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Salvation:- 6 (1 | 2 | 3|4 |5 )


By Nelson Thomas Mumbai


How can a holy God save sinful man? Is it not contradictory to God's justice, holiness, and immutability? Yes, God can not simply overlook sin. Cf. Hab 1:13 ; Rom 1:18 ; 2:5. (We have seen already that man can not save himself either. Cf. Is 16:1—7; 47: 11; Psa 14:3; Isa 59:2; Rom 1:18 ; 3:20 , 23. )

      God's attributes are consistent and unified. He can not lay aside one for another. (We are not so, some changes in our mood and principles possible.). God's holiness demands that sin must be punished. God's love moves Him to save sinner. Upholding His holiness and justice, God did demonstrate His love for guilty sinners. That's the work of salvation accomplished through the cross of Christ. Cf. Rom 3:24 , 25; Col 1:20 , 21; Gala 3:13 ; 1Cor 1:18 .

      So, in short we can see that the death of Christ on the cross of Calvary is the only basis for salvation. Act 4:12; Isa 53:5, 6. However, what exactly happened on the cross? What are things involved in the sufferings of Christ that procured our salvation? Five things are noteworthy.

What happened on the cross?

1. Atonement.

In the Old Testament this word found around 38 times but in the New Testament according to KJV it is not there. But the idea is very much found there.

      ‘Atonement' = ‘to cover' cf. Gen 6:14; Num 8:19 :- “make atonement for the people”. Sin is a challenge to God. As long as sin is there God can not deal with man. So, it must be covered. Num 8:19, 12. Levitical sacrifices were given by God as atonement in a temporary arrangement. Cf. Lev 17:11 ; Exo 32:30—31. Psa 65:3. The blood of an innocent substitute covered the guilty sinner.

      In the New Testament the corresponding words are ‘hillasmos' (1Jn 2:2; 4:10) and ‘hilasterion' (Rom 3:25; Heb 9:5) In the book of Hebrews ‘hilasterion' is translated ‘mercy seat'. That exactly is the idea of atonement. We know inside the Ark of the Covenant there were symbols of Israel 's sin & rebellion - the broken Law etc. Holy God could meet with them as long there sins are covered. So mercy seat covers the broken law etc. It was here on the mercy seat, blood was sprinkled while the cherubim's looked on from both the sides.

      Apart from the individual atoning scarifies in the OT there was a day of atonement every year, when the sins of Israel as a nation will be cleansed or covered. Cf. Lev 16:2ff. Two goats will be separated. One will be sacrificed first; High priest will go and sprinkle the blood on the mercy seat, which covers the Ark. Then the high priest will put his hands on the living goat and confess the sins of Israel . Then the goat will be taken out in to the wilderness set it free. Cf. Lev 16:8—10; 20—22, 34. It was the Day of Atonement when Israel 's sins are covered and God can deal with or meet with them judicially.

      Such atoning sacrifices never brought any perfection in the heart of the offerer. Cf. Heb. Ch 8, 9, 10. (9:6—16; 10:1) That's why they had to offer it repeatedly. It was only a temporary covering. Not a way of salvation. God intended with these atoning sacrifices to demonstrate a shadow of the ultimate atoning sacrifice of His son Jesus Christ.

      On the cross of Calvary Christ died as a perfect atoning sacrifice for all. His sacrifice is much better than the OT sacrifice. His blood covers our sins and God can show mercy on us legitimately. Writer of the book of Hebrew elaborates this truth in chapters 8—10. cf. Heb 1:2; 9: 8, 11—14, 28; 10:11 , 12. He completed the work. No wonder John the Baptist declared “Behold the lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world.” John 1:29, 30.

2. Propitiation Rom 3:25; 1Jn 2:2

According to the New Testament translations we may feel atonement and propitiation are same. But both are different. As we have seen, atonement has to do with the covering of our sins so that God may have mercy on us with out violating His holiness or justice.

      ‘Propitiation' is satisfying the demands of God's justice and holiness so that He will not have to punish people for their sin. The word ‘propitiation' means ‘to turn away a person's anger by giving him an offering'.

The wrath of God

God's anger is not like the anger of man. Holy God is angry against sin, evil. Deut 11:16, 17; Jn 3:36; Eph 5:6. In the Old Testament alone there are more than 500 references to God's wrath and judgment. This anger is not a bad temper but holy indignation. God can not treat evil as it doesn't matter. Cf. Hab 1:13 ; Rom 1:18 ; 2:5; Heb 1:9; Rev 14:8—11; 19:1—12.

      Man is under the wrath of God because of his sin, unable to please God or approach Him. Cf. Isa 59:2; Rom 8:7, 8; Eph 2:3; Col 1:21. He can do nothing to propitiate – pacify- God. None of His efforts could. Cf. Exo 32:30—32; Pro: 6:34 , 35. Isa 47:11. Remember, propitiation does not mean appeasing God's anger or turning God's wrath in to love. As already mentioned, His wrath is a holy wrath. His judgment is a holy judgment. Because He loves holiness and hates sin, He has to judge evil. It is this holiness we have to pacify, just demands we need to meet.

      Just as His holy anger, His love also is holy. He has no pleasure in punishing man for his sin. Cf. Ezk 18: 23, 32. His displeasure at sin is actually connected to His concern for man's good. Psa 78:38; Rom 2:2—4; 2Pet 3:9. That's where the relevance of propitiation comes in.

      So God provided a way. It was demonstrated in the sacrificial system of Israel . Lev 17:11 ; 16:1ff etc. Thus God could uphold His righteousness and exhibit His love for the people of Israel .

Limitations of the levitical sacrifices

But the Old Testament sacrifices were not enough. The daily sacrifices and the yearly Day of Atonement and the sacrifices did not give them permanent relief. Cf. Lev. 16. They only taught them lessons on how sin is serious and how to approach a holy God. God had no pleasure in those sacrifices. Cf. Heb 9:22; 10:4ff; Rom 3:25 , 26. Psa 40: 6.

The perfect sacrifice

The climax of God's plan of salvation was reached through Christ. 2Cori 5:19 ; 1Jn 4:10 . Christ died as a substitute. Cf. Isa 53:6; Jn 1:29 ; 2cor 5:14 ; 1Jn 2:2; Heb 2:9. His death was not martyrdom or an example of a courageous and gracious death. He died for all. He died that we may not die. In His death there is great potential and provisional value for every guilty sinner.

      We have seen already in connection with the atonement, that some of the New Testament references of ‘propitiation' actually refer to the mercy seat where God and sinful man can meet. Cf. Heb 9:5. The blood that was sprinkled on the mercy seat actually covered the broken law also. There the shekinah glory dwelt. So mercy seat in the OT was a place of propitiation.

      Similarly the blood that was sprinkled on the cross became cover for our sins; as a result a guilty sinner can meet God at the cross. In the NT propitiation is the work of Christ on the cross by which He satisfied God's holiness so God could extend mercy to lost sinners.

      By His life and death He satisfied the demands of the law. Propitiation describes the God-ward work of Christ on the cross. He paid the penalty for breaking the law. The law was satisfied. He bore all the judgment of the guilty sinner, and now sinners can be justified freely and judicially. Cf. Rom 3: 25 , 26.

      In other words, our sin was an offense, it must be removed, God was offended at our sin, He must be satisfied, and we who offended God must be pardoned. All these were made possible by the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is propitiation.

      Remember, it does not mean that the Father was angry and Son wanted to intercede and pardon man. It was the eternal plan of the triune God. Yes, it may be hard for us to comprehend fully, how the Triune God worked together in this plan of salvation, but it's a fact the word of God reveals.

      Cf. Luk 18:9—14. “God be thou propitiated to me”. Here the sinner is being justified on the basis of a divinely provided propitiation. Today God can forgive sin at the same time remain just in doing so. Cf. Rom 3:25, 26; Heb 2:17; 1Jn 2:2. Because, God has dealt with the sins of every man, legally settled the sin question of the whole mankind whether past, present or even of the future.

      So, this is the second thing that happened on the cross when Christ died for our sins. He atoned for our sins, covered it and became a proportion, satisfied the demands of God and pacified the righteous law. God saves us on the basis of these wonderful works accomplished on the cross.

3. Reconciliation.

Another thing that took place when the Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross as a sacrifice is our reconciliation. Not only that man is under that wrath of God because of his sin, he has made himself the enemy of God as well. So he needs to be reconciled to God. Cf. Rom 1:18 ; 8:7, 8; Eph 2:3; Colo 1:21.

      To remove such enmity and bring man in right relationship with God, the cause of hostility must be removed. Even though the fault is on man's side, the work of reconciliation is God's own. True, it is man who is separated from God, it is man who is unable to find his way back to God, and it is man who has sinned against God. All the fault lies with us. Yet God alone could take the steps needed to reconcile man to God.

      So the process was initiated by God and achieved through Christ's blood. Cf. Roma 5:10. Because of His atoning death on the cross, God can accept any repentant sinner back to Himself. cf. Rom 5:6—11; 2Corin 5:18 , 19, 21; Eph 2:12 —16. Colo 1:20, 22. The judgment is longer to be feared.

      Hence, reconciliation is an act of God's grace in which man's hostility to God is changed to a right and a new relationship at the cost of the death of Christ.

4. Redemption

Another important aspect of the work of salvation accomplished through the cross of Calvary is the payment of ransom to redeem us. The Lord Jesus made it very clear that He has come to give His life as a ransom. Cf. Matt. 20:28; Mark 10:45 . Ransom refers to the money paid to redeem an individual who sold himself. Cf. Lev 25:47ff.

      Reconciliation refers to man's hostility to God and redemption refers to man becoming the property of some one else. Not only man is away from God and behaves like an enemy, he is a slave to sin to fulfill its desire.

      Man is a slave and he had no ability to release himself from the bondage of sin and Satan. The only option was to face the sentence that is death. Cf. Rom 8:34 ; 6:16 , 23; 1Jn 5:19 ; Ps13:8. Christ gave His life as a ransom, died instead of those who were under this sentence of death. Matt 20:28 ; Isa 53:5; 2Cor 5:21 ; Rom 3:21 —26.

      In the Old Testament redemption is pictured in the deliverance of Israel of Israel from Egypt . They were slaves to Egypt . From the last plague Israelite's elder sons were redeemed by the lamb. Lamb dies in the place of their elder son. Cf. Exo 12:13 ; ( 13:15 ); Exo 12:5; 1Pet 1:18 , 19

      Christ paid fully on our behalf and removed the handwriting which was against us. Cf. Colo 2:13—15. God could not have simply overlooked our debt. Today we are redeemed freely but not with out a cost. Though redemption is free it's not cheap. It is the precious blood of the lamb by which we have been redeemed. 1Peter 1:18 , 19.

      Thus any sinner could be free from the bondage of sin and Satan, as the ransom had already been paid. Cf. Gal 3:13; Eph 1:7; Col 1:14; 1Tim 2:6; Reve 1:5.

5. New Way. Cf. Heb 10:19; Matt 27:51.

Finally, the cross of Christ opened a new way for man to enter into the presence of God with boldness. Because of the above mentioned fourfold wonderful works of God, a new way has been made possible. As evidence to this truth we see the curtain in the temple being torn apart from top to bottom. Cf. Matt 27:51; Eph 2:18.

      On the basis of the finished work of Christ salvation is available for man who lives as a slave to sin, away from God and in hostility to Him. There is no need to stand afar off. No need for a mediator either. We can freely and boldly come to God through the Lord Jesus Christ. Eph 2:13, 18.


What exactly happened on the cross? We cannot fully understand it. Especially during the three hours of darkness, when God the Father dealt with His Son as our substitute. The word of God reveals few things that took place by the death of Christ. These five truths – atonement, propitiation, reconciliation, redemption and new way – make the truth of salvation clear to us. Salvation through Christ is not just a wishful thinking but something that God does legally and righteously. Thus cross of Christ becomes the basis for our salvation.


Next:- VII. The channel of Salvation


More:- An index for all studies

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