(Hamas rocket strike, public domain)
By Spencer D Gear
There was plenty of news coverage during 1999 of the martyrdom, the horrible deaths of Graham Staines and his two sons, Philip aged 10, and Timothy, aged 6, burned alive in their car in the Eastern Indian state of Orissa in January 1999.[1b] A Hindu mob burned their jeep while they slept outside a church. Graham had been ministering in a leper colony for 32 years. Perhaps through his death, Beaudesert‘s Graham Staines, has had more opportunity to reach the Indian people with the gospel than through his life.
“[Some] victims of the Columbine High [School, in Littleton, Colorado, who were massacred, 20th April 1999] were evangelical Christians.” The killers “went to the library and asked Cassie Bernall and many of the others, ‘Do you believe in God?’ Thus it appears that the killers targeted evangelical Christians.”
One of Cassie Bernall’s classmates, “Mickie Cain told Larry King on CNN [cable TV in USA], ‘She completely stood up for God. When the killers asked her if there was anyone who had faith in Christ, she spoke up and they shot her for it.”
“A note written by . . . Cassie Bernall the night before she was killed and handed to her friend the next morning, April 20 1999, at school, reads:
These were martyrs, but you didn’t hear much coverage of that emphasis on the mass media.
In 1995, there were more martyrs for Christ in that one year than in the whole first century after Christ. “According to a study done at Regent University, USA, there were close to 164,000 Christians martyred around the world in 1999.” “A Christian dies for his or her faith every 3 minutes.”
“We are talking… about… persecution of the worst sort: Slavery, starvation, murder, looting, burning [and] torture.” “Why then, are 200 million Christians facing severe persecution [in the year 2004]?”
Most of us are blissfully unaware of the horrible persecution for their faith that many Christians TODAY are suffering.
“For example, 30 to 60 million people belong to house churches in China. Its pastors have been tortured, murdered and imprisoned.” There are “several reports that there are now more than 80 million Christians in China.”
Do you remember how the apostle Paul described his persecution?
Phil. 3: 10 “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death…”
Now Paul’s description of the persecution:
2 Corinthians 11: 23ff:
23b …I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.
24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.
25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea,
26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers.
27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.
28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches (NIV).
Voice of the Martyrs tells us that “since 1985, approximately two million people have perished due to war and genocide [in the Sudan]. Because of the war, famine has also plagued the country.
“While the conflict was officially about control of land and wealth, it had a strong religious factor in that they government of Khartoum was strongly Islamic and the people of the south were predominantly Christian or animist. The Muslim government declared a jihad against the people of the south. Churches and Christian relief agencies have been specifically targeted for attack. As an example, in June 2003, Pastor Jacob Gadet Manyiel of the Presbyterian Church of Sudan, along with his wife and four children, were burned to death in their home, while troops threatened to kill anyone who came near to help.”
The title of this message is, Tough times, Terrorism and God’s Answer.
If you are about to die for your faith, what will it take for you to go to a martyr’s grave full of hope and assurance? If terrorism comes to Australia, what will keep to strong in the faith?
I want you to keep these questions in mind as we consider I Peter 1:10
Never forget it: We live by faith and not by sight. If you keep your eyes on the trouble you experience, the persecution, the worldwide terrorism, you will crumble. Get God’s Word in your heart — BELIEVING is SEEING.
If you are persecuted for your faith; if terrorism comes to this Lucky Country, what will keep you strong so that you will not chuck it in under the pressure? v. 10 in the NIV gives the answer in the first three words: “CONCERNING THIS SALVATION”
The whole tone of I Peter shows that these people were going through a horrible time of severe trials.
What Peter says to these suffering Christians, he wants to drive home to us. If you are persecuted for your faith – and it’s here in isolated pockets for those who speak out for Christ – what will you need to keep you strong so that you won’t crack under pressure?
Get this right at the beginning of v. 10, “CONCERNING THIS SALVATION” (NIV).
But it means much, much more — as we’ll discover today.
Unless you get a hold of what your salvation is and what it means for Christ to die on the cross for you to be saved, you will NEVER be able to stand up in the fiery trials that lie ahead. Faith that brings salvation is:
If you don’t get a handle on this phrase, “Concerning this salvation,” you will not:
- experience this salvation;
- you will never be able to stand firm when trials come;
- you may very well chuck it in.
What have you been saved from?
What have you been saved for?
What does this salvation mean in the here and now?
What will it mean in the future?
This salvation that Christ offers is illustrated in the Bible by vivid imagery. Just remember these five words. This salvation means at least these. Christ’s death provides for those who have faith in Christ (read quickly):
I hope you got those because they are core to understanding “this salvation.”
Your salvation means you have been propitiated – and I’m not swearing!
Take a verse like, I John 2:2, speaking of Jesus Christ, “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins…” (NIV, NRSV, ISV). It is very unfortunate that these Bibles translate the word, hilasmos, as “atoning sacrifice.” While it is true that Christ did provide an atonement for our sins, that is NOT what this verse says.
Hilasmos is as the KJV, NASB & ESV put it: “He is the propitiation
for our sins” (KJV, ESV). But what on earth does that mean? In years gone by, that would be understood, but not today. We live in a day of biblical ignorance.
“It is understandable that primitive animists [who worship evil spirits] should consider it essential to placate the wrath of gods, spirits or ancestors, but are notions like these worthy of our Almighty God?
We have got to get something very clear:
Your sin and mine arouse the wrath/anger of God. Take a verse like Rom. 1:18: “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of human beings who suppress the truth by their wickedness” (TNIV).
This is core Christianity. The anger of God DOES NOT MEAN what the animists fear – “that [God] is likely to fly off the handle” when He is provoked in some trivial way. God never loses His temper for no apparent reason. There is nothing spiteful, malicious or vindictive about our holy God. He is not an irrational, unpredictable, venomous tyrant. God’s anger is always predictable “because it is provoked by evil and evil alone.”
We could say that “the wrath of God… is his steady, unrelenting, unremitting, uncompromising antagonism to evil in all its forms and manifestations. In short, God’s anger is poles apart from ours.” What provokes our anger (eg., injured pride), never provokes His; what provokes God’s anger (his antagonism to all forms of evil), seldom provokes ours.
Contrary to what the promoters of self-esteem say today, you and I are NOT of great worth to God. In fact, Rom. 3:10-12 nails our true condition:
As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless;  there is no one who does good, not even one” (NIV).
Christ died for filthy, rotten, dirty sinners that the Scriptures describe as “worthless.” Other translations say that we are “unprofitable, useless and have gone wrong” (KJV, NKJV, RV, NASB, Amplified). What is it that permits worthless, useless reprobates like us to have somebody even think about salvation, let alone provide it for us? That’s the enormous grace of God. Favour that we cannot possibly earn or deserve!
Nothing you or I could do could turn away the wrath of God towards us. Nothing! We can’t persuade or bribe God to forgive us. We deserve His judgment. We deserve to be sent to hell forever — and that’s where the ungodly will go on God’s guarantee. “The initiative has been taken by God himself in his sheer mercy and grace.”
Christ’s death and His death alone, propitiates (appeases) the anger of God. It happens in the courts of heaven when you repent and trust Christ alone for your salvation.
Question: (1) So, what is propitiation?
(2) Why do you need it?
Do you understand the incredible depth of meaning in this short phrase, “concerning this salvation”? BUT THERE’S MORE!!
Remember Rom. 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”? Many of us know that verse by heart, but too few of us understand and can quote the next two verses, which are so crucial to our understanding of salvation. Vv. 24-25,
“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” (ESV).
There are those three words that are at the core of our salvation:
We’ve looked at “propitiation”, now it’s critical that we understand “redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24).
This is the language of the markets. We are talking about a business transaction. “Redeem” means “to buy or buy back, whether as a purchase or a ransom.” We are in a sorry state through our sin and need a divine rescue operation. Somebody who will buy us back from the power of sin.
Propitiation focuses on the wrath of God that has been pacified by the cross and fellowship with God that is restored. Redemption zooms in on the plight of sinners who have been ransomed by the cross.
The debt was not paid to Satan but to God. The debt that human beings have to God is due to God’s justice. God’s mercy through Christ’s death on the cross, pays the price to ransom human beings from God’s justice. If we got God’s justice — His absolute perfect standard – all of us would be dead.
Folks, a large part of the Scripture teaches us “that we are redeemed from the penalty of the law, from the law itself, from sin as a power, from Satan, and from all evil, by the death of Christ.”
I heard of a little boy who worked very hard to make his very own, little yacht out of a nice hunk of wood. He loved his yacht and took it to the lake often with other boys who had yachts and sailed it on the calm waters, when there were light winds, near his house.
One day, it drifted out of sight, carried away by a stronger breeze. He splashed out into the water, grasping to reach his yacht – but he couldn’t reach it. Eventually he lost sight of it. He was devastated that his own hand-made yacht had gone.
Some days later he was going through a busy street and he saw his yacht in a shop window. He went in to claim the yacht as his own. But no matter how much he tried to persuade the owner, repeatedly telling him that he had made that yacht with his own hands, the shop-keeper would not change his mind.
The shop-keeper was adamant: “If you want it, you must pay for it.” The boy returned home, counted out his money, asked for a little from his parents to help meet the cost of the yacht.
Christian friends, that is how God sees you. Paul said in I Cor. 6:19-20, “You are not your own; you were bought at a price” (NIV). God, by Christ’s shed blood, has purchased us from the power of sin. We have been redeemed.
But God doesn’t take his redeemed merchandise (us) immediately to heaven. Instead, he gives us the token of our redemption — the Holy Spirit who lives in us. We have redemption, the forgiveness of sin. And one day, when Jesus returns, we’ll be in the presence of the One who purchased us — or we’ll meet him at death.
Application: Don’t raise your hands, but I want you to think carefully about what you have been redeemed from by your salvation.
How many of you can identify with being slaves to sin in your life before Christ purchased you?
It does us good to think back on where God has brought us. You still have your daily struggles with sinful thoughts and actions as God causes you to become more like him. This is growth through sanctification.
But let’s face it: your slavery to sin is not what it used to be. That power is broken. You have been redeemed. If the power of sin in your life is the same as or worse than it used to be before Christ, I’d be asking serious questions about the reality of your salvation.
- propitiation — God’s wrath against us has been appeased;
- redemption — the price has been paid to God. You have been bought back and the power of sin is broken.
But there’s more:
Take that verse from Rom. 3:24, we “are justified freely by his grace.” When I say that my staff member was justified in taking that action, I mean that he has every reason to believe that what he did was OK. He was right in doing it.
That is not what God means when he says that believers “are justified freely by his grace.” We often say, “justification means: ‘Just as if I’d never sinned.'” But that doesn’t get to the heart of what God means when he says that we receive justification freely by God’s grace.
For God, justification is the language of the law courts. Justification is the OPPOSITE of condemnation.
Take Rom. 5:18, “Consequently, just as the result of one trespass [speaking of Adam’s sin] was condemnation for all [people], so also the result of one act of righteousness [Christ’s death on the cross] was justification that brings life for all [people] (NIV).
This is in the package of salvation:
Propitiation – appeasing the wrath of God;
Redemption – we are rescued from the grim captivity of our sin and guilt.
Also justification. Since there is nobody who is righteous, not even one, how
can we who are sinners by nature, ever be ushered into the presence of an absolutely holy God?
We are justified by God’s grace (Rom. 3:24) through faith in Christ (Eph. 2:8-9). But what does that mean?
When God justifies sinners, he is not declaring bad people to be good;
He is NOT saying that they are not sinners after all;
He is saying that the person who places his/her trust in Jesus Christ for salvation, is pronounced legally righteous before God;
How is this possible? Because [God] himself in his Son has borne the penalty of your breaking God’s law.
That is why Paul is able to bring together in a single sentence the depth of salvation: justification, redemption and propitiation in Rom. 3:24-25(ESV),
“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.”
The reasons why we are ‘justified freely by God’s grace’ are that Christ Jesus paid the ransom-price and that God presented Christ as a sacrifice to appease God’s wrath.
But how does this justification become yours in your life? This was the great theme of Martin Luther’s Reformation and the apostle Paul’s favourite expression : JUSTIFIED BY FAITH (see Rom. 3:28; 5:1; Gal. 2:16; Phil. 3:9).
Perhaps the most straightforward verses that help us to understand what happens with justification is Phil. 3:8-9,
What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ
v. 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.
You are not condemned by Christ, but justified because of the cross. You are
When you are justified, it has nothing to do with what happens inside you when you become a Christian. It is everything about what God declares about you. You are no longer condemned as a sinful criminal before God and going to hell, you are right before God’s law.
But God goes one step further. As Phil. 3:9 puts it: “ not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.”
Let’s put it this way: Negatively, God has declined to count our sins against us. That’s justification. Of course we deserved to get the full weight of God’s judgment. But if he did that we would die and be damned forever. By an act of God the Judge, he has justified us. He has not counted our sins against us.
Positively, 2 Cor. 5:21, puts it this way: “God made him [Jesus]who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
This “is surely one of the most startling statements in the Bible.” James Denney wrote an outstanding book on The Death of Christ. He puts it this way, “Mysterious and awful as this thought is, it is the key to the whole of the New Testament.”
Because of the sinless death of His Son, Jesus Christ, God refused to count our sins against us. In fact, Jesus’ personal sinlessness gave him unique qualifications to bear our sins. He had none of his own to deal with. Christ became sin for us so that “in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Mysterious, “Yes!” What a glorious rescue!
Throughout the history of the Christian church, disciples “have meditated on this exchange between the sinless Christ and sinners, and have marvelled at it.” How could “the wickedness of [so] many… be hid in a single Righteous One, and that the righteousness of One should justify many transgressors”?
At the time of the Reformation, Martin Luther was “writing to a monk [who was] in distress about his sins.” Luther said it this way: “Learn to know Christ and him crucified. Learn to sing to him and say ‘Lord Jesus, you are my righteousness, I am your sin. You took on you what was mine [my sin]; yet set on me what was yours [righteousness]. You became what you were not, that I might become what I was not.'”
“During World War II he joined the army. Anxious to get into some action, Carothers went AWOL but was caught and sentenced to five years in prison. Instead of sending him to prison, the judge told him he could serve his term by staying in the army for five years. The judge told him if he left the army before the five years ended, he would have to spend the rest of his term in prison.
“Carothers was released from the army before the five-year term had passed, so he returned to the prosecutor’s office to find out where he would be spending the remainder of his sentence.
“To his surprise and delight, Carothers was told that he had received a full pardon from President Truman [of the USA]. The prosecutor explained: ‘That means your record is completely clear. Just as if you had never gotten involved with the law.'”
When you come to faith in Christ for salvation, your sinful record is completely clear — you have been declared righteous by God. It’s not that your sinful record has been ignored. God has wiped the slate. You are righteous before him.
“Concerning this salvation!” What a mighty God we have to
provide such a Saviour!
Your salvation not only means you have received
propitiation, redemption and justification. But there’s more: you have received …
reconciliation – that will be for another time if I am invited;
put them all together — propitiation, redemption, justification and reconciliation and you have a good idea of what is included in the
atonement (but that will also be for another time)
God’s incredible eternal plan for the salvation of sinners – planned from “before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:3);
The OT preparation for Christ’s coming;
Jesus Christ’s incarnation – his birth into this world;
His death, resurrection and ascension;
The present ministries of Jesus and the Holy Spirit;
The wonderful future we have with the second coming of Christ;
Living in the presence of God forever in heaven.
That’s a quick overview of salvation. But when we are not referring to it in its full-orbed arrangement, we settle for the more specific terms like sacrifice, propitiation, forgiveness, redemption, victory over evil powers of darkness, reconciliation with God and God’s people, justification and sanctification.
Brothers and sisters:
- This is what will take you to a martyr’s grave with confidence;
- You will not face terrorism without this assurance;
- When you KNOW this Christ “concerning this salvation,” no persecution will be so intolerable that you will want to chuck in your salvation;
- You can face the future with confidence, no matter what the pain, heartache and disappointment, if you put your absolute trust in THIS Christ, for THIS salvation;
The “godly Dr Archibald Alexander of Princeton [Seminary (USA)] had been a preacher for Christ for sixty years and a professor of divinity for forty [years]. On his death-bed he was heard to say to a friend, ‘All my theology is reduced to this narrow compass—Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.'”
Helen Keller was deaf, dumb, and blind. She “was taken to Phillips Brooks for spiritual instruction. [Brooks (1835-93) was a powerful preacher at Church of the Holy Trinity, Philadelphia & Trinity Church, Boston.] In the simplest of terms the great preacher told the girl about Jesus. As she heard the Gospel, her face lit up and she spelled out in the hand of the preacher-teacher, ‘I knew all the time there must be one like that, but I didn’t know His name.'”
“Concerning this salvation,” even the severely handicapped Helen Keller knew of his work.
If this salvation ever grips you, you will never be the same again.
You will face any opposition that comes along – martyrs grave or terrorism.
You will know that God sends trials to strengthen your faith in Him.
You could even face that kind of martyrdom that Graham, Phillip and Timothy Staines experienced.
Tough times, Terrorism and God’s Answer: “Concerning This Salvation” Hallelujah!!
 See the story, Life for Aussie missionary killer – News.com.au
 Religions in India, “Staines murder trial deferred until Sept. 5,” available from: http://hss.fullerton.edu/comparative/new_religions_in_india.htm#Staines%20murder%20trial [1st November 2004].
 “Littleton’s martyrs,” New Life, 6 May 1999, 3, emphasis in original. This article stated: “As the ‘Washington Post’ reported, the two students who shot 13 people, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, did not choose their victims at random — they were acting out of a kaleidoscope of ugly prejudices. Media coverage has centred on the killers’ hostility toward racial minorities and athletes, but there was another group the pair hated every bit as much, if not more: Christians. And there were plenty of them to hate at Columbine High School. According to some accounts eight Christians — four evangelicals and four Catholics — were killed” (ibid., emphasis in original).
 Available from: http://maxpages.com/gemsofhope/ThoughtSpot [4th November 2004].
 Available from “Jesus Freaks” at: http://www.parentsandteens.com/freaks.htm [4th November 2004].
 Available from “Revival Times” at: http://www.revivaltimes.org/index.php/493.htm [4th November 2004].
 Michael Horowitz, a fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C., in “The Persecuted Church” (Feb. 2004), available from: http://www.google.com.au/search?q=cache:V4SIm3PryIwJ:www.lucayakirk.com/HTMLobj-499/Feb.1.rtf+%22persecution+of+the+worst+sort+slavery,+starvation,+murder,+looting,+burning%22+horowitz&hl=en [4th November 2004].
November 6, 2003, available from: http://www.pfm.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=BreakPoint1&template=/CM/HTMLDisplay.cfm&ContentID=10879 [1st November 2004].
 Andrew Tuck, General Manager of The Voice of the Martyrs in Australia, “The Persecuted Church,” Press Release for Immediate Release, March 3, 1998, http://www.awakening.org.au/persecuted/com030398.html, spotted 16 August 99, 1.
 Voice of the Martyrs, Canada, available from: http://www.persecution.net/country/sudan.htm [4th November 2004].
 B.C. Caffin, “I Peter: Exposition and Homiletics,” in H.D.M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell (Eds.), The Pulpit Commentary (Volume 22). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1950, 5.
 “Animism may be simply defined as ‘spirit worship.'” These spirits may inhabit stones, trees, water, the hills, and the air around themselves and the sky above. It often involves ancestor worship, as well as fetishism and magic. They fear the spirits. Sickness is feared; death is the greatest fear. When misfortune and sickness happen, the medicine man is called in to discover the spirits responsible. Which spirit has been offended. The cause of the trouble is believed to be evil spirits that need to be appeased. It has been said that the animist “resembles a captivated slave pledged to a satanic system, from which he struggles hopelessly to be delivered” [Howard F. Vos (Ed.), Religions in a Changing World. Chicago: Moody Press, 1959, 22, 25, 27]. Animists worship spirits that are believed to live in natural objects such as trees, rocks or springs. They endeavour to appease those spirits. Animists sometimes use fetishes and magical practices of various sorts [Sir Norman Anderson, Christianity and World Religions. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1984, 60].
 This is also the translation of the NRSV and ISV; “unprofitable” (KJV, NKJV, RV); “useless” (NASB); “have gone wrong and have become unprofitable and worthless” (Amplified); “have gone wrong” (NLT).
 Shedd, in Thiessen 328-29. “From the penalty of the law, or as Paul says in Gal. 3:13, from the ‘curse’ of the law, by Christ’s having become a curse for us. From the law itself, by our being made dead to the law by the body of Christ (Rom. 7:4), so that we are no longer under it but under grace (Rom. 6:14). From sin as a power, by Christ’s death to sin and our death to it in Him (Rom. ^:2, 6; Tit. 2:14; 1 Peter 1:18, 19), so that we need no longer submit to the domination of sin (Rom. 6:12-14). From Satan, who held man in captivity (2 Tim. 2:26), likewise by His death on the cross (Heb. 2:14, 15). And from all evil, including our present mortal body (Eph. 1:14; Rom. 8:23), to be fully granted at the return of Christ (Luke 21:28). We thus observe that the term redemption alludes sometimes to the payment of a debt and sometimes to the liberation of a captive” [Thiessen, 329].
 “The sinner must not only be pardoned for his[/her] past sins, but also supplied with a positive righteousness before [he/she] can have fellowship with God. This need is supplied in the imputation of the righteousness of Christ to the believer. To impute is to reckon to one,” Thiessen, 363-64.
 Gordon R. Lewis and Bruce A. Demarest, Integrative Theology: Our Primary Need Christ’s Atoning Provisions (Vol. 2). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Academie Books (Zondervan Publishing House), 1990, 408.
 In James E. Rosscup, “The Priority of Prayer and Expository Preaching” (pp. 63-84) in John MacArthur, Jr. and the Master’s Seminary Faculty, Rediscovering Expository Preaching (Richard L. Mayhue, ed. & Robert L. Thomas, assoc. ed.) Dallas: Word Publishing, 1992, 64.
Copyright © 2004 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 29 May 2018.