Packer has a chapter in the book, ‘Heart of the Gospel’. Reading the heading, I thought that the chapter would be about God’s love. But much of the focus of the chapter was in ‘propitiation’. Propitiation is something that is given to reconcile. In religious terms, it means a costly sacrifice to appease a God. For example, pagan kings would sacrifice their son/daughter as a propitiation to gain a God’s favor.
‘Propitiation’ is a word that rankles our modern sensibilities, because as moderners, we don’t quite understand a ‘Holy God’. They don’t realize the extent of their rebellion against God. We feel entitled to ‘free love’, even from God. We don’t feel the need to pay the cost for reconciliation with God. We don’t even know that we don’t have the capital to pay the cost of reconciliation with God.
Christ’s propitiation, to modern man is a superfluous solution to a problem that he doesn’t quite understand – the problem of his enmity with God. So his appreciation of Christ is totally misguided at best, or non-existent at worst. At best, he thinks Christ came to be a great moral teacher, a good shepard, a revolutionary etc… not much unlike a Bhuddha or a Ghandhi or a Teresa. That is hardly reason for ‘worship’.
Christ is something the moral teachers, the good leaders, the selfless revolutionaries of history aren’t – Christ is the Propitiation. True ‘praise’ is possible only when we understand Christ as the propitiation. After having read J.I.Packer’s chapter on the Heart of the Gospel being Christ’s propitiation, this Sunday, when I sang worship songs, the word ‘Christ’ sounded ‘heavier’ than it usually did.
Unless we connect praise with the idea of propitiation, we will need other motivations to praising God – lights and smoke and high decible vocals and music that work us up. Knowing God is priceless because Praising God is impossible without Knowing God. The truly wise spend time ‘Knowing God’.