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PROPITIATION THROUGH CHRIST'S PASSION

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Fundamentalist Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Morning, March 14, 2004

"Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin" (Isaiah 53:10).


Mel Gibson's film, "The Passion of the Christ," is the number one box office hit of the year. Millions of people are flocking to see it. One of the tabloids said that

Mel Gibson's bloody movie about Christ's tortuous final hours has triggered a firestorm of controversy [and] violent emotions… [Gibson says] he's astonished by the fallout of the film that shows Christ's horrific death in agonizing detail. [Gibson said] "I was astonished by the potency of it…I didn't expect the ferocity of controversy. Religious themes do hit a nerve, but I didn't know I'd cut a main artery" (Globe, March 15, 2004, p. 30).

I have mixed feelings about this film. On the one hand, it has some scenes based on Roman Catholic tradition rather than the Bible. On the other hand, it does present the basic narrative of Christ's final hours, as presented in the four gospels, in the New Testament.

My conflicting thoughts on the film go farther. On the one hand, millions of people who are Biblically illiterate, who know little or nothing about the Bible, will be presented with the death and resurrection of Christ. On the other hand, I have serious doubts that many people will find salvation in Christ by seeing the film, unless they hear Biblical preaching. The Bible says, "It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe" (I Corinthians 1:21).

The film does not take the place of preaching. Why? Because God has ordained preaching as the great means by which people are converted.

"It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe" (I Corinthians 1:21).

The preaching of the gospel is the means which God has always used to get people saved. Nothing short of gospel preaching can lead this lost generation to a saving knowledge of Christ.

Why did Jesus die on the Cross? That must be answered from our pulpits if we expect many people to be saved. Why did Jesus die on the Cross?

There are many theories about why Christ died on the Cross. The Socinian theory, adopted by the Unitarians, teaches that Christ died as a martyr. Dr. H. C. Thiessen explains this theory as follows,

This theory holds that Christ's death was that of a martyr. He was killed because He was faithful to His principles and what He considered His duty, by a generation that did not agree with Him in these respects. We are to learn…truth and duty from Him. Christ's example [on the Cross] is to teach man to repent of his sins and reform (Henry C. Thiessen, Ph.D., Introductory Lectures in Systematic Theology, Eerdmans, 1949, p. 316).

The "moral influence" theory is close to the Unitarian view. The "moral influence" theory says that Christ's death is "to soften human hearts and lead them to repentance" (ibid.). But neither one of these views explains our text,

"Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin"
    (Isaiah 53:10).

Dr. Thiessen points out that neither one of these theories of Christ's death go beyond "a mere stirring of the emotions" (ibid., p. 317). Dr. Thiessen says, "We must not reduce the atonement to a passion-play, in which the actor appears to be moved by sincere motives, when in reality he is merely working upon the emotions of his audience" (ibid.). I agree with him. The death of Christ is not simply given in the Bible to work up your emotions and get you to live a better life! Christ died on the Cross to pay the penalty for your sins, and to propitiate the wrath of God!

"Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin"
    (Isaiah 53:10).

Charles Spurgeon was the greatest Baptist preacher of all time. In his sermon "The Death of Christ" (The New Park Street Pulpit, Pilgrim Publications, 1981 reprint, volume IV, pp. 65-72), Spurgeon spoke on Isaiah 53:10. I am giving you some of what he said in modern English.

I. First, who was responsible for Christ's death?

It pleased Jehovah to bruise him; he [Jehovah] hath put him to grief. Those who read about Christ's life as mere history, think that Christ died because of the enmity of the Jews, and the fickle character of the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate. But those who know the Bible realize that the Jewish priests, and Roman governor, and Roman soldiers were only guilty instruments in the hands of God. The prophet Isaiah says, "It pleased the Lord to bruise him, he hath put him to grief."

Picture the scene of the crucifixion in your mind. There is Christ going to be crucified. He is weak with suffering. The Son of God faints as He carries the Cross. They nail Him to it. He is lifted up in the air. He hangs there awaiting the time of His death. Why does the Saviour suffer so? Why, it was because the Father bruised Him. Many martyrs have died feeling God very close to them. But Jesus died without any comfort from God. From the Cross, Jesus cries, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46). Christ suffers in the thick darkness of mental agony. The millstones of divine wrath press on Him and bruise Him; and no joy or relief is given to Him. "It pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief." This is the climax of the Saviour's suffering, that His Father turns away from Him, and puts Him to grief.

II. Second, what was the reason for Christ's suffering?

Isaiah 53:10 says, "Thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin." Christ was troubled because His soul was an offering for sin. God wanted to save us, but Justice tied His hands. "I must be just," said God, "that is a necessity of my nature. But how can I forgive men's sins and still be just? How can it be done?" Here is how it can be done. Christ Jesus shall stand in the place of sinful man. Christ Jesus shall be crucified on the Cross in the place of man - instead of man.

When Christ died, He died for you. He took your place. As a substitute for sin, He actually and literally suffered punishment for your sin.

Christ did not atone for our sins in Hell, as some Charismatic leaders say. He paid the penalty for sin on the Cross! He suffered the horror of Hell as He hung there. In one pelting shower of iron fury it fell on Him. The hail-stones of wrath were flung at Him, and He hung on the Cross until Judgment had emptied itself completely on Him. The Bible says,

"Christ Jesus, whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood…" (Romans 3:24-25).

What is propitiation? John Piper says, "God sends his own Son to absorb his wrath and bear the curse for all who trust him…This is the meaning of the word 'propitiation' in…Romans 3:25. It refers to the removal of God's wrath by providing a substitute… The substitute, Jesus Christ, does not just cancel the wrath; he absorbs it and diverts it from us to himself" (John Piper, The Passion of Jesus Christ, Crossway Books, 2004, p. 21). The Bible says,

"…he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (I John 4:10).

"Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin…"
    (Isaiah 53:10).

Are you a sinner? Do you feel it? Has God's Spirit made you inwardly aware that you are lost? Do you want to be saved from sin? If you want salvation from your sins, why, then trust Christ! He has paid the penalty for your sins on the Cross! Come to Christ by faith! Come to Him! He will save you from your sin!

Just as I am, without one plea,
    But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidd'st me come to Thee,
    O Lamb of God, I come! I come!
        ("Just As I Am" by Charlotte Elliott, 1789-1871).

(END OF SERMON)

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Romans 3:21-26.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:

"He Bought My Soul" (by Stuart Hamblen, 1908-1989).

THE OUTLINE OF

PROPITIATION THROUGH CHRIST'S PASSION

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.


"Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin" (Isaiah 53:10).

(I Corinthians 1:21)

I.   Who was responsible for Christ's death? Isaiah 53:10a;
Matthew 27:46.

II.  What was the reason for the Saviour's suffering?
Isaiah 53:10b; Romans 3:24-25; I John 4:10.

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