“He is the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 2:2)
Propitiation is the appeasement of God’s wrath by the blood of Christ. The word “propitiation” is used three times in the New Testament. In all three places we are told that Christ is our propitiation. The very same Greek word translated “propitiation” in the New Testament is translated “mercy seat” in the Septuagint (Greek) version of Exodus 25:21 and in Hebrews 9:5.
The mercy seat which covered the ark of the covenant and covered God’s broken law, upon which the cherubim were fixed, upon which they constantly looked, was the place where the atonement blood of the paschal lamb was sprinkled. The mercy seat was the seat of Divine Majesty where God promised to meet His people in mercy. To the mercy seat men were bidden look in the hope of obtaining mercy from and communing with God through the blood-stained mercy seat, just as we are bidden to come to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need, because there Christ has sprinkled His blood.
The publican mentioned by our Lord in Luke’s Gospel looked to Christ as the one represented in the mercy seat. He cried, “God be merciful (be propitious) to me a sinner” (Luke 18:13). He sought mercy through the propitiatory sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah. Let me show you how this word propitiation is used in reference to Christ and His sacrifice for sin.
The Lord Jesus Christ was set forth by God the Father to be our propitiation (Romans 3:24-26). He is the One who has made propitiation for us, the One in whom propitiation is found, the One for whose sake God is propitious to sinners, and the One who is Himself our Gospel. Christ is our Mercy Seat. He alone is the place where God meets with sinners, receives us, and blesses us. He is the One by whom justice has been appeased. He is the One who is our Peace. He is the propitiatory Sacrifice for our sins. Just as God in the Old Testament types smelled the sweet savor of the typical, legal sacrifices and was ceremonially content with them, so Christ’s precious blood is a sweet smelling savor to Him (Ephesians 5:2). John Gill wrote, “His sacrifice was an offering of a sweet smelling savour to (the Father). He was well pleased with it. It gave Him contentment and satisfaction, because His justice was appeased by it and the demands of His law were answered. Yea, it was magnified and made honorable.”
How has God the Father set forth His dear Son as our Mediator to be the propitiation for our sins? Obviously, Paul does not suggest that the Son was compelled to be subservient to the Father. Not at all. This thing was agreed upon by both the Father and the Son. The Son was just as willing to be our Gospel as the Father is willing to receive His propitiatory sacrifice. Yet, the Holy Spirit tells us that it was God the Father who set forth his Son to be a propitiation. How has He done this?
Christ was set forth to be the propitiation for our sins in the eternal purposes and decrees of God. He is the Lamb of God who, verily, was foreordained and slain before the foundation of the world as the ransom price and propitiatory sacrifice for His people. His sufferings and death as such were according to the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God (1 Peter 1:19; Acts 2:23; 4:28; Revelation 13:8).
He was set forth to be our propitiation in all the promises, prophecies, and pictures of the Old Testament Scriptures. He is the Seed of the woman promised to Adam and Eve in the Garden who must come to crush the serpent’s head. He is the paschal lamb, the brazen serpent, the morning and evening sacrifice, and the promised Substitute of whom all the prophets wrote.
In the fulness of time the Son of God was set forth as our propitiation in human flesh. He was actually made of a woman, made under the law, that He might redeem His people who were under the law. When He was made sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him, when He had satisfied Divine justice for us with His precious blood, He was set forth as the propitiation for our sins.
Christ is still set forth in the Gospel to be the propitiation for our sins, and shall be until time shall be no more. As God’s servants faithfully expound the Book of God, preaching the Gospel in the power of His Spirit, Christ is set forth as the only and all-sufficient, effectual propitiation for our sins (1 John 2:2). He is the propitiatory sacrifice for the sins of Gods elect, Jews and Gentiles, throughout all the world, the sacrifice upon which God is merciful to us, being pacified towards us for all that we have done (Hebrews. 8:12; Ezekiel 16:6).
Because of his great love for us, God the Father sent His darling Son into the world to be the propitiation for our sins by offering up His soul and body as a sacrifice to Divine justice to make atonement for us (1 John 4:10).
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