~ An Interesting New Testament Term ~
Propitiation is one of those six-dollar theological terms. It is a complex term full of interesting and sometimes difficult concepts. We are told that Jesus Christ is the propitiation for our sin (Romans 3:22-26; 1 John 2:1-2, 4:9-11). Since it is a good Biblical term, it is worth exploring and explaining in a straightforward manner.
Propitiation has a lot to do with the divine aspect of the Cross. The word propitiation in our English Bibles has its roots in an old English word, propitiate, which has a base meaning of appeasement. One definition which New Testament scholars use is, “the work of Jesus Christ on the Cross by which He satisfied God's Holiness so God could extend mercy to lost sinners.”
It is also related to the Old Testament concept of atonement and the covering of sin. In the Old Testament the Mercy Seat was a way of covering sin or appeasing the Judge. Christ’s death covers the penalty of our sin and provides satisfaction to the Judge of all mankind. It includes the judicial concept of satisfying all legal requirements and gaining a judgment of complete satisfaction in a courtroom.
The death of the sinless One, Jesus Christ, is the only possible remedy for sin—the only way for forgiveness or satisfying the requirements of the judgment for those who have sinned. As we read our Bibles we must recognize that not everyone will be saved (2 Corinthians 5:14-19), but the blood of Jesus Christ is sufficient for all to be saved (Hebrews 2:9).
This propitiatory sacrifice of Christ removes our estrangement or separation from God by appeasing or satisfying God’s right of judgment against us. The Father’s righteous judgment has been satisfied by the death of the only sinless One. Only Jesus Christ who lived a sinless life could satisfy a righteous and holy God. This is the Gospel message in a nutshell! God sent His only beloved Son—the only righteous One—to take our place of judgment in order to satisfy the righteous and just wrath of God against sinners. God’s wrath was put on Christ as our substitute.
There are many complexities to this concept of propitiation as we see active grace, active mercy, and active love being showered upon those who could do nothing for themselves—those who would otherwise stand before God in total guilt. But an option has been provided: accept the Son’s gift of propitiation for your sins and they are covered with His robe of righteousness. Then when the Judge looks at you He sees the righteousness of His Son.
There are two critical components of propitiation. The Judge must have a valid reason for the pardon and the Judge must have the motivation to act upon and admit the presented evidence.
In the case of our salvation the death of the sinless Lamb of God is a valid payment of sin. As the only truly righteous Judge God, the Father, acts upon the evidence and renders that our sins have been paid in full. Fellowship between God and the sinner is restored because the penalty for their sin has been paid in full by Jesus Christ.
With this background carefully read the following three portions of Scripture.
“For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:22-26 emphasis added).
“In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:9-11 emphasis added).
“My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world” (1 John 2:1-2, emphasis added).
How great a God! How great a salvation!
Redemption is the aspect of the Cross that deals directly with the penalty of sin.
Reconciliation is the aspect of the Cross which restores fellowship with mankind.
Propitiation is the aspect of the Cross that satisfies a holy and righteous God.
The following is from an unknown source: “Then God chose to send His Son by His own Will and He willed that Christ should die and become a propitiation for our sins ( Romans 3:21-26). What is propitiation? Propitiation is where the wrath of God goes out as a missile and its destination is you but then Christ stands in the way of the missile. He doesn't disarm it, He takes the blow. The full wrath of God is displayed upon Him instead of you. This is propitiation.”
~ Robert Lloyd Russell, ABUNDANT LIFE NOW