Knowing God, chapter 18: The heart of the Gospel (2)

Continued from yesterday.

The basic structural features of the NT are sin, propitiation and pardon. To see this, a prayerful study of Romans 1-5, Galatians 3, Ephesians 1-2, Hebrews 8-10, 1 John 1-3 and the sermons in Acts is recommended. Even though the word ‘propitiation’ may not appear in your translation of the Bible , the thought of it constantly does.

Christ’s death is depicted as

  • Reconciliation: Rom 5:10-11; 2 Cor 5:18-20; Col 1:20-22
  • Redemption: Rom 3:24; Gal 3:13, 4:5; 1 Pet 1:18; Rev 5:9
  • Sacrifice: Eph 5:2; Heb 9-10:18
  • An act of selfgiving: Gal 1:4, 2:20; 1 Tim 2:6
  • An act of sin-bearing: John 1:29; 1 Pet 2:24; Heb 9:28
  • An act of blood-shedding: Mark 14:24; Heb 9:14; Rev 1:5

(All these thoughts have to do with the putting away of sin and the restoration of fellowship between God and man.)

Not only does the truth of propitiation lead us to the heart of the NT gospel, but it also helps us see vital matters that cannot otherwise be grasped. Five of these are: the driving force in the life of Christ; the destiny of those who reject God; God’s gift of peace; the dimensions of God’s love; and the meaning of God’s glory.

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A) The driving force in the life of Jesus. If you were to read through the gospel of Mark in one sitting, one of the impressions you’d get is how Jesus’ messianic mission focused on His being put to death. Four times He predicted His death and resurrection, but His disciples couldn’t understand what He meant—Mark 8:31-38, 9:9, 9:31-32, 10:33-34. He spoke of His being put to death as something certain, as it was predicted in Scripture (Mark 14:18, 21, 49). The driving force in Jesus’ life was His resolve to be obedient to death—even death on a cross (Philippians 2:8)

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B) The destiny of those who reject God.  Those who in this life reject God will be rejected by God forever. Christ on the cross experienced a withdrawal and deprivation of good. Those who reject God face the prospect of losing all good.

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C) God’s gift of peace. The peace of God isn’t a feeling of inner tranquillity, happy and carefree, arising from knowledge that God will shield us from life’s hardest knocks. The real peace of God “brings both power to face, and live with, one’s own badness and failings, and also contentment under … God’s wise providence.”

The basic ingredient of God’s peace is pardon, acceptance and adoption into God’s family. And it flows from propitiation (Col 1:20)

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D) The dimensions of God’s love.

“Paul prays that the readers of his Ephesian letter ‘may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height, and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge’ (Ephesians 3:18 f.). The touch of incoherence and paradox in his language reflects Paul’s sense that the reality of divine love is inexpressibly great; nevertheless, he believes that some comprehension of it may be reached.”

Christ’s love was free, not elicited by any goodness in us (Ephesians 2:1-2a); it is eternal (1:4); it was unreserved, leading Him to the humiliation of Calvary; it was sovereign, for it has achieved its goal.

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E) The meaning of God’s glory. John 13:31.

“Do you see the glory of God in His wisdom, power, righteousness, truth, and love, supremely disclosed at Calvary, in the making of propitiation for our sins? The Bible does; and we venture to add, if you felt the burden and pressure of your own sins at its true weight, so would you. In heaven, where these things are better understood, angels and men unite to praise ‘the Lamb that was slain’ (Revelation 5:11 ff.; 7:9 ff.).”