Found Righteous (Part 5)

Romans 3:21-31

Tom Pennington  •  March 13, 2016
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It's been said, not only in English, but in some way, in a similar way, in most of the languages of the world, that a picture is worth a thousand words. If that's true, and certainly it is, then Old Testament believers didn't have one picture, they had thousands of pictures, every year, to help them understand why, eventually, their Messiah would have to come, and to die. The pictures that they saw, that constantly spoke to them more than 1,000 words could do, consisted of the animal sacrifices, the great sacrificial system of the Old Testament.

In the first 16 chapters of Leviticus, you know, the graveyard of most Christians' New Year's resolutions to read through the Scripture, those 16 chapters, while they may be difficult for us to read, they are absolutely key to the understanding of the Christian faith. Because in those 16 chapters we learn this truth, the only way that a sinful man can approach a holy God, is through sacrifice. That was the message, verse after verse, in the first half of the book of Leviticus.

In Leviticus 1 to 7, God prescribed for the people of Israel five specific kinds of sacrifice. These five types were to be part of the worship of every Israelite, every year, throughout his entire life. And all five of these sacrifices were intensely personal; we don't really get a sense of that because we're so far removed in time and space. But I want you to, for a moment, imagine with me, that you lived in Old Testament Israel, and that you had been commanded by God to offer animal sacrifices.

Let's say that you had sinned against God and you needed to present a sin offering to God, as is prescribed in the early chapters of Leviticus. Here's what you would have done. You would have traveled from your home, often a number of days' journey away, in some cases weeks' journey away if you're coming from outside the nation of Israel.

And you would've traveled to Jerusalem, and there in Jerusalem you would've walked up those massive steps leading up to the Temple Mount. You would've walked across that great platform that Herod the Great built, and you would've arrived at the front of the Temple, and you would've led that perfect animal, that animal that had no physical blemish, because any blemish was forbidden, and you would've walked that animal up to the forecourt of the temple, where you would've met the priest. And then you would've taken your hands and rested them on the head of that animal, in some cases confessing your sin.

What you were doing was you were symbolizing the transfer of your guilt to that animal. You were laying your hands on its head, signifying that it had now become your representative, it stood in your place. What happened next shocks the sensibilities of most 21st century people. The priest would've handed you the knife, and you would've taken with your own hand and slaughtered that animal; you would've slit its throat. And as you watched, and as the blood ran out of that animal, the priest would have been there with a bowl, he would have collected the blood as it ran out, in that bowl.

And then he would have walked across the Temple court there, to that great stone altar, the one that was made of stones on which there had never been a hammer or chisel. They couldn't be stones that had been touched by man in that way because God wanted to make sure man understood he had nothing to do with his atonement. And he would've taken that bowl of blood and slung the blood across that stone altar.

And then he would've walked back to you and, depending on what sacrifice you were offering, he would have taken the parts of the animal that were prescribed. And he would have taken those parts and he would have hurled them on top of that raging fire on top of the altar. And the smoke from that burning flesh would ascend into heaven.

The entire process of animal sacrifice made it crystal clear that the innocent animal was dying in the place of the sinner who deserved to die, especially when you laid your hands on the head of that animal, you were transferring your guilt. That animal now stood in your place as your representative, and it died, like you deserved to die. God was making it clear that the only way a sinful man can ever approach holy God, is through sacrifice.

But most people miss the big point behind all of the Old Testament sacrifices. You see, the sacrifices were always for God, not for the worshiper. Moses explains this over and over again in Leviticus 1 to 7. In fact, turn back there, keep your hand here in Romans, go back to Leviticus 1. There is a phrase that recurs 42 times throughout the Old Testament, in the context of the instructions for animal sacrifice. It really defines the ultimate purpose for those sacrifices.

Let me show you, just some examples. Leviticus 1, look at verse 9, the end of verse 9, it shall be "an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to the Lord." Look at the end of verse 13, it will be "an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to the Lord." Verse 17, it will be "an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to the Lord." Chapter 2, verse 2, it will be "an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to the Lord." Verse 9, it will be "an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to the Lord." You get the idea, 42 times that phrase recurs. Now, what does that mean? It's obviously at the heart of the Old Testament sacrifices. The phrase "a soothing aroma to the Lord," means literally, a smell or a fragrance that quiets or soothes, a fragrance or smell that quiets or soothes.

Do you see the picture? As the smoke from that burning sacrifice, that died in your place, ascended into heaven, the smell of that burning flesh, of the death of that innocent substitute, soothed, it quieted God. In other words, it was an aroma that calmed or soothed God's wrath.

Now that is a terrifying thought, if you really think about that seriously. Our sin so greatly offends God that it stirs His anger and His just anger against us has to be quieted, it has to be soothed. So all the Old Testament sacrifices were for God, to soothe, to quiet, to satisfy His holy wrath against sin.

This is equally true of the ultimate fulfillment of those animal sacrifices, the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ. You see, when we think about the crucifixion, we tend to focus on the human side, with its unimaginable physical suffering, and obviously, his suffering in all parts was part of the atonement, so I'm not downplaying that in any way. But the most important thing that happened that day, just outside the city walls of Jerusalem, was not the physical suffering of Christ. It was instead, the divine transaction that occurred between the Father and the Son. That was the primary purpose for the cross.

Perhaps the clearest insight into this divine perspective of Christ's death, is found here in Romans 3. In fact, I would put it this way, we're approaching Good Friday, we're looking forward to the celebration of our Lord's death for us and, of course, of His resurrection. If you want to know what was in the mind of God during those six hours on that Friday nearly 2,000 years ago, you can find it in Romans 3:25-26. Let's read the whole paragraph together, verse 21,

But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

In the first three chapters of this letter we watched as Paul proved to us the futility, the vanity, the utter uselessness of trying to pursue a righteousness that is our own righteousness. So, beginning in verse 21, where we just read, he introduces us to the gift of righteousness earned through the work of Jesus Christ. A gift that we simply receive by faith. In verse 24, as I've noted for you, Paul describes our receiving of this righteousness as "being justified," as being declared right with God. So this paragraph then, central to the gospel, central to Romans, contains Paul's explanation of the doctrine of justification.

Specifically, as we've noted, here he outlines for us five foundational truths about this great doctrine. So far, we have finished our study of four of them. Let me remind you. First of all, we saw that justification has always been the divine plan, "being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets," it's in the Old Testament.

Secondly, we noted that justification is appropriated by faith alone in Christ alone. Verse 22 says, it is "the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe." Thirdly, we discovered that justification is imperative for all people, "for there is no distinction; all have sinned and all are falling short of the glory of God." We all need the same remedy, justification.

Last week we learned, number four, that justification flows from the grace of God alone. Verse 24 says, "being justified," being declared right with God, "as a gift." The Greek word is used in John 15, where Jesus says, "'"They hated Me without a cause,"'" same word, "'"without a cause."'" In other words, we receive justification without any cause in us; it's a gift. What prompted God to give us a right standing with Him as a gift? Verse 24 says, "by His grace." This was the quality in God, this was the attribute of God that lies behind our justification, that moved Him. It's the reality that God finds true joy, genuine delight in doing good to those who deserve exactly the opposite from Him. This is our God.

Now, we ended last time as we had begun to consider the rest of this passage, and a fifth truth about justification. Justification is accomplished by the work of Christ alone. Beginning in the middle of verse 24 and running down through verse 26, in these verses, Paul captures the work of Christ and what He accomplished for us in two extremely crucial, critical, vital words to our faith. The first word is in verse 24, it's the word redemption. The second word is in verse 25, propitiation.

Now, last time we looked at redemption. Redemption is simply a word that is an overview of what Christ accomplished for us. Verse 24, "being justified as a gift by His grace." Notice the word, "through." That is the heart of the Christian faith. The only way that you and I can be made right with God, is not through something we do, but rather, notice, "through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus."

I'm not going to take you through all that we discovered last time. Let me give you a summary of that word redemption. It simply means that Christ's death was a ransom, or a payment, excuse me, that Christ made to God. A ransom or a payment that Christ made to God that takes the place of the payment we owe God because of our sins committed against Him. God demanded a payment for sin, not to Satan, like the mistaken view of C. S. Lewis in The Chronicles of Narnia, rather, to Himself. But in His grace, God also created a plan that would make His own Son the payment. That's redemption.

Now, that brings us today to a second crucial word that Paul uses here to explain the work of Christ; it's the word propitiation. Propitiation is the very heart of what Christ accomplished. Really, these last two verses of this paragraph, verses 25 and 26, are about propitiation. Everything hinges on that concept. Notice, the main clause of those verses, it comes at the beginning of verse 25, "whom," referring back to Christ Jesus, "God displayed publicly as a propitiation." The rest of the verses amplify, explain, further develop that idea. So, at the heart of the crucifixion then, at the foundation of the cross, at the center of Romans, at the center of the gospel itself, was the work of Christ that Paul here calls, propitiation.

Now the Greek word, in all of its forms, occurs only six times in our New Testament. But in spite of the few times that it occurs, this family of words is absolutely foundational to our faith. Think of it this way, this paragraph that we're studying together is the center of Paul's letter to the Romans. It is the heart of the letter. It is his explanation of justification. It is Paul's seminal explanation of the gospel. And at the center of that central paragraph is this concept of propitiation.

So what is it? Let me give you a working definition that we'll expand as we work our way through. Our understanding will expand as we work our way through this passage, but propitiation simply means, the satisfaction or turning away of God's wrath. The satisfaction or the turning away of God's wrath.

Now, fallen man hates every word of that definition, hates this concept. It is a very unpopular concept in today's world. In fact, many people would agree with Robert Schuller, the heretic, who tragically now knows the truth, after his death. He wrote this during his life, "We fabricate our own images of God when the unsaved human being imagines God to be angry rather than loving." He goes on to say that, "It's because of our own fears that we have pictured God as a threatening rather than a redeeming figure."

Schuller says, God is either loving or He's angry. He builds what in logic is called the either-or fallacy. God must either be angry or He must be loving. The truth of Scripture, as we'll see this morning, is that God is both at the same time. Again, this concept is very unpopular, even among professing evangelicals.

Maybe you read the article a year or so ago in Christianity Today, and it was in other news outlets as well. The Presbyterian Church USA, 10,000 plus churches around the world, they were creating a new hymnbook, and those who were seated on the hymnbook committee were trying to decide what hymns to include in their hymnbook. They decided to exclude one of the most popular contemporary Christian celebrations of Christ, the Gettys' song, In Christ Alone. They decided they would not have that song in their hymnbook. And the reason, CT reported, and other outlets reported as well, was because of one line in the song from verse two, this line, "on that cross, as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied." They said, we can't go there. We simply don't worship a God like that. We don't worship an angry God.

But whether we like it or not, and whether we find it comfortable or not, and whether it's popular in the culture at large or even in contemporary evangelicalism, Scripture everywhere pictures sinners as living under the shadow of the approaching wrath of God. The Old Testament speaks of God's wrath against man and his sin 585 times. Paul, in the New Testament, here in the book of Romans, has already addressed this. We spent a couple of years working through the first three chapters of this letter, and Paul has made it very clear. Go back to chapter 1, verse 18. This is the first thing he begins with. After he has his basic introduction to the letter, this is where he starts. Verse 18, "For the wrath of God is revealed," literally, is being revealed, "from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness."

He's talking here, not about future wrath, not about eschatological wrath, that is, the wrath that comes at the end, he's talking about here, the current wrath of divine abandonment. In chapter 1, it's about the pagan who abandons what he knows about the true God, that he sees in creation, and he turns to false gods, and because of his paganism, God is angry and He abandons the pagans. He abandons them to sexual sin. He abandons them to the acceptance of homosexuality. He abandons them to a depraved mind. That's chapter 1.

Depraved mind simply means, people not only sin, people have always sinned, but they begin to celebrate their sin as good. That's a depraved mind. That's happening right now. But do you understand this? The wrath of God that we are seeing in our country today, it's on the front page of the paper all the time, the wrath of God we're seeing today is nothing compared to what's coming. Because right now, God's wrath is mixed with compassion and pity, and grace, and mercy. But a day is coming when His wrath will come without compassion, without mercy.

Turn over to chapter 2, Paul talks about this. He says in verse 2, the judgement of God will rightly fall on those who practice these sins. And, verse 3, you won't escape, no one will escape, even the religious. Verse 4, people today, they enjoy the good things of life, God's goodness, and they "think lightly of the riches of His kindness and His tolerance and His patience." They never really think that God's kindness in this life, God's compassion, God's goodness, God's mercy to them, His common grace, is intended, verse 4, to lead them "to repentance."

Here's the tragic reality, because they take all of that lightly and they think God must be fine with them, verse 5 says, "because of your stubbornness," because you will not bow your knee to your Creator, because you will not accept His Son, the only way, because of your unrepentant heart, because you won't turn from your sin to Him, "you are storing up wrath." It's coming. It's coming. You're just increasing the anger of God. He gets more angry with you every day. You're storing it up. When is it going to unleash? "In the day of wrath and the revelation of the righteous judgement of God." The day of judgement is coming, and on that day, it won't be the kind of wrath that we have today that's mixed with pity and mercy and grace. It will be the kind of wrath in which there is nothing but justice. The catechism asked, what does, listen to this, what does every sin deserve? Not all your sins grouped together, what does every sin deserve? The answer is, the wrath and curse of God. Unbelievers live everyday of their lives under the looming wrath of God.

But here's the good news, here's the gospel, go back to chapter 3, verse 25. Paul says, "God has publicly displayed Him," that is Christ Jesus, "as the propitiation," as the satisfaction of His own wrath. So this word propitiation then, identifies God's great reason for the crucifixion. And it all had to do with Him. God crushed His Son on the cross in order to completely satisfy His own wrath against every sinner who would ever believe in His Son. In these two verses, Paul provides us with several great insights into the wonderful reality of propitiation, or the satisfaction of God's just and holy wrath that is at the center of the gospel. Let's look at these insights together. I'll just warn you, we're not going to finish these verses today.

The first insight that Paul lays out about propitiation is that it was initiated by God. It was initiated by God. Look at verse 25, "whom God," in context, that has to be the Father, "whom the Father publicly displayed." You know, because we talk about the wrath of God, rightly so, I think sometimes Christians get the mistaken impression that God is the angry one and Christ is the loving one. That God is not happy with us and that Christ had to convince the Father to save us, and the Father only does so begrudgingly. Nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, Paul tells us here, the entire plan of redemption came from the heart of the Father.

Listen to 2 Corinthians 5:19, "God," and again in context it has to be the Father, "the Father was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself." God isn't reluctant and Christ is desperately trying to convince Him; it was God the Father's plan. But ask yourself this question, what in the world would cause a holy, righteous God, who is rightly angry with us, to satisfy His offended holiness not by punishing the guilty, but by punishing His own Son?

This amazing reality of propitiation flows from a specific attribute of God. Turn with me to 1 John. I want you to see this, 1 John, and look at chapter 4, verse 10, "In this is love," you want to understand love, here it is, "not that we loved God," 1 John 4:10, "but that God," the Father here, "loved us." And out of His love for us, "He sent His Son," here's our word, "to be the propitiation for our sins." You want to know what moved God to satisfy His own just anger against your sins on His Son? It was His love for you.

In fact, as I've pointed out to you before, if you are a believer, or if you ever will believe, the Father, again, listen to this, let this sink into your soul, the Father loves you as much as He loves His own Son. This is what Jesus Himself said. John 17: 23, in His great high priestly prayer, He's praying to the Father, and He says this, "You," Father, "loved them even as You have loved Me." God loves you, believer, as much as He loves His own unique Son. That's what moved Him. That's what motivated Him. Before we came to Christ the wrath of God remained on us like a stain that we would never remove. But because of "His great love, with which He loved us," God the Father initiated a way to satisfy that wrath, not on us, but on His own Son. Propitiation was initiated by God the Father.

That brings us to a second insight that Paul gives us, back in Romans chapter 3, it is defined by substitution. It is defined by substitution. If we reorder this first clause into a normal sentence, it would read like this, "God publicly displayed Him," that is Christ, "as a propitiation." Christ Himself was the object of God's public display of His wrath.

Now, the Christians to whom Paul wrote the book of Romans were very familiar with the concept of satisfying the wrath of the gods. They were former pagans, and Rome had a pantheon of gods, and those gods were often angry. And so, there are liberals who come along and say, we should never think in terms of the true God, in terms of anger being satisfied, that's paganism, that's what happened with the pagan gods.

There are three profound differences between pagan attempts to satisfy false gods and the satisfaction of the one true God. Let me outline these for you because you'll hear this. What are the differences between the two? Difference number one, the anger of the pagan gods was petty and capricious. If you've read any mythology, you understand this. You never knew when they would become angry, you never knew why. You never knew what was going to set them off. It was very petty, often for little things, and it was very capricious.

But the anger of the living and true God grows solely out of His pure and undefiled holiness, His love for and His commitment to all those things that are good, and right, and pure. And the wrath of God is simply the blazing white hot response of God's holiness to everything in the universe that stands opposed to what is good, and pure, and holy, and right. In other words, everything that is true about Him. So, there is always only one thing that causes the true God anger, and that is sin and rebellion.

There's a second difference, and that is the wrath of the pagan gods was an uncontrollable outburst, like our own sinful anger. Again, if you've read mythology you understand this. Their anger, the anger of the gods, the Pantheon of Rome, it was like an explosion, an emotional explosion of an immature child. But God's wrath is nothing like that. It is a settled, holy disposition against sinners, because they stand opposed to what is good, and pure, and right, and what ought to be.

There's a third difference that I think is the most foundational of all. And that is, in pagan religions, the worshiper himself was always the one responsible to satisfy the offended deity. J.I. Packer writes, of pagan gods, he says, "The various gods take offense at the smallest things. And then they take it out on you by manipulating circumstances to your hurt. The only course that you have at that point is to humor and mollify them by an offering. The rule with the offerings is the bigger the better. Human sacrifice, in particular, is expensive, but very effective. Thus, pagan religion appears as callous commercialism, bribery, and the appeasing of celestial bad tempers."

That's nothing like the true God. Instead of demanding a bribe or a payment from us to satisfy His anger, the true God set forth His own Son as the satisfaction of His just and holy anger. You know, we often speak of this amazing transaction as substitution, and it is, but what did Jesus substitute for? What did He endure in my place? The answer is that He took in my place the wrath my sin deserved from God. This is exactly what the Scripture teaches.

In 1 John 2:2, we have our word again, and listen to what John writes, speaking of Christ, "He Himself is the propitiation for our sins." He's satisfying the wrath of God for our sins. Now, this concept permeates the Scripture. In the Old Testament, there is a picture, a word picture, that makes it very clear. That word picture is that God's holy anger against man's sin is described as a cup of wine, a cup of wine that the sinner must drink. Or, if I could put it even more bluntly, a cup of wine that God forces down the throat of those who oppose Him. The point was that God's holy justice demands that the sinner personally bear the wrath of God for his sins. If you sin, you get the cup, and you have to drink it.

Let me show you this, several examples. This isn't exhaustive, but just to give you a points of reference. Job 21:20, Job says, "'let the wicked man drink of the wrath of the Almighty.'" Turn back to Psalm, the book of Psalms, Psalm 11. Again, just a couple of examples. Psalm 11, look at verse 6, start at verse 5, "The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked, and the one who loves violence," that's the wicked, "His soul hates."

By the way, I know it's well-intentioned, but don't buy into the trivial way of saying this that is so prevalent in Christianity. It is not true that God hates the sin and loves the sinner. What the Bible teaches is that God hates the sin and He hates the sinner. That's what that verse says. But, at the same time, He also loves the sinner. Love and hate are not mutually exclusive either.

Now watch what he does in verse 6, "Upon the wicked He will rain snares; fire and brimstone and burning wind," here's that picture, "will be the portion of their cup." God's going to give them judgment as a cup they have to drink, His anger as a cup.

It becomes clearer over in Psalm 75, Psalm 75 and verse 8, "For a cup is in the hand of the Lord, and the wine foams; it is well mixed, and He pours out of this;" now listen to this, "surely all the wicked of the earth must drain and drink down its dregs." In Isaiah 51:17, Isaiah writes to the people of Jerusalem, "You have drunk from the Lord's hand the cup of His anger, the chalice of reeling you have drained the dregs."

Turn over to the prophet Jeremiah. He uses this image of the coming judgment of Babylon on God's people. Jeremiah 25 verse 15,

For thus the Lord, the God of Israel, says to me, "Take this cup of the wine of my wrath from My hand and cause all the nations to whom I send you to drink it. They will drink and stagger and go mad because of the sword that I will send among them." Then I took the cup from the Lord's hand and made all the nations to whom the Lord sent me to drink it.

Look at verse 27,

"You shall say to them, 'Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, "Drink, be drunk, vomit, fall and rise no more because of the sword which I will send among you."' And it will be, if they refuse to take the cup from your hand to drink, then you will say to them, 'Thus says the Lord of hosts: "You shall surely drink!"'"

This prefigures the final judgement that's coming.

In fact, this same word picture is used in the book of Revelation. Let's turn over there, Revelation, chapter 14. Revelation 14:9,

Then another angel, a third one, followed them, saying with a loud voice, "If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand [in other words, here's a man who refuses to worship the true God], he will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels [and this is chilling] and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment [their physical and mental anguish] goes up forever and ever [there's no end to it], and they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.

This same language is used in the end of the book of Revelation of every single sinner, every wicked person who refuses to believe in Christ.

So, you tell me, what's in the cup? What's in the cup? The wrath of God. Who has to drink the cup? The one who committed the sin. But here's the amazing thing about our holy God, He is also a God of unfathomable grace and love. And He decided to let somebody else drink the cup that was mine. This gives sense to what happened in Gethsemane. You remember, in Matthew 26:39, we read that Jesus "went a little beyond his disciples, and He fell on His face and He prayed, saying, 'My Father, if it's possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not My will, but Yours be done.'"

Listen, Jesus wasn't dreading the physical pain and suffering of the cross or death. A lot of human, solely human martyrs have gone to death courageously. What Jesus was dreading was the cup. What's in the cup? It's the wrath of almighty God. And He wasn't just going to drink one cup, He was going to drink the cup for every person who would ever believe in Him. At the cross, do you see this, at the cross, the love of God for sinners, (Remember Romans 5:8, "But God demonstrated His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.), the love of God for sinners and the wrath of God for sinners, Romans 3:25, collided in Christ. He was, at the same time, the greatest demonstration of the wrath of God and the greatest demonstration of the love of God. Because God, in His love, let the Son drink our cup.

If you're a true Christian, for those hours on the cross, God treated Jesus as if He had lived your sinful life. Jesus became the lightning rod, in that moment, for the wrath of God. Like an inverted pyramid was opened upon the Son of God and all the cup of God's wrath, every cup of every sinner was poured down that funnel, and it found its way into Christ. And for those hours, He endured it all. He drained the cup of God's wrath in our place, so there's not one single drop left for me.

If you're in Christ, listen to what God has said to us. Romans 8:1, "Therefore, there is now no condemnation," no guilty verdict, no punishment, "for those who are in Christ Jesus." First Thessalonians 5:9, "God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ." Romans 5:9, later in this same letter, he writes, "Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we will be saved," in the future, "from the coming wrath of God through Him."

If you're here this morning and you're not a follower of Jesus Christ, please forgive me, but let me just be very blunt with you because the Scripture is very blunt with you. If you've never repented, you've never put your faith in Christ, you need to understand this. God, the God who made you, the God who holds your very heartbeat in His hand, He is perfectly just. He said this of Himself, this is God's own description of Him, "I will by no means leave the guilty unpunished." And let me say, you will not be the exception. God will not compromise His justice for you. You will receive all of these things we've read. He has sworn by Himself that He will pour out His full wrath and fury on every sin you have ever committed. And there are only two options, only two. If you refuse to repent and believe in His Son, you will drink the cup of wrath forever. On the other hand, if you will come to His Son, if you will repent and believe in Him, then on the cross, Christ will have drunk the cup for you.

If you're already a follower of Jesus Christ, thank God for propitiation. The personal guilt for every sin you have ever committed is forever removed. And think about this, Christ didn't go to the cross grudgingly. God didn't force the cup down His throat. He took it willingly, freely, He volunteered to take your place.

You say, what in the world would motivate the second person of the Trinity to die for me? It was His love, He loved you. In fact, just as the Father loves you as much as He loves His own Son, the Son loves you as much as He loves the Father. John 15:9, "'Just as the Father has loved Me,'" and He loved the Father in the same way, "'I have also loved you.'" The Father, out of His great love for us, initiated the plan. The Son, out of His great love for us, volunteered and carried out the plan. Christians, we should never get over the Father's love that moved Him to make His own Son the propitiation for our sins, to satisfy His wrath toward us on Him. And we should never get over the reality that Christ's love moved Him to volunteer to be the propitiation, to be our substitute.

In July of 1941, in Auschwitz, the infamous German prison camp, there was an escape. One man showed up missing, and so the entire bunker that he was from, bunker 12, all of those men were forced to come to the courtyard and to stand there while a search was made. They stood there without food and water, in the sun, at attention, for a full day. But the man wasn't found. Auschwitz had a terrible rule. The rule was that for every prisoner who escaped, 10 would be killed in retaliation. There were those there that day who survived, and they report to us what happened next.

Karl Fritzsch, the deputy commandant of Auschwitz, screamed at the remaining prisoners of bunker 12. This is what he said, "The fugitive has not been found. You will all pay for this. Ten of you will be locked in a starvation bunker without food or water until they die." A guard began to read out the names at random, of the ten who had been chosen to die, because of the escape. One of the ten who were selected was a Polish sergeant. He'd been imprisoned for assisting the Polish underground. As his name was called that day, he began to sob. And in his anguish, he spoke out loud, even in that moment, and this is what he said. He said, "My poor wife, my poor children, what will they do?"

In the drama of that moment, silently, another prisoner stepped forward. He took off his cap, he stood before the commandant, and this is what he said. "Let me take his place. I'm old, he has a wife and children." Of course, in that context, nobody knew what would happen next. Many of them assumed that the commandant would be angry, would kill them both. But to everyone's amazement, Karl Fritzsch agreed. The volunteer and the other nine were sent to starve to death.

The sergeant, whose life was spared, survived Auschwitz. And this is what he later wrote, "I could only thank him with my eyes. I was stunned and could hardly grasp what was going on. The immensity of it, I, the condemned, am to live, and someone else willingly and voluntarily offers his life for me, a stranger. I was saved." I chose that illustration today because on this day, March 13th, in the year 1995, that sergeant died, at the age of 95 years old. For 50 years, every day he woke up, he was confronted with the reality that he was alive because someone else volunteered to die in his place.

Believer, do you understand? That's what happened to us. Our names were on the divine list of those appointed to eternal punishment. Not for the sins of someone else, not for the escape of a prisoner, but for our own sins. Our only hope, our only hope, was for someone else to step forward and to offer to drink the cup of God's wrath for us. And that's exactly what happened.

Every day, from now until eternity, and into eternity, you and I should remember that we live and that we will live because the eternal Son of God loved us so much that He stepped out and volunteered to be the propitiation, the satisfaction of the holy anger of God against me. Let's pray together.

Father, we are overwhelmed with joy and gratitude and thanksgiving for Your great love. Thank You that Your love moved You to satisfy Your holy and just anger against us on Your own Son. Lord Jesus, thank You. Thank You, that You willingly told the Father that You would take our place, that You would drink the cup.

Help us to live in light of these realities. Help us to rejoice in the propitiation that You have provided. Help us to think about these things, to live in the reality of this. Change us from this day forward, how we think about the cross, how we live, what our lives are lived for, because of what You did. And help us to open our mouths and share this incredible truth with others. Don't let us keep it to ourselves.

And Father, I pray for those here today who are outside of Christ, who've never repented, never believed. O God, help them to see the reality, help them to see that they are enjoying Your goodness today, to lead them to repentance. And their refusal to do so is only increasing Your just anger at them and that one day, that will be unleashed without mercy. May they run from Your wrath to Your love in Christ. I pray in Jesus' name, amen.