We as humans are sinful and depraved so how can we ever hope to come before an awesome and holy God? There is only one bridge to God . . . and that is the cross of Jesus Christ. Have you walked across that bridge yet?
“The Wooden Memorial”
Memorial Day, also known as Decoration Day was originally established to commemorate the soldiers who died in the American Civil War. Later on, it was broadened to honor United States military who have died in war.
Memorials are not unique to American citizens.
Israel observes a Memorial Day as well to honor it’s dead.
Great Britain has recovered ancient documents that revealed memorial ceremonies for Viking warriors who died.
To this day, France celebrates Bastille Day, which commemorates it’s own civil revolution.
Two 10th century jelling stones – tall pillars covered with inscriptions - were discovered in Sweden, built by their last King in honor of his wife, Queen Thyre.
Memorial stones, memorial events, ceremonies, memorial buildings, statues and museums, reveal the nature of the human heart, the world over, to remember their heroes.
If you have the desire and enough money, you can join the International Star Registry and name a star after your loved one who’s died. Among other things, you get a framed picture of the constellation with your star circled in red. A dedication date, and telescopic coordinates of your star. Because these star names are copyrighted , future generations may identify the star name in the directory and locate the actual star you’ve named for your loved one in the sky. Since 1979, hundreds of thousands of stars have been named for celebrities, dignitaries and individuals worldwide. What a way to remember!
Perhaps the most famous of all American memorials is the Lincoln Memorial, located in Washington D.C. On one wall of the memorial is a mural depicting the unity of the northern and southern states. The Lincoln Memorial is a stunning building, designed to resemble a Greek temple. It has 36 Grecian columns, representing the number of States at the time of Lincoln’s death.
Without a doubt, the greater the hero, the more incredibly beautiful the memorial.
For the believer, however, the memorial of Christ, the hero of our salvation, is not a stone monument or a marble building with columns; it is a hill called Golgatha. The memorial of our gospel and the image of our liberation is a cross which bore the Lord Jesus on it’s wooden beams.
The Apostle Paul writes with great passion, “God forbid that I should glory in anything except the cross of Jesus Christ.”
If you were to visit the Lincoln Memorial, you would discover, inscribed on the south wall, the words of Lincoln’s Gettysburg address. Above those words you would see a mural depicting the angel of truth freeing the slaves.
There is a message in that mural . . . there is a message in that Memorial.
So also, according to the Apostle Paul, in Romans chapter 3 we discover that at the cross was also heard a declaration of liberating freedom.
The cross of Jesus Christ is a memorial to at least two great doctrinal truths. Bound up in words that are either all but forgotten, but at least, no longer understood.
There are two words that God intended to speak and be forever remembered at the cross.
Turn to Romans 3. I want to begin back in verse 23, where we left off last Lord’s day. 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, 25. whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith.”
The cross is an everlasting memorial of at least 2 things. You could circle the two words that I’ve just read . . . redemption and propitiation.
Paul writes in the last part of verse 24, “redemption which is in Christ Jesus.”
One author wrote that this one phrase could very well represent the theme of the entire Book of Romans.
Ralph Earle, Word Meanings in the New Testament (Baker Book House, 1974) p. 153
The word “redemption” is the Greek root word, lutrow which means to pay the price to set a prisoner free. It was also used to refer to the price paid to redeem a slave and loose him from his chains, or his bonds . . . to set him free.
We just sang the lyrics that refer to this aspect of redemption:
Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quick’ning ray,
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light,
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth and followed Thee.
In Galatians 5:1 Paul shouts with praise, “Christ has set us free.” Again in Galatians 5:13, “You were called to freedom.”
Jesus Christ had earlier promised, “You, believer, you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” (John 8:32)
Free from the guilt of sin; free from enslavement to sin; free from eternal punishment for sin; eventually, free from the presence of sin.
In the Old Testament, the Hebrew counterpart to lutrow is the word ga’al which means to redeem. The noun form is go’el which is translated “kinsman redeemer.”
There’s a wonderful romance story that’s been a best seller for years. The love story about a woman who loses her husband to an illness, loses everything she has and is reduced to begging and foraging in a foreign country just to survive. Then one day she meets her Prince Charming. A rich land baron who sweeps her off her feet, marries her and they live happily ever after. The name of the romance narrative is “The Book of Ruth.”
And Prince Charming is Boaz.
According to Old Testament law, if someone lost their share of land through debt or death, a relative could buy the property and possessions back again.
That relative would be called the go’el. The redeemer. The kinsman redeemer. And Boaz was a relative of Ruth’s father in law. He could follow Jewish law and redeem the estate and everything related to it . . . including Ruth.
The stipulations in the law for a kinsman redeemer were as follows:
- he had to be a relative of the family
- he had to be willing to redeem
- and he had to be able to come up with the redemption price
What a perfect picture of our Redeemer Jesus Christ.
He fulfilled those same three qualifications. (1) He became a relative of humanity by being born into the human race.
(2) He was willing to redeem humanity, and because He was also God, (3) He was capable of paying the eternal redemption price for all our sin.
The cross is a memorial to our Kinsman Redeemer.
He bought us out of slavery . . . impoverished beggars. And those who are redeemed by Him, become His bride. There will one day be the presentation of the bride – and a wedding reception – it’s called the marriage supper of our Bride Groom, the Lamb. It’s going to be a Northern wedding reception – a sit down meal. Not a Southern wedding reception where you get peanut’s and a plastic cup of punch. No, this will be a Northern style wedding reception. An expensive, sit down meal that cost somebody a fortune . . . which is one of the main reasons northerners don’t smile as much as southerners. . .they’re still paying for their kids wedding. Okay I’m outside the text at this point.
What I do know for sure, is that following our wedding reception with the Lamb, we’re gonna move into our new home that our Groom has prepared for us, and we will live happily ever after.
Well, that’s a little bit of what the word “redemption” means. Paul goes on in verse 25 . . . notice what he says, “Whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood.”
There’s a word we don’t use very much. Probably ‘cause we can’t pronounce it! I’ve never heard a sermon on propitiation.
But according to this text, the cross is not only a public memorial to our redemption, but a public memorial of propitiation.
It’s a word that means, simply put, “satisfaction.” It refers specifically to a sacrifice that endures the full and final demands of God’s holiness.
It’s the Greek root word, hilasmos (ilasmoV). It refers to the sacrifice that satisfies the wrath of God.
It’s appears again in I John 2:2. “For He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.”
John used it again in chapter 4 verse 10, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
The reason propitiation is all but forgotten, is simply because we’ve forgotten that God is holy and just and that He hates sin and will judge all mankind, for no sinner can satisfy God’s holy requirement.
So mankind has created religions that try to distract God . . . to win Him over with smiles and good deeds and baptisms and church memberships and a little money to boot. God’s so loving that we’re convinced those things will satisfy Him and buy our way into heaven. We’ll arrive and He’ll look at us and say, “Oh, I know you . . . you’ve done some nice things in your life . . . c’mon in.”
You see, my friends, we don’t understand propitiation anymore because we don’t understand the need for it. And we don’t understand the need for it because don’t understand God’s character.
Remember, Paul began this letter to the Romans by introducing us to, “the wrath of God.” (Romans 1:18)
In 1 Thessalonians 1:7, Paul refers to a future judgment as he writes, “The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God.”
Do you know God? Are you sure that when it comes to your sin, that His wrath and holy judgment will never fall on you? Are you sure you know God?
In Hebrews chapter 10 we read of that, “terrifying expectation of judgment, and the fury of a fire which will consume His adversaries.” Later in chapter 12, the author calls God a, “consuming fire.”
Most people like to think of God as a cozy fireplace or some mystical candlelight . . . not a consuming fire!
The truth is, there isn’t anything you can do to turn His fiery wrath away. Whatever you try won’t satisfy the consuming fire of His holiness.
The religions of the world put food on trays for their gods to see . . . they burn incense to their angry gods . . the do all sorts of things to try and appease their angry gods.
They are close to the truth – there is sin and humanity is in deep trouble and they intuitively know that some supreme, spiritual being is unhappy with their sin!
But they are, at the same time, far from the truth. For the one true God, who is angry with sin, provided the sacrifice to pay the penalty for sin.
That is the necessity and meaning of Christ’s blood becoming our propitiation. That means Jesus Christ was the sacrifice who endured to the end the wrath of God and satisfied God the Father’s just and holy wrath against sinful humanity.
Did it ever occur to you that Christianity is the only story of salvation where the God who was angry, was totally satisfied in an offering, that he provided Himself. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him, shall not perish (experience the wrath of God), but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
Ladies and Gentlemen, the cross of Christ is a monument, not only to the redemption of the believer, but the satisfaction of God.
For against Christ the fire of God’s holy wrath has already burned, and it will never burn again.
I’ve shared with you this illustration before, and I cannot think of a better one to illustrate propitiation, so let me tell it again.
I’ll never forget reading about one midwestern fire that swept across the prairie, devastating crops and houses, and anything else that stood in it’s path. One particular family saw the smoke a long ways off – it wasn’t long before they knew that they could never outrun it – they had nowhere to run or hide. Then the father did something – he ran and got a brand from the fireplace and started their field on fire – he knew it would be burnt soon enough – he also lit fires all around that area so that the wind swept the fire along a mile or so ahead of the coming prairie fire. Then he and his family drove their wagon tot he middle of their, now burned, field. There they stopped and waited – within a few moments that great wall of fire came to the edge of their field toward them. Finding nothing to feed it’s hunger, it licked it’s way around and along the sides of the field the farmer had already torched. Then that huge wall of flame picked it’s way back up on the other side of them and moved away.
They were safe. Why? Because they were standing on ground that had already been burned. That ground they were standing on was their propitiation. It had already endured the fire, satisfied it’s demands and thus, could not be burned again.
Do you know why you will never have to face the wrath of God in fiery judgment? Because you stand in Christ, He is your propitiation – and against Him the wrath of God has already burned, and in Him you the fire of God will never burn again.
Would you notice again verse 25, “Whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through . . . faith.”
There that word again. Not by works . . . but through faith. My friends, you are either facing the oncoming wrath of God’s fire, or you have exercised Sola Fide – faith alone in Christ – because you realize you have nothing in yourself to quench the fire of God’s holy judgment.
But instead, you have placed your faith in Christ, and since He has already endured the wrath of God, for your sake, now in Him – your propitiation – you are forever safe.
And isn’t it incredible?! The memorial to these great truths is not a memorial built with marble . . . Grecian columns . . . stately pillars of stone etched with royal inscriptions. No. Our memorial is made of wood, stained with the royal blood of God the Son.
And on that wooden cross hung the Son of God . . . the redeemer of all who believe . . . the satisfaction of God holy justice.