Reflections on the Cross for Worship by John Frame and Steve Childers

April 11, 2020 — Leave a comment


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?

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