carries the basic idea of appeasement or satisfaction, specifically toward God. Propitiation is a two-part act that involves appeasing the wrath of an offended person and being reconciled to him.
The necessity of appeasing God is something many religions have in common. In ancient pagan religions, as well as in many religions today, the idea is taught that man appeases God by offering various gifts or sacrifices. However, the Bible teaches that God Himself has provided the only means through which His wrath can be appeased and sinful man can be reconciled to Him. In the New Testament, the act of propitiation always refers to the work of God and not the sacrifices or gifts offered by man. The reason for this is that man is totally incapable of satisfying God’s justice except by spending eternity in hell. There is no service, sacrifice, or gift that man can offer that will appease the holy wrath of God or satisfy His perfect justice.
The only satisfaction, or propitiation, that could be acceptable to God and that could reconcile man to Him had to be made by God. For this reason God the Son, Jesus Christ, came into the world in human flesh to be the perfect sacrifice for sin and make atonement or “propitiation for the sins of the people”
The word propitiation is used in several verses to explain what Jesus accomplished through His death on the cross.
For example, in Romans 3:24-25 believers in Christ have been
“justified freely by His grace through the redemption
that is in Christ Jesus,
whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood,
to demonstrate His righteousness,
because in His forbearance God had passed over
the sins that were previously committed.”
These verses are a key point
in Paul’s argument in the book of Romans and are
really at the heart of the gospel message.
In the first three chapters of Romans,
Paul makes the argument that everyone,
Jew and Gentile alike,
is under the condemnation
of God and deserving of His wrath
Everyone has sinned and fallen
short of the glory of God
All of us deserve His wrath and punishment. God in
His infinite grace and mercy
has provided a way that His wrath can be appeased
and we can be reconciled to Him.
That way is through
the sacrificial death of His Son, Jesus Christ,
as the payment for sins.
It is through faith in Jesus Christ as God’s perfect sacrifice
that we can be reconciled to God.
It is only because of Christ’s death on the cross and His resurrection on
the third day
that a lost sinner deserving of hell can be reconciled to a holy God.
The wonderful truth of the gospel is that Christians are saved from God’s wrath and reconciled to God not because
“we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins”
(1 John 4:10).
“I am the way, the truth, and the life.
No one comes to the Father
except through Me”
The only way for God’s wrath against sinful man to be appeased
and for us to be reconciled to God is
through Jesus Christ.
There is no other way. This truth
is also communicated in 1 John 2:2, “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.”
An important part of
Christ’s saving work is deliverance
from God’s wrath; Jesus’ propitiation on the cross is the
only thing that can turn away
God’s divine condemnation of sin.
Those who reject Christ as their Savior
and refuse to believe in Him have no hope of salvation.
They can only look forward to facing the wrath of God that they have stored up for the coming day of judgment
There is no other propitiation or sacrifice that can be made for their sins.
Hebrews 7 illustrates that
Jesus fulfilled the
Law of Moses
and is superior to that Law.
Because Jesus is greater, it only makes sense that we should
follow Him. One of the ways that Jesus is greater is in that
Jesus’ sacrifice was once for all
The Law of Moses
prescribed that there would be priests who would make regular,
on behalf of the people and on behalf of themselves
(e.g., Exodus 30:10; Leviticus 9:7).
They were involved in all kinds of sacrifices--
guilt offerings, sin offerings, offerings of atonement,
and making these offerings
was such a full-time job that the Levitical priests
(the priests were appointed from the tribe of Levi)
would not have time to work the land as did people from other tribes.
The sacrifices they offered only temporarily covered up the sins of the people.
In contrast to the sacrifices administered by the Levitical priests, Jesus’ sacrifice was once for all (Hebrews 7:27).
Jesus also served as a high priest,
He wasn’t from the tribe of Levi
(He was from the tribe of Judah),
and His high priesthood was very different.
Jesus was “holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners,
exalted above the heavens”
(Hebrews 7:26, NASB).
Because He was sinless, He didn’t have to offer sacrifices for His own guilt. He owed no debt for any sin and could offer Himself as a substitutionary sacrifice for those who did owe
God a debt for their sin.
The Levitical high priests
had to offer sacrifices daily for their sins and those of the people.
Jesus did not have to do that.
He offered up Himself one time as a sacrifice and in so doing
paid for all of the sins of all of the people—He did this
“once for all when He offered Himself”
The author of Hebrews goes so far as to say that the high priests were “weak” (Hebrews 7:28) because of their own sin, their personal need for sacrifices, and the temporality of the sacrifices they offered. In contrast, Jesus was “perfect,” as He had no sin and therefore no personal need for sacrifices, and the sacrifice He offered was offered only once on the cross. With that once-for-all sacrifice, Jesus paid for the sin of all humanity.
As John puts it, Jesus is the propitiation (or satisfaction) for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2). This means that the price Jesus paid was sufficient to satisfy the debt owed. Jesus’ death was a sufficient sacrifice to cover once and for all the sins of everyone. John also explains that Jesus’ sacrifice had to be applied to each individual--
by believing in Jesus,
each person would have life in His name
Jesus’ sacrifice was once for all (Hebrews 7:27), and rather than go to a priest who would make a temporary sacrifice for our sin, we are told to simply believe (or trust) in Christ as the One who has resolved the sin issue on our behalf and
provided for our forgiveness and new life.
Paul reminds us in Ephesians 2:8–10 that we have been
saved by grace through faith,
and that salvation is not of our own works or efforts, but it is a gift of God.
Because of this, no one can boast in themselves—instead,
we should give Him thanks and exalt Him.
In saving us He gave us new life and provided us a path to fulfill our design.
This was all only made possible because Jesus’ sacrifice was once for all (Hebrews 7:27).
Because of His sacrifice, we can have peace with God and are no longer subject to His wrath; instead, we are children who are beloved by our heavenly Father.
Jesus is described as the author and perfecter, or finisher, of our faith in Hebrews 12:2. An author is an originator or creator, as of a theory or plan. The Greek word translated “author” in Hebrews 12:2 can also mean “captain,” “chief leader” or “prince.” Acts 3:15 uses the same word: “And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses” (KJV), while the NIV and ESV use the word “author” instead of “prince.” From this we can deduce that Christ is the originator of our faith in that He begins it, as well as the captain and prince or our faith. This indicates that Jesus controls our faith, steers it as a captain steers a ship, and presides over it and cares for it as a monarch presides over and cares for his people.
The Greek word translated “perfecter” in Hebrews 12:2 appears only this one time in the New Testament. It means literally “completer” or “finisher” and speaks of bringing something to its conclusion. Putting the two words together, we see that Jesus, as God, both creates and sustains our faith. We know that saving faith is a gift from God, not something we come up with on our own (Ephesians 2:8-9), and that gift comes from Christ, its creator. He is also the sustainer of our faith, meaning that true saving faith cannot be lost, taken away or given away. This is a source of great comfort to believers, especially in times of doubt and spiritual struggles. Christ has created our faith and He will watch over it, care for it, and sustain it.
It is important for us to understand that God in Christ is
not only the creator and sustainer of our saving faith,
but He is also the sustainer of our daily walk and the finisher
of our spiritual journey.
For if God in Christ is not the author of our new life, and if Christ is not the finisher and perfecter of our faith through the Holy Spirit’s indwelling power, then we are neither born again nor are we a true follower of Christ. “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” “In him you also,
when YOU heard the word of truth,
the gospel of YOUR salvation,
believed in him,
were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the
guarantee of our inheritance
acquire possession of it,
to the praise of his glory”
(Philippians 1:6; Ephesians 1:13-14).