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.
Give Meaning To Those Goals & Resolutions, Have Purpose!
Part 3: Do Your Goals & Resolutions Help Achieve His Purposes?
I find it refreshing to know that God has definite purposes for me. Many people ask what purpose God has for their life, assuming that He has different purposes for different people. Perhaps in some small way this is true since all of us have different roles in life, but ultimately God’s purposes for each person are the same: 1) glorify Him and 2) be with Him. Our last post focused on three ways we can achieve God’s purposes (praise Him, seek holiness and bless others), but what does that mean for our goals and resolutions? Everything.
First, thinking about God’s purposes and how they can be achieved will give greater meaning to the goals and resolutions that we’ve already made. For instance…
- Did you make a fitness resolution? Why? Perhaps your clothes were fitting a little snug, or you’re just tired of feeling tired. Have you thought how this goal also matches with God’s purposes for you? If our bodies are truly the temple of God, then our bodies are meant to glorify Him (1Cor. 6:19-20)! It’s hard to glorify God in our bodies when they are run down by poor diet and lack of exercise. Furthermore, if blessing others is one of the main ways that we glorify God, we may find that those fitness resolutions are making us more fit and able to bless others.
- Did you resolve to kick a bad habit? Great, and may God bless your efforts! And why wouldn’t He since ridding yourself of whatever the defilement is will help you to be holy as He is holy (1Peter 1:16)? So, if you have days when you struggle with this resolution (and there will certainly be struggles) remember that this is helping you glorify God!
- Did you resolve to read the Bible this year? A fantastic resolution, but why did you make it? Were you feeling guilty because you know a Christian should be reading his Bible, but you weren’t? We’ve all been there, but let’s not read the Bible out of guilt or it will quickly become a chore. Consider how daily Bible reading helps you fulfill God’s purposes. In its pages you will discover reasons to praise God and ways of doing so. It points the way to holy living and prepares us to bless others. In short, the Bible guides us in glorifying God and directs our paths to Him!
Second, let God’s purposes guide you into making new resolutions and goals. How can you resolve to praise God more this year? Perhaps you will set a goal of praying more and actually praising His name, rather than reciting a list of needs. Or maybe you’ll resolve to simply talk about our Father more. How can you resolve to seek holiness this year? Set a goal to get your eyes off of the TV or resolve to be offline more than you’re online. How can you resolve to bless others this year? Have you been spending too much time at work and not enough time blessing your family? Resolve to change! Have that paycheck spent before it’s even in your hand? No money left over for charitable deeds? Set a goal to rid yourself of debt and to use what the Lord provides to help others. Those are a few examples, but as you know the possibilities are truly endless.
If this last post seems incomplete, that’s because it is. I’m still meditating on and praying about God’s purposes, still considering how His purposes will shape my life in the coming year. My wife and I are planning on discussing this weekend what God’s purposes mean for our family. One thing I know is that I feel good about this year, confident that God will be with me and my family every step of the way as we seek to glorify Him and ultimately be with Him.
Give Meaning To Those Goals & Resolutions, Have Purpose!
Part 2: How Can God’s Purposes Be Achieved
If our goals and resolutions are to be meaningful they need to match-up with God’s purposes for us. In part one we looked at the purposes God has for man: 1) to glorify Him and 2) to be with Him. But how can these purposes be achieved, how can we glorify God so that we can ultimately be with God? From the Scriptures I propose three ways we can achieve God’s purposes. Again, you may disagree with the number, but hopefully you will find these three sufficiently helpful.
First, God’s purposes can be achieved through a life of praise. We’ve already noted the Psalmist’s proclamation that the Lord should “be glad in all His works” (Ps. 104:31). So, the Psalmist declared that he would “sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have my being” (vs. 33). Of course praising God is more than singing or saying thanks, although there should be a healthy dose of that in our lives! A life of praise is a life of gratitude and contentment. As the Hebrew writer reminds us, “make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, ‘I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,’ so that we confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?’” (Heb. 13:5-6). Do you want to live a life that glorifies God? Then praise Him in your life, having full assurance that He is all you will ever need!
Second, God’s purposes can be achieved through seeking holiness. In both Old and New Testaments God exhorts His people to “be holy, for I am holy” (Lev. 11:45; 1Peter 1:16). Through Christ we can be holy before Him (see Eph. 1:4; Col. 1:22), the grace of God cleansing us of our sins and making us His children. Furthermore, we are exhorted to “cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2Cor. 7:1). If you were wondering, here is where obedience fits in the picture. While we can only be holy because of God’s grace, we must also commit ourselves to holy living. His commands are not arbitrary, but were given so that through faithfully following Him we can be holy like Him. Do you want to live a life that glorifies God? Then commit yourself to holy living!
Third, God’s purposes can be achieved through blessing others. Sometimes lost amid God’s promises to Abraham in Genesis 12 is that fact that God said Abraham “would be a blessing” (Genesis 12:2). Without question, Abraham’s life of faithfulness was a blessing to those of his generation and for all generations to come. As the true children of Abraham we should desire to be a blessing to others. God would have me be a blessing to my wife by rejoicing in her, praising her and encouraging her spiritual growth (see Prov. 5:18; 31:28-29; 1Peter 3:7). God would have me be a blessing to my sons by lovingly bringing them up to follow His paths (see Gen. 18:19; Eph. 6:4). God would have me be a blessing to my brethren by looking for ways to encourage, edify and love them (see Heb. 10:24-25; 1John 3:10; 4:7-8). And God would have me love my community by setting an example of godliness, spreading His word and by being charitable (see Matt. 5:16; 1Tim. 6:18-19). Do you want to live a life that glorifies God? Then just as He has blessed you, you be a blessing to others!
Next Post: Do Your Goals & Resolutions Help Achieve His Purposes?
Give Meaning To Those Goals & Resolutions, Have Purpose!
Part 1: What Are God’s Purposes For My Life
A new year has begun and so have the resolutions. Did you make some new resolutions? Have a goal to dramatically reduce your debt this year or to de-clutter your house? Did you repeat some resolutions from past years? Plan on sticking to that diet and exercise routine or actually read the entire Bible? I’m behind this year. Typically I spend the last few weeks of December reflecting on the year’s successes and failures and looking forward to the promise of a new year. But this year I haven’t done much of that. Oh, there has been some reflection, but I’m trying a different perspective this time around. Before making goals and resolutions I’m first asking, “What are God’s purposes for my life?” In answering that question I can then make better goals and resolutions, ones that will match God’s purposes. Here’s what I’ve found…
God has two purposes for my life. When you answer the question you might say God has one purpose for your life or He has 100 purposes for you life, but I’m sticking with two. The first, God wants me to glorify Him. The second, God wants me to be with Him! These two purposes are broad enough to encompass everything, but narrow enough (in my mind anyway) to help me focus. Hopefully they will be helpful to you as well.
Man’s first purpose is to glorify God, His creator. After all, that’s what God’s creation does: it glorifies the One who created it! “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands” (Psalm 19:1). Since creation this world and the universe have glorified the Father, so shouldn’t man the pinnacle of creation also glorify Him? “Let the Lord be glad in His works” (Psalm 104:31). The point of the 104th Psalm is that the Lord can look at all He created and be glad, so it should be man’s desire to bring gladness to the Lord as well. “Let my meditation by pleasing to him; As for me, I shall be glad in the Lord” (Psalm 104:34). Furthermore, the very Son of God came to glorify His Father: “I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do” (John 17:4). We shouldn’t be surprised that He calls for us to glorify God in our life (John 15:8) and even by our death (cf. John 21:19).
Which leads us to man’s second purpose: to be with God. Just as Jesus glorified the Father, so the Father glorified the Son. “I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do. Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was” (John 17:4-5). God has also purposed that we should be with Him in glory. After all, the Kingdom was prepared for us from the foundation of the world (Matthew 25:34). Those who glorify Him will ultimately be glorified in Him. This is what He has purposed.
Next Post: How Can God’s Purposes Be Achieved?
Can One Fall From Grace?
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.