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Jesus paid the price for my having missed God’s goal (aka sin) for my life. A penalty had to be paid. Jesus paid it for me.

Salvation is free, but it is not cheap. Three words express the price God paid for our salvation: propitiation, redemption, and blood. In human terms, “propitiation” means appeasing someone who is angry, usually by a gift. But this is not what it means in the Bible. “Propitiation” means the satisfying of God’s holy Law, the meeting of its just demands, so that God can freely forgive those who come to the Messiah. The word “blood” tells us what the price was. Jesus had to die on the cross in order to satisfy the Law and justify lost sinners.

The best illustration of this truth is the Jewish Day of Atonement described in Leviticus 16. Two goats were presented at the altar, and one of them was chosen for a sacrifice. The goat was slain, and its blood taken into the holy of holies and sprinkled on the mercy seat, that golden cover on the ark of the covenant. This sprinkled blood covered the two tablets of the Law inside the ark. The shed blood met (temporarily) the righteous demands of the holy God.

The priest then put his hands on the head of the other goat and confessed the sins of the people. Then the goat was taken out into the wilderness and set free to symbolize the carrying away of sins. “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us” (Ps. 103:12). In the Old Testament period, the blood of animals could never take away sin; it could only cover it until the time when Jesus would come and purchase a finished salvation. God had “passed over” the sins that were past (Rom. 3:25, literal translation), knowing that His Son would come and finish the work. Because of His death and resurrection, there would be “redemption”—a purchasing of the sinner and setting him free.

Dr. G. Campbell Morgan was trying to explain “free salvation” to a coal miner, but the man was unable to understand it. “I have to pay for it,” he kept arguing. With a flash of divine insight, Dr. Morgan asked, “How did you get down into the mine this morning?” “Why, it was easy,” the man replied. “I just got on the elevator and went down.”

Then Morgan asked, “Wasn’t that too easy? Didn’t it cost you something?”

The man laughed. “No, it didn’t cost me anything; but it must have cost the company plenty to install that elevator.” Then the man saw the truth: “It doesn’t cost me anything to be saved, but it cost God the life of His Son.”

God must be perfectly consistent with Himself. He cannot break His own Law or violate His own nature. “God is love” (1 John 4:8), and “God is light” (1 John 1:5). A God of love wants to forgive sinners, but a God of holiness must punish sin and uphold His righteous Law. How can God be both “just and the justifier”? The answer is in Jesus the Messiah.

When Jesus suffered the wrath of God on the cross for the sins of the world, He fully met the demands of God’s Law, and fully expressed the love of God’s heart. The animal sacrifices in the Old Testament never took away sin; but when Jesus died, He reached all the way back to Adam and took care of those sins. No one (including Satan) could accuse God of being unjust or unfair because of His seeming passing over of sins in the Old Testament time.

  • Romans 3:25 —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.
  • Hebrews 2:17 —Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
  • Isaiah 6:7 —He touched my mouth with it and said, “Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven.”
  • Exodus 32:30 —On the next day Moses said to the people, “You yourselves have committed a great sin; and now I am going up to the Master, perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.”
  • Leviticus 4:27–31 — ‘Now if anyone of the common people sins unintentionally in doing any of the things which the Master has commanded not to be done, and becomes guilty, if his sin which he has committed is made known to him, then he shall bring for his offering a goat, a female without defect, for his sin which he has committed. ‘He shall lay his hand on the head of the sin offering and slay the sin offering at the place of the burnt offering. ‘The priest shall take some of its blood with his finger and put it on the horns of the altar of burnt offering; and all the rest of its blood he shall pour out at the base of the altar. ‘Then he shall remove all its fat, just as the fat was removed from the sacrifice of peace offerings; and the priest shall offer it up in smoke on the altar for a soothing aroma to the Master. Thus the priest shall make atonement for him, and he will be forgiven.
  • Proverbs 16:6 —By lovingkindness and truth iniquity is atoned for, And by the fear of the Master one keeps away from evil.