God’s greatest problem is not whether He can make a rock so big that He can’t move it. Nor is it “Where did Cain get his wife?” God’s greatest problem is how He can forgive humans of their sins while remaining holy, righteous and pure.
Fortunately, like all math problems, this one has a solution. The problem is stated in 1 John 1:5 and the solution is spelled out in 1 John 2:2. The problem is essentially, “How can sinful humans and holy God come together?” Verse 5 uses the metaphors of light and darkness to declare that “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”
“Light” refers to moral purity or holiness. John says that in God there is not even one hint of darkness. The kind of light that John uses to describe God is a kind which none of us have ever seen. None of us have ever seen 100% light. You may be in a well lit room now, with light provided both by the sunlight through the windows and light bulbs overhead. Yet if you look closely you will notice shadows even where you are reading this column. Even the sun, the greatest bearer of light in our entire solar system is not 100% light. On its surface are sunspots, dark areas which are cold spots. These “cold spots” are only 4,000 degrees Celsius compared with 6,000 degree Celsius surrounding region!
But God is pure light. “In Him is no darkness at all.” Again, this metaphor is given to describe the moral purity or holiness of God. God is holy! This truth causes the greatest of all problems for God. How shall God forgive and pardon the sinner and remain holy? This is our greatest problem. He is holy; we are unholy. It is our unholiness that separates us from a holy God. Because He is holy, He cannot even look upon our sin, much less provide a home for us to live forever with Him.
Thankfully, there is a solution to this problem. In 1 John 2:2, Jesus is called the “propritiation for our sins.” The word “propitiation” is a difficult word for many. It means “to satisfy wrath.” For those who deny the reality of man’s sinfulness this word is meaningless, as it is for those who deny that God is holy and therefore must judge humans with holy wrath. But, if humans are indeed sinful and God is indeed holy, the only solution to that problem is that there be a propitiation, i.e., “a satisfaction of the wrath of God.” God’s wrath must be satisfied.
All religions of this world teach a doctrine of propitiation. The difference between biblical Christianity and every other religion in this respect is that while all other religions teach that man must somehow satisfy the wrath of his god or gods through sacrifices, rituals, ceremonies, good deeds, etc.; only biblical Christianity teaches that the God whose holiness requires that His wrath be satisfied has taken the initiative Himself to satisfy His own wrath! This is exactly what He has done for all those who will confess their sin and trust in the work of Jesus Christ on the cross.
This is the gospel: holy God and sinful humans brought together by the sacrifice of Christ. His death was the payment that satisfied God’s wrath for all who believe and confess their sins. God has solved His own greatest problem.