This is a difficult phrase in various ways. Although the Bible speaks clearly about the 'wrath of God' (e.g. 'For the wrath of God is revealed ...', Romans 1:18), I can think of no passage where 'the wrath of God was satisfied' is found per se. It is a summary of what is being said through Romans 3:21-26 (bearing in mind the way in which Romans 1:18 is an introduction to Paul's exposition on salvation). Thus one can find the following explanation of propitiation/Romans 3:24-25 (my italics):
' "Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation." The basic meaning of propitiation is "appease" or "satisfy." What did the death of Christ appease or satisfy in the nature of God? In his very nature, God is holy and righteous. He can have no fellowship with anything that is sinful, including sinful men. Thus, God's wrath burns hot against sin and sinners because he must judge all sin. If he does not do this, he is not acting according to his perfect character. But, in love, God sent his Son Jesus Christ to be the perfect sacrifice for sin. No mere human being could have atoned for the sins of men because all are sinners. But Christ, who was a perfect human as well as truly divine, became the perfect sacrifice for sin. God poured out his wrath against sin on the person of Jesus Christ. Thus, the death of Christ appeased God's wrath and satisfied his holy, righteous demands against sin.
God took out his wrath on Christ instead of on sinners. Now anyone who will place his faith and trust in Jesus Christ as personal Saviour from sin will receive the forgiveness of sins, and the wrath of God will never again come down upon that one because Christ bore God's wrath on that believer's behalf. Why? Christ satisfied the holy, righteous demands of God against sin. Now, through the death of Christ, a holy God and sinful men can meet and God can have fellowship with men.'
But one can also find uncomfortable responses to the phrase in question, such as this one:
'Our Easter service was raucous and I loved it. One of the songs that was sung that I dearly love was "In Christ Alone." This is such a beautifully moving song, but have trouble when we get to the line that states,
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied;
For ev'ry sin on Him was laid—
Here in the death of Christ I live.
This line has always intrigued me and I am not quite sure what to do with it.'
Lest we forget that this is an Anglican site (!), it is also worth bringing to attention the words of the Book of Common Prayer (1662) Communion service:
'All glory be to thee,
almighty God, our heavenly Father,
who, of thy tender mercy,
didst give thine only Son Jesus Christ
to suffer death upon the cross for our redemption;
who made there,
by his one oblation of himself once offered,
a full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction
for the sins of the whole world;
and did institute,
and in his holy gospel command us to continue,
a perpetual memory of that his precious death,
until his coming again.'
At this stage, 2 out of 4 proposed posts, I simply make the following observations:
(1) There is a way of explaining the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ which veers dangerously towards the caricature I mentioned yesterday of an angry God intent on hitting us with a cricket back but Jesus steps between us and says 'Hit me instead'. Thus in the first citation above we find this sentence: 'God took out his wrath on Christ instead of on sinners.' As Howard Pilgrim notes in a comment on my first post, we need to bring a Trinitarian understanding to the cross: whatever happened there in cosmic terms, God suffered.
(2) We live in an age when some Christians seem to be more troubled than comforted by language of wrath/satisfaction. Is God an angry being? How is that anger satisfied? Why does the death of Christ satisfy that anger?
(3) In Anglican terms we cannot and should not run away from the language of 'satisfaction' unless we wish to turn our backs on the BCP (1662).
More tomorrow ...