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Doctrine: Grace

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Propitiation

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Propitiation

by Mike Grushon


     THE CONCEPT OF offering blood as a sacrifice for sin is a basic principle of the Bible. God revealed to Noah the principle that the life power is found in the blood, saying, “Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood” (Genesis 9:4). While God was talking with Noah about the role of blood in relation to physical life, we can also observe that the Bible establishes a vital link between the blood and spiritual life. The Hebrew writer says, “Without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22).

     We live in a time when people, including many professing Christians, find the concept of forgiveness through the shedding of sacrificial blood to be primitive and distasteful. Neglect of the Bible doctrine of sacrifice has resulted in a religion that is devoid of the power and vitality that characterized the early church. We need to be able to sing with conviction: “There is power … wonder working power, in the precious blood of the Lamb.” That, indeed, is the essence of propitiation.

     The doctrine of propitiation is an expression of God’s mercy. In Luke 18:13, the publican prayed: “God be merciful to me, the sinner.” The word translated “merciful” in that passage is also translated propitiation in other passages. Propitiation simply refers to God’s mercy as it is expressed through the sacrifice of His Son. “Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17). Propitiation, however, is more than merely understanding that it involves the sacrifice of Christ; it also includes a proper understanding of the nature of that sacrifice.

     The Greeks used the various words for propitiation in the sense of something offered to their gods to appease them. The Bible uses the word in a slightly different manner and the distinction is essential. To the Greeks, a propitious sacrifice was something man offered to his gods to satisfy their anger and to avoid their wrath. In the Bible, the word is used to describe the loving action of a God offended by sin, who offers His Son as the sacrifice for the sinner. Paul would thus say of Jesus, “Whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood” (Romans 3:25). And John would say, “He Himself is the propitiation for our sins …” (1 John 2:2). Propitiation, therefore, is the offering by God of His Son as the perfect sacrifice for our sins. On our own, we would never have been able to provide such a magnificent sacrifice.

     The doctrine of propitiation affirms that the death of Jesus Christ upon the cross was not a coincidental circumstance of history. It was the planned, central purpose of His coming to this world. John confirmed this when he declared, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Throughout His earthly ministry, Jesus openly proclaimed that this was the purpose of His mission. He called Himself a “ransom” (Mark 10:45). While preparing His disciples for His death, He said, “Now my soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father save me from this hour?’ But for this purpose I came to this hour” (John 12:27). Jesus willingly went to the cross out of love for the lost. He went to the cross as a propitiation—the only sacrifice perfectly suited to atone for the sins of man.

     Can we see the magnificence of this doctrine? God’s love for us was so great that He Himself provided the only acceptable sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4:10). It is interesting to note that the word translated propitiation is used in the Old Testament. It is used in Exodus 25:18–22 to identify the mercy seat on the ark of the covenant. The mercy seat was the place where the sacrificial blood was sprinkled on the Day of Atonement. The Jews were thus reminded of God’s great mercy and love. We are the blessed partakers of the ultimate expression of that love, for we are the beneficiaries of Christ’s propitious sacrifice. Thus we can sing:

    “In that old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,
      A wondrous beauty I see;
    For ’twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died,
      To pardon and sanctify me.”


Grushon, M. (1987). Propitiation. In B. Lewis (Ed.), Christianity Magazine: February 1987, Volume 4, Number 2 (B. Lewis, Ed.) (17). Jacksonville, FL: Christianity Magazine.

 
 

 

Can One Fall From Grace?

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

 

Can One Fall From Grace?

Robert Jackson

this is a very serious question that needs to be settled in the minds of religious thinking people. First, we must make our appeal to the word of God for the answer. Secondly, the answer can be understood. I realize that some can cloud the issue with their mishandling of the Scriptures. Yet, the truth is clear. Let us consider the following things:

Consider 1: One must first be in grace. It is evident that in order for one to fall from grace that he must first be in grace. “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:1–2). A careful study of this reveals how one has access to the grace of God. When one obeys the faith, he becomes a child of God, and thus stands in the grace of God. Paul stated it another way in 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” The man in Christ is a new creature. He is a recipient of the grace of God. The man who is baptized upon his faith in Christ becomes a child of God (Galatians 3:26–27). He is in grace.

Consider 2: Can he fall? If one cannot fall from the grace of God, then the writers of the Word, guided by the Holy Spirit, wasted much space and time in teaching one how not to fall. Notice 1 Corinthians 15:2, “If ye keep in memory.” What if they forget? Would they still be in grace? Look at Hebrews 10:26: “For if we sin wilfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins.” Here we are taught that one can wilfully turn from Christ as a sacrifice. The apostle Peter said that if the child of God did not add certain things to his faith, he would fall (2 Peter 1:5–11). In 1 Timothy 4:1, it plainly states that one will fall: “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.” Was Paul wrong? Was the Spirit wrong in guiding Paul? No. The truth is that one can fall from grace.

Consider 3: The consequences of falling from grace. It would do us all good to stop and consider the grave consequences of departing from the faith. It means that one is out of fellowship with God. He is missing the joy and peace of mind that comes from serving God. He has brought shame and disgrace to himself and to the name of God. He lives daily in fear of death, knowing that he will fall under the condemnation of God. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Romans 8:1).

If the doctrine be true that one cannot fall, just think of the time wasted in teaching people how to live. I grant that it would be a very easy doctrine to believe, but it is just not in harmony with the teaching of our Lord. It is true that some fall, and then come back. Others fall and never come back. “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost” (Hebrews 6:4).

I believe that a person with an open mind and an open Bible can see that one can fall from grace.

 
Originally appeared in the June 1984 issue of Christianity Magazine.

Christ - The Ultimate Expression Of God's Grace

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

 

Christ—The Ultimate Expression of God’s Grace

David Barnes

the word “ultimate” is somewhat overworked in our society. Anywhere you might care to look you will find folks attempting to provide some kind of “ultimate” expression. We have all heard of “the greatest game ever played” or “the supreme work of art.” It may be the ultimate for awhile, but before long someone will replace it with another. Religion has not been excluded from these attempts. In Micah 6:6–7, we read of human attempts to provide the ultimate sacrifice for sin. These attempts began with a calf and progressed to human sacrifice. Those sacrifices resulted in failure for two basic reasons: First, none of the sacrifices mentioned in this passage were really man’s to give. Everything on earth belongs to God. We are merely stewards entrusted with a few possessions during our lives on earth. Second, none of these sacrifices had the power to atone for sin; therefore, man has nothing to offer and, even if he did, what he gave could not remove his sin. Man alone cannot provide the ultimate sacrifice to God. He is lost in his sin and personally helpless.

God, however, knows of man’s inability to atone for his own sins. God had this knowledge from the beginning and thus planned to make provision for His creation. This knowledge of our weakness, coupled with His love for us, prompted Him to make a sacrificial gift of His only begotten Son. This magnificent display of love shows how important man is in the eyes of God. God gave Jesus, a perfect, innocent lamb, for the sins of wicked man—the innocent dying on behalf of the guilty. Here was the sacrifice that could remove the guilt of man and atone for his sin. In the giving of His Son, God provided the ultimate expression of love.

An examination of John 3:16 reveals the pertinent facts about this great gift of grace in simple, thrilling language. In this passage, Jesus claims that the origin of the gift is “God.” This is the God who created, revealed His will, and blessed humanity. God’s motive is simply “love,” a love which is of such quality and depth that we really only begin to comprehend it. Furthermore, Jesus says that “God so loved.” The word “so” indicates the intensity of the love. He did not merely “love,” He “so loved!” The quality of the love corresponds to the quality of the gift. We understand God’s love through Jesus Christ. The recipient of the great love is “the world.” The action God performed is seen in the word “gave.” He makes no demands of repayment and He requires no overwhelming burdens for men to bear in payment for His grace. He “gave” us a gift in the purest sense of the word. The gift was “His only begotten Son” and the purpose of the gift was “eternal life” for you and me.

God does not rejoice in the prospect of anyone perishing. His aim for man in Eden was paradise and eternal life, but man lost this by sin. He regained it in the forgiveness of sin through the blood of Jesus Christ. In this way God becomes the Justifier of mankind through the provision of Christ. The purpose of the gift of Christ at Calvary was the redemption of man. It is the offer of eternal life. The circumstances of our eternal life depends upon our reaction to God’s action. Throughout the whole of Scripture there are only two reactions possible—we may obey and be saved, or disobey and be lost. Jesus, then, is expounding the positive side of God’s gift in this passage.

This gift of God’s Son is the focal point of all human existence. Everything that God has revealed to man relates to the gift of Christ. It is this event that gives the Old Testament purpose and the New Testament authority. This gift is the very thrust of all revelation. The sacrificial Son is the reason we sing, pray and rejoice with unspeakable joy. His gift is the reason for all commands, promises and attendant blessings that God expresses in His Word. Without it, we would still be groping—searching for an “ultimate expression” that would repair the breach in our relationship with God. We would ever be searching, never finding, and always failing. With this gift, we can express ourselves completely as we frame our lives within the supreme and final statement of God’s gracious love for man. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Christ—the ultimate expression of God’s grace.

 
Originally appeared in the June 1984 issue of Christianity Magazine.

Receiving God's Grace In Vain

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

 

Receiving God’s Grace In Vain

W. C. Hinton, Jr.

in the powerful fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians Paul refers to certain basics of the gospel, to his preaching to those brethren, and to the appearances of the Lord. Then he gives an exclamatory statement of his own condition: “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not found vain” (verse 10). God has favored mankind exceedingly by making it possible for him, as well as Paul, to learn to love and obey the truth that makes men free. How grateful we ought to be!

God’s grace meets our greatest need—salvation. “The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men” (Titus 2:11). Urgings, facts and beauties of this salvation are communicated through the Word “which is able to build you up, and to give you the inheritance among all them that are sanctified” (Acts 20:32). Demands are made of the committed so that they are neither dull nor bored. A life of labor must follow one into the realm of salvation (see 1 Corinthians 15:10; Galatians 2:20–21; Titus 2:11–12; Ephesians 2:10). What God does, He does extremely well; so that His grace is sufficient—more than adequate to meet our needs as seen from Romans 5.

But our attention needs to focus on Ephesians 2:8–10. In speaking of salvation, Paul says “for by grace have ye been saved through faith.” We must appreciate the stress made on the fact of the two sides of salvation. Salvation in God’s way clearly takes two. A clear-cut example is seen in Jesus’ lament over the city of Jerusalem: “I would have gathered … but ye would not” (Matthew 23:37). Or again, in the familiar story of Naaman, the cleansing (grace, if you please) was effected only after the one in need had complied with the specified conditions. Grace—the divine side—shows us God’s love. He planned/purposed and developed the means to redemption and spiritual blessings found in His Son. But Paul also said “through faith”—and here we see the human element. Rewarded faith is always live, active, working and obedient. It is by the means of this faith that we gain for ourselves the divine blessings. By the grace of God adequate provisions have been made, but men are not saved by mere provisions. God provides food and water for man but if he will not, for whatever reason, eat or drink—he will die. In Acts 2, Peter declared the provisions made by God and then urged them to “save yourselves.” Peter also observed, “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respector of persons: but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is acceptable to him” (Acts 10:34–35).

It is hard for people to admit that they are, or might be, lost. Lost is a dreadful word that stirs up chilling thoughts. Lost in the midst of a blinding blizzard, off the charted path in the churning, raging seas, or the lone pilot with dead instruments in the center of a storm cloud frantically searching for the airport are mild and can in no way be compared to one being lost eternally. But what does it mean to be lost? It means all the forethought, energy and yearning of the heavenly Father and His Son is thwarted by one refusing to accept God’s loving offer in His Son to renew a relationship, to pick up the pieces of life and self and become a child of the King—worthy of life eternal. On the other hand, we see that punishment of the lost is demanded by the righteousness of God—justice must be served. Two powerful forces act upon the stubborn will of man—love and goodness. “For the love of Christ constraineth us” (2 Corinthians 5:14). “The goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance” (Romans 2:4). Both of these forces are seen in the scene of the cross and thus make its drawing power tremendous (John 12:32). Yet, some hearts are too tough to be touched by the tenderness of love and need to be shocked. To so move people was Jonah’s task in Nineveh; “in forty days Nineveh will be overthrown” brought them all, king to peasant, to repentance. The punishment of the impenitent makes us know that “God is not mocked, for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7).

And it means that the sinner is ruined. You know, life is not easy. There are bitter trials, financial reverses, sicknesses, accidents, disloyalty of trusted friends, unrequited love and other trying experiences. Still, these cannot be compared with the horrors of hell. Standing there on the brink of eternity, lost, one might well reflect on Jesus’ penetrating question: “What will a man give in exchange for his soul?” The rich man of Luke 16 cried out in pain, being in torment. It does not cease—“they have no rest day and night” (Revelation 14:11). And, although millions will be in hell, there will be the utter and complete loneliness, each engrossed in his own suffering with no thought or time for others. The final decree will echo in one’s ears, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into eternal fire” (Matthew 25:41). Then think of the regret and remorse. Abraham told the rich man of Luke 16, “Son, remember.” Memories will drive us up the walls! Wasted years! Unaccepted opportunities! And worst of all, perhaps, is the hopeless despair of no relief or end in sight. Hell is eternal!

It is a frightful thing to think that God has made such abundant provision of His grace, and yet we can void it all. Paul said, “We … beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain” (2 Corinthians 6:1). Being lost is such a tragedy, such a waste, so unnecessary—for Christ died to prevent it from coming to pass in our lives. What are you doing about it? Are you maybe not far from the kingdom? Hasten to activate your faith, commit your life, strike out for the high ground of mountain-top living. Or have you once been in the kingdom, enjoyed the blessings, experienced God’s generous grace—and for thoughtless reasons of little value turned your back on God? If so, it was the poorest decision you ever made. Retrace your steps and reclaim the crown so that you will not disappoint yourself or God. Dedicate your life to helping others, “snatching them from the fire”—and give thanks to God that you had the disposition and determination to come to your senses and set in order the proper priorities. Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift—the Son of His love!

 
Originally appeared in the June 1984 issue of Christianity Magazine.

Man's Plight Without God

Monday, December 03, 2012

 

Man’s Plight Without God

Jerry Fite

“for the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). The deadly consequences of sin should alarm all men, for all have sinned. The results of sin may be observed with the eye or perceived with the heart. They will always affect man spiritually, and sometimes even physically. Sin’s bitter fruit may be tasted in time, but most certainly in eternity. Sin has its season of pleasure, but always returns for just payment. Man always pays dearly: He exists separated from God (Isaiah 59:2).

Until one knows his condition without God, he cannot properly appreciate God’s grace. The extension of grace implies need. As long as man feels self-sufficient, he has no need. But let him begin listening to the commentary of God upon man’s sins. Let him start paying attention to the symptoms of emptiness that self-indulgence fails to fill. Then, grace will begin to glisten as never before.

Sin cannot appear without arousing God’s judicial wrath. Because God is holy, He must punish sin. So when man sins, his relationship with God is one of enmity (Romans 5:8, 10). No penitence nor renewed promise can change the fact that sin has occurred. Yet, after “missing the mark,” what more can man offer God? Bondage in sin becomes his wretched fate (Romans 7:14, 24). God cannot overlook sin. He must be just. Man cannot plead innocence. He must have mercy.

When Jesus looked at men, He saw darkness, sickness, and death. These folks had the ability to see (Matthew 4:16). They possessed good appetites, and were physically active (Mark 2:15–17; Luke 9:62). But they were lost in sin. No greater picture of man’s helplessness could be drawn. For we never expect life to spring from a corpse, health to emanate from a disease, or light to issue from darkness. God wants us to know that we still need deliverance from above though we may be functioning well according to worldly standards.

Man can choose to live without God. He begins by eliminating God from his thinking and enthrones himself. Instead of a God-centered life, he possesses a Self-centered life. The result is never pretty. Obeying the mandates of his lust, he soon “waxeth corrupt” (Ephesians 4:22). His ways may be in step with the age, but he fails to perceive that Satan has inspired their direction (Ephesians 2:2). Man may become more sophisticated without God, but never better.

Without God, man’s reasoning becomes so dark that God gives him up to experience the degrading consequences (Romans 1:26–32). Sexual perversion becomes worse until the worldly sages can distinguish between “softcore” and “hardcore” pornography. Man soon loses “natural affection.” The worldly-wise will allow murder, if committed in abortion clinics. Making money takes precedence over creating strong families. Occasional lying finds acceptance alongside good business ethics. Man’s values are twisted. His life is confused.

Living without God, man tends to finally view his life as God viewed it all along: “vain,” void of lasting good (1 Peter 1:18). He views life as “living on the perfume of an empty vase”—or “a narrow vale between the cold and barren peaks of two eternities.” His “good life” has become a facade hiding his crumbling hopes. Faith, hope, and love are borrowed words with empty sounds, because he has denied their true substance and power.

Such are the sad results when man plans his way without God. Man’s road is paved with neglect and ingratitude. It always ends in degradation and despair. With sorrow, man can look at his road and honestly say, “I did it my way.”

Helplessness and hopelessness characterize man’s condition without God. But it is when he sees the vanity of man’s wisdom that he longs for the grace of divine teaching. It is when he sees his true helpless condition before his Creator that he yearns for the terms of reconciliation from his merciful Judge. He follows closely behind his Deliverer, for he knows that without his gracious Savior, he is lost.

 
Originally appeared in the June 1984 issue of Christianity Magazine.

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