The Gospel in One Word - Part 1
When you think of the gospel, what comes to your mind? Right now, as you read this, and are asked this question, what comes to your mind? If you were to explain the gospel using one word answers, what words would you use to explain the gospel, or paint pictures of it? Words that invite further discussion?
Maybe you would use words like forgiveness, sin, love, reconciliation, re-creation, substitution, or sacrifice. And all would be true, and all take us on our way to rightly and fully understanding the gospel.
This morning and in the coming mornings I hope to add another word to our defense and explanation of the gospel as we attempt to paint a right and full understanding of God and the gospel, and then fully explain that word so we glean every ounce of meaning from it. Because the word we will look at over the coming day or days stands really in many ways to form and establish the very heart of the gospel. If we could really grasp this word, then we will be better for it in so many ways as believers.
This morning and in the coming mornings I hope to add another word to our defense and explanation of the gospel as we attempt to paint a right and full understanding of God and the gospel, and then fully explain that word so we glean every ounce of meaning from it.
The word is PROPITIATION. I realize this can come across as a $10 seminary word that we never use today. But I believe that is to our hurt. You see, seminarians didn't make this word up as a way of describing a Bible word and truth with a complicated or unfamiliar word so they could appear smart. To be sure that can happen and maybe even does. But not here. This is indeed a word the Bible actually uses to describe the gospel.
Look at 1 John 2:1-2. We see the word propitiation occur in the context of the ministry of Jesus as our advocate and way for sin to be atoned for, payed for, made right.
We also see propitiation clearly in Romans 3:21-26 as being the rationale for God being just in His justification of sinners, as God set forth Jesus as a propitiation which displayed God's righteousness in the forgiveness of sin.
In Hebrews 2:17 we see propitiation as the rationale behind Jesus Christ's incarnation, the taking on of flesh, in order to make propitiation for the sin of the people.
In 1 John 4:8-10 we see propitiation as defining God's love for us.
In the OT, propitiation underlies what was known as the sin and guilt offerings and even what we see in Lev. 16 regarding the Day of Atonement. You also see this in Lev. 4 and Numbers 16 regarding atonement being made.
In light of this, the question I ask us to ponder this morning is this "if the Bible so frequently uses this word to explain the gospel, why don't we? Why do we possibly feel it necessary to change the words the Bible actually uses and possibly water them down and not rightly be able to fully explain them as they are in the Bible? Why do we feel we need to oversimplify the gospel? In doing so running the risk of even softening it or watering it down? Leaving parts out even?
Could it be that we ourselves have settled for a shallow understanding of the gospel and thus we share that shallow gospel with others? Could we have fallen into the trap of thinking it is our job to sell the gospel or convince someone to believe the gospel versus simply and clearly communicating the truth of the gospel, offering a defense of the gospel, as it has been offered and revealed by God Himself, and then letting the Holy Spirit do its intended work?
My point is this: The bible uses propitiation and the picture of what this word means and points to everywhere. We have seen in the NT especially this truth and concept is essential to basically everything we hold dear and build our faith upon. The love of God, Jesus' incarnation, meaning of the cross, Jesus' heavenly intercession, the very way of salvation.
If that is true, as we have seen, then why don't we? Why do we rarely if ever hear this word used as we describe the gospel? I would argue based upon what we have seen this morning that anytime the gospel is shared without at least the concept of propitiation being communicated, that gospel communication is at the very least incomplete, and at the very worst misleading by NT standards.
I say this to warn us as Paul warns in Gal. 1:8, that if anyone comes with a gospel other than what Paul preached, then that person is to be eternally condemned. It doesn't matter whether that person is an angel, a college professor, a pastor, a friend, or a famous person whom you admire. A gospel without propitiation at the heart runs the risk of being no gospel at all.
For now, we will leave it at that and let us ponder, search our own heart with these questions. Cliffhanger, leaving you possibly even wondering what propitiation is. Maybe this will being us back tomorrow, when we will explain that clearly. But for now, ponder these verses and questions.
Maybe ask yourself "What do I know and think about propitiation?" "How does my lack of understanding or my right understanding of this great truth affect my understanding of Christianity and my worship of Jesus Christ?" "When was the last time you spoke to propitiation and described it to someone else?" "What might lie behind these answers?"
Don't be afraid of big words. Don't be afraid of big truths, of going deep in the Word and gospel. Don't water down the gospel and in that sense contaminate it and lessen the wonder of it. There are huge consequences for us and others when we do this. Even if it is because we desperately want the person to come to Christ. The only way they can come is thru the Biblical gospel, they can only come the right way thru the right gospel. ONE WAY. And we don't get the privilege or authority to determine that way. Instead, we get the privilege and authority to share that there is a way.
Don't be afraid of big words. Don't be afraid of big truths, of going deep in the Word and gospel.
Our salvation is no small task, no insignificant transaction or act of grace. Be in wonder today that you are God's thru faith. Be amazed at the thought or idea of propitiation. All to the praise of God. Be amazed that salvation is so amazing that we will spend eternity plumbing its depths and the depths of the great God who authored it ,and yet a child can believe it and be saved. Only the one true God of the Bible could offer such a gospel. Know this gospel and share it boldly and confidently as it is.