P is for Propitiation
Romans 3:21-26 states, “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it – the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, who 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. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
“…who [Christ] God put forward as a propitiation.” This is a difficult word to translate, let alone understand. Unfortunately many believers do not know what this word means. Since they don’t know what it means they are cheated of the opportunity of appreciating it and giving God praise and glory as a result of their understanding.
The Greek word which we translate propitiation is the word “ιλαστηριον.” This word was used by the Greeks to imply “to make the gods propitious, or to appease the gods. The Greeks believed that their various gods did not have “good will” as an innate character trait. As a matter of fact the Greeks believed that the good will of their gods had to be earned or purchased.
The bible does not recognize this definition nor does it apply it to God in any way. This word is never used to imply that man by any act, attitude, or action could earn or purchase the good will of God. There is no way that man can turn away God’s wrath. There is no sacrifice, no work, no effort, no self-denial, nor flagellation that could ever satisfy God or turn away his wrath.
The bible is clear that God was “propitiated” by the vindication of His holy character which had been assaulted by man’s sin through the provision of an offering or sacrifice that He determined to be satisfactory to him. In other words, through the decision to give his Son as a vicarious substitute for sinful mankind, God’s wrath, God’s holiness, and God’s justice was appeased. This is the reason why God can be merciful to a sinful man and extend forgiveness to a sinful.
Propitiation is simply the removal of the wrath of God by the offering of a sacrificial offering. God is able and willing to put away His wrath against sinful man because of the propitiatory offering of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary. God exercises his wrath against sin which results in condemnation and judgment. But Jesus Christ is the means by which he averts the divine wrath by the offering of his body in place of sinful mankind.
God did not pour out his wrath against sinful man but poured out his wrath against his own and only Son. At the moment of faith in the atoning work of Christ, the benefit of the cross is applied to us and we become acceptable to God by being “in Christ.”
In Adam I sinned my estate had fell,
my just desert was a place called hell.
God’s wrath against me was fully written,
no hope at all, for by sin I was smitten
A just and holy God knew not sin,
twas he who made me to live again.
Alas, He would give his son to be,
a sacrifice made acceptable for me
My place he took upon the cross
yes he bore my sin and guilt at cost
He became sin for me and yet,
It was his rightousness I did get!
Oh, what heavenly transaction was this;
that God’s own Son bore death’s kiss?
What joy what mystery and what elation!
Christ Jesus became the sinner’s propitiation!
(copy-righted by Gregg Metcalf, April 18, 2010)