The understanding of these particular doctrines is essential for the believer’s growth in grace. “But if it (salvation) is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace” (Rom. 11:6).
Often Christians parrot the words “salvation by grace,” but when questioned further it is quickly discovered that most are ill-equipped and incapable of presenting a proper, in-depth explanation regarding this GRACE in which we (believers) stand (Rom. 5:1-2).
The basis for our salvation by grace is found in what is properly called “the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross.” A specific work which was divinely committed to Christ to accomplish and which did not begin until the cross and ended, thereon, with His death. It is the work which constitutes the content behind Christ’s words: “It is finished” (Jo.19:30). Specifically, the work of REDEMPTION, RECONCILIATION and PROPITIATION. There are other doctrines relating to the value of Christ’s death for believers, such as, forgiveness (of sins), regeneration, justification and sanctification, which also are divinely applied to the sinner at the time of personal belief, but the trilogy above is unique because each extend benefits to both the saved and unsaved in that this finished work on the cross, 2000 years ago, was done with the whole “world” in mind (Jo. 1:29; ref. 1Jo.2:2; 4:14).
It must be clearly understood that Christ’s death is SUBSTITUTIONARY and the work He accomplished through His death is, in itself, PERFECT and COMPLETE. The sinner freely benefits by and accesses this finished work, in full, at the time of personal belief (Rom. 5:2) and cannot add to it nor subtract from it in any way. It was Christ’s work to accomplish and accomplish it He did, completely and perfectly. Therefore, the sinner, at the time of personal belief, is completely and perfectly REDEEMED from sin; completely and perfectly RECONCILED to God; and God, through Christ, is completely and perfectly PROPITIATED by His shed blood. On this basis, the life bestowed upon a repentant sinner, at the time of personal belief, is vitally eternal.
NOTE: Just as the Lord warned the Israelites that their stone altars for burnt and peace offerings must be built with uncut stones (not shaped by human tools) or the altar would be profaned (Ex. 20:24-26), so the work of Christ must not be commingled with any human effort.
REDEMPTION = Sinward
The perfect, divine solution for sin.
RECONCILIATION = Manward
The perfect, divine solution for the sinner.
PROPITIATION = Godward
The perfect, divine solution for the offended holiness of God.
Redemption is the sinward aspect of Christ’s work on the cross. There, God Himself, through Christ Jesus, paid the ransom price of human sin which the outraged holiness and government of God required. Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin” (Jo. 8:34). Therefore, in order for the enslaved sinner to be liberated (redeemed) from this bondage, there must be one willing to redeem, along with having the means and the power to accomplish the task. In Christ, these requirements were met perfectly.
Old Testament Types
Israel In The Bondage Of Egypt
Israel in Egypt was a type of man’s bondslavery to sin. It was the Lord who undertook their deliverance through a mediator of His choice (Moses) and the blood of an unblemished, sacrificial lamb. It was the blood of the passover lamb which paid the ransom price while the arm (strength) of the Lord delivered them (Ex. 6:6; 12:13). The Apostle writes to believers, this side of the cross,
“knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (1Pet. 1:18).
As the blood of the sacrificed, paschal lamb protected Israel from the destroying angel and the power of the Lord delivered them from their bondage in Egypt, so Christ our passover Lamb also has been sacrificed (1Cor. 5:7) and by the power of God was raised from the dead “because of our justification” (Rom. 4:25). Ascended and glorified He has taken His seat at the right hand (power) of the throne of the Majesty on high in the heavens (Heb. 1:3; 8:1) and “He is able (has the power) to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:25).
As the book of Exodus is the book of redemption, the book of Ruth reveals the Kinsman-Redeemer, the “ga’al.” The Law of Moses provided for a person or an estate to be redeemed (the act of setting free) through the payment of a ransom price (Lev. 25:25, 47-48). It required that the “ga’al,” (1) be a kinsman, (2) have the means to redeem, (3) free from the calamity befallen the one to be redeemed and (4) he (the kinsman redeemer) must be willing. Certainly Christ fulfills all the requirements for our Kinsman-Redeemer. Entering into humanity through the virgin birth He became our Kinsman, He was free from sin through Adam, He willingly came to do the Father’s will and His precious blood was the price He paid.
New Testament Witness
The New Testament reveals the estate of all unredeemed men as sold into bondage to sin, hence, slaves of sin (Rom. 7:14; 6:20). There are three Greek words that reveal the full picture of Christ’s work of redemption on the cross for sinners:
agorazo……. To purchase in the market (Rev. 5:9; 14:3-4)
exagorazo … To purchase and to REMOVE or TAKE OUT of the market never to return (Gal. 3:13; 4:5)
lutroo ……….. Loosed and set free (Titus 2:14; 1Pet. 1:18)
Christ paid the ransom price (His precious blood) IN FULL on the cross in order that the one who comes by faith in Him is purchased out of the slave market of sin, never to return again and is set free. If therefore the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed” (Jo. 8:36).
Though man’s redemption is now fully accomplished and paid for by Christ’s work on the cross, Scripture also refers to a future “redemption” of our physical, mortal bodies which are still subject to futility (Rom. 8:23; Phil. 3:21). In the future, this mortal (body) must put on immortality, and this perishable (body) must put on the imperishable (1Cor. 15:35-58). Christ’s finished work redeemed the whole man: body, soul and spirit.
When a repentant sinner, by faith, turns to God via the cross, Christ’s FINISHED, redemptive work is then applied, in full, to that sinner. In other words: “IT IS FINISHED.”
Reconciliation is the manward aspect of Christ’s work on the cross. By His death on the cross he brought about a most amazing and complex work on behalf of man. Not only redeeming us from our sinful estate brought about by the fall, but also reconciling the sinner to an infinitely holy God.
“For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life”
The Greek root “katalasso” basically means to change completely. In fact, if you were to substitute the word “reconcile” with “changed completely” each time you read a passage containing this word, you would preserve the true force of its meaning,
“Now all things are from God, who changed completely us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of changing completely (2Cor. 5:18).
The Divine Ledger
Reconciliation can also to understood as an accounting term with the basic idea of “causing to be conformed to, or adjusted to, a specific norm or standard.” Each month your check book balance must conform to the balance on the monthly statement you receive from your bank. When it does not, an adjustment must take place. In the case of Divine Bookkeeping there was found a necessity (the sin factor) to have an adjustment made on man’s books which were out of balance with the Divine Norm or Standard. This imbalance was adjusted at the cross where man was, and is, reconciled (changed completely) to God.
“Namely, that God was in Christ (on the cross) reconciling (changing completely) the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them” (2Cor. 5:18)
There, on the cross, Christ’s work of reconciliation was accomplished completely and perfectly. And since then, the word of reconciliation has gone out into the world, as the Apostle Paul writes,
“He has committed to us the word of reconciliation” (2Cor. 5:19b)
Man accesses this Divine Adjustment at the time of personal belief.
“Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ (who accomplished the work), be reconciled to God (through faith, emphasis mine)” (2Cor. 5:20).
The sinner, at the time of belief in Christ is changed completely from an enemy of God to a friend of God (Rom. 5:10). The finished, reconciliatory work of Christ is appropriated to the sinner at the time of personal belief.
Reconciliation And Beyond
Keeping with the bookkeeping metaphor it will be helpful to point out here another aspect of Divine Grace, mainly, the free gift of righteousness. Man, because of the fall and personal sins, appears on the negative side of the Divine Ledger. However, through Christ’s work of reconciliation on the cross, the believer is brought back to a “zero balance” having all his sins forgiven. But God does not stop there with His riches toward us in Christ Jesus. The believer is then placed on the plus side of the Divine Ledger being declared forever righteous in Christ.
“He made Him who no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2Cor. 5:21; see also, Rom. 5:12-21)
When, by faith, a repentant sinner comes to God via the cross, where Christ’s reconciliatory work was completed, he is, at the time of his faith, changed completely from an once enemy of God to a friend of God. And by an immediate act of Divine Grace, made the righteousness of Christ in Him. In other words: “IT IS FINISHED.”
Propitiation is the Godward aspect of the finished work of Christ on the cross. Here, as in redemption and reconciliation, Christ’s work is two fold. He is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world and his work is applied to the individual sinner upon personal belief.
And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world” (1Jo. 2:2).
“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1Jo. 4:10).
Propitiation undertakes the problem of an offended God. The death of Christ satisfied God’s anger toward a sinful world and averted His wrath, thereby, enabling God to receive into His family those who place their faith in the One who satisfied Him (Jesus Christ).
A definition of propitiation is:
The offering of a gift or sacrifice of sufficient value in order that the wrath of another might be fully satisfied.
The propitiated one is the one whose wrath has been turned into pleasure by the offering of a gift so desirable that he can no longer find reason to continue in anger. Three Principles Involved In The Act Of Propitiation 1. The person who brings the gift designed to turn away the wrath of another declares himself (at least in appearance) to be the inferior of the one offended. Phillippians 2:6-8 tells us that Jesus Christ, God the Son, emptied Himself, took on the form of a bondservant, being made in the likeness of men (took on humanity), He humbled Himself and became obedient (to the Father) even to the point of dying on a cross (His propitiatory death).
2. The propitiatory gift, designed to turn away the wrath of the offended one, must precede the offender. Christ Jesus is Himself the priceless GIFT of PROPITIATION, so therefore, it was necessary for Him to precede us sinners into the presence of God. If we were to go before the Gift had been accepted, we would have been slain (Heb. 10:19-20).
3. The giver must be wealthy enough to present a gift of sufficient value to bring about the intended results. Christ Jesus offered Himself, without blemish, to God, and then entered the heavenly, holy place (through His own blood) for us, once for all having obtained eternal redemption (Heb. 9:11-22).
Sinful mankind was utterly without resources to provide a propitiatory gift valuable enough to satisfy the wrath of an infinitely holy God. So God, according to His infinite mercy, provided the only Gift worthy enough in the Person of His Son, Jesus Christ.
This is alluded to in Genesis chapter 22 when God told Abraham to take a three day’s journey to the land of Moriah and offer his promised son, Isaac, as a burnt offering. When Isaac saw the wood and fire for the sacrifice, he asked his father where the lamb was for the burnt offering and Abraham responded, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” Centuries later Jesus reflected on this ancient incident and said, “Abraham rejoiced to see My day; and he saw it, and was glad.” In Christ Jesus, God provided the Sacrifice.
Year after year, on the Day of Atonement, the High Priest would enter the holy of holies with the blood of the slaughtered, unblemished goat and sprinkle it on and in front of the mercy (literally, propitiatory) seat for all the sins of the assembly of Israel. In fulfillment of this yearly sacrifice, Christ Jesus is Himself, God’s eternal “mercy seat” (Heb. 10:1-25 7:25).
When a repentant sinner, by faith, turns to Christ Jesus, His propitiatory work on the cross is applied to that sinner in full. God does not look to the sinner nor the saint to satisfy His offended holiness. Through Christ Jesus, God has been propitiated. In other words: “IT IS FINISHED.”
Written by Gary Nystrom