June 13, 2009 1 John 4:10


Propitiation is one of those technical words in the New Testament that we need to understand.

Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God" (Rom. 3:25).

  • When you walk into the Book of Romans, you walk into a court of law.
  • There you and I stand before God, the Judge. We are guilty. We are criminals who are guilty of disobeying God's Law.
  • Not only are we criminals, we are prisoners-we are in bondage.
  • Our condition, our state, is one of bondage and one of agony.
  • The very sword of God's judgment hangs over his head. We are condemned, we face the wrath of God.
  • When we look back, we realize we are guilty of disobedience.
  • When we look around, we realize we are prisoners.
  • When we look ahead, we realize we are condemned, we have no future.
  • This the Book of Romans teaches very clearly.
  • How can we get out of this terrible plight?
  • We are helpless, we can't do it ourselves.
  • The judge may love us and want to help us all that he can, but he has to obey the Law.
  • The only solution is that someone qualified can come in, obey the Law, fulfill the righteous demands of the Law and set us free.
  • Of course, that person is Jesus Christ and this is what propitiation is all about.
  • Lesson

Definition of propitiation

  • First of all, the definition of propitiation.
  • Propitiation is the work of Jesus Christ on the cross by which he satisfied God’s holiness so God could extend mercy to lost sinners.
  • If you look up the word propitiation in the English dictionary, you will find it defined as "appeasing someone's anger."
  • Some people have the idea that God the Father is angry at lost sinners.
  • They think He is sitting in heaven waiting to throw thunderbolts upon people who have disobeyed Him.
  • Then God the son comes up and says, "Now, Father, please don't be angry! I will go and die for these sinners. and this will appease Your wrath.'
  • Nothing could be further from the truth.

Let us consider this wonderful doctrine from three different aspects.

  • Perspective One: Jesus Christ and His Father and the Holy Spirit work together in this whole great plan of salvation.
  • It is not that one wants to condemn and the other wants to forgive.
  • When Jesus went to the cross Calvary, the of Father was there.
    • It is true the Father forsook His Son when His Son was made sin, but that was just for a brief moment when our Savior cried out,

"My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Matt. 27:46).

  • The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit worked together in the plan of salvation.
    • Propitiation does not mean that Jesus Christ came to appease God's anger.
  • Some people have the idea that, because of His death on the cross, our Lord turned God's wrath into love.
  • Again, nothing could be further from the truth.
    • Our God is a God of judgment. We want to be very clear about that.
    • Throughout the Bible you find the revelation of the wrath of God as well as the mercy of God.
    • There are almost 20 Hebrew words in the Old Testament translated wrath- There are more than 500 references to wrath and judgment just in the Old Testament.
    • Our Father in heaven is a loving Father, but He also is a holy Father. God's anger does not turn into love because this would mean that God is changing, and God does not change.
    • Propitiation does not mean appeasing God's anger; propitiation does not mean turning God's wrath into love.
  • His wrath is a holy wrath; His judgment is a holy judgment. Because He loves holiness and hates sin, He has to be a God of judgment.
  • Perspective Two: Propitiation means that Christ satisfied the holiness of God so that He is able to extend grace and mercy to lost sinners.
  • God is a holy God, and because He is holy sin has to be punished.
  • God cannot break His own Law.
  • If for one instant God broke His Law, the universe would fall apart.
  • All of God's attributes are consistent. His wisdom does not fight against His power. His power does not fight against His grace. His grace does not fight against His holiness.
  • There is a cooperation, a consistency, a unity about the character of God.
  • You and I are not consistent.
  • At times we are overly sentimental and loving; at other times we are overly angry and unforgiving.
  • God is not this way. God's attributes are consistent and unified, and so there is no need for Him to lay one aside for the other. God's holiness demands that sin be punished. God cannot lie, God cannot break His own Law. His love moves Him to save the sinner, but His love is a holy love, and this is where propitiation comes in.
  • Perspective Three: Jesus Christ satisfied the demands of the Law.
  • Propitiation describes the God-ward work of Christ on the cross-He paid the penalty for the broken Law.
  • The Law was satisfied. He bore the judgment of the guilty sinner, and sinners now can be justified.
  • Forgiveness is now available because of God's grace. There is no condemnation because Jesus Christ has died.
  • The old Puritan theologian, John Owen, has summarized propitiation in three simple statements.

First, there is an offense to be removed. Sinners have offended a holy God.

Second, there is on offended person to be dealt with-God the Father. God the Father simply cannot close His eyes like some doting grandfather and say, "Well, I'll all about it." A holy God has to deal with sin.

Third, the person who has offended has to be he is not pardoned, he is condemned. In order for this to happen, a sacrifice has to be offered.

  • So there is an offense to be removed, an offended person to be satisfied, an offending person to be pardoned, and a sacrifice to make all this possible. This is the meaning of propitiation.

Demonstration of Propitiation

  • A demonstration of propitiation is found in Leviticus 16.
  • You are acquainted, I'm sure, with the great Day of Atonement in Leviticus 16. Once a year the high priest laid aside his beautiful garments, and he offered sacrifices for his own sins. Then he set apart two goats: One goat was chosen to die, and the other goat was chosen to stay alive. The high priest would kill the goat that was set aside for sacrifice and take the blood of that goat into the Holy of Holies. This was the only time in the year when the high priest was allowed to go into the Holy of Holies. He sprinkled the blood on the mercy seat. The mercy seat was that beautiful, golden covering on the ark of the covenant. At each end of the mercy seat there was a golden cherub, positioned as though looking down into the ark. In the ark were the tables of the Law. When the priest came in and sprinkled the blood upon that mercy seat, the blood covered the broken Law.
  • Then he would go out and put his hands on the head of the living goat and confess the sins of the people of Israel. That living goat was then taken out into the wilderness, turned loose and never seen again. Together these two goats made up a sin offering. It is a picture to us of John 1:29: "Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world."
  • The Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross; His blood turned the throne of judgment into a throne of grace, a mercy seat. In fact, the word "propitiation" is translated mercy seat in Hebrews 9:5. God's justice has been satisfied, and now God can forgive our sins and take them from us as far as the east is from the west. The Law has been satisfied, and God is "free" to extend pardon and mercy. He can be just as He forgives our sins.

Dynamic of Propitiation

Next let’s discuss the dynamic of propitiation.

If you know Jesus as your Savior, then you have all of the blessings that are wrapped up in propitiation. What are they?

Sinners Can Be Saved

First of all, sinners can be saved from judgment.

We read in 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.

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

  • Propitiation says that sinners can be saved from judgment, and not just a few sinners-propitiation is available to the whole world.
  • When the Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead and the tomb was left empty, Mary came to the tomb and stood outside weeping. When she stooped and looked in the tomb, she saw two angels-one at the head and one at the feet of where the body had been lying, just like the mercy seat (see John 20:7I, 72).

John 20:11But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb;

John 20:12and she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying.

  • The garments our Lord had been wrapped in were lying there empty, because He had arisen from the dead. But at each end of that stone slab there was an angel. It looked just like the mercy seat! Because Jesus died for us, sinners can be saved from judgment.
  • This is a good motivation to get the Gospel out to the whole world. Your church's ministry and your ministry ought to be one of worldwide missions as well as witnessing to people here at home.

So the dynamic of propitiation is that sinners can be saved from judgment by trusting Jesus Christ.

Believers Can Be Forgiven

Second, believers can be forgiven when they sin. I John 2:1 says,

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;

  • Because Jesus Christ died for our sins, He met the holy demands of God's just Law, and we can be forgiven.
  • We don't have to be saved all over again; we are forgiven.
  • We can come to the Lord Jesus Christ and confess our sins.
  • He forgives us and restores us because we come to the mercy seat where His blood has been applied.

We Can Find Strength

There is a third dynamic to propitiation. It not only means forgiveness for lost sinners, a message for the whole world and the assurance of forgiveness when we sin, but it means that we can find strength for living at the mercy seat.

Hebrews 4:16Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

The mercy seat is the place where we meet God, where we meet Jesus Christ and where we can find grace for the demands of life.

  • So the Lord Jesus Christ is our propitiation.
  • He has provided all that is necessary for salvation, for daily forgiveness, for motivation to witness to the whole world and for strength for daily living.
  • When you have used your hymnal in church, I’m sure you have seen the name William Cowper. He was a discouraged man, a very nervous fellow, ready to give up. And he said in one of his writings, on a day when he was extremely distraught, "l flung myself into a chair near the window, and seeing a Bible there, ventured once more to apply to it for comfort and instruction. The first verse I saw was the 25th of the 3rd of Romans: "

Romans 3:25whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith.

  • l saw the sufficiency of the atonement He had made, my pardon sealed in His blood, and all the fullness and completeness of His justification. In an instant I believed and received the peace of the gospel." He wrote these words:

There is a fountain filled with blood

Drawn from Immanuel's veins,

And sinners plunged beneath that flood

Lose all their guilty stains.

Romans 3:25whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith.