Meaning: The term propitiation is built on the simple root il meaning favorable. In the verb form, ilaskomai, means to appease resulting in favor or mercy. The noun ilasmoj means an appeasing; whereas the noun ilasthrion means the place of appeasing.
Uses (Propitiation connections…)
Propitiation is part of God’s foreordination. “Displayed publicly” = pre-placed
Christ himself is the propitiation. “whom” is the object of displayed publicly and refers to Christ in v 24. And “propitiation” is a description of whom (Chrsit). (Both whom and propitiation are accusatives.
Propitiation is connected to Christ blood and comes to believers via the channel of faith.
Romans 3:25 whom God (displayed publicly προτίθημι) as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed;
Propitiation is associated with the OT concept of the mercy seat that indicated a place of covering for the sin.
Hebrews 9:5 and above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat (ilasthrion); but of these things we cannot now speak in detail.
Propitiation assumes the presence of sin.
Hebrews 2:17 Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, (to make propitiation, ilaskomai) for the sins of the people.
“people” (laoj) often refers to a specific group of people such as Jews or Christians. Note it is “the” people.
Luke 18:13 "But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, 'God, (be merciful ilaskomai) to me, the sinner!'
1 John 4:10 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 2:2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.
All interpreters must deal with universal terms. It is a problem for everyone unless you are willing to accept universalism. Solve by restricting the term (not actual but potential) or restricting the objects.
Advocacy and propitiation must refer to the same group.
Predicate nominative (v2 “he is propitiation”) indicates actuality not potentiality. If one person in this group suffers wrath, this statement is false.
Solution: “whole world” must be restricted (cf Rom 1:8, Rev 12:9, 1 Jn 5:19)
Propitiation” normally restricted to believers (Rom 3:25, 1 Jn 4:10, Heb 2:17)
Either it refers to a distinction between Jewish Christians (“ours”) and Gentile Christians (“world) or a distinction between Christians to whom he was writing and mankind as a corporate entity (though not every individual in mankind).
Related terms – Atonement and Sacrifice
Strictly speaking, atonement is an Old Testament word rooted in the great picture of the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16) (Yom Kuppur) when the people of God remembered the blood sprinkled on the mercy seat (the cover to the ark) on their behalf because of sin. Also, they remembered the Passover (Exodus 12) when, on the eve of the exodus from Egypt, they were spared death due to the blood sprinkled on the doorposts.
So, kippur (כִּפֻּר) means “to atone by offering a substitute” (TWOT 1023); therefore “ransom” or “redeem” is a good meaning. BDB (4612) disagrees and says that the root term means a covering. In either case the idea is to pacify or satisfy. The English “atone” or “expiate” meaning to make amends or pay for is not far off. In Lev 16 the word is central.
The LXX uses a form of “propitiation” (ἐξιλάσκομαι) to translate kuppur in the OT. Hence the relationship between propitiation and atonement. Thus, the NIV translation “atoning sacrifice” or “atonement” for propitiation in the NT.
Furthermore, the term “atonement” has become a theological term designating the work of Christ on the cross. Thus, to speak of the atonement is to speak of Christ’s death on behalf of men whereby sin was paid for.
The core idea is that sin is transferred from the sinner to a substitute and thereby God’s wrath was conciliated and mercy prevailed.
The Old Testament sacrifices were expiatory; that is they dealt with sin and guilt. They symbolized dealing with sin so as to shield men from God’s wrath. However, such sacrifices, in contrast to the sacrifice of Christ, could not finally solve sin.
NAU Hebrews 10:11 Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins;
NAU Hebrews 9:26 Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.
Inherent in the practice of sacrifice was the notion of substitution. The person offering a sacrifice laid his hand on the animal to be sacrificed thereby visualizing that the animal was taking the place of another. The atoning work of Christ was unique in that he was both the priest who offered the sacrifice as well as the victim sacrificed.
NAU Ephesians 5:2 and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.
“for” us = upper. Note connection between love and gave.
NAU 1 Peter 2:24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.
Classic statement of substitution. Christ “carried up” (anaferw) our sins to the cross.
Summary: Propitiation is shielding God’s people from the holy wrath of God. 1 John 4:10.
Conclusions regarding propitiation.
Christ is the satisfaction or appeasement for our sin in that He covers our sins by His blood. So, the essence of propitiation is that Christ sacrificed Himself in order to satisfy the wrath of God on our behalf and because of our sin.
Those on whose behalf God has been propitiated can not be the objects of His wrath. And those who experience the wrath of God can not be the objects of propitiation (Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness; John 3:36 "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.").
Preaching and teaching on the love and compassion of God is laudable and essential. But, sadly, there is a great lack of preaching on the holy wrath of God. The result is a God who is not feared and a gospel that is impotent to save.
As with many of these salvation terms, we must ask questions such as, is God actually satisfied? Does God really no longer deal with these individuals in wrath?
© Copyright. Joseph Flatt. 2017. All rights reserved. May be used for educational purposes without written permission but with a citation to this source.