“And even though you were dead in your transgressions and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, he nevertheless made you alive with him, having forgiven all your transgressions. He has destroyed what was against us, a certificate of indebtedness expressed in decrees opposed to us. He has taken it away by nailing it to the cross. Disarming the rulers and authorities, he has made a public disgrace of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” (Colossians 2:13-15)
The gospel is an announcement to the world of an accomplished fact. What God set out to do for mankind, he accomplished. The apostles declared this from the time of Pentecost (Acts 2) and beyond.
“Therefore let it be known to you, brothers, that through this one forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by this one everyone who believes is justified from everything from which the law of Moses could not justify you.” (Acts 13:38-39)
Salvation is available on the basis of a single condition: faith (or “belief”). God acted; we are to respond to his action.
“For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
Those who respond with faith in Jesus Christ, God’s Son, receive a firm assurance of security (1 John 5:13), a secure new identity in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), and a true knowledge of God as seen through all that he has done through Christ’s finished work on the cross. This lesson and the next will explore 6 “words of the cross”—the direct result of Christ’s finished work on the cross. These 6 terms describe how our relationship with God has changed because of our faith in Jesus Christ.
The diagram below shows these 6 “words of the cross” and an image representing each. This lesson will cover 3; the next lesson will cover the other 3.
Christ’s Finished Work on the Cross
Propitiation is an old word we do not use in our daily vocabulary. Using a dictionary for its verb form propitiate, you would see that it means, “to conciliate or appease.” Basically, it means to satisfy or appease someone in order to win favor from him. That implies you have done something to lose their favor, usually something incurring anger.
Most of us can recall a time when we incurred the anger of those we love and needed to make some kind of restitution to “appease” their anger. The act of appeasement leads to that person now being satisfied because restitution has been made. So, the relationship can be restored.
Similarly, biblical propitiation represents an important change in our relationship with God. It is often associated with God’s mercy toward us. Mercy is commonly defined as “not getting what we deserve.” Our problem before Christ: God’s righteous anger toward man’s sin. [Remember in the last lesson, you learned that God’s wrath is an action against sin to preserve his creation, not a mood or fit of temper.] Without appeasement, all people are justly destined for eternal punishment. But God, out of his great mercy, provided a way for his anger against man’s sin to be satisfied through blood sacrifice on the Day of Atonement in the Old Testament (Leviticus 16) and finally through Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross.
In the New Testament, the Greek word used to describe God’s “satisfaction” with Jesus’ blood shed for man’s sin is hilasterion. Interestingly, that word is used of the cover of the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies (the “mercy” seat as in Hebrews 9:5), which was sprinkled with the blood of the sacrifice (a perfect lamb) on the annual Day of Atonement. By this ceremony, God’s anger at sin was appeased, and the people’s sins were forgiven up to that point. Jesus’ death on the cross provided the permanent way that God’s anger against man’s sin was appeased. The New Testament writers teach that Jesus’ sacrifice of atonement fully satisfied God’s righteous anger against man’s sin for those who trust in him (Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17; 1 John 1:2; 4:10).
1. To help you get a handle on what this concept of appeasement of anger means, describe a situation where your anger was fully satisfied by restitution someone else made. If that happened, what was required? How did that feel?
2. Read Romans 3:25 and 1 John 4:10. What did God do for us? Why? How do we receive it? [Note: your translation will not likely read “propitiation,” but “sacrifice of atonement” or “atoning sacrifice” instead. The concept of God’s satisfaction is the same.]
Scriptural Insight: The NIV text note on Romans 3:25 says the phrase “a sacrifice of atonement” could also be translated as “the one who would turn aside his wrath, taking away sin.” (NIV Study Bible, page 1710)
3. From 1 John 2:2, to whom does this mercy extend?
Think About It: Because Jesus Christ has endured in our place the full wrath of God for our sins, God is able to extend mercy without compromise with evil. His holiness has been fully satisfied with the offering of Jesus Christ. The payment has been made for the whole world; God’s mercy extends to the whole world. But it must be individually acknowledged. God acted. The response he asks is belief in his Son. Why would anyone not jump at the opportunity to take this wonderful offer?!
4. Why could the image of an empty, unused altar be a good symbol for propitiation?
5. Graceful Living: Dwell on the FACT that God’s anger at man’s sin was fully satisfied by Jesus’ finished work on the cross. The second verse of the beautiful song, In Christ Alone, says this:
In Christ alone, who took on flesh, fullness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness scorned by the ones he came to save:
‘Til on that cross as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied –
For every sin on him was laid; here in the death of Christ I live.
(Watch a beautiful rendition of this song online at .)
Knowing that God is no longer angry at the sin of those who believe in his Son, how does that make you feel? Do you live with the confidence that God is no longer angry with you?
6. Graceful Living: If God’s holy wrath against you has been satisfied, and you live in the freedom of knowing his graceful love more than his wrath, how are you at being a grace-giver to those who have angered you? If you are holding onto anger toward someone and no restitution has been made, pray that God will enable you to surrender the anger and rest in his love and peace.
7. Define reconcile using a dictionary. What does it mean to reconcile?
8. Most of us are aware of personal relationships that have required reconciliation. Think about one such conflict. What were the circumstances? Describe the pain caused by the broken relationship. What was done to pursue reconciliation? How did it turn out?
How sad it is when a broken relationship continues to remain broken and isn’t reconciled. What joy we experience when we see a broken relationship repaired and healthy again! Reconciliation is certainly a reason for rejoicing! And, there is even rejoicing in heaven as we experience repentance (Luke 15:7, 10) that results in reconciliation with our God. Reconciliation is a present reality for Christians and is worthy of our rejoicing. Before Christ, our problem was a state of alienation (separation) from God because of sin (Isaiah 59:2). But God did something about that…
9. What did our God do for us according to these verses?
Scriptural Insight: “Reconcile to himself all things” does not mean that Christ by his death has saved all people…When Adam & Eve sinned, not only was the harmony between God and man destroyed, but also disorder came into creation (Romans 8:19-22). So when Christ died on the cross, he made peace possible between God and mankind, and he restored in principle the harmony in the physical world, though the full realization of the latter will come only when Christ returns.” (NIV Study Bible, note on Colossians 1:20, page 1814)
10. According to John 3:16 and Romans 5:8, what was God’s motivation for reconciliation?
11. From 2 Corinthians 5:19, to whom does this reconciliation extend?
Think About It: Jesus Christ has fully paid man’s debt, removing the barrier between God and men. God’s “books” have been balanced, the debt having been paid. God stands eagerly welcoming anyone who will believe the good news and come home (repent).
12. Why would the image of a bridge in the form of a cross over a canyon be a good symbol for reconciliation?
13. Graceful Living: Dwell on the FACT that the barrier of sin has been taken away and a bridge has been built between man and God because of Jesus’ finished work on the cross. This was God’s act of reconciliation.
According to 2 Corinthians 5:18-20, we have been given the ministry of reconciliation, announcing to our world that God is no longer counting men’s sins against them through Christ and imploring those in our sphere of influence to be reconciled to God. Suggest some ways you can be intentional in your outreach to nonbelievers. Where are you likely to run across them in your daily routine? Where can you go outside of your routine to interact with them? Make an intentional “connection” to spend time with one woman who needs to know Jesus this week. Being intentional requires being strategic, deliberate, and planned.
14. Graceful Living: The same power of reconciliation is available to you through Christ for your relationships. If you are in the midst of a relationship that is broken and in need of reconciliation, pray that God would work his mighty hand in the relationship and provide you with his wisdom in pursuing reconciliation. What steps can you pursue to reconcile the relationship?
15. Look up the definition of redemption. Try to think of modern examples of redemption.
Did you think of the payment of a ransom for a kidnapped person? Another example of redemption might be the pawning of an item of value then going back later to pay what is owed on the “loan” to get that item back. Some energetic people like to buy “fixer upper” houses and flip them, turning each into a beautiful home. All those are examples of redemption.
Biblical redemption is based on an understanding of the pain of slavery—a common practice in the Roman Empire at the time. Nearly 50% of the people were slaves—1 out of every 2 men, women, and children! The readers of the New Testament were very familiar with the hopelessness of being owned by a slave master, the buying and selling associated with the slave market, and the only two ways out of the miserable cycle—either die or be bought by someone who would set you free.
The biblical doctrine of redemption is found in the combined meaning of four Greek words:
Agorázo - the ordinary word, “to buy” or “to purchase.” (1 Cor. 6:20)
Exagorazo - “to buy out of the market”; i.e., to remove from further sale. (Gal. 3:13)
Lutroo - “to loose by a price; to ransom.” (Mark 10:45)
Apolűtrosis - “a loosing away.” (Eph. 1:7)
Redemption represents an important change in our relationship with God. Before Christ, mankind was in a state of slavery to sin and to death (spiritual & physical). Biblical redemption means that man has been purchased at a price, the blood of Christ, out of slavery and released into freedom.
16. Read Mark 10:45. What did Jesus declare about his purpose?
Focus on the Meaning: “Ransom” refers to the “price paid for release from bondage.” (NIV Study Bible, note on Mark 10:45, page 1515)
17. How are we redeemed (Ephesians 1:7 and 1 Peter 1:18-19)?
18. From what did Jesus Christ redeem us? Why?
19. What do the following verses teach about the purpose and results of our being redeemed?
Spiritual Insight: In the Bible, to redeem means to free someone from something bad by paying a penalty or a ransom (see Exodus 21:30; 13:13). Likewise, in the Greek world slaves could be redeemed by the payment of a price, either by someone else or by the slave himself. Similarly, Jesus redeems believers from the “curse of the law” (Gal. 3:13) and “all wickedness” (Titus 2:14). The ransom price is not silver or gold, but Christ’s blood (Eph 1:7; 1 Peter 1:19; Rev. 5:9). (NIV Study Bible, note on 1 Peter 1:19, page 1889)
20. Why would the image of an opened chain be a good symbol for redemption?
Scriptural Insight: How far does this redemption extend? Some of the biblical words describe a work universal in scope (“for the whole world,” “the sovereign Lord who bought” the false teachers in 2 Peter 2:1), while others seem to be particular (“for believers” in Ephesians 1:7). While controversies occasionally erupt over which view represents the “true” one, the bottom line seems clear: The death of Jesus Christ is fully sufficient for the whole world, but it will be efficient only for those who put their trust in him.
21. Read Romans 6:15-23. Contrast the life of slavery to sin from the life of freedom offered through your redemption.
22. Graceful Living: Dwell on the FACT that you, as a believer, have been purchased by the blood of Christ out of slavery to sin and released into freedom as God’s act of redemption. The third verse In Christ Alone (see Question 5), says this:
There in the ground his body lay; light of the world by darkness slain:
Then bursting forth in glorious Day; up from the grave he rose again!
And as He stands in victory sin’s curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am his and He is mine - bought with the precious blood of Christ.
Are you experiencing the freedom from slavery to sin in your life right now? If not, do you have confidence that you do not have to listen to the voice of your old slave master sin? Reflect on this.
You have a new master with greater power living inside of you, the Spirit of God himself, who can give you freedom from any entrapping sin. Claim that freedom now. Choose to obey the Spirit inside you who will lead you and empower you to say “no” to sin.
Think About It: Since Jesus Christ has paid a full ransom price, the believer is a possession of God and is secure in freedom until his complete redemption (of the body) is accomplished.
23. The chart below gives a good review of what you have learned in this lesson. Each one of these is the result of Christ’s finished work on the cross on your behalf. The law of learning states that the best test of whether you have really learned anything or not is by explaining what you have learned to someone else. Review each of these “3 words of the cross” one at a time. Then, write how you would explain that concept (what the concept means for the believer, not necessarily the definition of the word) to someone who hasn’t had this course but needs to know what she has in Christ. Think in terms of someone from a particular age group or stage of life.
Word of the Cross
The whole world.
1 John 2:1-2
The just wrath of God against man’s sin.
God’s justice has been satisfied. He is able to extend mercy without compromise.
The whole world.
2 Cor. 5:18-19
Man’s state of alienation from God because of sin.
The barrier of sin has been taken away, and a bridge has been built.
The whole world.
2 Pet. 2:1
Man’s state of slavery to sin and death.
Man has been purchased by the blood of Christ out of slavery and released into freedom.