Jesus, the Propitiation by His Blood: Christ as the God-supplied Substitute for the Elect

Romans 3:25a “Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood”

This is an important verse for rightly understanding what Jesus was doing on the cross. The key word is propitiation. So do me a favor. If your Bible doesn’t have that word in this verse, put it down, and pick up another one. You may not be persuaded of the sanity of the action at the present, but when I’m done briefly commenting on this verse, I trust you will be in agreement.

What does this verse say? God put forward Jesus, the Messiah, the Savior of his people (Matthew 1:21), as a propitiation by his blood. The Father put forward the Son as this.

What does it mean for Jesus to be a propitiation by his blood? It means that in his death (“by his blood”) Jesus was a wrath-absorbing, wrath-satisfying, wrath-finishing substitutionary sacrifice.

God is an angry God. Why? Because he is good and righteous. In his righteousness he is fully devoted to loving and living for that which is supremely valuable, lovely, and worthy, namely himself. In his dedication to himself, he is furious at any opposition, rebellion, belittling, or slander. And all of us, every last one of us, have gone astray into the folly of rejecting and denouncing this God. His righteousness is revealed in his wrath against all the unrighteousness and ungodliness of men, who in their unrighteousness suppress the truth of God, exchanging the truth of God, that he is worthy of all honor and allegiance, for a lie, that anything else is instead. God is mad at this. He is furious.

The place God has made for sinners to receive the fullness of his infinite wrath, to bear the forever unleashing of his pent up, terrible fury, is hell. All sinners ought to be there.

But God put forward Jesus as a propitiation by his blood, and he took that wrath in full upon himself in three hours on the cross, such that God’s wrath was satisfied, leaving him free to uphold justice and goodness and be propitious and kind to those for whom Christ died, forgiving them, granting them life and peace with him, and welcoming them into his kingdom through faith.

Note something very important. This verse does not say that Jesus was a potential, or an available, propitiation; that he might be a propitiation for a potential group of people, if they but…

It says he was an actual propitiation. He actually drank up actual wrath from an actual God for an actual people, such that there is no more hell to be had for that people.

So, did he do this for all individuals from all time everywhere? Or did he do this for a subset of humanity?

If he died on the cross as a wrath-drinking substitute for every individual everywhere, no one has gone, is going, or will go to hell. This is so because that hell would have been taken for them already at Calvary.

And so Christ did not die as a propitiation, as a wrath-taking substitute, for every individual everywhere in all time, because hordes will find themselves in hell forever—the very place people go who still have God’s wrath upon them.

Matthew 25:31-34, 41, 46: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world…“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels…And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

No, Jesus did not die as a propitiatory substitute for every individual. He died in the place of, for the sin of, to pay the debt of all God’s elect.

There are those for whom Christ died; and therefore there is no hell awaiting them. And there are those for whom Christ did not die; and therefore there is nothing but hell awaiting them.

Such was the plan and purpose of the Godhead at the cross.

Now, some will respond to this clear Biblical truth by saying, “How dare God!” But this is helpfully revealing. Such an attitude toward God is precisely why we humans need salvation in the first place. We think we have some claim upon God. But we have no claim upon this God except a claim on his wrath. We think ourselves kings enough to dictate God’s actions. We are proud creatures.

If you are not a Christian, repent and beg God for mercy and grace you are not owed. Call on the name of Jesus in desperation for a salvation from God and by God you need more than anything else.

If you are a Christian, repent, fall to your knees, and give thanks to the Lord for his astounding love for you in Christ. It is amazing, and worthy of a lifetime of thanksgiving.

Furthermore, if you are not a member of a local church, but God has been so loving to you in this way, you must find a biblical church and submit to it in membership. If you already are a member of a local church, labor in love for your fellow members. Love them deeply.

This is the response to God’s love for us in putting forward his own Son as a propitiation by his blood that he expects, which he makes explicit through his apostle, John, in 1 John 4:7-12.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

If Christ has loved his people in this way, by bearing the unbearable for them on the cross, you, Christian, must love them too without any quit.

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