Christianity,  Theology/Bible

The Wrath of God and the Heart of the Atonement

cross-silhouette1“But the LORD was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand.”
-Isaiah 53:10

“God put [Christ] forward as a propitiation in His blood through faith, in order to demonstrate His righteousness.”
-Romans 3:25

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us– for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.’”
-Galatians 3:13

“It is those who cannot come to terms with any concept of the wrath of God who repudiate any concept of propitiation… It is God himself who in holy wrath needs to be propitiated, God himself who in holy love undertook to do the propitiating and God himself who in the person of his Son died for the propitiation of our sins. Thus God took his own loving initiative to appease his own righteous anger by bearing it his own self in his own Son when he took our place and died for us.”
-John Stott, The Cross of Christ, p. 167, 172

“God dealt with him as if he had been exceedingly angry with him, and as though he had been the object of his dreadful wrath. This made all the sufferings of Christ the more terrible to him, because they were from the hand of his Father, whom he infinitely loved… It was an effect of God’s wrath, that he forsook Christ. This caused Christ to cry out once and again, ‘My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?’”
–Jonathan Edwards, “Of Satisfaction for Sin” in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 2, p. 575

“Can you now think what a vast aggregate of misery there would have been in the sufferings of all God’s people, if they had been punished through all eternity? And recollect that Christ had to suffer an equivalent for all the hells of all His redeemed. I can never express that thought better than by using those oft-repeated words: it seemed as if Hell were put into His cup; He seized it, and, ‘At one tremendous draught of love, He drank damnation dry.’ So that there was nothing left of all the pangs and miseries of Hell for His people ever to endure. I say not that He suffered the same, but He did endure an equivalent for all this, and gave God the satisfaction for all the sins of all His people, and consequently gave Him an equivalent for all their punishment. Now can ye dream, can ye guess the great redemption of our Lord Jesus Christ?”
-Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “Particular Redemption”

“Jesus Christ our Lord, moved by a love that was determined to do everything necessary to save us, endured and exhausted the destructive divine judgment for which we were otherwise inescapably destined, and so won us forgiveness, adoption and glory. To affirm penal substitution is to say that believers are in debt to Christ specifically for this, and that this is the mainspring of all their joy, peace and praise both now and for eternity.”
-J. I. Packer, “What Did the Cross Achieve? The Logic of Penal Substitution,” Tyndale Bulletin 25 (1974): 25.

“The words of [Romans 3:25-26] afford an insight into the innermost meaning of the cross as Paul understands it… It involves nothing less than God’s bearing the intolerable burden of that evil Himself in the person of His own dear Son, the disclosure of the fullness of God’s hatred of man’s evil at the same time as it is its real and complete forgiveness.”
-C. E. B. Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans, 1:213-214


  • Daryl Little


    Aside from destroying the works of the devil, everything else you mentioned here is precisely about God’s wrath against sin.

    Christ was revealed to take away sins. Yes. But why? Because of God’s wrath against sin required payment, and in His great love, the Father sent the Son to make that payment, to the Father, in blood.
    The Passover lamb was originally to tell the angel of death, sent by the Father, to passover those houses so that the wrath of God would not harm them.
    From whom is our freedom bought? From the slavery of sin, an enslavement which was the curse put upon us by the Father. Why do we need freedom? Because all those in slavey to sin will face the wrath of God, except that His wrath against us was satisfied at the cross.

    Scripture, it seems to me, is clear that God’s wrath is directed against sin. And Christ became sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God.Why did He become sin? So that He might bear the Father’s wrath against our sin so that we might be spared.

    For that matter, the works of the devil are those very things to which we were consigned when Adam sinned in the garden. And who consigned us to them? The Father. Why did He come to destroy the works of the devil? So that the wrath the He will pour out onto those who do those works would be satisfied as regards His people. So that we would walk free.

    In the end it all really does come down to satisfying the wrath of God against sin because with out that wrath, no further payment needs to be made, and that is the good news of the gospel.

    One last thing. That “Christ Event”? Really? Sounds a little clinical to me. I’m probably being nit-picky, but Christ is the God-man, not an event. It’s true that the Son became the Christ. But it’s also true that the Christ still lives, as Christ.

    • Charles Page

      In the end it all really does come down to satisfying the wrath of God against sin because with out that wrath, no further payment needs to be made! no mediation of man! Only Christ mediation and that effectual! Where is the problem?

  • Chris Ryan

    I agree Bprjam. The Bible is inherently balanced–as you say, a mosaic. And I think the only scripture we need to prove that inherent balance is John 3:16, in which both Love and Wrath loom large.

    To some extent we’re all re-living the story of the Blind Men & the Elephant. We tend to focus on that which is closest to us & ignore the rest. The only thing we need to remember is that salvation is built on the entirety of the Bible & not the 1 or 2 verses which most closely reflect our personal biases. Because its those personal biases which Jesus came to save us from!

    Even as much as I believe in Propitiation, I rather doubt that Jesus will give us an exam on Propitiation vs Expiation when we arrive at the Pearly Gates. And since the thief on the cross couldn’t possibly have passed that exam–only 1 of these Scriptures Denny has kindly posted was even written when he died–Christ’s grace toward him bodes well for us. 🙂

    God bless everyone & have a nice weekend.

    • Daryl Little


      Your comment about the thief on the cross actually proves my point. All we can tell he understood was that he was a sinner who deserved what he was getting (and worse) and that Jesus could remove future punishment from him.
      He knew he was under wrath (“Don’t you fear God?”) and that Jesus could wave him.

      • Chris Ryan

        I agree with your interpretation Daryl, but I think there’s more than one valid interpretation. Propitiation isn’t just the the knowledge that Jesus will save us from our sins, but the specific understanding that He was our Sacrificial Lamb.

        In Luke 23:40-42, the thief certainly acknowledges his just condemnation, that Christ is the Son of God, and that Christ can save him. But he doesn’t acknowledge Christ as our Sacrificial Lamb as in Isaiah 53:10. Hence this sliver of dialogue could also support an Expiation theory. That is, it could be that the thief thought Jesus, because he was the Son of God, could forgive his sins irrespective of whether or not He died that day. In that case it was Christ’s “Life”–not his Death–that brought Expiation. And for him to have believed in Propitiation he would have had an understanding of Christ that exceeded the Apostles’ understanding at *that* time.

        Another way of answering is by way of a question: In the moment that the thief repented do you think Jesus cared if the thief understood the difference between Expiation & Propitiation? I mean Jesus asked God to forgive the centurions even though they didn’t repent & had no intention of ever doing so (Luke 23:34). Why, then, would He care if the thief understood Propitiation?

  • James Bradshaw

    Charles writes: “no further payment needs to be made!”

    Yet still there is Hell, yes? Don’t embrace the right doctrine or abide by a certain set of moral laws (that seem to change with every generation) and Christ’s sacrifice is for naught.

    After 40 years … the Christian message remains incoherent to me.

    We can’t do anything to “earn” salvation because Christ did everything, yet salvation hinges on cognitive works and refraining from doing this or that.

  • Scott Lencke

    Denny –

    I thought you might be interested in reading this article released by the PCUSA engaging with the criticism over leaving out “In Christ Alone”. I have no eggs in this basket, either for or against the PCUSA. I just thought you’d want to read some of their thoughts.


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