The ‘Why,’ ‘Who,’ and ‘What’ of Propitiation

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John Stott, in his work The Cross of Christ, answers three questions concerning the biblical doctrine of propitiation (the satisfaction of God’s wrath for the forgiveness of sins):

1. Why is the propitiation necessary?

The reason why a propitiation is necessary is that sin arouses the wrath of God…The wrath of God…is his steady, unrelenting, unremitting, uncompromising antagonism to evil in all its forms and manifestations.

Stott points out that this anger is not a “lost temper.” Neither is it mysterious or irrational. “It is never unpredictable, but always predictable, because it is provoked by evil and by evil alone.”

2. Who makes the propitiation?

Christianity is not like paganism, in which man satisfies the divine anger by some special formula:

There is no possibility of persuading, cajoling, or bribing God to forgive us, for we deserve nothing at his hands but judgment. Nor, as we have seen, has Christ by his sacrifice prevailed upon God to pardon us. No, the initiative has been taken by God himself in his sheer mercy and grace… It cannot be emphasized too strongly that God’s love is the source, not the consequence, of the atonement…God does not love us because Christ died for us; Christ died for us because God loved us. It is God’s wrath which needed to be propitiated, it is God’s love which did the propitiating.

3. What was the propitiatory sacrifice?

Stott answers:

It was neither an animal, nor a vegetable, nor a mineral. It was not a thing at all, but a person. And the person God offered was not somebody else, whether a human person or an angel or even his Son considered as somebody distinct from or external to himself. No , he offered himself. In giving his Son, he was giving himself.


It is God himself who in holy wrath needs to be propitiated, God himself who in holy love undertook to do the propitiating, and God himself who in the person of his Son died for the propitiation of our sins.


Written by keywoodblog

July 12, 2011 at 6:23 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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