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J.I. Packer, from "The Heart of the Gospel" in Knowing God (also in In My Place Condemned He Stood, p. 32):

Has the word propitiation any place in your Christianity?

In the faith of the New Testament it is central.

The love of God [1 John 4:8-10], the taking of human form by the Son [Heb. 2:17], the meaning of the cross [Rom. 3:21-26], Christ's heavenly intercession [1 John 2:1-2], the way of salvation--all are to be explained in terms of it, as the passages quoted show, and any explanation from which the thought of propitiation is missing will be incomplete, and indeed actually misleading, by New Testament standards.

In saying this, we swim against the stream of much modern teaching and condemn at a stroke the views of a great number of distinguished church leaders today, but we cannot help that. Paul wrote, “Even if we or an angel from heaven”--let alone a minister, a bishop, college lecturer, university professor, or noted author--”should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!” (“accursed” KJV and RSV; “outcast” NEB; “damned” Phillips--Gal. 1:8). And a gospel without propitiation at is heart is another gospel than that which Paul preached.

The implications of this must not be evaded.

Packer approvingly quotes John Murray’s explanation of propitiation:

The doctrine of propitiation is precisely this: that God loved the objects of His wrath (the world) so much that He gave His own Son to the end that He by His blood should make provision for the removal of His wrath. It was Christ's so to deal with the wrath that the loved would no longer be the objects of wrath, and love would achieve its aim of making the children of wrath the children of God's good pleasure.

--John Murray, The Atonement (Philadelphia: P&R, 1962), p.

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6 thoughts on “A Gospel Without Propitiation at Its Heart”

  1. Sean McCausland says:

    hi Justin,
    When making a post like this, it would be helpful to include in another author’s quote (in this case Dr. Packer) what the definition of an important theological term is (in this case, propitiation).

    I am concerned that some Christians who look at this post, who are eager to learn but may not know their Bibles as well as they could or should, may be served less well because the def’n is not provided for them.

    Just a suggestion! Keep up the good work
    Sean McCausland

    1. Justin Taylor says:

      Thanks, Sean. Good point. I adjusted the post.

  2. Mathew Sims says:

    Amazing grace! These quotations were gospel celebrations for my weary soul.

  3. While there is an expiation aspect to the atonement which the Moderates of the faculty at my seminary justly insisted )back in the 70s), there is also that aspect of propitiation that has in it the satisfaction of the just claims of God. This the Moderates and so-called Liberals often ignored. All of which fails to discern the wickedness of sin. There is a madness in the heart of man, and it is there until the day of death, when, if unredeemed, it goes to its eternal reward. This past week a local case has been in the news; it involves the sexual abuse and murder of an infant. The reprehensible and heinous nature of such acts can scarcely be neglected in any discussion of the reality of sin and evil and of the extreme measures which the Bible reveals concerning God’s efforts to deal with such vileness, including and especially so the propitiatory nature of atonement/redemption. The idea of a heart of darkness stops short of displaying the real truth about a heart of death and depravity, and the extremity of madness calls for meaure of mediation that respects the ultimate claims of justice, something the refusal to acknowledge the truth of propitiation does not.

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Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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