The heathen worship false gods made in their own image, gods that are lustful and whom they believe capriciously get miffed and can be cruel and angry and must be appeased by propitiation as men and women offer sacrifices to them.
The Bible pictures the one true God as one who is angry with sin and who will ultimately pour out His wrath on sinners. But amazingly, God has already lovingly and graciously poured out His wrath on His own beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who was crucified and shed His blood as a propitiation (the grounds upon which God’s wrath on us can be appeased) for the sins of all who put their trust in Him.
Before we get into the doctrine of propitiation in a later study, let me share with you the intense hatred that theological liberals have towards this doctrine of God’s wrath over sin. In the rest of this article I am quoting from Dr. John R. Rice who wrote the following article in his weekly periodical, The Sword of the Lord. This was from an issue back in the mid 1950’s that I read when I was just beginning my ministry. Dr. Rice had a powerful affect on me, especially in the early year of my ministry. He helped to put steel in my backbone in my fight against theological liberalism.
(Note: I do not endorse the Sword of the Lord today. For my reason, go to category SEPARATION and read the King James Only article)
“Theological liberals who deny the inspiration of the Bible, despise the God of the Old Testament who deals severely with sin. One example is Dr. G. Bromley Oxnam, Methodist bishop of the WashingtonDC area some sixty years ago, who wrote in his book Preaching in a Revolutionary Age. On page 79, he quotes with approval from Walpole‘ s Wintersmoon.
“Hugh Walpole in Wintersmoon tells of a father and son at church. The aged rector read from the Old Testament, and the boy learned of the terrible God who sent plagues upon the people and created fiery serpents to assault them.
“That night, when the father passed the boy’s bedroom, the boy called him, put his arms around his father’s neck, and drawing him close, said, ‘Father, you hate Jehovah. So do I. I loathe Him, dirty bully!”
Liberal Oxnam continues, “We have long since rejected a conception of reconciliation associated historically with the idea of a Deity that is loathsome. God, for us, cannot be thought of as an angry, awful avenging Being who because of Adam’s sins must have His Shylockian pound of flesh. No wonder the honest boy in justifiable repugnance could say, ‘Dirty Bully’. Injustice is an offense and inequality a stench in the nostrils of Jehovah also. Such must be denounced by preachers in a revolutionary age; and just as our thought of God had to be moralized to represent Him to moral men; so too, our conception of God’s world must be made moral if man is to say in honesty, “I believe in God, The Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.”
Bishop Oxnam concludes, “No wonder the honest boy in justifiable repugnance could say, “Dirty Bully.”
So this liberal Bishop, as many liberals today, takes the position that the God of the Bible, the God of the Old Testament, is a dirty bully, a hateful, avenging deity who demands His Shylockian pound of flesh to pay for sin. The atonement is hateful to this infidel bishop. He says the God of the Bible is a dirty bully.
Colonel Robert Ingersoll, an American lawyer and agnostic during the latter part of the nineteenth century, said, “Based upon an innocent blood sacrifice for sin is the atonement of the Christian religion. That is the reason I attack the Bible because it is the basis for another infamy; viz., that one man can be good for another, or that one man can sin for another.
Ingersoll continues, “The atonement saves the wrong man. I have said that I will never make a lecture at all without attacking this doctrine.”
Concerning the God of the Bible, Ingersoll in his lecture on “Skulls” said, “Upon the limbs of unborn babes this fiendish God put the chains of slavery. I hate Him!”
Ingersoll, speaking of the destruction of all the race, but Noah and his family in the Flood, says, “What a stain such an act would leave on the character of a devil. Was any imp of any devil guilty of such savagery?”
“We can see where Bishop Oxnam got his hatred of the God of the Bible. He got it at the same place Bob Ingersoll got his hatred of the same Book and of the same God.
“When Harry Emerson Fosdick, in his book, The Modern Use of the Bible, said that modern people could not accept the moral standards ascribed to God in the Old Testament, he was only repeating the complaint of infidels who have hated God and the Bible through the years. The only difference is that this infidel falsely claims to be a Christian.
Dr. Rice continues his charge against Fosdick. “It is rather strange for people who live a lie daily and perjure their souls in breaking solemn ordination vows to preach and defend the Bible, to talk as if God had lower moral standards than they. But Fosdick only represents all the infidels and immoral people through the ages who have hated the God of judgment, the God who punishes sin and the God who demands and provides propitiation through Christ’s sacrifice for sin.
“Tom Paine in his Age of Reason tells how when he was seven or eight years old he heard a sermon upon the subject of what is called redemption by the death of the Son of God and said,:
“I revolted at the recollection of what I had heard and thought to myself that it was making God Almighty act like a passionate man that killed his son when he could not revenge himself any other way.”
Further, Paine said, “But the Christian story of God the Father putting His Son to death, or employing people to do it (for that is the plain language of the story) cannot be told by a parent to a child; and to tell him that it was done to make man happier and better is making the story even worse- as if mankind could be improved by the example of murder.”
You see, Oxnam and Fosdick and other liberal preachers agree with their brother infidels, Ingersoll and Paine outside the church, that the God of the Bible is like a devil, a dirty bully.”
Just a side note. See my article on LIBERALISM to see how theological liberals are affected by their liberal template in every area of life.
Be aware that though most of the major Protestant denominations are infected by liberals, there is also a strong conservative wing in those denominations. Every Christian needs to know His Bible and be able to distinguish between truth and error. Make sure that your church is faithful to the Bible and that your unified budget is not supporting liberal seminaries and liberal missionaries
J.I.Packer in chapter 18 of his classic, Knowing God, has given us an excellent, clear explanation of the term propitiation. He entitles this chapter, “The Heart of the Gospel” for so it is. If one rejects the truth of Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary as God’s propitiation for our sins, then he has cut the heart out of the Gospel. He has no Gospel. His gospel is false and according to Galatians 1:8-9, he has placed himself under God’s curse.
God is not some kind, soft, sentimental old grandfather who overlooks evil and pats the erring child on the head and says, “That’s alright. You’re forgiven. Just don’t do it anymore.” Our holy God’s wrath upon sinners must be appeased before He can forgive sin and accept the sinner as His spiritual child. God, in His amazing love for us, proves that love by providing His Son, Jesus, as the propitiation or the appeasement for our sins.
In false, heathen religions the offending sinner with a God-given guilty conscience attempts to appease his supposed angry gods, which are no gods at all; by offering sacrifices to his offended gods and by doing penance, that is, bringing suffering on himself in a vain, hopeless attempt to atone for his sins.
Packer writes, “Now the Bible takes us right away from the world of pagan religion. It condemns paganism as a monstrous distortion of truth. In place of a cluster of gods who are all too obviously made in the image of man, and who behave as a crowd of Hollywood film stars, the Bible sets the one almighty Creator, the only real God, in whom all goodness and truth find their source, and to whom all moral evil is abhorrent. With Him there is no bad temper, no capriciousness, no vanity, no ill-will. One might expect therefore, that there would be no place for the idea of propitiation in biblical religion.
“But we do not find this at all: just the opposite. The idea of propitiation; that is, of averting God’s anger by an offering right through the Bible.”
The difference between Biblical Christianity and false religion is determined by who makes the offering. In all false religions, regardless of its label, sinful man vainly attempts to make himself presentable to God by his offerings and vain efforts of self righteousness.
In Biblical Christianity God is the source of the offering; and His Son, the Lord Jesus, is the perfect, ultimate offering who, by God’s grace, was sacrificed for us when He shed His blood for our sins on Calvary‘s cross.
According to Romans 5:8 God showed His love to us; not by overlooking our sins, but by sending His Son Jesus to be executed on a cross to pay the penalty that Romans 6:23 declares we deserved.
The Apostle John also teaches the same truth about God’s love in I John 4:9-10 “In this was manifested the love of God for us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world that we might have life through Him. Herein is love; not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” God’s wrath that we deserved was poured out on Jesus who bore it in our stead. That’s the meaning of propitiation and that’s the heart of the Gospel.
Without an understanding and acceptance of propitiation, there is no salvation.
The evangelist or preacher who soft-peddles or ignores this message in his preaching, is withholding the Gospel, which alone saves from the guilt and burden of sin and delivers from hell.
Romans 3:24 explains this heart of the Gospel. We sinners are justified freely by His grace, apart from our works through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus- and here it is again in verse 25, Speaking about Jesus He says, “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in Jesus’ blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of our sins.
Dear reader, are you hearing this message of propitiation in your church? Have you ever heard it preached? Paul writing in Galatians 5:11 says that it possible to preach an anemic, diluted Gospel in such away that the offense of the cross ceases. That is happening in many Protestant churches today. Whereas a century ago, the Gospel of salvation through faith in the shed blood of Christ was boldly and clearly preached, gradually in this age that declares only “a positive Gospel” this very heart of the atonement has been gradually removed by false teachers who give the people a more popular, inoffensive message. As a result, churches today are filled with deceived, self-righteous people who have never seen themselves as sinners and who remain in their lost condition, bound for hell.
Paul warned in II Timothy 3 and 4:1-4 that this would happen in the last days of the church age before the return of Christ. How did this false teaching creep into churches that were once true to The Faith? People of the past rejected such preachers and drove them out of their churches and replaced them with preachers and teachers who would give them what they wanted to hear.
God’s people did the same thing in Old Testament times by rejecting the true prophets of God and following those false prophets who gave the people what they wanted to hear. Jeremiah is known as the weeping prophet who wept as he watched his people Israel reject the truth and follow after false prophets to their destruction.
Jesus’ death on the cross is life-changing for those who trust Him. But that life-changing message begins with a clear understanding of the heart of the Gospel. Paul in II Corinthians 5:21 gives it to us in a nutshell. Christ’s death on the cross and His bodily resurrection from the tomb three days later enables our Just and Righteous God to remove His wrath from us for our sins, for that wrath, according to I Peter 2:24, had been transferred to His beloved pure, sinless Son, the Lord Jesus, who bore our sins once for all in His body on the cross two thousand years ago.
Follow along with me as I paraphrase II Corinthians 5:21 for clarity. “For God the Father made Christ, His sinless Son, to bear our sins in His body on the cross and suffer God’s wrath to fall on Him, so that we guilty sinners who deserved eternal damnation, might be declared and made the righteousness of God through our trust in His Blood sacrifice for our sins.”
That was why God commanded the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament. They were all types of Jesus who would one day come as the Lamb of God, as John the Baptist announced in John 1:29 when he saw Jesus, “Behold the Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world.”