Today is Resurrection Sunday. It's the day in which we, as a church, celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead. We celebrate this day because His resurrection has gained us life. But, Jesus never could have raised from the dead, had he not first died upon the cross. And everything that Jesus accomplished through His resurrection, He accomplished because of the cross of Christ. Through faith in the complete work of Christ--His death, burial, and resurrection--we have forgiveness of sins. Through faith in Christ's death for us, we have peace with God and are made right with God. And in this, we rejoice.
Furthermore, every blessing that we have in the resurrection comes because of what Jesus accomplished on the cross. This resurrection morning, I want for us to focus upon the blessings we have because of the cross of Christ, which was vindicated in His resurrection. The blessings are many.
one of the things that has amazed me through the years is the way in which God has communicated to us everything that took place on the cross. See, when God communicated to us what He accomplished for us at Calvary, He used many metaphors to describe what was going on. It's not like forgiveness is the only thing that was going on at the cross. There was also redemption. Upon the cross, Jesus was paying a price. There was also appeasement. Through His blood, Jesus satisfied the wrath of God. There was also a declaration. God declared us righteous through our faith in Christ. There was also a reconciliation that took place through the cross. We who were God's enemies have become His friends.
This morning, we are going to look at the cross from four different angles. We are going to look at four different metaphors that God has used to tell us of what was accomplished at the cross. We will look at four different pictures that God has given us. My aim this morning in my message is to expand your view of the cross, so you don't merely look at it one dimensionally. God has not communicated one dimensionally to us. Down through the ages, theologians have run into error, because they have looked at the cross from one angle and have maximized it to the diminishing of others. May the LORD help us to see the cross in all it's splendor and majesty this morning. 
Let's focus our attention upon the first picture. It's called,
I take you into the courtroom. Picture, if you will, a judge upon the bench. Swing to the left and you will see the jury, who will hear your case. After all of the testimony comes in, they will exit the courtroom and deliberate your case behind close doors. When they come out, they will hand their verdict to the bailiff, who will then, hand it to the judge. He will read the verdict, innocent of all wrongdoing, or guilty as charged. Depending upon the verdict rendered, you are either set free, or you are punished according to your crime.
The details of your case comes before the judge and jury. You were in the wrong place at the wrong time. For some reason, you were holding a gun. For some other reason, you pulled the trigger and the bullet that came out of that gone struck someone in the head, so that they died quickly. You stand before the judge and jury, who hear the evidence in the case. After a short deliberation, they determine that you are guilty. You are thrown into prison, and placed on death row. Your execution will come any day now.
However, in your stead, family members have been pleading with the President of the United States. Some how, and in some way, the President takes interest in your case. By a shear act of mercy, he grants you a pardon. You are free to go! The pardon is the legal declaration that you are declared to be innocent. You won't be put to death for this crime. Never can the state come against you with this crime anymore. You don't need to spend any more time in prison as a result of this crime. You are free and forgiven and given life to live again!
This is the imagery described in your release is similar to what God has done in the cross of Christ. As you believe in Jesus and His atoning work, God pronounces you righteous. Thereby justifying you in His sight. This is justification. Justification is the act by which God declares you to be righteous in His sight, free from all guilt. Condemnation would be the opposite, whereby God declares you guilty and fit for the appropriate punishment that comes with your sin. But, we who believe, enjoy the blessing of justification.
There are many passages in the Scriptures that speak of our justification. For instance, "You were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 6:11). Furthermore, The Scriptures foresaw that "God would justify the Gentiles by faith" (Gal. 3:8). We are "justified by His grace (Titus 3:7). We could go to any of these passages and learn a bit about justification. But, this morning, we are going to go Romans, chapter 4. The first eight verses in this chapter put forth the example of Abraham in being justified by faith. And then, it puts forth the blessing pronounced by David upon those who are justified.
What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, and whose sins have been covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account."
Regarding Abraham, the question that Paul deals with here is the question of how Abraham was justified. Was he made righteous before God based upon his own righteousness? Or, was there another way? According to verse 2, "if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. If God declared Abraham to be righteous based upon his works, then Abraham could go around to all and say, "Look at me! Look at my righteousness! I'm standing before God as innocent, because of my righteousness." But, Paul makes it clear, based upon the Old Testament, that Abraham was not justified by the works of the law, but justified by faith. In verse 3, we read, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness."
This is where the pardon imagery of the president in the illustration I gave earlier works so well. See, Abraham's righteousness was not innate. In other words, it was not in him. God didn't infuse him with a righteousness to make him a righteous man before God. Rather, he was a sinner like us all. He was the man holding the smoking gun, guilty as charged. But, God made a declaration. He declared that Abraham's faith would be taken in and considered to be righteousness. Indeed, all that Abraham had was faith. He didn't have righteousness that he could bring to the LORD. And yet, God saw that faith and apportioned it back to Abraham as righteousness. This is similar to the pardon pronounced by the president of the United States. That you are guilty as charged is evident. The jury found beyond a reasonable doubt that you had indeed pulled the trigger, and that it was your bullet that killed your victim. But, the issue here in the presidential pardon isn't your guilt. It's the president's declaration. So likewise here. The issue isn't the righteousness of Abraham. Rather, the issue is God's declaration of righteousness, which God imputes to Abraham.
As you continue on through the logic of verses 4 and 5 you read this, "Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness..." Every employee knows this. You put in eight hours of work, and you expect to receive back eight hours of pay. You don't receive your paycheck from your employer and say, "Wow! Thank you for your generosity! I really appreciate this paycheck. Thank you for your kindness." On the contrary, you say, "I appreciate how you have given me my wages. Thank you for giving me what is due. You have faithfully fulfilled your end of the agreement that we have had with each other. I worked for you and you paid me." But, regarding Abraham (and us), our justification is not based upon our work. It's based upon God's grace. It's based upon His kindness to us, merely because we believed in Him. That's the way God works. He is a pardoning God to those who believe.
And our response to His justifying declaration is one of great blessing. This is what David spoke about in Psalm 32. Paul wrote, "Just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: 'Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, and whose sins have been covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account'" (Rom. 4:6-8).
Do you realize the blessing of God's justifying work in your life? You were on death row, but, by God's heavenly declaration, He has pardoned your guilt, and you go free. There is great blessing in that. The reason why we are here this morning is because many of us know God's blessing upon our lives. When we realize that our lawless deeds have been forgiven, our sins have been covered, our sins will not be imputed to us, it has a great freeing effect upon our lives. It is soul-liberating. It is joy-giving! It is love-producing! And there is nothing more than we want, then to worship and praise our Lord for His great kindness to us.
Now, at this point, there are some who will cry foul. How can God do this? How can God merely say that we are righteous, and consider it so, when, in fact, it's really a lie, because we aren't righteous? We are still sinful. To these people, Romans 3:28 is a travesty, "We maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law." This is the glories of the gospel! Our standing before God isn't because of our own works of righteousness. Rather, our standing before God comes only because we believe in Him, and He then declares us righteous. But some say, "How can God justify the ungodly? How can God justify sinners and still be righteous, Himself?" The answer to this question comes through the cross of Christ. The answer comes in our next picture.
We have seen justification in the courtroom. And now, let's turn
our hearts to look at another picture of the cross. It's represented by the
The picture of redemption takes us to the marketplace. You go the grocery store to purchase an item. You have in your hand a coupon that says, "Buy one, get one free." And so, when you come to the counter, you put two boxes of Wheaties on the counter. You purchase one of the boxes with your money, and then, with the coupon, you "redeem" the other. That's what redemption means. It means, "to buy" or "to buy back." You have paid the price for your item. Your price has redeemed your Wheaties.
Redemption can come another way as well. Your daughter has been kidnapped. The kidnappers have contacted you and demanded from you $1 million. You love your daughter. You arrange for the payment to be made. You "redeem" you daughter, buying her back, paying the ransom, with the $1 million, that you have obtained through an insurance company. (And then, you hope to catch the kidnappers and get your money back). Or, you can redeem a slave. In old America, the slaves were up on the auction block, being sold to the highest bidder. When once the slave was purchased, he could be redeemed by letting him go free.
All of these pictures present well the idea of redemption. You pay money to redeem what you want. This is a metaphor that God has often used in the Bible to describe Christ's work. Many, many passages talk about Christ redeeming us. Jesus, Himself said that He came to came to the earth "to give His life a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45). Paul echoed this throughout his epistles. One such location is found in Titus 2:14, "[Jesus] gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify a people for His own possession." Peter spoke of our redemption. 1 Peter 1:18, "You were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ."
One of the best passages in all of the Bible that speaks of our redemption comes in Galatians 3:13, "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.'" This verse tells us of how it is that Christ redeemed us. He redeemed us by hanging on the cross. His death upon the cross became the payment for our sins. And in this way, God is just in forgiving us by faith, because He paid our redemption price. He paid His life for our life. We see this back in Romans, chapter 3. Consider the following passage:
Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin. But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
Now, we aren't going to dig into all of these verses this morning. But, our word, comes there in verse 24, where it speaks of how we have redemption in Christ Jesus. To catch up to that word, we see the role of the law in verses 19-20. The law tells us of our sin. It tells us of our failures to please the Lord. It tells us that no flesh will ever be justified in God's sight through the law. But in verse 21, we see Christ breaking in. He came in apart from the law. He came in to do for us that the law could never do, weak as it was (Rom. 8:3). We were all sinners. As such we have all fallen short of the glory of God (verse 23). But now, through Christ, according to verse 24, we are "justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus."
Notice here that our justification is a gift. It's a gift of God's grace. But, it comes through the redemption of Christ. Though it is free for us, it isn't free for God. It cost Him infinitely. It cost Him the blood of His Son. Though we are justified by faith, it's not as if God is unjust, merely overlooking our transgressions which must be punished. Instead, He paid for our redemption through His blood.
It wasn't only our redemption that He paid for through His blood. In the cross, Jesus Christ paid for the redemption of all of those Old Testament saints, who He had justified by faith. This is addressed in verse 25, "In the forbearance of God, He passed over the sins previously committed." When Paul spoke about "the sins previously committed" in verse 25, He was talking about the sins of the Old Testament saints. God had merely looked over those sins, because He knew that there would be a payment in the future. Thus, through the redemption of Christ, God is able to be "just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus" (Rom. 3:26).
God is just in the sense that a payment was made. Christ redeemed us through His blood. God is the justifier in the sense that He applies the blood of Christ to our account. And all of those who cry "foul" to God's declaration of righteousness of a sinner, don't fully understand that the price was paid. Our lives have been redeemed through Christ. It's the accounting on the back end that works it all out.
Since we are talking pictures here this morning, it's a bit like this. You have a friend who owns a bike shop He knows that you are interested in purchasing a bicycle for your son, but you are dealing with the financial struggles of the day. One evening, you are sitting in your home, spending a quiet evening with your family. The phone rings, and you answer it. Upon the phone is the owner of the bike shop. He says, "I know your situation. I want to give you the bike that you are looking at for your son." All you need to do is show up at the bike shop at 9 o'clock in the morning to claim your bike. When you bring your bike to the counter, simply say, "Bob will take care of it."
So, you arrive at the bike shop at 9:00 in the morning. You find the bike that your son wants. You take it to the counter and say to the clerk, "Bob will take care of it." You take the bike and leave. Now, to any bystander, such events might seem strange. It might even appear to them that you are stealing the bike, taking it without paying for it. But, in actuality, the price was paid on the back end. The boss redeemed the bicycle. You get your gift and he pays the price. That's the picture of the cross that comes in this word, redemption. Christ paid for our sins and bought us. So, now we come to our third picture this morning.
We have seen justification in the courtroom. We have seen redemption in the marketplace. Now, our third picture of the cross comes in the word, ...
This word may not be the most common word in your vocabulary, but it ought to be. I heard one man say that his entire seminary education was worth the price of coming to know the meaning of this word. So, it would be well for you at this moment to pay attention. It shows up right here in verse 25 of Romans 3, "... whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith."
The imagery of propitiation takes us into the religious world. It takes us to a shrine, where nearly every religion in the world can relate, including Old Testament Judaism. Every religion deals with the question of our standing before God. Many of the world religions see their god as being angry with them because of some sinful behavior that they did. They need to do something to appease this god. Often, a sacrifice is offered. An animal is taken, and burnt upon an altar. The thought is that with such sacrifices, their gods will be appeased. With such sacrifices, the worshiper is trusting that their god will pleased with them, and begin to bless them. This is called propitiation, turning the wrath of God away from you. God is no longer angry with you. Rather, he is happy with you, and ready to bless you.
Since we don't live among people who are offering sacrifices to their gods, we can turn to another arena to catch the picture of this word. I want to take you to the highway. Imagine yourself driving down the road. With many things on your mind, you aren't paying much attention to the signs along side the road. Your speed is getting faster and faster, beyond what the Speed Limit signs say. As you are distracted, you didn't realize that there was a traffic jam in front of you. In fact, the cars in front of you were at a dead stop. When you realized this, you slammed on your brakes, ... rrrrrrrrr, CSHHHHHHHH.
You pretty much destroyed the front end of your car and the back end of the car in front of you. Now, fortunately, nobody was hurt. Unfortunately, the guy in the car that you hit became very angry. He jumped out of his car and ran back toward your car in a rage. "What have you done! You have destroyed my brand new Lamborghini! I purchased it for $300,000. And now look at it! It's ruined!" Pretty soon, he begins to attack you, physically. He begins to beat you up. It's only because of the gracious help of those around you to pull this man off of you, that you didn't end up in the hospital. Such is his hatred against you.
A few days later, he receives a call from your insurance company. The representative from the insurance company told this man that they were going to make things right with this accident. They would replace his Lamborghini. Furthermore, they told him that they would match any expenses that he incurred as a result of this accident. They will pay for his rental car, until his new Lamborghini arrives in the country, even if he chooses to rent a Lamborghini. They will pay for any travel costs associated with going to Italy and making sure that his new car is made exactly according to his specifications. Any upgrades that he wanted to make in the car would be met by the insurance company as well.
Soon afterwards, you receive a phone call from this man. First of all, he apologized for his anger expressed toward you. He wanted to make sure that you knew of how things turned out. He told you of how he had received a phone call from your insurance company, and that all is fine now. He told you of the lengths to which the insurance company has gone to make sure that everything was going to be replaced. In fact, he seemed genuinely delighted with the way that things turned out. He likes the upgrades that he's receiving. And he especially likes that fact that he's getting a new color which he really wanted when he purchased his original automobile. For some reason, the red that he wanted unavailable at the time he purchased his car, but now he'll be able to obtain what he really wants. He is fully satisfied. No anger is left in this man.
That is the meaning of the word, propitiation. Where once there was anger toward you because of a wrong doing, now there is happiness and delight and joy in your relationship. If you really grasp the reality of this picture of the cross, it will be the source of great joy for you in your life. That God is no longer angry with me, but happy with me in Christ, will stir your soul to live for Him in great happiness of heart (2 Cor. 5:15).
The Scripture is clear about God's wrath toward us. All of us are born "children of wrath" (Eph. 2:1). By nature we are objects of His wrath (Eph. 2:1). God's anger is toward those who reject Him and reject His ways. "The wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience" (Col. 3:6). "The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men" (Rom. 1:18). And yet, the good news of the gospel is that "God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thess. 5:9). And we obtain our salvation through Jesus Christ, who appeased the wrath of God, by becoming a propitiation in His blood (Rom. 3:25).
Christ Jesus has satisfied the wrath of God. This is what propitiation means. But, it means more than that. Not only has God been satisfied by the sacrifice of Christ for us. He is happy with us and His favor is disposed toward us. He is ready to bless us, sinners though we be. Propitiation transforms God's disposition to us. While once God was angry with us, God is now pleased with us in Christ. The scope of the change in God can be seen in our fourth word this morning. We have seen justification in the courtroom, redemption in the marketplace, and propitiation upon the religious altar. And now, we will look at ...
This brings us into the family. Again, like propitiation, this word depicts a transformation. It speaks about the transformation from enemies to friends.
Since we are talking about pictures this morning, I want to describe a scenario for you. You have two neighbors, who never really got along. They were complete opposites. One of the neighbors took meticulous care of his lawn. The other's law looked more like a junk yard than anything else. One of the neighbors liked it quiet, while the others like to host loud parties late into the night. This was particularly difficult for the other neighbors, especially because the husband left at 3am each morning for his job at the bakery. The amount of friction between these two neighbors was great.
There was the tree that had grown too big. It was hanging over the lot line and making the other neighbor worried. He requested for months that he trim the tree or cut it down. But, his requests were ignored. Then, on a particularly windy night, the tree was blown down onto the neighbor's home, causing extensive damage.
And then, there was the dog. The neighbors bought a dog to protect their house. They bought a rottweiler, much to the disapproval of one of the neighbors. The dog barked often at the neighbor's children, which caused them great fear. To keep the dog in, they had to build a fence around their yard, which, in effect, cut off all of the communication between the families. The last straw came when this dog got loose one day and attacked one of the neighbor's children, mauling it until it died.
No forgiveness or grace was ever extended! The animosity between these two neighbors only increased over the years. They vandalized each other's property. Once, one of the neighbors even set fire to the other's home, though it couldn't ever be proven. If ever there were enemies, these neighbors were enemies.
And, then, the reconciliation happened. A daughter of one of the neighbors fell in love with the son of another. Through a series of events, over a long period of time, these neighbors were eventually reconciled to each other, as the families were united in the marriage of two of the children. It's Romeo and Juliet with a happy ending. Would you meet them today and watch them interact, you would never know that they were ever enemies with each other. That's reconciliation--the restoring of a relationship. Where once there was discord, now there is peace. Where once there was animosity, now there is harmony.
That's a picture of something that took place in the cross of Christ. In order to see this in the Bible, I want for you to consider the following passage of Scripture.
For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
Paul moves through a progression. In verse 6, he identifies us as "helpless." This merely means that we were weak and impotent. In verse 8, it's a bit more serious. In that verse, we are identified as being "sinners." This means that we were rebelling against the Lord. In verse 10 it's a bit more serious yet. In that verse, we are described as being enemies of God. This means that our rebellion turned hostile against Him. And yet, the great reality of reconciliation is that we are now "reconciled to God through the death of His Son" (verse 10). This means that there is no more hostility between God and us. Through the cross of Christ, we are now at peace with God (5:1).
But, the imagery used in the Bible of reconciliation goes further than merely being at peace with God. It's not merely that we are no longer fighting with each other. Rather, there is a genuine relationship with God, built upon love. That's where the picture I painted earlier of the warring families is especially appropriate. God has taken people who were hostile with each other and made them family. God has brought us into His family by faith in Christ. The apostle John said it this way, "See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are!" ( 1 John 3:1). Elsewhere, the Bible uses the language of adoption. We have become His children, and now we can call God our "Abba," that is our "Daddy" (Rom. 8:16).
I love what J. I. Packer says about the reality of our reconciliation that culminates in adoption. He says, ...
Adoption ... is the highest privilege that the gospel offers: higher even than justification. ... That justification ... is the primary and fundamental blessing of the gospel is not in question. Justification is the primary blessing, because it meets our primary spiritual need. ... But this is not to say that justification is the highest blessing of the gospel. Adoption is higher, because of the richer relationship with God that it involves. ... Adoption is a family idea, conceived in terms of love, and viewing God as father. In adoption, God takes us into His family and fellowship, and establishes us as His children and heirs. Closeness, affection and generosity are at the heart of the relationship. To be right with God the judge is a great thing, but to be loved and cared for by God the father is a greater. 
A part of our reconciliation to God is adoption. Reconciliation brings us close, into God's family. Galatians 4:4-7 do well in describing this adoption, "When the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, so that He might redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons." We have become adopted into God's family as sons. As a result, we call Him "Abba" (Gal. 4:6). As a result, we are no longer slaves, but sons (Gal. 4:7). As such, there is love and affection in this family. God not only redeems us and declares us righteous, but He also brings us into His family.
I want to close my message this morning by giving you one last picture. It's the picture of the little orphan Annie. I know that most of you know the story of the Broadway musical. Annie was the little orphan girl, without parents. She was poor and lived in a dirty place run by mean Miss Hannigan, who treated all of the orphans poorly. Her clothes were shabby and her toys were few. Oliver Warbucks, on the other hand, had everything! He owned a multi-billion dollar industry. He lived in a mansion. He traveled the world. He had the ear of the president of the United States.
As the story goes, the relationship between Oliver Warbucks and Annie strengthens to the point that he eventually adopts little orphan Annie into his family. The finale of the play says it all. It describes the great blessing that's found in relationship, which once was apart, but is now together.
Together at last,
We're tying a knot,
That never can sever.
Annie: I'm poor as a mouse.
Warbucks: I'm richer than Midas.
But nothing on earth,
Could ever divide us.
I don't need anything but you.
This picture is excellent, because it describes us perfect. We were orphans, who God reconciled to Himself through the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.
Well, there are four pictures to describe the work of Jesus upon the cross: justification in the courtroom, redemption in the marketplace, propitiation at the religious shrine, and reconciliation in the family. May we rejoice this morning in all that God has accomplished for us in the cross of Christ.
This sermon was delivered to Rock Valley Bible Church
on April 12, 2009 by Steve Brandon.
For more information see www.rvbc.cc.
 At this point, I must acknowledge the seed of my sermon. In chapter 7 of his excellent book, The Cross of Christ, John Stott wrote of "The Salvation of Sinners." In so doing, he put forth the four pictures of the cross that I will use in my message this morning (though in a slightly different order). I found the chapter to be so helpful in truly grasping the full meaning of the cross, that I felt compelled to preach this message, that it might help others along the way.