As we give special focus this coming weekend to the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, I want to briefly consider what He actually accomplished when He willingly suffered and died in our place as sinners.
Galatians 3:13, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.” Who is “us”? Verse 14, those who by faith receive Christ Jesus and the promised Holy Spirit. Christ accomplished their redemption on the cross once and for all.
1 Corinthians 6:20, “For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” Who are the “you” who have been redeemed by Christ? Verse 19, those whose body is a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 1:2, the church of God, those set apart in Christ Jesus and called to be holy).
2. PROPITIATION (satisfying the holy wrath of God upon us as sinners)
1 John 2:2, “and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.” Jesus accomplished the propitiation for the sins of His people, Jews AND Gentiles! “Our sins” could refer to the believers in Asia Minor, present believers in the 1st century, or Jewish believers (or a blend of those); “sins of the whole world” thus would refer to the believers from areas outside of Asia Minor, all believers (past, present and future), or Gentile believers (or a blend of those). “World” refers to the world in general, people from every nation and tongue. This cannot mean every individual. Just consider the way John uses “world” throughout the whole letter (23 times, mostly in reference to the world system and philosophies; six times in reference to people, none of which can possibly mean every individual—but the world in a general sense; e.g. see 1 John 5:19). We use “world” in this sense as well, such as the United Nations saying, “Our efforts have benefited the whole world.”
Did Jesus propitiate (satisfy God’s wrath) on behalf of every individual? Unless we deny Scripture, eternal hell is a reality (a destination we ALL deserve as sinners), and many are there and are headed there. If Jesus is their propitiation, a just God could not condemn them! Did Jesus die on behalf of, in the place of, those who are in hell? If so, we have an unjust God. Someone may respond, “Well, they didn’t believe in Christ, so it wasn’t applied to them.” And that gets down to the real issue here: WHAT DID CHRIST ACTUALLY ACCOMPLISH ON THE CROSS? Did He die to actually accomplish and secure salvation on behalf of a chosen people (chosen by His free grace, objects of His mercy)? Or did He die to just make salvation possible and really didn’t redeem anyone? Does our salvation turn and depend on the hinge of our will (which is in bondage to our sin nature) or on the hinge of the free and gracious will of God? (See John 1:12-13 and James 1:18.)
2 Corinthians 5:18-21, “Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them” (again, this cannot be referring to every individual, but to the “world” of believers, a multitude from every nation and tongue whom the Father mercifully chose and the Son died for and the Spirit worked effectually to bring to repentance and faith—through the means of His people faithfully preaching the word – note…), “and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (Note that the “our” in the first half of verse 21 must be the “we” in the second half who actually are credited/imputed with the righteousness of God.)
Let us all remember that this all happened, verse 18, “THROUGH CHRIST.” Reconciliation thus flows out of redemption and propitiation. If I have been set free from bondage to sin, if Christ has satisfied the wrath of God on my behalf, then the way has been opened for me to be reconciled with God. As 2 Corinthians 6:2 goes on to say, “now is the day of salvation.” Come to Christ! As the Scriptures say, “Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat.” (Isaiah 55:1)
C.H. Spurgeon gives us a good illustration here. “Come to Christ just as you, without money and without price. He will give you what you need; He will provide all that you lack. Think of the public drinking fountains at the corners of our streets; we can hardly imagine anyone so foolish as to feel for his purse and cry, ‘I cannot drink because I haven’t five pounds in my pocket.’ However poor the man is, there is the fountain, and just as he is, he may drink of it. Thirsty passengers, as they go by, whether they are dressed in fine satin or in rags, don’t consider their worthiness to be able to drink there. Perhaps the ones who go thirsty through the street where there’s a drinking fountain are the fine ladies and gentlemen in their fine carriages. They are very thirsty, but cannot think of humbling themselves to get out to drink. It would demean them, they think, to drink at a common drinking fountain. So they ride by with parched lips. Oh, how many there are who are rich in their own good works and do not come empty-handed & humbly to Christ! ‘I will not be saved,’ they say, ‘in the same way as the adulterer or thieves. What! Go to heaven in the same way as a chimney sweep?’ Such proud, self-deceived boasters remain without the living water. But the fountain of the gospel continues to flow…‘whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.’”
Calvary Bible Church, Rogers City, MI