What Love is this? / The Propitiation

An Essay By Benjamin // 3/25/2013

What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul.

(What Wondrous Love is this?, An American Folk Hymn)

Of all the great deeds of love that have been, it is the death of Christ that stands out above them all. It was this marvelous love that caused the hymn writer to pen the words, “What wondrous love is this, O my soul!” But how many hear of Christ’s death without any realization of what it has accomplished? How many have heard the tale of Christ’s great love and yet failed to see what He has done? And how many who have known the measure of Christ’s love forget or ignore what He has accomplished?
In this essay, we will examine the great work accomplished by Christ’s death. For some, we will tread new ground, making fresh discoveries, and uncovering unfamiliar aspects of this marvelous act of love. For others, it may simply be another reminder of the marvelous salvation which we have found in Christ. Yet for all, whether those who walk new ground, or those who travel a well-trod way, I pray that we may be filled with thanksgiving and awe at the wondrous love of Christ.

The Apostle John speaks of this love of Christ, saying, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” It is on this aspect of God’s love that we will focus in this essay: the propitiation for our sins, the Christ's sacrifice as He bore undeserved the wrath of God. The idea of the wrath of God is inherent in this doctrine. Yet this often results in its rejection by many, who ask how a loving and merciful God could be wrathful towards another.
It is too easy for us to focus on such attributes of God as His love, mercy, and grace. But this presents an inaccurate picture. For though God is love, He is also just. Indeed, the Scriptures claim that “All God’s ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he” (Deuteronomy 32:4). The prophet Habakkuk cried out to God, saying, “You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, And cannot look on wickedness.” God is a holy God and just. He cannot endure evil, nor can He even look upon wickedness; He will punish wrongdoing and give to evildoers their just rewards. But who can claim to be without sin? The Scriptures claim, “there is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin” (Ecclesiastes 7:20). Thus, we find that not a one among us is free from God's righteous wrath.

We were brought before the bar and found guilty by our just Judge. The verdict was declared: guilty, and deserving of death. But not mere extinction, but rather infinite suffering, for such was the merit of our sins. Yet, God, our righteous judge, provided a propitiation: His own beloved Son. We read that “God put Christ forward as a propitiation by his blood to be received by faith” (Romans 3:25). Christ, God incarnate, came to earth and took our place, bearing the wrath and punishment that should have been ours. Such was the love of God that He sent His Son, His eternally beloved son, to bear the penalty for the sins of man! John Piper puts it well, saying, “God sends his own Son to absorb his wrath and bear the curse for all who trust him.” What wondrous love is this! He who deserved all glory and honor became the subject of God’s wrath!

Yet, not only did He bear God’s wrath, Christ, Himself holy and without sin, took upon Himself the sins of His people. It is impossible for us to imagine the extent of this misery, for Christ, whose eyes are purer “than to behold evil,” was made sin. He who was pure and holy became filthy and detestable, for, though spotless and without sin, He became sinful with the sins of His people. As Peter later wrote, “He Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree.” Our sins were imputed to Christ, ascribed to Him, so that our guilt became His. Though all sin was abhorrent to Him, yet He chose to become guilty of our sins.
“He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.” Ours should have been the suffering that was Christ’s! Yet He chose to be rejected by the Father and receive the wrath and punishment that was justly ours. As Saint Bernard wrote, “Mine, mine was the transgression but Thine the deadly pain!” Yet, by His suffering, He has brought peace between God and man. The wrath of God was diverted from us. Not cancelled nor withdrawn, God’s just wrath was absorbed by the suffering Christ, spent to the end. As theologian William G.T. Shedd put it, “By the suffering of the sinner's atoning substitute, the divine wrath at sin is propitiated, and as a consequence of this propitiation the punishment due to sin is released.” What wondrous love is this! In our miserable depravity, we loved what God hated and hated that which He loved. We scorned Him, our rightful Lord and Sovereign. Yet He did not treat us as our sins deserved but instead took on Himself the penalty that justice demanded. What wondrous love is this! “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)
Such love inspired the hymnist to write,

When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down,
When I was sinking down, sinking down,
When I was sinking down beneath God’s righteous frown,
Christ laid aside His crown for my soul, for my soul,
Christ laid aside His crown for my soul.

What then should our response be to such wondrous love? Too often we are proud and arrogant, as though we had done something deserving of praise! Too often we forget the One to whom we owe all. We turn aside yet again to our own way and pursue our own gain. We treat the death of Christ lightly as something of little worth as we continue in our sin, foolishly thinking that we are safe from all condemnation. “We are under grace,” say these fools. “Are we not free? What fear shall we have of the consequence of sin?”
But what ingratitude is this? For Christ bore our punishment that we might live for Him. As we read in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” In Christ’s death, our sins also were put to death! How then shall we continue to live in them? Shall we treat with such impertinence the sacrifice of Christ? No, let us avoid such arrogance!
For what cause have we for this pride? Or as the Apostle Paul put it, “Where is boasting then? It is excluded” (Romans 3:27). Ought not we rather to respond with deep humility and gratitude to the marvelous grace of God? Let us then give heed to the words of Jeremiah, “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might; let not the rich man glory in his riches: But let him that glorieth glory in the Lord!”

To God and to the Lamb, I will sing, I will sing;
To God and to the Lamb, I will sing.
To God and to the Lamb Who is the great “I Am”;
While millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing;
While millions join the theme, I will sing.

And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on.
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing and joyful be;
And through eternity, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;
And through eternity, I’ll sing on.

(What Wondrous Love is this?, An American Folk Hymn)

Comments

Great essay! You said that

Great essay!

You said that your pet peeve is that you get upset when someone isn't honest with you with what is really in their mind.

So here it goes - I've been noticing (I don't know if you are doing this on purpose) that your writings are not concise. Alot of your sentences are passive and for good grammar, it must have active sentences and conciseness. Active sentences will always deliver a clear and direct message to your readers. "The cake is what I baked" should be "I baked a cake". Isn't that so much more clear, less words, and what you are trying to say is instantly in my mind?

How you will know whether a sentence is passive is if it is a sentence like "I am blessed by God". It is much better to say "God has blessed me." Also, if you ever have a sentence with the words of be - am, is, are, was, were, be, been, being, it is passive. (I think that is all the words of be - I have memorized it for school when I was little, so I am not sure. Yet sure enough that I will go searching for it.)

Passive isn't wrong, but your essays should not be composed of sentences almost all passive. Passiveness is sometimes good for effect - which leads us to good sentence structure, which I will not go into.

I am not trying to tell you how to write. Maybe you are using passiveness on purpose for formality, but I don't think that passiveness is what makes something formal. No, not at all. You have to bring a clear, concise message to your audience, after all.

Second thing. When you said something like, "I liked this quote by John Piper", that threw me off for a moment, because you changed tenses all of sudden.

That's all; thanks for sharing this essay!

Lucy Anne | Tue, 03/26/2013

"It is not the length of life, but the depth of life." Ralph Waldo Emerson

Yes. Unfortunately, this is

Yes. Unfortunately, this is the way in which my mind forms thoughts, and thus, is one of my most troubling and repeated problems when writing. It doesn't help that those books that I read the most contain such wording. This makes it difficult for me to even notice these sentences. If you could point out some of the areas in which it causes the greatest awkwardness, that would be wonderful.

Thank you for your feedback.

Benjamin | Tue, 03/26/2013

“D’ye know what Calvary was? What? What? What? It was damnation; and he took it lovingly.”
~John Duncan

:)

As I said before, you used alot of "form of be" which are am, is, are, was, were, be, been, and being. Here are some and I'll take a couple and correct them.

"Of all the great deeds of love that have been, it is the death of Christ that stands out above them all. It was this marvelous love that caused the hymn writer to pen the words, “What wondrous love is this, O my soul!”" should be - Christ's death stands out above all of the great deeds of love that have been performed. Ending the sentence with "that have been" doesn't make sense anyway.

"It is on this aspect of God’s love that we will focus in this essay: the propitiation for our sins, the Christ's sacrifice as He bore undeserved the wrath of God. The idea of the wrath of God is inherent in this doctrine."
should be In this essay, we will focus on this aspect of God's love,.....

"It is too easy for us to focus on such attributes of God as His love, mercy, and grace."

"God is a holy God and just."

"We were brought before the bar and found guilty by our just Judge. The verdict was declared: guilty, and deserving of death. But not mere extinction, but rather infinite suffering, for such was the merit of our sins." should be - Our just Judge brought us before the bar and found us guilty.

...and I'm not going to even list anymore.

Hope this helps!

As for reading books with this language, don't just read the hard books. Read books of all different levels. It'll greatly improve your style!

Also, now that I think of it, do you have someone looking over your writing? You can point out this problem to them and ask them to help you with this more. -- Megan

Lucy Anne | Wed, 03/27/2013

"It is not the length of life, but the depth of life." Ralph Waldo Emerson

I can honestly say your

I can honestly say your grammar didn't occur to me while I was reading this. Usually, I notice those things to some degree. But today I just needed to be preached to about my Lord. Thank you, Benjamin.

Anna | Tue, 04/30/2013

I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right. --The Book Thief

I know that this essay is a

I know that this essay is a year old, but I am new here so I just read it. I don't quite agree with Lucy Ann on the changes she thought you should make, be cause to me your "passive" wording was more understandable, more detailed than the examples of change that she gave. Thank you for writing this. It is something that more people as followers of Christ should think about. I like your style of writing, and everything you said, and the way you saidit made a lot of sense.
Keep up the good works, and God bless you!

Damaris Ann | Wed, 09/10/2014

"It is the small temptations which undermine integrity unless we watch and pray and never think them too trivial to be resisted."
-Luisa May Alcott

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