Should we sing these words on Good Friday and at Easter? They are these words “‘Til on that cross as Jesus died, The wrath of God was satisfied.” They are from the beautiful hymn “In Christ Alone.” Many people would say “Why not sing them? They express exactly what happened on that first Good Friday.” God’s wrath towards sin was satisfied by the death of Jesus as He bore the sin of the world on the cross.
Others are very reticent in using the term “wrath” in relation to God. Some of these people stress God’s unconditional love to such an extent that there is no place for such a concept as the “wrath” of God.
However you cannot appreciate the holiness of God until you understand the sinfulness of sin and vice-versa. Neither can you understand the incredible self-giving love of God until you realise the incredible wrath He has towards the damage that human sin does in bringing hurt, shame and pain into the lives of other humans. Sometimes His wrath is described as the reverse side of His love. His love is freely offered to all but the rejection of His love is the personal rejection of a loving, living gracious Creator God by miniscule (in comparison to Him) rebellious created beings. Each person is fully responsible before Him for their attitude to Him. Each individual is responsible for what they do with Jesus whom God sent to be the Saviour of the world.
That’s why those words “‘Til on that cross as Jesus died, The wrath of God was satisfied” are so challenging. Jesus’ death on the cross was eternally planned to be the way that God’s wrath would be poured out on human sin so that sinners might be forgiven through faith in Him. Jesus was indeed “the lamb who was slain from the creation of the world” Rev 13:8. Anglican teaching stresses this truth in Article 31 of the 39 Articles of Religion which states, “Of the one Oblation of Christ finished upon the Cross. The Offering of Christ once made is that perfect redemption, propitiation, and satisfaction, for all the sins of the whole world, both original and actual; and there is none other satisfaction for sin, but that alone.”
The word “propitiation” used in the above Article 31 is used twice in the New Testament to describe Jesus’ death on the cross. It is the Greek word hilasmós (ἱλασμός) used in these verses, 1Jn 2:2 “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” and 1 Jn 4:10, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” The word has the meaning of removal of sin by the single sacrifice of Christ on the cross, but also involves the possibility of restoration of relationship. Thus God’s wrath was poured out on human sin as Jesus bore the sin of the world and His death was sufficient to satisfy the demands of God’s justice and love.
However it is important to note that God’s forgiveness can only be found and obtained in Christ Himself. As Paul put it in Eph 1:7, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight.” Those who do not believe in Jesus nor receive Him are not “in Christ.” As such they are not redeemed or forgiven until they accept Christ as Saviour and receive forgiveness in Him. As John recorded, Joh 3:36 “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”
Does it mean that the wrath of God remains on those who do not believe in or obey Jesus? If words mean anything at all, then it means precisely that. But they can avert the wrath by receiving Christ as Saviour and obeying Him as Lord. As Paul wrote in Romans 8:1, “There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus our Lord.” They are acquitted, justified as they believe in Him. As another verse in the hymn “In Christ Alone” reminds us, the death of Jesus was followed by His resurrection from the dead and we can be set free from the penalty and power of sin as we trust in His sacrificial death for us.
“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.”
Blog No. 208. Jim Holbeck. Posted on Thursday 13th April 2017