In today’s sermon, we are going to look at four different metaphors, or pictures, God has used to tell us what was accomplished at the cross. This sermon will expand your view of the cross so that you don’t look at just one dimension of it. 


Many passages in the Bible speak of justification (1 Cor. 6:11). Furthermore, the Bible writers 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 something about justification. 

Romans 4:1-8 put forth the example of Abraham being justified by faith. And then it puts forth the blessing pronounced by David upon those who are justified.

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? Based on the Old Testament, Paul makes it clear that Abraham was not justified by the works of the law; he was justified by faith (verse 3). 

How can God justify the ungodly? How can God justify sinners and still be righteous Himself? The answer to these questions comes through the cross of Christ. The answer comes in our next picture.


Galatians 3:13 speaks of our redemption. This verse tells us how 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 the price for our redemption. He gave His life for our lives.

Let’s read Romans 3:19-26. Verse 24 speaks of how we have redemption in Christ Jesus. We see the role of the law in verses 19, 20. The law tells us of our sin. It tells us of our failure 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 what the law could never do, weak as it was (Rom. 8:3). We are all sinners, and as such, we have all fallen short of the glory of God (verse 23). But according to verse 24, we are now, through Christ, “justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.”

Justification is a gift, 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, overlooking our transgressions which must be punished. Instead, He paid for our redemption through His blood. 


“Propitiation” may not be the most common word in your vocabulary, but it ought to be. 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 their sinful behavior. They believe they need to do something to appease this god. Often, an animal is sacrificed on an altar. This is called propitiation—turning God’s wrath away from you. God is no longer angry with you; rather, He is happy with you and ready to bless you. 

Yet for the biblical mind, propitiation is often understood as the “mercy-seat” of the sanctuary where God deals with humanity. Where once there was anger toward you because of your wrongdoing, now there is happiness and delight and joy in your relationship. In many religions, God is an angry God, but in Scripture, God dwells with man and, through His actions, allows humanity to have peace and forgiveness. This is a new picture of the cross—the God who dwelt with man in the wilderness “tabernacle” and died so that His anger might be taken away from our sin and poured into Christ the sacrifice (Isa. 53:10). At the cross, God’s anger at sin is no longer focused toward the sinner but toward Christ, and it is this realization of what God has done through Christ that will stir your soul to live for Him in great happiness (2 Cor. 5:15).

All of us are born “children of wrath” (Eph. 2:1). By nature we are objects of God’s anger (Eph. 2:1). God’s anger is toward those who reject Him and His ways (Col. 3:6; Rom. 1:18). And yet, the good news of the gospel is this: “For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 5:9, NIV). 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. That is what propitiation means—but it means more than that! Not only has God been satisfied by Christ’s sacrifice for us; He is happy with us, and His favor is disposed toward us. Propitiation transforms God’s disposition toward us.


Reconciliation brings us into the family. Like propitiation, reconciliation depicts a transformation. It speaks about the transformation from enemies to friends. 

Romans 5:6-11 (read). 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, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we 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 are weak and impotent. In verse 8, we are identified as “sinners.” This means that we are rebelling against the Lord. In verse 10, Paul describes us 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 of reconciliation used in the Bible goes beyond merely being at peace with God. It’s not only that we are no longer fighting with each other; rather, there is a genuine relationship with God that is built upon love. 

Part of our reconciliation to God is adoption. Reconciliation brings us close, into God’s family (Gal. 4:4-7). God not only redeems us and declares us righteous, but He also brings us into His family.

There are four pictures to describe the work of Jesus upon the cross: justification, redemption, propitiation, and reconciliation. May we rejoice in all that God has accomplished for us in the cross of Christ.

General Conference Ministerial Association