What is Propitiation?
The word “propitiation” appears just three times in scripture but conveys a most important truth about the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ.
John, the beloved and now aged disciple, uses the word twice in his first epistle (letter):
“…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 those of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2, NASB)
“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.” (1 John 4:10, NASB)
Paul writes of it once in his masterful letter to the believers in Rome. Speaking of the believers redemption in Christ, he writes… “whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith.” (Rom. 3:25, NASB).
Because of its strange-soundingness to our ears today many translations have replaced the word with more familiar terms such as “satisfaction,” “atoning sacrifice,” or “expiation.” But something of its meaning is lost in doing so.
We speak much of God’s goodness, grace, mercy and love these days, but we must never forget the truth of God’s wrath against sin! We have not only lost fellowship with God due to our sin, but we have also enraged Him. God HATES sin! When we turn our backs to him and love sin more it is an act of spiritual idolatry and adultery.
Paul warns, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom. 1:18, NASB).
John also in his gospel writes, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.” (John 3:36, NIV).
But thanks be to God that Christ Jesus is the propitiation for our sin!
Propitiation means that Christ took upon Himself all the wrath of God the Father. Jesus “took the heat” so to speak for your sin and mine. God’s rage has been satisfied… His wrath found its object in Christ!
Never before had Christ lost Oneness with the Father, yet on His cross He cries, “Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). (Matt. 27:46). In that moment God could no longer look upon His Son.
He could have come down from that cross. He could have just walked away and said “No. Sinful mankind is not worth it.” But He did not. He said,
“The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” (John 10:17-18).
Why not take a moment now and thank Him. Thank Him that “He Himself is the propitiation for your sin.”