Summary: Propitiation

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I. Definition.

A. The English word to propitiate means "to make favorably included; appease; conciliate." Propitiation is the "act of propitiating...that which propitiates."

B. The Greek words are the verb, hilaskomai and its derivatives. This verb means "be propitious, merciful, expiate, make propitiation for." Thus propitiation is the removal of the cause of disfavor, and to be propitious means to be merciful or favorable.

1. Hilaskomai, the verb is found in Lu. 18:13 and Heb. 2:17.

2. Hilasmos, the noun is "means of appeasing, propitiation." 1 Jn. 2:2; 4:10. Christ is the propitiation, because He, in His work on Calvary, removed the cause of God's depleasure toward man.

3. Hilasterion is used for the mercy seat (Heb. 9:5) and refers to Christ Himself in Rom.3:25.

4. Hileos means "propitious, merciful." God is propitious or merciful because He has been propitiated by Christ in His atonement. Heb. 8:12. The other usage of this word (Mt. 16:22) is in another connection: "Be propitious or favorable to yourself.

We may therefore conclude that the essential idea in propitiation is that of satisfaction of divine justice by the death of Christ.

Note that in Lu. 18:13 the publican asks God to be propitiated [literally] to him. This was a perfectly proper prayer before Christ's death. Now God asks us to believe in an accomplished propitiation.

II. The Demand.

A. Because of the sinful Ruin of the human race.

The Bible very clearly states the universality of sin and this revelation makes it evident that there is a real need for satisfying the just demands of a holy God for judgment on sin (Rom.3:9,23).

B. Because of the Righteousness of God.

The Bible reveals with unmistakable clearness the perfect holiness and righteousness of God (Rom.3:25-26). In view of His perfect holiness and righteousness it is clear that He must be perfectly propitiated or satisfied before His love can operate freely in grace.

The necessity of propitiation is met in the death of Christ for sinners. The Bible reveals again and again that the death of Christ was a sacrifice for sin and these many references can only be explained on the basis of the doctrine of propitiation. If God had not needed to be propitiated, there would have been no need for Christ to die.

Isa. 53:5-6/1 Cor. 15:3-4/Gal.1:4; 3:13/Heb.9:22,28/1 Pet.1:18-19; 2:24.

III. Description.

A. Substitution in the O.T.

The doctrine of propitiation itself is not mentioned in the O.T., but when we examine the offerings of the O.T., substitution is evident. Many of these offerings are types or pictures of what Christ has done, who is their fulfillment and the only perfect substitute.

B. Substitution in the N.T.

1. Christ sacrifice was Singular - was offered once and for all verses the many offerings of the O.T. Heb. 9:28

2. Christ sacrifice Sufficient - was a complete and eternal satisfaction for sin verses the O.T. offerings which offered no permanent satisfaction. Rom. 3:25/Heb.10:4

3. Christ sacrifice was Sensible - in contrast to the O.T. sacrifices where the victims were unintelligent and involuntary substitues, Christ in His sacrifice was willing to die and intelligenly accepted place of a Substitute for sinners.

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