Why Christians Should Learn Big Words

Christians should learn big words.

No, not big words like extemporaneous or preponderous or perspicacious. Although it might not be a bad idea. I mean words like propitiation, atonement, substitution, reconciliation.

Why learn these big words? To impress folks at parties or prayer meetings? “So as I was driving my Jag to my stock broker’s house, I was just so thankful for penal substitution.”

We should learn certain biblical and theological words because they will help us love God more. They will help us appreciate the depths of what he’s done for us, in turn fueling our love for him and joy in him.

Take, for example, “propitiation.” It’s one of the most important concepts in the New Testament. Why?

Our biggest problem is sin, for sin brings the wrath of a just and holy God upon us. Though sin ruins relationships, destroys our peace of mind, and enslaves us, the worst thing about it is that it brings God’s righteous, furious anger upon us.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth (RO 1.18).

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him (JN 3.36).

God’s righteous anger isn’t simply against sin, but sinners. Here’s our problem – how do we get God’s wrath off us and make him favorable toward us? All the good deeds in the world – giving to charity, going to church, praying – none of these things fend off God’s retribution that’s bearing down on us.

Here is where propitiation comes in.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a PROPITIATION by his blood, to be received by faith… (RO 3.23-25).

Propitiation is God’s action in removing sin that blocks our fellowship with him AND quenching his wrath, making him favorable, or “propitious” toward us.. It would not have been enough merely to remove our sin. God’s wrath also needed to be removed in order for his face to shine upon us.

So God put Jesus forward as a propitiation, a Substitute for sinners, and poured out his wrath on him. In his passion, Christ drank to the dregs the “cup” of God’s unimaginable fury against sin, absorbing it in his own person, thus removing that fury forever from the redeemed.

We could never have put away our sins or quenched God’s anger. But God did what we couldn’t do when he provided Jesus as a propitiation. And we’re the beneficiaries, for now he will be forever favorable and gracious toward us. Praise God!

Propitiation – not a bad word, huh? Read The Atonement by Leon Morris or In My Place Condemned He Stood by J.I. Packer and Mark Dever and learn some more big words.

Comments

  1. beth says

    very good dad…

    i miss you guys so much.

    and stephen i miss you're big words like 'premises'

    (that's big for me, ok?)

  2. says

    I’ve got a post I’m writing with the working title, “There are no English words I’d be unwilling to give up.”

    I’ll be sure to keep these thoughts in mind as I continue pondering.

  3. says

    i think “propitiation,” as words go, isn’t a great one. i’d give it up any day. this is because it doesn’t inherently mean anything to people. “reconciliation” means something in human terms, so “reconciliation” with God (which is a metaphor) is a helpful theological term.

    but i’m all for people assigning meaning to “propitiation” (that is, one specific meaning, i.e. the one you mentioned, not any meaning they like), because it is helpful to put a one-word label on a complicated concept that is foreign to our culture.

  4. says

    Hey Beth, I miss you too – my missing of you is behemoth, Bunyanesque, colossal, elephantine, enormous, gargantuan, gigantesque, herculean, mastodonic, monstrous, monumental, mountainous, prodigious,stupendous, titanic, and tremendous.

    Hey Abraham, I like the title of the post you’re working on. I’ll keep a lookout for it. And thanks for your posts – your 12 Ways to Improve Your Blog was really helpful for me.

    Thanks Dave! I wince when I hear people say, “I’m just a dumb Christian, but I know Jesus loves me.” God wants us to grow in our knowledge of him.

    Hi Carissa, You made a good point – many if not most Christians don’t understand the word propitiation, but if they did I think it would bless them. Reconciliation is another wonderful word, and it follows the quenching of God’s wrath. Propitiation makes way for reconciliation! Thanks so much for commenting.

  5. says

    Great post! I think it will encourage people to dig into the Word more. Propitiation is one of my favorite words…not just because it is fun to say… but also because it DOES mean so much to me (as it should everyone).

  6. says

    Hi Emily,

    Yes I have heard Curt – he’s tremendous. And I think I’ve heard the song he uses propitiation in. I actually rapped with him once – it was pretty hilarious – I can rap about as well as I can pole vault.

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