Monday, November 23, 2009


The kids and I are going through all of the difficult words we encounter in the Bible.

The Oxford Dictionary defines propitiate as a verb which means "win the favour or forgiveness of, placate"; propitiation is the noun. It is from the Latin placare - placate; to appease.

Once a year, on the Great Day of Atonement, the high priest would carry the blood of the sacrifice behind the veil, into the Holy of Holies. He sprinkled the "mercy-seat" with the blood, and so made propitiation, or in other words, he satisfied the wrath of God.

Propitiation is mentioned four times in the Bible:

Romans 3:25
whom 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.

ESV NOTES: Jesus' blood “propitiated” or satisfied God's wrath, so that his holiness was not compromised in forgiving sinners. Some scholars have argued that the word propitiation should be translated expiation (the wiping away of sin), but the word cannot be restricted to the wiping away of sins as it also refers to the satisfaction or appeasement of God's wrath, turning it to favor. God's righteous anger needed to be appeased before sin could be forgiven, and God in his love sent his Son (who offered himself willingly) to satisfy God's holy anger against sin. In this way God demonstrated his righteousness, which here refers particularly to his holiness and justice. God's justice was called into question because in his patience he had overlooked former sins. In other words, how could God as the utterly Holy One tolerate human sin without inflicting full punishment on human beings immediately? Paul's answer is that God looked forward to the cross of Christ where the full payment for the guilt of sin would be made, where Christ would die in the place of sinners.

Hebrews 2:17

Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

ESV NOTES: Jesus must be human in order to serve as high priest on behalf of humanity. Propitiation conveys the sense of an atoning sacrifice that puts away sin and satisfies God's wrath.

1 John 2:2
He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

Propitiation here means “a sacrifice that bears God's wrath and turns it to favor... As the perfect sacrifice for sin, Jesus turns away God's wrath. For the sins of the whole world does not mean that every person will be saved, for John is clear that forgiveness of sins comes only to those who repent and believe the gospel, but Jesus' sacrifice is offered and made available to everyone in “the whole world,” not just to John and his current readers.

1 John 4:10
In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

God demonstrates His wrath many times in the Old Testament. The earth swallowed the sons of Korah, who rebelled against God's anointed. God's anger burned hot against His own people when they worshipped idols, and if Moses had not begged God to turn away His wrath, they would have been consumed. Our God is a consuming fire. He cannot wink at sin.

So out of His great love for us, He sent His only Son, Who had never sinned, to satisfy divine justice. Jesus took the sins of the people upon Himself, and suffered and bled and died in our place.

Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sin. But with the blood of Christ applied to our hearts by faith, our sins are covered, and God is satisfied.

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