Propitiation

Rom 3:24-26


24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 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, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. NKJV

If you remember a few weeks ago we spoke on the subject of Justified Freely. At that time we stated that to justify us God declares us not guilty. The problem with that is that we really are guilty. Don’t forget verse 23 here that says all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.

The question then that we must ask is how can God still be just and holy when He declares the guilty not guilty? Doesn’t that reflect on God’s character?

Paul dealt with part of the problem when he tells us that it is through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. But now he goes another step forward to tell us that God can declare us not guilty or justified because He has been propitiated, satisfied. That is the claim that God had against us, that we were sinners and rebels against God, has been conciliated or reconciled.

Some see this as a change in God. God showed His wrath against us because of our sin and now He extends favor toward us. It seems that God has changed. But He hasn’t. What He has done is that He has propitiated Himself by providing what was necessary to meet His righteous demands.

God provided Himself a sacrifice, one innocent and without blame to pay for the sins of others.

I.         The foundation for propitiation.

            A.        Man’s sin

                        1.         Romans 3:23 (NKJV) for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

                        2.         Hebrews 2:17 (NKJV) Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

                        3.         1 John 2:2 (NKJV) And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.

            B.        God’s holiness

                        1.         God will not acquit the guilty.

                                    a.         I will not acquit the guilty. Ex 23:7 God says.

                                    b.         Nah 1:3 3 The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, And will not at all acquit the wicked. NKJV

                                    c.         Rom 2:5-6 5 But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 6 who "will render to each one according to his deeds": NKJV

                        2.         Remember back in 1:18 that the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.

                        3.         In the Old Testament. Over twenty different words occurring about 580 times express the wrath of God in the Old Testament (2 Kings 13:3; 23:26; Job 21:20; Jer. 21:12; Ezek. 8:18; 16:38; 23:25; 24:13). Everywhere sin constitutes the reason for God’s wrath. Basic Theology; Charles Ryrie

                        4.         To propitiate means “to appease or to satisfy a god.’’ This naturally brings to mind the question, Why does the deity need to be appeased? The biblical answer to that question is simply that the true God is angry with mankind because of their sin. The theme of the wrath of God appears throughout the Bible, including the teachings of Christ (Mark 3:29; 14:21). Wrath is not merely the impersonal and inevitable working out of the law of cause and effect, but it is a personal intervention of God in the affairs of mankind (Rom. 1:18; Eph. 5:6). Ryrie Study Bible

                        5.         Hilaste̅rion (propitiation) carries the basic idea of appeasement, or satisfaction. In ancient pagan religions, as in many religions today, the idea of man's appeasing a deity by various gifts or sacrifices was common. But in the New Testament propitiation always refers to the work of God, not of man. Man is utterly incapable of satisfying God's justice except by spending eternity in hell. MacArthur on Romans

            C.        God’s Love

                        1.         1 John 4:10 (NKJV) 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.

                        2.         Colossians 2:14 (NKJV) having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

II.        The pictures of propitiation.

            A.        Animal sacrifices

                        1.         Our very first parents in the garden sinned and God killed innocent animals to provide a covering for their nakedness, a type of their sin.

                        2.         In the lives of Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, animal sacrifices were expected to allow them to approach God.

            B.        The mercy seat in the tabernacle and temple

                        1.         The atonement cover was also called “the mercy seat.” The word for “mercy” (hilastarion) is the same word used for “propitiation” elsewhere in the New Testament (Romans 3:25). The mercy seat was significant because it was where sin was taken away. The blood from the sacrifice given on the Day of Atonement was sprinkled by the high priest on the mercy seat (Leviticus 16:15-17). Here the people experienced God's forgiveness. Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews

                        2.         The Hebrew equivalent of hilaste̅rion is used in the Old Testament in reference to the Mercy Seat in the Holy of Holies, where the high priest went once a year, on the Day of Atonement, to make a sacrifice on behalf of his people. On that occasion he sprinkled blood on the Mercy Seat, symbolizing the payment of the penalty for his own sins and the sins of the people. MacArthur

            C.        Every Old Testament sacrifice was in anticipation of the one that Jesus would make.

III.       The provision for propitiation.

            A.        A perfect sacrifice.

                        1.         Jesus was not under the same condemnation as us.

                        2.         He perfectly kept the law of God in the letter and spirit of the law.

                        3.         Although tempted in all points like we are yet He never sinned.

            B.        A total payment.

                        1.         Isaiah 53:4-6 (NKJV)4 Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

            C.        A complete reconciliation.

                        1.         Isa 53:10-11 10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. 11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. KJV

IV.      By His blood.

            A.        It was not just the death of Jesus, but the blood atonement.

                        1.         The reason I emphasize that is because many want to minimize it.

                        2.         We sing the song, What can wash away my sin, nothing but the blood of Jesus.

            B.        But it is more than that.

                        1.         Only the blood would propitiate the holy justice of God.

                        2.         Only the blood would satisfy the requirements of God.

            C.        That is why without Jesus there is no hope of heaven.

            D.        You can never get there on you own.

            E.        LETS READ THE NEXT TWO WORDS IN OUR TEXT

                        1.         Through faith.

                        2.         That is right, only faith can lay hold of the propitiatory work of Jesus.

                        3.         And faith is all that is required.

                                    a.         No money.

                                    b.         Not anything else.

            F.        Where is your hope, your confidence.

                        1.         If it is in self, then you are lost.

                        2.         If it is in the church, you are lost.

                        3.         If it is in your parents, you are lost.

                        4.         If it is in being good, then you are lost.

 


Title: Concise Theology: A Guide To Historic Christian Beliefs

Author: Packer, J.I. (James Innell) Copyright: Copyright © 1993 by Foundation for Reformation

The Cross propitiated God (i.e., quenched his wrath against us by expiating our sins and so removing them from his sight). Key texts here are Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17; 1 John 2:2 and 4:10, in each of which the Greek expresses propitiation explicitly. The cross had this propitiatory effect because in his suffering Christ assumed our identity, as it were, and endured the retributive judgment due to us (“the curse of the law,” Gal. 3:13) as our substitute, in our place, with the damning record of our transgressions nailed by God to his cross as the tally of crimes for which he was now dying (Col. 2:14; cf. Matt. 27:37; Isa. 53:4-6; Luke 22:37).

Title: Life Application Bible Commentary: Romans

Edition: First

Author: Barton, Bruce B., Veerman, David R., Wilson, Neil

Copyright: ©1992 by The Livingstone Corporation. All rights reserved Electronic Edition STEP Files Copyright © 2002, Parsons Church Group, a division of FindEx.com, Inc.

God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement. (niv) In describing how God provided us with undeserved righteousness, Paul alludes to the sacrificial system in the Old Testament (see Leviticus 17:11). Only now, the life offered as sacrifice is not a spotless animal, but Christ. God removed our punishment through the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ, a sacrifice that involved his death, the shedding of his blood. The classic theological term for this process, (sacrifice of atonement) is propitiation (hilasterion). The word signifies a substitutionary sacrifice whereby sinful people can be reconciled to a righteous God. It is used to describe how Christ took our place in receiving the wrath of God poured out for sin. On the cross, Jesus stepped into the line of fire in front of us and absorbed the wrath aimed at us. Because of what Jesus did on the cross, God can accept those who put their trust in Jesus.

Title: Holman Bible Handbook Edition: Second

Author: Copyright: Copyright © 1992 Holman Bible Publishers. All rights reserved. Electronic Edition STEP Files Copyright © 1996, Parsons Technology, Inc.

In verse 25 Paul stated that Christ Jesus was presented as “a sacrifice of atonement” (sometimes translated “propitiation” or “expiation”). Perhaps the idea of satisfaction best illuminates this Pauline concept for us. In Jesus Christ His Son, God has graciously satisfied His own holy demands and directed against Himself His own righteous wrath that the sinner deserves. By Christ's sacrifice God has satisfied, or propitiated, His own wrath.

Title: Holman Bible Handbook Edition: Second Author:

Copyright: Copyright © 1992 Holman Bible Publishers. All rights reserved. Electronic Edition STEP Files Copyright © 1996, Parsons Technology, Inc.

The NT presents a rich and varied treasury of expression concerning the atonement. The words hilasterion, hilaskomai, and hilasmos are from a root word meaning appease or propitiate. In Romans 3:25 the word hilasterion is rendered “propitiation” in the KJV and NASB. It is translated “sacrifice of atonement” in the NIV and “expiation” in the RSV. In Hebrews 9:5 the same word is translated “mercy seat” in the KJV, NASB, and RSV and “place of atonement” by the NIV. In Hebrews 2:17 the word hilaskomai is translated “reconciliation” by the KJV, “propitiation” by the NASB, “atonement” by the NIV, “expiation” by the RSV. The same word in Luke 18:13 is rendered “be merciful” in the KJV, NASB, and RSV and “have mercy” in the NIV.

In both 1 John 2:2 and 4:10 the word hilasmos is translated “propitiation” by the NASB, “atoning sacrifice” by the NIV, and “expiation” by the RSV.

 

Psalms 65:3 (NKJV) Iniquities prevail against me; As for our transgressions, You will provide atonement for them.

Luke 18:13 (NKJV) And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!'

2 Corinthians 5:19-21 (NKJV)19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God. 21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

 

Title: MacArthur's New Testament Commentary: Romans 1-8 Edition: First

Author: MacArthur, John F., Jr. Copyright: Copyright © 1991 by The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago Electronic Edition STEP Files Copyright © 1997, Parsons Technology, Inc.

Righteousness Was Paid by Atoning Sacrifice whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. (3:25a)

Because man cannot become righteous on his own, God graciously provided for his redemption through the atoning sacrifice of His own Son, Jesus Christ.

That sacrifice was not made in the dark or even in the hidden and holy recesses of the sacred Temple, but openly on the hill of Calvary for all the world to see. God displayed His Son publicly as a propitiation.

Hilaste̅rion (propitiation) carries the basic idea of appeasement, or satisfaction. In ancient pagan religions, as in many religions today, the idea of man's appeasing a deity by various gifts or sacrifices was common. But in the New Testament propitiation always refers to the work of God, not of man. Man is utterly incapable of satisfying God's justice except by spending eternity in hell.

The only satisfaction, or propitiation, that could be acceptable to God and that could reconcile Him to man had to be made by God. For that reason, God in human flesh, Jesus Christ, “gave Himself as a ransom for all” (1 Tim. 2:6). He appeased the wrath of God.

That ransoming propitiation made by Christ was paid in His own divine blood. To believers scattered throughout the Roman Empire, Peter wrote, “You were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (1 Pet. 1:18-19).

The Hebrew equivalent of hilaste̅rion is used in the Old Testament in reference to the Mercy Seat in the Holy of Holies, where the high priest went once a year, on the Day of Atonement, to make a sacrifice on behalf of his people. On that occasion he sprinkled blood on the Mercy Seat, symbolizing the payment of the penalty for his own sins and the sins of the people.

But that yearly act, although divinely prescribed and honored, had no power to remove or pay the penalty for a single sin. It could only point to the true and effective “offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.… For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified” (Heb. 10:10, 14).

Those who are sanctified by the offering of Christ are those who receive that sanctification through faith in Him. To the Colossian believers Paul wrote,

In Him [Christ] you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way having nailed it to the cross. (Col. 2:11-14)

In his beautiful hymn, Horatius Bonar wrote,

Not what my hands have done

Can save my guilty soul;

Not what my toiling flesh has borne

Can make my spirit whole.

Not what I feel or do

Can give me peace with God;

Not all my prayers and sighs and tears

Can bear my awful load.

Thy grace alone, O God,

To me can pardon speak;

Thy power alone, O Son of God,

Can this sore bondage break.

No other work save thine,

No other blood will do;

No strength save that which is divine

Can bear me safely through.

Title: MacArthur's New Testament Commentary: Hebrews Edition: First Author: MacArthur, John F., Jr. Copyright: Copyright © 1983 by The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago Electronic Edition STEP Files Copyright © 1997, Parsons Technology, Inc.

When the tax collector said, “be merciful,” he used the same word used of Christ in Hebrews 2:17 (“to make propitiation”). He was asking God to be propitious to him, to look favorably on him, though he did not deserve it. He was saying, “I confess my guilt. I have broken your law. I have sinned against you, and I am putting myself under the blood sprinkled on the mercy seat. God, please be satisfied. Let your attitude be toward me as it is toward those who are covered by the blood of the sacrifice. Be satisfied with me because of the sacrifice, and forgive me in your love and mercy.” He did not deny his sin, as the Pharisee did in effect. He recognized his guilt and put it under the blood of the sacrifice. He offered God nothing of his own—no good works, no good habits, no good intentions, not even good excuses. He simply threw himself on God's mercy, God's propitiation. For this he was justified, counted righteous by God.

Title: Ryrie Study Bible NASB Edition: First Author: Ryrie, Charles Caldwell, Th.D., Ph.D.

Copyright: © 1986, 1995 by the Moody Bible Institute of Chicago Electronic Edition STEP Files Copyright © 1998, Parsons Technology, Inc.

2:17 to make propitiation or expiation. Propitiation refers to God's wrath being satisfied by the death of Christ (Rom. 3:25; 1 John 2:2). Expiation emphasizes the removal of sin by the sacrifice that satisfied God. Sin interrupts normal relations with God; expiation removes sin and restores the relationship.

To propitiate means “to appease or to satisfy a god.’’ This naturally brings to mind the question, Why does the deity need to be appeased? The biblical answer to that question is simply that the true God is angry with mankind because of their sin. The theme of the wrath of God appears throughout the Bible, including the teachings of Christ (Mark 3:29; 14:21). Wrath is not merely the impersonal and inevitable working out of the law of cause and effect, but it is a personal intervention of God in the affairs of mankind (Rom. 1:18; Eph. 5:6).

The death of Christ propitiated God, averting His wrath and enabling Him to receive into His family those who place their faith in the one who satisfied Him. The extent of the propitiatory work of Christ is the whole world (1 John 2:2), and the basis of propitiation is His shed blood (Rom. 3:25).

Because Christ has died, God is satisfied. Therefore, we should not ask anyone to try to do anything to satisfy Him. This would mean trying to appease someone who is already appeased, which is totally unnecessary. Before the cross a person could not be certain that God was satisfied with whatever he brought to Him. That is why the publican prayed (literally) “God be propitiated toward me a sinner'' (Luke 18:13). Today such a prayer would be a waste of breath, for God is propitiated by the death of Christ. Therefore, our message to men today should not suggest in any way that they can please God by doing something, but only that they be satisfied with the sacrifice of Christ that completely satisfied the wrath of God.

 

Title: The Moody Handbook of Theology Edition: First Author: Enns, Paul P.

Copyright: Copyright © 1989 by The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. Electronic Edition STEP Files Copyright © 1997, Parsons Technology, Inc.

Propitiation. The noun propitiation occurs only four times in the New Testament, in Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17; and 1 John 2:2; 4:10. This word (from Gk. hilasmos and hilasterion) means to expiate, to appease, or atone for. It indicates that Christ fully met and satisfied the demands of a righteous and holy God. Through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, God's holiness has been satisfied and His wrath averted. Romans 3:26 explains that through the death of Jesus Christ, God can be just (His integrity is maintained) and yet He may still declare the believer in Christ righteous. God does not overlook sin, however. The death of Christ was sufficient in providing atonement for sin so that God's holiness and justice are fully satisfied. Propitiation, therefore, is important in showing how a sinful man might be reconciled to a holy God—it is through the atonement of Christ. God is propitiated (satisfied) with the death of Christ as making full payment for sin.13-25 (See also the discussion under “Meaning of the death of Christ,” in chap. 24.)

In 1 John 2:1-2 John explains the provision that Christ has made for sin. Christ is an “advocate” (Gk. parakletos) for those who sin. In this context, advocate means a defense lawyer in a legal case. The believer has Christ as his defense attorney at the divine bar of justice. Moreover, John says Christ is the “propitiation” (Gk. hilasmos) for the sins of the world. The word is used only here, Romans 3:25, and in 1 John 4:10. Propitiation means Christ atoned for sin by paying the price and thereby assuaging the wrath of God. Propitiation is Godward and suggests that while sin had offended the holiness of God, through the death of Christ God the Father is satisfied and is free to show mercy and forgiveness to the believing sinner. John indicates the propitiation is “for our sins . . . but also for those of the whole world” (1 John 2:2). Christ's death was a substitutionary death that made provision for believers, but John emphasizes the sufficiency is “for the whole world.” Although the whole world is not saved, because Christ is God His death is sufficient for the entire world; it is, however, effectual only in those who believe.

Propitiation

Propitiation means that the death of Christ fully satisfied all the righteous demands of God toward the sinner. Because God is holy and righteous He cannot overlook sin; through the work of Jesus Christ God is fully satisfied that His righteous standard has been met. Through union with Christ the believer can now be accepted by God and be spared from the wrath of God.

The Old Testament word kaphar means “to cover”; it involved a ritual covering for sin (Lev. 4:35; 10:17). The Greek verb hilaskomai, meaning “to propitiate,” occurs twice in the New Testament. In Luke 18:13 the repentant tax collector prayed for God to be propitiated, or that God would provide a covering for sin. In Hebrews 2:17 it declares that Christ has made propitiation for sin. The word also occurs three times in the noun form (hilasmos—1 John 2:2; 4:10; and hilasterion—Rom. 3:25).

Propitiation is related to several concepts. (1) The wrath of God. Because God is holy, His wrath is directed toward sin and must be assuaged to spare man from eternal destruction. (2) God provides the remedy. God provides the solution to sin by sending Christ as a satisfaction for sin. (3) Christ's death assuages the wrath of God. The gift of Christ satisfied the holiness of God and averted His wrath.

Propitiation is Godward; God is propitiated—His holiness is vindicated and satisfied by the death of Christ.

Title: Basic Theology Edition: First Author: Ryrie, Charles C. Copyright: © 1986 by SP Publications, Inc. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America.

IV. A PROPITIATION IN RELATION TO GOD

Propitiation means the turning away of wrath by an offering. In relation to soteriology, propitiation means placating or satisfying the wrath of God by the atoning sacrifice of Christ.

A. The Need for Propitiation: The Wrath of God

The reality of the wrath of God raises the need for appeasing that wrath or for propitiation. Though to the liberal such an idea is pagan, the truth is that the wrath of God is a clear teaching of both the Old and New Testaments.

1. In the Old Testament. Over twenty different words occurring about 580 times express the wrath of God in the Old Testament (2 Kings 13:3; 23:26; Job 21:20; Jer. 21:12; Ezek. 8:18; 16:38; 23:25; 24:13). Everywhere sin constitutes the reason for God’s wrath. Idolatry especially aroused His wrath (Deut. 6:14; Josh. 23:16; Ps. 78:21; Isa. 66:15-17). The effects of God’s wrath included general affliction (Ps. 88:7), pestilence (Ezek. 14:19), slaughter (9:8), destruction (5:15), being delivered to enemies (2 Chron. 28:9), drought (Deut. 11:17), plagues (2 Sam. 24:1), leprosy (Num. 12:10), and exile (2 Kings 23:26, Ezek. 19:12).

Ways of averting God’s wrath included purging sin (Deut. 13:15-17), repentance (Jonah 3:7, 10); intercession (Ps. 106:23; Jer. 18:20), and God’s own action in removing it (Ps. 78:38; Isa. 48:9).

At the same time the Old Testament also portrays God as loving His people and yearning for their fellowship. So the Old Testament concept is not a pagan one of an unreasonable God who demands to be placated, but of a righteous God who cannot overlook sin but whose love also provides avenues for fellowship with Himself.

2. In the New Testament. Though not mentioned so frequently as in the Old Testament, wrath in the New Testament is a basic concept to show the need for propitiation. The New Testament uses two principal words. Orge conveys a more settled anger (John 3:36; Rom 1:18; Eph 2:3; 1 Thes. 2:16; Rev. 6:16), while thumos a more passionate anger (14:10, 19; 15:1, 7; 16:1; 19:15). Together they clearly convey the divine hostility against sin in a personal way. His wrath is not simply the inevitable, impersonal result of the working of cause and effect, but a personal matter. To appease that wrath was not a matter of vengeance but of justice, and it required the sacrificial gift of God’s Son.

B. The Provision of Propitiation: The Sacrifice of Christ

Paul undebatably links propitiation with the death of Christ in Romans 3:25. His blood (that is, His death) made Him the propitiation. An interpretive question exists as to the shade of meaning in hilasterion in the verse. Since it is the same form as is used in Hebrews 9:5, many understand this to refer to Christ as the place where propitiation was made. He was the mercy seat. Others understand the reference to mean that Christ was the propitiatory offering as supported in Hebrews 2:17, 1 John 2:2; and 4:10. Perhaps we are to include both shades of meaning in this passage; that is, our Lord was the satisfactory sacrifice for sin and therefore the place where propitiation was made. Notice the interconnection of sin, sacrifice, blood, and propitiation in these passages.

The references in 2:2 and 4:10 both stress the fact that Christ Himself is the offering that turns away the wrath of God. He is not called the propitiator (note that He is named Savior in v. 14) as if to allow for the possibility that He might have used some other means of propitiation outside of Himself. He is the offering.

C. The Negation of Propitiation: The Teaching of C.H. Dodd

1. His background. C.H. Dodd (1884-1973) was a British Congregational minister and New Testament scholar. He held professorships at Manchester and Cambridge, and after his retirement served as general director of the New English Bible translation. He is primarily known for his work in “realized eschatology” and in the apostolic kerygma.

2. His view on propitiation. Dodd’s view was first stated in an article in the Journal of Theological Studies (1931, 32:352-60) entitled “Ilaskesthai, Its Cognates, Derivatives, and Synonyms.” In essence his view is this: “The rendering propitiation is . . . misleading, for it suggests the placating of an angry God, and although this would be in accord with pagan usage, it is foreign to biblical usage” (The Epistle of Paul to the Romans [London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1935], p. 55). Though he cites elaborate philological and exegetical evidence, his principal reason for this conclusion appears to be theological. To him it is sub-Christian to think that God can be angry and therefore needs to be appeased; therefore, propitiation must be defined in some other way. He proposed expiation as the substitute word and concept for propitiation.

3. His evidence. Dodd cites the following. (1) At least two pagan contexts furnish examples of the meaning expiate and show that in pagan usage the meanings of expiate and propitiate were ambiguous. (2) The Old Testament word kipper is translated in the Septuagint by sanctify, purify, cancel, purge, forgive, and not by propitiate. Therefore, hilaskesthai will have those other meanings also. (3) Hilaskesthai is used to translate other Hebrew words as cleanse and forgive. (4) When the word is used to translate kipper, it does not mean appeasement but to remove guilt.

4. The response. Roger Nicole has offered the most comprehensive and persuasive reply to Dodd’s arguments (“C.H. Dodd and the Doctrine of Propitiation,” Westminster Theological Journal May 1955, 17:127-48). He points out (a) that Dodd’s choice of evidence is selective, since he omits consideration of a number of relevant words; (b) that he fails to include evidence from Philo and Josephus, both of whom understand propitiation as appeasement; (c) that he often ignores the contexts of passages which if considered would not support his conclusions; and (d) that basically his logic is faulty when he assumes that the root meaning of a word is changed or lost just because it is used to translate words other than the most directly equivalent ones.

Basically, the stumbling block to Dodd’s way of thinking is the idea of the wrath of God. He must eliminate that and goes to great philological lengths to try to accomplish it. However, he does not succeed either philologically or biblically. Romans 1:18; 2:5; Colossians 3:6; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9; and Revelation 6:16 cannot be explained away by Dodd or anyone else. Yet his influence has been widespread (T.W. Manson, D.M. Baillie, Vincent Taylor, C.K. Barrett, and the Revised Standard Version).

D. The Distinction between Propitiation and Expiation

Propitiation, as we have seen, means the placating of the personal wrath of God. Expiation is the removal of impersonal wrath, sin, or guilt. Expiation has to do with reparation for a wrong; propitiation carries the added idea of appeasing an offended person and thus brings into the picture the question of why the offended person was offended. In other words, propitiation brings the wrath of God into the picture while expiation can leave it out. If one wanted to use both words correctly in connection with each other, then he would say that Christ propitiated the wrath of God by becoming an expiation for our sins.

E. An Important Practical Point

If because of the death of Christ God is satisfied, then what can the sinner do to try to satisfy God? The answer is nothing. Everything has been done by God Himself. The sinner can and need only receive the gift of righteousness God offers.

Before Christ died, it was perfectly proper to pray, as did the taxgatherer in Luke 18:13, “God, be merciful [lit., be propitiated] to me, the sinner.” Though provision for fellowship with God was provided under the Law, this man could not rely on a finished and eternal sacrifice for sin that would appease God once and for all So that was an entirely appropriate prayer for him to pray But now Christ has died and God is satisfied, and there is no need to ask Him to be propitiated. He is appeased, placated, and satisfied eternally. This is the message we bring to a lost world: Receive the Savior who through His death satisfied the wrath of God.

Title: Evangelism and Church Growth Edition: First Author: Copyright: From Evangelism And Church Growth © 1995 by Elmer L. Towns. Published by Regal Books, a division of Gospel Light, Ventura, California, USA

PROPITIATION

The act of Christ in satisfying, by His death, the demands of God's offended holiness.

“Propitiation properly signifies the turning away of wrath by an offering. In the New Testament this idea is conveyed by the use of hilaskomai (Hebrews 2:17), hilasterion (Romans 3:25), and hilasmos (1 John 2:2; 1 John 4:10).” 1

The biblical terms for propitiation denote the fact that satisfaction was made for the sins of the world by Christ's death. The justice of God had been offended by the sin of humankind. The sin could not be retracted and the nature of God could not forgive the sinner without a payment of satisfaction. The price of satisfaction was the blood of Jesus Christ, and the act of satisfaction is propitiation. The Bible teaches that Jesus is the propitiation for the world. “He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world” (1 John 2:2; cf. Luke 18:13; Romans 3:25; Hebrews 9:5; 1 John 4:10).

Redemption contemplates our bondage and is the provision of grace to release us from our bondage. Propitiation contemplates our liability to the wrath of God and is the provision of grace whereby we may be freed from that wrath.2

The concept of propitiation involves satisfying God's just wrath against sin by the holiness of Jesus Christ's death. Romans 3:25-26 declares the mercy, forbearance and righteous justice of God in His setting forth Christ to be our propitiation. God gave His Son for our sin. Christ did more than die for us; He gave Himself up for God's wrath. This is the ultimate in love in that Christ, being God, went against His nature for us.

The necessity of propitiation is found in the holiness of God and the sinfulness of humans. A holy God cannot look on sin. Neither can sin stand in the presence of God. (“Our God is a consuming fire,” Hebrews 12:29.) The death of Jesus Christ satisfies the justice of God that must be poured upon sin. The coordinate reason for propitiation is the love of God as proclaimed in 1 John 4:10. A holy God could justly consign all sinners to hopeless condemnation, but because of His love He provided a propitiation.

Hebrews 9:2-5 describes briefly the Old Testament tabernacle and its furnishings. Hebrews 9:5 speaks of the “mercy seat,” which was a lid on the ark of the covenant. The term “mercy seat” (hilasterion) and “propitiation” are synonymous. (Other verses that amplify this doctrine are Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2; and 1 John 4:10.)

In Luke 18:13, the praying publican realized that the Law could never satisfy the demands of a holy God. Therefore, he prayed “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” The term “merciful” is hilastheti and the verse may be translated properly, “God be propitious (satisfied) to me a sinner.” Today, we would pray the pubican's prayer: “Lord, look upon me as Thou would look upon the mercy seat of Christ's death, and be satisfied.”


 

"Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (1 John 4:10).

The love of Christ appears in his amazing sufferings for sinners. That love is immense, unsearchable! The inexpressible wrath of God fell from heaven upon Him, as a tremendous thunderstorm, from which there could be no flight, no shelter; so that it entirely crushed His human nature; and the extremity of pain and anguish dissolved the bond between his inmost soul and body. He was brought into the blackest regions of death and darkness (and his love brought Him there), that the sinner might be brought to the regions of light above. His love, his sufferings, were beyond parallel, and from the one you may well take the dimensions of the other. O my soul, see thy Savior agonizing in the garden, bleeding on the cross; and weep tears of gratitude and joy! Oh! On that cross, what love was displayed! Every thorn was a pencil, and every groan was a trumpet, to publish abroad His love to man!

Could we with ink the ocean fill,

Were the whole earth of parchment made,

Were every single stick a quill,

Were every man a scribe by trade:

To write the love of God alone,

Would drain the ocean dry;

Nor would the scroll contain the whole,

Though stretch'd from sky to sky!