John Murray: “The propitiation of the divine wrath, effected in the expiatory work of Christ, is the provision of God’s eternal and unchangeable love, so that through the propitiation of his own wrath that love may realize its purpose in a way that is consonant with and to the glory of the dictates of his own holiness.”
How can God be loving if he sent his Son to die on a cross for the sins of others? Why couldn’t he just forgive everyone instead of putting his Son through all that suffering? The answer is that God can never deny himself; therefore, he must uphold all of his attributes. And we find no clearer evidence of this than at the cross.
Because he is spirit, God is always purely all of his attributes in complete perfection and unity. It is impossible for God’s mercy to override his justice. His holiness never conflicts with his love. Here are eight attributes of God we encounter at the cross, along with related Scripture passages and helpful quotes from respected theologians:
1. We encounter the holiness of God at the cross.
R. C. Sproul, The Holiness of God, p. 38: “When the Bible calls God holy, it means primarily that God is transcendentally separate. He is so far above and beyond us that He seems almost totally foreign to us. To be holy is to be ‘other,’ to be different in a special way.”
Related Bible Verses:
And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” (Isa. 6:3)
“What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” (Mark 1:25)
For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. (Heb. 7:26)
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (1 Pet. 2:9)
2. We encounter the righteousness of God at the cross.
Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, p. 74: “The fundamental idea of righteousness is that of strict adherence to the law. Among men it presupposes that there is a law to which they must conform…. [and] though there is no law above God, there is certainly a law in the very nature of God, and this is the highest possible standard, by which all other laws are judged.”
Related Bible Verses:
God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day. (Ps. 7:11)
For the Lord is righteous; he loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face. (Ps. 11:7)
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matt. 6:33)
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. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. (Rom. 3:23-25)
3. We encounter the justice of God at the cross.
John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, II.17.4: “It is especially worth-while to ponder the analogy set forth by Paul: ‘Christ…became a curse for us,’ etc. [Gal. 3:13]. It was superfluous, even absurd, for Christ to be burdened with a curse, unless it was to acquire righteousness for others by paying what they owed. Isaiah’s testimony is also clear: ‘The chastisement of our peace was laid upon Christ, and with his stripes healing has come to us’ [Isa. 53:5]. For unless Christ had made satisfaction for our sins, it would not have been said that he appeased God by taking upon himself the penalty to which we were subject.”
Related Bible Verses:
Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous. (Isa. 53:10-11)
Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. (Gal. 6:7)
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. (Col. 2:13-14)
Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. (Heb. 2:17)