February 22, 2015

Supremely Powerful, Jesus Becomes Our Propitiation

Speaker: Bret Rogers Series: The Gospel According to John Passage: John 18:1–11

Sermon from John 18:1-11 by Bret Rogers, Pastor
Delivered on February 22, 2015

Today, we’re entering a very different section of John’s Gospel. If you think back with me just for a minute, the events of Jesus’ life unfold quite steadily in chapters 1 to 12. John’s narrative bounces from one feast to the next, from one event to the next till his final night with the disciples. And then all of a sudden, John hits the pause button at chapter 13 to focus on the last few hours Jesus spends with his disciples. Chapters 13, 14, 15, 16, and 17—so, basically, our last eight months together—have primarily been listening to Jesus teach his disciples.

But as we enter chapter 18, it’s almost like John hits that pause button once again; and we find the narrative rolling once again into the final moments of Jesus’ earthly ministry. We’re no longer listening to long discourses of teaching; we’re being led once again from event to event until it climaxes in the cross and resurrection.

But as John now leads us to the cross, there are several things he points out along the way. Little comments he makes; little descriptions he adds; some background he provides; and each one helps us understand the cross and the kind of salvation it brings for us. Today, John helps us see that while being supremely powerful, Jesus becomes our propitiation. Let’s read it together, starting in verse 1.

1When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron Valley, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. 2Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples. 3So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. 4Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” 5They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. 6When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. 7So he asked them again, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” 8Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go.” 9This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken: “Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one.” 10Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) 11So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”

Four Glimpses of Jesus’ Power

While being supremely powerful, Jesus becomes our propitiation. That is the point and the movement of our passage—from power to propitiation. If you’re wondering what I mean by propitiation, don’t worry. We’ll get there soon enough. But look first at the various glimpses of Jesus’ power as he faces his arrest. There’s at least four.

Jesus Faces Death Willingly

First of all, we see Jesus faces death willingly. Look at the way John tells the story: “When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron Valley, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples.”

In other words, Jesus’ isn’t hiding his whereabouts from Judas. He doesn’t change things up a bit to throw off his enemy. He goes to the very place his enemy expects him to be. And this he does—remember—after telling Judas this in 13:27: “What you are going to do, do quickly”—or, “I’ll see you in a few hours.”

“So [or therefore],” it says in verse 3, “Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons.” Jesus faces his death willingly. He knows what’s coming; and he still takes the disciples with him—out of the safe confines of the city—and leads them right into the place of his arrest. The idea is that he has unflinching power to face death and wrestle it to the grave.

Jesus Foreknows Everything

John also highlights Jesus’ power by pointing out his foreknowledge of everything going on. Jesus foreknows everything; he foreknows his enemy’s tactics. He hasn’t lost control of anything. In fact, it’s his foreknowledge of these events that guarantees their realization (cf. 1:48; 2:24; 6:70; 13:1, 19). Three times he has told us already, “I am telling you this now [something about the future], before it takes place, than when it does take place, you may believe that I am [God],” essentially (13:19; 14:29; 16:4).

Jesus’ knowledge is the ultimate determining factor of everything in the universe, including his arrest. So, verse 4 says, “Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward [again, you see the willingness behind Jesus’ actions here: he didn’t shrink back; he came forward] and said to them, ‘Whom do you seek?’” Now, since John has already told us that Jesus knew all that would happen to him, we know Jesus isn’t asking this question from curiosity. He knows very well whom they seek to arrest. So he must be asking the question for another reason.

Jesus Bears God’s Mighty Name

That reason—the reason for his question, “Whom do you seek?”—becomes crystal clear in verses 5-6. And this becomes our third glimpse at Jesus’ power: Jesus bears God’s mighty name. Read it with me: “Whom do you seek?” They answered him, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ Jesus said to them, ‘I am he.’ Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, ‘I am he,’ they drew back and fell to the ground.”

Now, in order to get the full thrust of what’s going on, let me point out a few things. Most English translations add the pronoun “he” to Jesus’ reply—“I am he.” But the “he” isn’t present in the Greek (i.e., ego eimi). It can and should be supplied in some contexts (John 9:9; cf. Luke 21:8); but that's not always the case, especially when it appears in a more absolute sense as it does here and elsewhere. It can also be translated simply, “I am.” We’ve seen this before, haven’t we? “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am” (8:58; see also 6:20; 8:24, 28; 13:19).

He’s referring us once again to his own deity. “I AM” was God’s personal name that he revealed to Moses before rescuing Israel from Egypt: “God said to Moses [at the burning bush], “I AM WHO I AM…Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you’” (Exod 3:14 LXX; cf. Isa 43:10; 46:4, 9). And then all throughout Scripture, I AM becomes the name God bears as he is mighty to save and mighty to judge. When other nations hear about him and his mighty deeds, they tremble in his presence. Their knees knock and their hearts melt away in fear.

Jesus bears that same name as he goes to the cross. His response is a play on words. It’s like he’s saying, “I am Jesus’ of Nazareth and so much more than what you actually see: I am.” That makes a whole lot of sense with what happens to Judas and the band of soldiers—up to 200 men, but likely less. They draw back and fall to the ground. Why? Jesus bears God’s mighty name; he reveals God. It’s a pattern throughout Scripture. God reveals himself, and people start dropping (Ps 27:2; Ezek 1:28; Dan 2:46; Acts 9:4; Rev 1:17). Does that mean all the soldiers knew at that moment the full extent of what just happened to them when Jesus spoke the divine name? No, it doesn’t. Or they wouldn’t have gotten back up to arrest him.

But Jesus had made his point for those with eyes to see: Jesus was bearing God’s mighty name, just like he said he would at the end of his prayer. Flip back one page to 17:26. What does he pray? “I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known.” And here he is, on his way to the cross, bearing God’s mighty name, “I AM.” In other words, you want to see God’s might in judgment and salvation, look at Jesus going to the cross. Here, in the cross is where we see God’s mighty name revealed.

Jesus Is Controlling Everything

A fourth glimpse at Jesus’ power: Jesus is controlling everything. He’s making the first move at every point. Verse 1, he takes them to the garden. Verse 3, he comes forward to give himself up. Verse 4, he initiates the encounter, “Whom do you seek?” Then he asks them again in verse 7, “Whom do you seek?” And once they answer, he basically tells them what to do, in order to fulfill his own promises. Verse 8, “‘I told you that I AM…So, if you seek me, let these men go.’ This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken: ‘Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one’” (17:12).

It’s incredible—the total control that’s depicted as Jesus goes to the cross. Now let’s be careful. That’s not to diminish the real sufferings and hellish agony he felt on the way to the cross (cf. 12:27; 13:21). Rather, John is fleshing out the complementary truth that Jesus never went to the cross as a helpless victim. He went by his own authority and power and willingness. Even though he is God, in control, he chose the suffering. It’s as Jesus says in John 10:18, “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down.” Judas and the powers of darkness are not controlling anything without the permission of Jesus.

Jesus Becomes Our Propitiation

So, Jesus faces death willingly, he foreknows everything, he bears God’s mighty name, and he’s controlling everything. Now, if you’ve got that kind of power, how would you use that power? How would you use that power in relation to your enemies, say, when a group like ISIS walks in the door to bind your hands because of Jesus?

I think we get a perfect picture of how we’d use our power in verse 10, when Peter lashes out and cuts off this guy’s ear. We would use power to squash our enemies. And yet, what we see next is most remarkable. The supremely powerful one, Jesus Christ—instead of using his power to destroy his enemies at once; instead of using his foreknowledge to plan a more comfortable outcome than a cross; instead of using his control to escape and look out for himself—he uses his power to become our propitiation.

Our sin makes us God’s enemies (John 3:36; Rom 1:18-3:19). Jesus had every right to use his power to squash us (cf. Ps 2:12). What does he say in Matthew 26:53? “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?”—angels Jesus created by the word of his mouth. Oh, Jesus has power. But what should amaze us is that he uses his power to become a sacrifice that averts the wrath of God due to us.

I want you to get this, because propitiation is right at the heart of the gospel and the provision of God’s love; and professing Christians are mocking it today. I’ll say more about that in a minute. For now, get this down: propitiation describes God’s act to remove his wrath against sinners in the death of Christ. So when I say Jesus uses his power to become our propitiation, I’m saying he becomes our wrath-averting sacrifice.

He is the fulfillment of what all the sacrifices under the Law of Moses foreshadowed. God was telling us a story under the Law through the sacrifices, and that story goes like this. God is holy and he cannot overlook sin. Sinners arouse God’s holy displeasure. He is angry with our rebellion against him. Yet God also chooses to love sinners, to bring sinners into relationship with him. But if he loves sinners, he must love sinners in a way that’s consistent with his holiness—that’s consistent with his love for what is holy and hatred for what is evil. And that means he must satisfy his holy anger. He can’t sweep sin under the rug; he must deal out the judgment. How does he do this? He provides a sacrifice to avert his wrath (e.g., Exod 32:10, 30; Lev 4:35; 10:17; 16:30; 17:11).

The Cup of God’s Wrath

Jesus reveals that he is our wrath-averting sacrifice. That’s made clear in verse 11: “[Peter,] put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” What is this cup Jesus is talking about? We know it’s at least a reference to his death on the cross. Jesus describes the cup as that which the Father has given him; and throughout John’s Gospel, the Father has charged Jesus to lay down his life as a sacrifice (cf. 1:29; 6:38; 10:18; 14:31; 15:10).

But we can say more. Throughout the Old Testament, “drinking God’s cup” is largely a metaphor for suffering under God’s holy wrath. The cup was in God’s right hand, Habakkuk tells us, depicting his absolute rule (Hab 2:16). And whenever people crossed his righteousness, whenever people despised his holiness, the cup was depicted as full of God’s fierce judgment. For God to pour out his cup was for him to enact his judgment against his enemies (Ps 11:6; Jer 25:15).

And it wasn’t like his enemies had the choice of whether to drink from his cup or not—“No thanks, I’m driving tonight.” No, no. When God pours out his judgment, he forces his enemies to gulp it down (Jer 49:12). He forces them to keep gulping it down to the point of staggering in humiliating disillusionment and in utter despair (Ps 75:8; Isa 51:17; Jer 51:7). The only escape was if the Lord lifted the cup (Isa 51:22; Lam 4:21).

And then we turn to the New Testament to the book of Revelation, and find that the cup of God’s wrath depicted in the Old Testament was only a pointer. The occasions in the Old Testament when God poured out his cup of judgment were only anticipations of the much greater judgment to come. God will pour out the cup of his wrath against sinners on the last day, but this time he will never lift it. Because of our sin, we all deserve to drink down the bitterness of God’s judgment forever.

John says it like this: “And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, ‘If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb [that’s Jesus]. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night’” (Rev 14:9-13). That’s everybody’s predicament in the universe without exception (John 3:36)…unless God does something to solve our predicament.

Jesus Drinks the Cup of God’s Wrath

Friends, for Jesus to become our propitiation means that on the cross he gulps down the cup of God’s wrath, so that you will never have to. No mere man can satisfy God’s wrath; and that’s why many will experience the torment of God’s wrath forever. Sinners cannot drink it down. We cannot empty the cup. We cannot satisfy God’s holy displeasure. Only God can satisfy his own wrath; and he does it in the person of his divine Son, Jesus Christ. That’s why John gives us glimpses of Jesus’ power before taking us to propitiation. God himself becomes our propitiation in Jesus.

And this is how God has loved you and me. Propitiation is what happens when God’s love for you meets his wrath against your sin. If you simply trust in Jesus as your wrath-averting sacrifice, you will never meet God’s wrath again. Stand amazed that not all sinners are consumed. In his mercy, God has chosen to love by directing his wrath against his own Son in our place, that we might have peace with him.

“Shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” This is what God achieves at the cross for all who believe in him: the total removal of his wrath—not just part of his wrath; all of it gone in the death of Jesus (cf. Rom 3:25-26).

Picture yourself standing in a valley at the bottom of a damn. The top of that damn, you can’t even make out quite clearly because it’s so high. And behind that damn stands billions upon billions acre-feet of water. And in an instant, that damn broke with all the water rushing to consume you. And right before the water hits you, God splits the earth in front of you and swallows up every bit of water. You are spared.

When God offered up his Son on the cross, the damn of his wrath broke on Jesus for sinners. God poured out the cup of his wrath on Jesus, and Jesus drank every last drop for his people, threw the cup down, and cried, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). If you trust in Jesus, then you are spared forever from God’s wrath. And God is now one-hundred percent for you. That is good news. While being supremely powerful, Jesus becomes our propitiation. That’s why we worship; that’s why we love; that’s why we live—all his wrath against my sin is gone forever, simply by trusting in Jesus.

Propitiation & Being Christian

Now, with this gospel truth—I pray—filling your hearts with thanksgiving and joy, I want to lay out a few points of application.

We uphold propitiation as gospel truth

First of all, we must uphold propitiation as gospel truth. We cannot join the mockery of those calling the doctrine of propitiation into question. To call propitiation into question is to undermine the gospel as the Scriptures present it.

In particular, I am speaking of some leaders like Steve Chalke in England and Brian McLaren in the US, who—to my knowledge—still have not retracted their statements that mock propitiation as “cosmic child abuse.” That’s a quote. Steve Chalke continues,

Both people inside and outside of the Church have found this twisted version of events morally dubious and a huge barrier to faith. Deeper than that, however, is that such a concept stands in total contradiction to the statement ‘God is love.’ If the cross is a personal act of violence perpetrated by God towards humankind but borne by his Son [so he’s talking about what we’re talking about], then it makes a mockery of Jesus’ own teaching to love your enemies and to refuse to repay evil with evil.[1. Steve Chalke and Alan Mann, Lost Message of Jesus (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 182-183. Cf. Brian McLaren, The Story We Find Ourselves In: Further Adventures of a New Kind of Christian (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003), 102. For a more extensive treatment of those rejecting or minimizing propitiation and with it the penal substitutionary death of Christ, see Leon Morris, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965), 144-213; D. A. Carson, Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005), 166-69, 182-87; Thomas R. Schreiner, "The Penal Substitution View," in The Nature of the Atonement (Downers Grove: Intervarsity, 2006), 67-116.]

That sounds clever, but it’s a complete departure from the gospel, and it’s a sorry caricature of God’s love and what the doctrine of propitiation is. Propitiation is not “cosmic child abuse.” To call propitiation a form of “cosmic child abuse” is to put the persons of the Godhead at odds with one another. More than that, it’s the Father who gave up his Son, not the Son who goes despite his Father’s unbridled revenge—as if to say that God is a bit of a loose cannon; as if his wrath amounts to losing his temper, and Jesus has to step in to rescue us. No! No! No! That’s not what propitiation means!

Jesus goes willingly to the cross for us because of the Father’s love. It is love that motivated God to give his Son as a propitiation (3:16), and love that motivated the Son to obey his Father in giving himself up as a propitiation (15:10). First John 4:10, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” Propitiation means that God’s love extended to us by providing what his holiness demanded.

Propitiation doesn’t contradict God’s love in any way—as some are saying nowadays. In fact, God is wrathful toward sinners, because he is love. To be loving necessarily means you abhor what is evil. Propitiation doesn’t contradict God’s love; it reveals God’s love. God loves himself supremely; and since he will not allow that love to go uncompromised when he turns to love us, he provided the propitiation. So the propitiation actually magnifies his love. God’s love appeased God’s wrath, when he bore that wrath in the Son he gave up, Jesus Christ.

And so we sing of God’s love, right Redeemer?—knowing it’s magnified in Christ becoming our propitiation. The Presbyterian Church USA—the denomination that I grew up in—did not publish the song, “In Christ Alone,” in their newest hymnal, over this issue right here. Instead of singing, “till on that cross as Jesus died / the wrath of God is satisfied,” they wanted to replace it with, “till on that cross as Jesus died / the love of God was magnified.” The authors of the song, wouldn’t agree to the change; so the committee majority didn’t vote it in.

Now, to say “the love of God was magnified” could be a legitimate change, until you start explaining yourself like this. And I quote the Presbyterian Committee on Congregational Song: “[The other hymns we included] do not reject the reality of God’s wrath, but they do not see the cross as an expression of it.”[2. "In Christ Alone," at Presbyterian Hymnal Project Blog, August 1, 2013, http://blog.presbyterianhymnalproject.com/2013/08/in-christ-alone.html; Jerry L. Vann Marter, "Prebyterian Hymnal Producers Respond to Misinformation," at Presbyterian Church (USA), http://www.pcusa.org/news/2013/8/9/presbyterian-hymnal-producers-respond-misinformati/] Now, it’s one thing to affirm the love of God is magnified in the cross—and it is—but it’s a whole other thing to deny the very act of God that displays that love—namely, the outpouring of his wrath on Jesus in our place. Or the committee says again, “It would do a disservice to this educational mission [meaning that they know that hymns equip the next generations in doctrine]…to perpetuate by way of a new text the view that the cross is primarily about God’s need to assuage God’s anger.”[3. Mary Louise Bringle, "Debating Hymns," at The Christian Century, May 1, 2013, http://www.christiancentury.org/article/2013-04/debating-hymns]

In other words, at least the committee majority doesn’t want the coming generations to think the cross is about the propitiation of God’s wrath. And yet the Bible is screaming so clearly that the cross is about propitiating God’s wrath, and that’s how we see God’s love. Gary and others on the worship team, thank you for not shying away from the truth as you lead us and our children in song. We cannot follow people into this error, no matter how unpalatable God’s wrath at the cross becomes to our culture.

We keep trusting our Advocate when we sin

A second point of application: propitiation means that we have an Advocate in heaven when we sin. In other words, Jesus’ propitiation has an abiding efficacy. He dies once, and that death has ongoing effects, such that when we sin, he stands in heaven alongside his Father, ready to forgive, ready to restore, ready to cleanse.

I get this from 1 John 2:1-2, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” Did you get that? Jesus stands in heaven risen from the dead—and he stands there to keep applying his propitiation to our sins.

That means you don’t need to keep beating yourself up after you’ve confessed your sins and turned from them (1 John 1:5-10). You don’t need to keep being angry at yourself, as if you must dish out the punishment to yourself. That’s paganism. Paganism is trying to pacify the gods by something we do. And some of you have likely fallen into this lie that says, “I just could never forgive myself. I’m so angry at myself for this.”

That’s not Christianity. That’s not preaching this gospel to yourself. For one, it puts yourself in the place of God, and says that you have a better view of your sin than he does. It also suggests that you know how angry you should be at the sin you’re so upset about—like you know how much punishment is necessary. How much anger is enough for you? How much anger will ever be enough for you?

If this is you, look to God’s provision in Christ this morning. Look to God who sees your sin exhaustively for what it is, who knows how to be angry, who executes his punishment perfectly, and who satisfies his wrath against you forever in Christ. Any other form of self-punishment on our part amounts to a rejection of what God already achieved on the cross. It’s like telling Jesus, “There’s more of this cup that I must drink instead of you.” And that is self-salvation, not the gospel. Trust that God’s work for you is enough. Jesus already bore all the anger your sin merited.

We obey God, not to appease wrath but to enjoy his pleasure

Third, propitiation means that we obey God, not to appease his wrath but to enjoy his gracious smile as our Father (cf. Zeph 3:17). If you’re a Christian, God has no wrath left for you, because he poured it all out on Jesus Christ (cf. 1 Thess 1:10; 5:9). Yet how often some of us are tempted to obey God as if trying to appease his wrath, as if trying to win back his favor: “Maybe God will love me if I do ___; maybe he will smile on me if I do ___; maybe if I ___, all this fear I feel will go away;” and on the subtle lies go.

Again, that’s paganism. You can’t do anything to win God’s favor, to appease his wrath. But the truth of the gospel is that all God’s wrath against you was spent on Jesus, so that now God is one-hundred percent for you (cf. Rom 3:23-26; 5:1; 8:1). We don’t have to obey to win his favor; he’s already shown us his favor in the cross. The more we’re captivated by his love toward us, the more we’ll yearn to do his will (John 15:9-11).

Even if you fail in your obedience, you must not believe that you have to win back God’s favor. You have God’s favor, because Christ is his favorite, and he sees you in him (e.g., Gal 3:26; Eph 1:3). And if you’re not obeying him, and he chastises you (Prov 3:11-12) and disciplines you (Heb 1:1-12) and brings trials into your life to break you (Jas 1:2-4)—you never once have to think, “God is now against me.” Rather, you can receive all his chastisements as coming from a Father who loves you enough not to leave you the way you are (Rom 8:29).

We fight sinful anger against others with God’s judgment in Christ

Here’s a fourth: we fight sinful anger against others with God’s judgment in Christ. Or, we fight sinful anger against others with God's propitiation in Christ. Christ’s propitiation means that my anger toward other brothers and sisters is without warrant. For me to remain angry with someone when God is not angry with that someone, is to set myself against God. Moreover, for you to stay angry with others is to ignore the anger you deserved but God took away in love.

What does 1 John 4:10-11 say? “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. [Here’s the result] Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

For me to stay angry with others is to tell God that I can do a better job than he can in the judgment seat. It’s to tell Christ that his cross wasn’t enough, and that he needs our assistance in punishing this other person’s sins. This is exactly the way both James and Paul talk about sinful anger in relation to God’s wrath and justice. “Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve God’s justice” (Jas 1:19-20). “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’” (Rom 12:19).

When we entrust ourselves to God’s perfect justice as displayed perfectly in the propitiation of Christ, and when we take confidence that God will ultimately repay in the final judgment all who are outside Christ, we are freed to live peaceably with all. We need not take matters into our own hands, pretending to be God, but can simply rest in him and be patient with all. What we learn from the cross, then, is to put off evil responses and anger toward others, because God has already taken care of it—and that’s especially true for our brothers and sisters in the faith. And what we learn to put on toward others is living peaceably, trusting God, and selfless acts of love toward all.

We need not fear death when bringing Christ to others

Which leads me to one last point of application: we need not fear death when bringing Christ to others. We have some of the best news to proclaim to the world. Everybody is under wrath, and we can bring them the message of Jesus Christ, the only wrath-averting sacrifice. We take the world Jesus. We offer him to people at all costs to ourselves, so that they too can escape God’s judgment and find life with God.

But some people will not like this message. They will threaten to kill you for it. And that’s very real for many of you, when you think of groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda and Boko-Haram running around. These people—these enemies of God—need this gospel as much as we need this gospel. And our job is not to take up the sword as a means of converting them. Jesus is clear about that when he rebukes Peter (John 18:11). The sword cannot change the inner man, no matter how much submission your weapons may appear to bring. So, we don’t raise the sword. We lift up the Son of God, so that by looking to him, they too might be set free from the wrath of God (John 3:14-16; 12:32).

And that might cost you your life. But—and get this now—if the wrath of God has been satisfied in Christ, then death has nothing on us. We can die without fear. The cross has removed death’s sting forever (1 Cor 15:55-56). There’s no longer any fear of punishment associated with death for the Christian. We can lay down our lives happily to see our enemies come to faith. Christ’s propitiation means freedom from the fear of punishment as we serve our enemies. So take Christ to the world with boldness, and pray for God to use you in helping others see Jesus, the all-powerful one, who became our propitiation.

other sermons in this series