The Complexity of Propitiation

February 13, 2008

D.A. Carson, in his challenging work The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God writes about the complexity of reconciling God’s love and God’s wrath on the cross.

“Thus, when we use the language of propitiation (atonement for sin), we are not to think that the Son, full of love, offered himself and thereby placated the Father, full of wrath. The picture is more complex.It is that the Father, full of righteous wrath against us, nevertheless loved use so much that he sent his Son. Perfectly mirroring his Father’s words and deeds, the Son stood over against us in wrath – it is not for nothing that the Scriptures portray sinners wanting to hide from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb – yet, obedient to his Father’s commission, offered himself on the cross. He did this out of love for both his Father, whom he obeys, and for us, whom he redeems. Thus God is necessarily both the subject and the object of propitiation. He provides the propitiating sacrifice (he is the subject), and he himself is propitiated (he is the object). That is the glory of the cross.”

For a Scriptural meditation on this quote spend some time contemplating Romans 3:21-26.

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