Listen to sermons at FreeGraceRadio.com
Sermon #32 — Romans Series
Title: Christ Our Propitiation
Text: Romans 3:25
Subject: Christ Propitiatory Sacrifice
Date: Sunday Morning — October 26, 2014
Reading: Exodus 25:1-40
My text is Romans 3:25. The Apostle Paul, writing by divine inspiration, writing by the inspiration of God the Holy Ghost, has just declared that every sinner who trusts the Lord Jesus Christ is “justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Then, we read…
Romans 3:25 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.
God set forth the Lord Jesus Christ, his darling Son, “a Propitiation.” He did not set him forth “to be” a Propitiation. Notice that the words “to be” are in italics. That means they were added by our translators to make the sentence read more smoothly; but there are no such words in the original text. In this case, the added words might be misleading. The Lord God did not set forth his Son “to be” a Propitiation. He set him forth as a Propitiation…
· In his eternal purposes and decrees.
· In the promises of the Old Testament.
· In the types, shadows, and sacrifices of the law.
· By the exhibition of him in our nature in the incarnation.
· By in his life of obedience as our Surety.
· In his sacrifice upon the cursed tree.
· And in the preaching of the Gospel.
Let’s go back to the passage we read earlier (Exodus 25). Here we see our blessed Savior set forth as the Propitiation for our sins.
Exodus 25:17-22 And thou shalt make a mercy seat (a propitiation) of pure gold: two cubits and a half shall be the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof. 18 And thou shalt make two cherubims of gold, of beaten work shalt thou make them, in the two ends of the mercy seat. 19 And make one cherub on the one end, and the other cherub on the other end: even of the mercy seat shall ye make the cherubims on the two ends thereof. 20 And the cherubims shall stretch forth their wings on high, covering the mercy seat with their wings, and their faces shall look one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubims be. 21 And thou shalt put the mercy seat above upon the ark; and in the ark thou shalt put the testimony that I shall give thee. 22 And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel.
That mercy seat in the tabernacle and later in the temple typified Christ our Propitiation; and that is my subject. — Christ Our Propitiation. You have my text before you — Romans 3:25. The Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world, is he…
Romans 3:25 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.
We meet with this word “Propitiation” only three times in our Bibles (Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2; 4:10). All three times we are told that Christ is our Propitiation.
1 John 2:1-2 My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: (2) And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.
1 John 4:9-10 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. (10) Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
Though the Word “Propitiation” is only used three times; but God the Holy Ghost tells us everywhere in the Book of God that God the Father “sent his Son to be the Propitiation for our sins,” and that “He is the Propitiation for our sins.” —— A propitiation is a sacrifice offered to God to appease his wrath. Jesus Christ is called our Propitiation because he satisfied the righteous demands of the law of God as our Representative upon the earth, and he turned God’s anger away from us by his substitutionary atonement, suffering in our place the punishment due to our sins.
God’s love for his elect is eternal and immutable. He never hated them, but always loved them. His love never changes. He does not love today and hate tomorrow, or hate today and love tomorrow. And God’s love never varies. It never increases and never diminishes. Christ has not, by his sacrifice and death, procured the love and favor of God toward us. Rather he has, by his sin-atoning sacrifice at Calvary, removed all the obstacles which lay in the way of his love breaking forth and showing itself. God’s holy law broken by us and his offended justice had to be satisfied. And Christ, by his sacrifice, has satisfied both. Because Christ is our Propitiation; neither the wrath of God nor any of the effects of his wrath can ever fall upon those for whom Christ is the Propitiation. — That is Paul’s doctrine in our text regarding our Lord Jesus Christ, — “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.”
Propitiation: Our free justification was obtained by the propitiatory sacrifice of our dear Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
It could never have been possible except by Christ’s blood atonement. To be justified freely by his grace means that God justifies the sinner without any works or merit on their part. Justification is the work of God’s grace alone. He showed mercy to men who merited nothing but wrath. This is God’s work alone!
Though the word “Propitiation” is used only three times in the Book of God that does not mean that the subject is unimportant. Oh, no! In fact, there is nothing taught in all the Word of God that is of any greater importance.
You see, even God cannot arbitrarily put away sin and discharge the sinner of his guilt apart from the work of his Son upon the cross. A holy and just God must have a suitable satisfaction for sin before he can receive sinners into fellowship with himself. Therefore, he declares that “without shedding of blood there is no remission for sin.” Only upon the grounds of Christ’s propitiatory sacrifice can God be just and yet justify the ungodly. Only by Christ our Propitiation is it possible for the Holy Lord God to be what he declares himself to be — “A Just God and a Savior!” Mercy must flow out to hell-deserving sinners through the blood of Christ. Only through the blood of the cross can God in justice pardon the ungodly.
In Hebrews 9:5 the Greek word translated “propitiation” in our text (Romans 3:25) is translated “mercy-seat,” because the mercy-seat we read about in Exodus 25 was the Old Testament type of Christ our Propitiation. The mercy-seat was the place of propitiation by which God the Holy Spirit set forth the all-glorious Person and saving, redeeming work of the Lord Jesus Christ, our God and Savior.
Proposition: This is the thing that I want show you from the Word of God in this message: — The Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was sent into the world by his eternal Father to be the Propitiation for our sins, that sinful men and women like you and me might obtain mercy.
Divisions: I want to raise and answer these four questions:
1. Why do I need Christ as my Propitiation?
2. How is the Lord Jesus the Propitiation for our sins?
3. What kind of Propitiation is he?
4. How are we to make use of Christ our Propitiation?
In the first place — Why do I need Christ as my Propitiation? I have already hinted at the answer to this question, so I will address it only briefly; but it must be addressed. Before anyone will value the propitiatory work of Christ, he must recognize his own need of that work. —— Five Reasons
1. I need Christ as my propitiation, because God is holy and I am guilty. — Every person knows the guilt of his own heart. It is true; he does not fully know the extent and vileness of his guilt. But he does know that he is guilty, no matter how much he tries to deny it. And all men know that one day they must give an account of their guilt to a holy God. It is just for this reason that we need Christ as our Propitiation. We need someone to stand between the holy Lord God and our guilty souls.
2. I need Christ as my Propitiation, because God is just. — I know that God is just. Justice and truth are the habitation of his throne. A just and true God must punish sin. He will by no means clear the guilty. He has sworn, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” And God cannot lie. — “The wages of my sin is death.”
3. I need Christ as my Propitiation, because I cannot, by any possibility, satisfy God’s justice. — I do not have the ability to obey God’s holy law. — I know what I should and should not do. I know what God requires. But I have no strength to obey. And God has said, “Cursed is everyone that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them.”
4. Even if I could, from this day forward, perfectly obey God’s law, I can never atone for my past transgressions. — I cannot redeem myself; and no mere man can redeem me. Were I to suffer the infinite wrath of the eternal God in hell forever, I could never satisfy that wrath. — “None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him: (for the redemption of their soul is precious, and it ceaseth forever) (Psalm 49:7-8).
5. I know that “without shedding of blood there is no remission of sin.” So I need Christ to shed his blood on my behalf, to satisfy God’s just wrath, and win for me the forgiveness of sin. Without Christ to stand as my Propitiation before God, I have no hope.
In the second place, — How is the Lord Jesus Christ the Propitiation for our sins? — We need to know what the Spirit of God means when he speaks of Christ being our Propitiation. He was sent of God to be such, but what does that signify?
First, when John says that God “sent his Son to be the Propitiation for our sins,” he means that Jesus Christ was sent by God to be our Mercy-Seat. — We have read the law of God regarding the mercy-seat in Exodus 25:17-22. In the Levitical order of the Old Testament, we are able to see the purpose and usage of the mercy-seat, and how this was a clear representation of our Lord Jesus Christ in his work of redemption for us.
The mercy-seat was a golden lid that covered the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark of the Covenant was a simple wooden box overlaid with gold, in which the tables of the law were kept. This was placed in the most holy place of the tabernacle. The High Priest of Israel alone was allowed to enter that most holy place, and he only once a year, and then only with the blood of God’s appointed sacrifice on the Day of Atonement. On that day, he sprinkled blood on the mercy-seat to make atonement for the sins of the people. It was above this mercy-seat that God manifested his glory between the cherubs.
The mercy-seat was a covering sprinkled with blood to keep the tables of the broken law from the sight of the Divine Glory. If the law had been brought into sight against the sins of the congregation, it would have demanded their death. That mercy-seat and the whole ceremony associated with it was typical of Christ. He is our Mercy-seat. Let me briefly show the beauty of this type.
The mercy-seat was made of pure gold, symbolizing the divinity and perfection of our Savior. Though he was a man, he was truly God. And though he was truly a man, Jesus Christ was perfect, pure, and without any spot of sin. He is holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners.
The mercy-seat was just as long and just as wide as the ark which kept the law, completely covering the broken law.
As the mercy-seat covered the ark and was between the pure eye of God and the broken law, so Christ stands as a Mediator between us sinners and transgressors of the law and the wrath and vengeance of the holy God we deserve.
This lid was called the mercy-seat because it was the blessed place of mercy, where the wrath of God was appeased. —— This was the place where God met with his people (Exodus 25:22). Even so, Jesus Christ is the means of divine mercy to us. God meets with sinners in Christ to show them mercy.
As the mercy-seat was the place where the presence and glory of God were manifested in the Shekinah, so Christ our Mercy-Seat is the place where the glory of God is manifest. The glory of God shines unto men in the face of Jesus Christ.
2 Corinthians 4:4-7 The God of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. 5 For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake. 6 For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.
And so the word “propitiation” suggests that Jesus Christ is our Mercy-Seat. This word also has reference to Christ as our propitiatory sacrifice. It means that Christ is not only the place where mercy is found, but that he is also the sin-offering and sacrifice which has made that mercy possible. Our sin-offering, our trespass offering, our paschal Lamb, our propitiatory sacrifice is Christ. These were all shadows of which Christ is the Substance. — “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us” (2 Corinthians 5:7). — “He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Our dear Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ did not die as a martyr for a worthy cause. He did not die as an example of moral goodness. The Son of God died the Innocent in the place of the guilty, the Just in the stead of the unjust, as our Substitute.
Hail, thou once despised Jesus,
Hail, Thou Galilean King!
Thou didst suffer to release us,
Thou didst free salvation bring!
Hail, Thou agonizing Savior,
Bearer of our sin and shame,
By Thy merits we find favor,
Life is given through Thy name.
Paschal Lamb, by God appointed,
All our sins on Thee were laid:
By almighty love anointed,
Thou hast full atonement made:
All Thy people are forgiven
Through the virtue of Thy blood;
Opened is the gate of heaven,
Peace is made twixt man and God!
Now in the third place, I want to show you, at least in part, the answer to the question — What kind of Propitiation is he? — The mercy-seat of the Old Testament was only typical; and the propitiatory sacrifices were only typical. These things had to be constantly repeated. Their continual presence told the people that those things could never put away sin. But Jesus Christ is the true Mercy-Seat and the true Sacrifice. In him, mercy is accomplished! By him, sin is put away!
Not all the blood of beasts
On Jewish altars slain,
Could give the guilty conscience peace,
Or wash away the stain.
But Christ, the heavenly Lamb,
Takes all our sins away;
A sacrifice of nobler name
And richer blood than they.
What kind of Propitiation is Christ?
Appointed Propitiation — He is the Propitiation appointed by God. The cause, the reason why Christ became our Propitiation is this: — “God loved us and sent his Son.” So great is the love of God toward us that he set forth his Son as the Propitiation for our sins.
Accepted Propitiation — Christ is the propitiatory Sacrifice accepted by God. God accepted the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ, because he was the sacrifice God had appointed. And he publicly owned his acceptance of Christ as our Propitiation by raising him from the dead.
Before sin could be washed away, blood must be shed. The Lamb could not atone for sin unless it died. And Christ died to make an atonement for sin. It is true, “He saved others, himself he cannot save!”
Under the Levitical system men had to be willing to offer their sacrifices. But the sacrifices themselves had to be tied to the horns of the altar. Not so with Christ! — He was both the Offering and the Offerer, the Sacrifice and the Sacrificer; and as both he was willing. What he voluntarily agreed to in the covenant he voluntarily performed on the tree (Psalm 40:7-8; Isaiah 50:5-9; John 10:18; Ephesians 5:25).
Alone Propitiation — Jesus Christ is the only Propitiation for sin (Hebrews 9:25-28, 10:11-14).
Hebrews 9:25-28 25 Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; 26 For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: 28 So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.
Hebrews 10:9-14 9 Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. 10 By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 11 And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: 12 But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God; 13 From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. 14 For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.
Jesus Christ did all that God in justice required for our salvation. We can add nothing to Christ’s once for all work. To try to add anything to Christ’s finished work is to deny the sufficiency of his sacrifice. If you are to be saved from the guilt of sin and the curse of the law, you must renounce all self-worth, all self-righteousness, and trust Christ as your only Propitiation.
All-sufficient —— As Christ is the only Propitiation, so he is the all-sufficient, effectual propitiatory sacrifice.
Ezekiel 16:63 That thou mayest remember, and be confounded, and never open thy mouth anymore because of thy shame, when I am pacified toward thee for all that thou hast done, saith the Lord GOD.
Hebrews 8:12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.
Universal Propitiation — In the next place, Jesus Christ is a universal Propitiation. Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean to imply that Jesus Christ is a propitiation for the sins of every man in the world. No! If that were true, we would be forced to conclude that all men will be saved; or else we would be compelled to teach, as modern religion does, that Christ only removed the obstacles, making propitiation possible, thus making propitiation with God the work of the sinner’s will. The Word of God makes no allowance for either of these things. The Lord Jesus Christ is our Propitiation. He has actually obtained eternal redemption for us, by the price of his own precious blood. When I say that Christ is a universal Propitiation, I mean this: — Christ is the Propitiation for sinners of every race, nation, and tongue (1 John 2:1-2).
Christ is the Propitiation for sinners of every category and able to remove sins of the deepest dye!
Following this same thought, what kind of Propitiation is Christ, I say, Jesus Christ is a complete Propitiation. In order to have a total propitiation, three things are required; a priest, an altar, and a sacrifice. The Lord Jesus Christ is all of these. — The sacrifice which he offered was his human nature, both body and soul (Isaiah 53:10; Hebrews 10:5, 10). The altar which sanctified the gift was his Divine Spirit, his Divine nature (Hebrews 9:14). As Christ is our Propitiation, he is also our Altar. — As the God-man mediator, Christ was the Priest who made the sacrifice to God (Hebrews 5:1).
Once more, I must tell you that Jesus Christ is a continual, or perpetual Propitiation. He made one sacrifice for sins forever, and sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high. But his one sacrifice for sin has a perpetual virtue and efficacy. No other atonement can be made, and no other atonement needs to be made. It is a mockery of Christ’s propitiatory sacrifice for the priests of Rome to pretend to make a new sacrifice for sins in the mass.
In the last place, I want to answer this practical question. — How are we to make use of the Lord Jesus Christ as our Propitiation? All that I have said will be of no value to you, unless you use Christ as the Propitiation for your sins. So I ask you to hear me a little longer in this most important matter.
You must receive Christ as your Propitiation. Knowing yourself to be a sinner, and knowing that the God of heaven is holy and just, you must receive Christ as your Propitiation. — Christ is set forth “a Propitiation through faith!” If Christ is not your Propitiation, there is no hope for your soul. If you will not receive him, God will not receive you. You must receive Christ personally, for yourself. You must trust Christ. No one else can trust him for you. And nothing but faith in him can bring this Propitiation to you. — Christ is set forth “a Propitiation through faith!”
We must do what the Israelite did when he brought his lamb or young bullock to make atonement for sin.
If you despise the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ, then your eternal damnation is both just and sure!
We who are the children of God must also make use of Christ as our Propitiation.
I finish with these two things.
1. A Word of Warning — Sinner, you must soon stand before the judgment bar of God! How dare you stand in that day without Christ? (2 Corinthians 5:10-11).
2. A Word of Comfort — My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in the day of God’s terrifying judgment, we will have no fear, because Christ is the Propitiation for our sins.
1 John 2:1-2 My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: 2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.
1 John 4:9-10 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. 10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
Blessed be his name forever, the Lord Jesus Christ is he…
Romans 3:25-26 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; (26) To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
Come, now, to the thrice holy Lord God, like the publican in the temple held before us by the Lord Jesus.
(Luke 18:13) And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful (propitious – favorable) to me a sinner.