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Editor Note: These reflections on the cross are excerpts from the upcoming Applied Theology Series course and book by Frame and Childers on the biblical doctrine of propitiation.


Why did Jesus and Paul speak so much about God’s wrath? Because they understood that we would never know the depth of God’s love for us in the gospel until we first knew the depth of God’s wrath poured out on Christ for us in the cross.

The cross of Christ is meant to be a constant, vivid reminder to us that God’s holy justice requires Him to pour out his wrath against all sin. Because God is holy he cannot be neutral regarding evil. Instead God must be strongly and personally active in opposition to all evil. 

God was able to create the world out of nothing by just the power of his word. But God is not able to forgive us by just “deciding” to forgive us. God’s righteous nature demands that sin be punished with the full outpouring of his wrath. Before God can forgive his just demands must be met. Jesus met those demands for us on the cross.

The Father struck Jesus with the full blow of his wrath and judgment that we deserve. It was on the cross that Jesus, who had for all eternity looked into the loving face of God His Father, was separated from his love and looked into God’s face as his wrathful Judge and experienced the full agony and punishment that we deserve. 

God’s righteous nature demands that sin be punished with the full outpouring of his wrath. Before God can forgive his just demands must be met. Jesus met those demands for us on the cross.

Through the cross of Christ God means to draw out of our souls fervent praise to him for delivering us from the fire of God’s wrath to come (1 Thess 1:10). 

Hear the good news of the Gospel: God’s love for you is not because you are without sin but because you are a sinner for whom Christ died. Your faith rests not on what you do or don’t do but in what Christ has done for you on the cross. “Between you and the thunderclouds of God’s coming wrath stands the cross” (J.I. Packer). 

Leon Morris writes, “Unpalatable though it may be, our sins, my sins, are the object of God’s wrath. We must realize that every sin is displeasing to God and that unless something is done about the evil we have committed we face ultimately nothing less than the divine anger.”

The holy justice of God displayed in the cross is meant by God not only to humble you but also to become the anchor of your soul. 

If God is just and you are outside of Christ that means that God must punish you. He cannot do anything but punish you. But the Good News is that since Jesus has already been punished for you on the cross, this means that God cannot punish you! In fact if God punished you now for your sin that would make God unjust–because God cannot demand double payment for the one debt that Jesus has already paid in full. That would be double jeopardy.

The holy justice of God displayed in the cross is meant by God not only to humble you but also to become the anchor of your soul. 

Leon Morris writes, “Part of what Christ did on the cross was propitiation, the taking of such action that wrath no longer works against us. He had made the offering that turns away wrath and as we put our trust in Him we need fear it no more. This means a wonderful assurance of peace for the Christian. In the end we have nothing to fear, for ‘He is the propitiation for our sins.” 

If you have faith in Christ God’s wrath can never touch you. This means you are no longer awaiting a future verdict from God regarding your sin. The verdict has already been made. You are forgiven and loved in Christ forever because of the cross. 

The story is told of a time when a father and his daughter were walking through the grass on an open prairie. In the distance they saw a prairie fire, which would soon engulf them. The father knew there was only one way of escape. They must quickly build a fire right where they were and burn a large patch of grass. When the huge prairie fire drew near, they could stand on the section that had already burned. When the flames did approach them, the girl was terrified, but father assured her, “The flames cannot get to us. We are standing where the fire has already been.” The good news to all who trust in Christ is that you will be standing where the flames of God’s judgment have already been. You will be standing in Christ under the cross. 

When Jesus cried out on the cross “It is finished”, he declared that the provision for your forgiveness with God was complete. Nothing more needs to be done. Nothing more can be done. Except for you to hear it, believe it and begin to boast in it, responding from your heart with the prayers of the hymn writer: 

When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of glory died, My richest gain I count but loss and pour contempt on all my pride…Were the whole realm of nature mine, That were a present far to small; Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all.

APPLIED THEOLOGY LEADS TO DOXOLOGY:

True theology should always lead us to doxology. Allow this gospel promise of propitiation to lead you to worship the Promisor – our Triune LORD – for who He is and what He has done for us in Christ.

  • A Mind for Truth: What does the promise of propitiation mean? 
  • A Life for Ministry: How does God’s promise of propitiation apply to real life? 
  • A Heart for God: How does this promise of propitiation lead you to worship our Triune LORD?

We help underserved church leaders develop churches that transform lives and communities

The young John Frame teaching at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia

Dr. John M. Frame has distinguished himself as a prolific author and one of America’s foremost theologians and philosophers—significantly shaping the thought of Evangelicalism today. Many of today’s most influential Christian leaders and authors, like Tim Keller and John Piper, readily acknowledge the significant impact John Frame has had on them.

“I should like to think that tomorrow’s Reformed leaders will add John Frame’s name to that list; I believe they should.” – J. I. Packer

Commenting on the continuation of protestant reformation theology since the time of Martin Luther and John Calvin, J. I. Packer writes in his foreword to Frame’s Systematic Theology:

“Three parts of the world have since made major contributions to the Reformed heritage, each engendering its own conflicts and loyalties:

  • England saw the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Puritan development, from William Perkins to John Owen, exploring life in Christ in and through the Holy Spirit;
  • nineteenth-century Holland produced the Kuyperian theology of human and Christian culture within a Reformed frame; 
  • and the twentieth-century witnessed, within the conservative Presbyterian world, the ongoing quest for Reformed methodological authenticity, in which B. B, Warfield, Geerhardus Vos, J. Gresham Machen, and Cornelius Van Til are, by common consent, the leading names.

I should like to think that tomorrow’s Reformed leaders will add John Frame’s name to that list; I believe they should.”

After 49 years of distinguished service as a seminary professor at three seminaries, Dr. John Frame retired in 2017. But his influential writing ministry continues today. Although widely known and deeply respected in church leadership and academic circles for decades, his works are now, finally, becoming well known to the general public.

Framing John Frame: 4 Parts

With the goal of helping introduce Frame and his writings more widely to the general public, Childers wrote this four-part series below called “Framing John Frame,” that was later published as the foreword for the book, John Frame’s Selected Shorter Writings, Volume 1, by P&R Publishing. The goal of this series is to help more people begin mining the rich theological, philosophical, and practical gems that have for too long been mostly in the hands of academics and church leaders.


The Applied Theology Project

Since 2016, John Frame and Steve Childers have been collaboration on the Applied Theology Project. The mission of the Applied Theology Project is to provide accessible, affordable, seminary-level courses to underserved church leaders in their language and adapted to their culture wherever they live and serve.

The vision for the Applied Theology Project is to use the latest advances in educational technology to help bring all the loci of Systematic Theology to the millions of church leaders, especially in the developing world, who have no access or cannot afford high quality traditional seminary education. – John Frame

Childers and Frame have published their first two online courses with parallel ebooks, called Foundations of Theology and Essentials in Theology – on the Pathway Learning online library of courses. And they’ve completed writing the manuscripts for the next 3 courses and books – including “Perspectives in Theology” now in production.


We help under-served church leaders
develop churches that transform lives and communities.






Watch This New Video

The mission of the Applied Theology Project is to provide accessible, affordable, seminary-level courses to underserved church leaders in their language, for their culture, and where they live.

In this video, professors John Frame and Steve Childers combine their 70+ years in systematic theology (49) and practical theology (22) to help you apply theology to your life and ministry.

In this 6-part series you will:

  • Understand the nature and goal of theology
  • Learn to see God as Creator, Redeemer, and Holy
  • Explain the significance of God’s personal name as LORD
  • Describe God’s transcendence and immanence
  • Define God’s communicable and incommunicable attributes
  • Illustrate how God’s Lordship is revealed in and through you

This brief video (7:27) will help you better know God as Lord in all areas of life through the study of Scripture.

Take Pathway’s New Course on Applied Theology Today!

Registration closes June 15

We help underserved church leaders
develop churches that transform lives and communities.