father knew the sin-debt would someday be paid in full for all sins, past, present, and future.
It made no difference to God whether He saved people before or after the cross. In His eyes, the cross was an eternal fact. Sins were forgiven before Calvary because the cross was present in Gods mind from the beginning–yea, 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 a while, 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 mans hearts, forward to the future, and backward to the past. By taking care of the past, the present, the future, Jesus death cleared the Fathers reputation. The Lord never has been, and never will be, trite about sin.
Romans 326 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness that he might be
just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
Three, at the cross Jesus satisfied the Fathers justice. How can a just God rightly pronounce a sinner righteous We are sinful, deserving the dark angel Justice that casts its ominous shadow across the road of Mercy. Justice carries its sword unsheathed and thirsts for vengeance. This presents, from our perspective, a barrier to salvation. In fact, based on our own initiative, it truly is an insurmountable barrier.
No doubt God is just. Ask people of Sodom, who can tell how God rained fire and brimstone on their iniquity. Noah can tell how God opened windows of Heaven, released fountains of the deep, and drowned our race. The ruins of Nineveh and Babylon loudly scream God is just. Hell reminds us God will not spare the guilty. God, being just, must punish sin. God would cease to be God if He did not punish sin (anti-God), and the punishment must be death.
God told Adam, The day you eat thereof you will surely die (GN 217). Paul said, The wages of sin is death (RM 623). 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 cannot change the price required, or alter His nature, but He could let justice be satisfied in a Substitute. Justice had to be paid in full. Death was required in a Substitute. At the cross, Jesus met the requirement.
Gods justice required death in a substitute Gods love provided the Substitute. What the Fathers justice required, the Fathers 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, but not condoned. By one man, sin entered the world another Man paid its penalty. Christ hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God (1 Peter 318).
All are sinners, guilty before God. This guilt must either be retained or placed on 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, through His shed blood, has dealt with the Father. Gods anger is appeased, His reputation cleared, His justice satisfied. Now the decision is up to us.
William Cowper, the Christian poet, went through a long period of depression before he found peace in Christ. The periods of darkness intensified in the days before his conversion, but then the breakthrough 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 Immanuels veins
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains.
Eer since by faith I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And shall be till I die.