Propitiation, the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus for our sins, is the central and primary doctrine of Christianity. The cross of Christ is meaningful and powerful because the propitiation is true. Our relationship to Christ’s propitiation on the cross is going to drive our walk and our teaching and our evangelism and our assurance and our relationships and everything else about us. There is nothing more important to get straight in your mind than Christ’s propitiatory death on the cross.
The wrath of God is a very good thing. The wrath of God says that we matter. The wrath of God says that we are important. We may try to work it out that the fear of God means “reverent awe”, but in reality when we read that Jesus went crazy in the temple and threw over the tables and drove out the sellers, we love it. We need a fearsome God, a God to whom things deeply matter. Own this: you love that God has wrath.
We have in the cross, the clearest and most obvious fingerprint of God. He made this up, and He executed it by His own sovereign power. You yourself did not make this up, you would never have made it up. There is a strange comfort in saying that the whole thing seems a little alien and creepy, because it means we didn’t invent it. No human invented your salvation.
There is a hole in our gospel because we are ashamed of the cross. We want to make the root Christian message into something we do for God. The gospel is actually the message that God has done something for us. All of this talk about sin and wrath and blood and crosses is a bit embarrassing. We want to get on with the practical stuff. I’m here to say that we need to give far more attention to what we have heard — that we have such a great salvation (Hebrews 2:1-3)!