Summary: Three words describe God’s solution: Expiation, Propitiation, and Atonement. All three are aspects of the redemptive plan through vicarious or substitutionary sacrifice of God’s only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.
God’s E. P. A.
Paul in Romans explains fallen man’s dilemma and God’s answer to man’s problem. There are three words that describe God’s solution – Expiation, Propitiation, and Atonement. All three are aspects of the redemptive plan through vicarious or substitutionary sacrifice of God’s only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.
I. Man’s Dilemma
A. Because God is holy, He hates all sin; And because He hates all sin, His anger burns against those who commit sin.
B. Someone has written, “GOD IS HOLY; He maintains His purity and rejects, fights against, and destroys that which would offend and attack His holiness and love. God's holiness and love are intrinsically intertwined and cannot be separated. A most important fact that we must all remember is that as God’s love is infinitely incomprehensible, so are his displeasure, hate, anger, wrath, and vengeance for those who would offend and attack His holiness as manifested in His principles and laws.” – AGS, God’s Wrath for Sin
C. Psalm 7:11 (HCSB) “God is a righteous judge and a God who shows His wrath every day”
D. We cannot as we have said in the past look at sin lightly, dismiss its dreadfulness, or make excuses for it. God holiness demands that the penalty for sin be exacted.
E. Romans 6:23a “For the wages of sin is death…”
F. Ezekiel 18:20a “The soul who sins shall die.”
G. Man by both birth and by choice is a sinner.
H. God does not desire the death of a sinner, but that the sinner would turn from his evil ways and live. However, because of our sinful by natures, we cannot offer anything to God that He would find acceptable as the payment for the penalty for our sins.
I. Romans 1:18,19 “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.”
J. Man’s dilemma is that He possesses nothing that can meet the demands of a Holy God and therefore the wrath of God hangs over man like the sword of Damocles.
K. Jonathan Edwards said it articulately in his famous sermon “Sinners In The Hands of An Angry God” – “O sinner! Consider the fearful danger you are in: it is a great furnace of wrath, a wide and bottomless pit, full of the fire of wrath, that you are held over in the hand of that God, whose wrath is provoked and incensed as much against you, as against many of the damned in hell. You hang by a slender thread, with the flames of divine wrath flashing about it, and ready every moment to singe it, and burn it asunder; and you have no interest in any Mediator, and nothing to lay hold of to save yourself, nothing to keep off the flames of wrath, nothing of your own, nothing that you ever have done, nothing that you can do, to induce God to spare you one moment.” - copied
II. God’s Remedy
A. Being Holy, God is just in His wrath. He is absolutely under no obligation to provide a means of deliverance to anyone in all of creation. But, because God is loving, merciful, and kind, He has chosen to save some by providing the means of redemption, restoration, and reconciliation.
B. God’s loving solution is summed up in three words: expiation – propitiation- and atonement.
1. The word expiation means to remove something. Biblically it is the act of taking away guilt through the payment of a penalty or offering of atonement.
2. Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
3. Christ's expiation of our sin means that He paid the penalty for it and removed it from consideration against us.
4. John 1:29 (36) “The next day John sees Jesus coming to him, and said, Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world.”
5. Hebrews 2:9 “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.”
7. Isaiah 53:6 “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
8. Only the divine Son of God, sinless and holy, constituted a “satisfactory” offering to the holy and righteous God.
9. To a Scotsman, the name of Robert, the Bruce, always brings a quickening of the heartstrings as he contemplates the recorded exploits of that heroic personality. On one occasion, Bruce was hiding in a mountain glen from King Edward's soldiers. Suddenly he heard the baying of hounds upon the scent, and he recognized them as his own pack which the English had loosed and set upon their Master's trail. Though worn with sleepless nights and foodless days, Bruce struggled to his feet and ran as fast as his weary limbs could carry him, with the hounds hot on his track. Nearer and nearer came the sound of baying, and the royal fugitive was almost in despair when he suddenly heard the trickling of a mountain stream. He hastened on and leaped into the stream and down through the waters he sped. Soon he heard the hounds at the brook-side. They were barking excitedly as they ran back and forth, unable to find the scent. Bruce successfully eluded his enemies because the running water made it impossible for the hounds to follow any further. This is a picture of the gospel. There is but one way by which any man can escape the judgment of God. That is to plunge into the stream that flows from Calvary's hill, where our blessed Lord made peace by the blood of His Cross. Divine wrath will never reach you there. All sin-stains are washed away and "there is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus." It was Bruce's own hounds that were tracking him down. Our own sins follow after us, calling for judgment, but the blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, "cleanses us from all sin."