“And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world”
1 John 2:2
I read an e-mail recently that I had received and it really made me think about how easily we overlook the importance of certain words used in scripture. For example: propitiation, election, substitution, imputation, reconciliation, sovereignty, grace, and baptism, just to name a few. I would like to take the time to address each subject with humility and grace with the help of our Lord because it’s only through Him that we find wisdom. So let’s go to the scriptures to find the answer to these very important words.
Propitiation, do we really understand the implication and meaning of this word? What is John saying? He is saying that without Jesus we are one breath away from facing the wrath of a holy God; all because of this word propitiation. The word is translated from the Greek (hilasterion), meaning "that which expiates or propitiates" or "the gift which procures propitiation". “To make peace; to appease one offended and render him favourable”, the Vines dictionary defines it in this way: “It is God who is "propitiated" by the vindication of His holy and righteous character, whereby, through the provision He has made in the vicarious and expiatory sacrifice of Christ, He has so dealt with sin that He can show mercy to the believing sinner in the removal of his guilt and the remission of his sins. God must punish sin because He hates sin. Someone has to die! In the Old Testament, the high priest had to bring a sacrifice to the Tabernacle for the atonement of sins for the nation of Israel once a year. This required the high priest (a Levite) to go into the holy of holies and perform this ritual before God, many examples can be found in the book of Leviticus (e.g. Lev 16:14-19). We have to understand that in the Old Testament times this was only a temporary fix until the Messiah came, because Jesus Christ is “the propitiation” as John says. He is the propitiation “for the whole world”.
The sacrifice that Aaron made was only for the Israelites, no one else. Jesus is the only sacrifice the Father will accept on our behalf. Remember what it says in Isaiah, that it “pleased Yahweh to crush Him” (Isa 53). Jesus is my and He is your propitiation. Not one created thing or person was or is good enough to appease the wrath of God when it comes to the issue of sin. The New Testament says that Jesus was sacrificed according to the will of God, “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins. Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: "SACRIFICE AND OFFERING YOU DID NOT DESIRE, BUT A BODY YOU HAVE PREPARED FOR ME. IN BURNT OFFERINGS AND SACRIFICES FOR SIN YOU HAD NO PLEASURE. THEN I SAID, 'BEHOLD, I HAVE COME IN THE VOLUME OF THE BOOK IT IS WRITTEN OF ME TO DO YOUR WILL, O GOD.” (Heb 10:4-7). Jesus Christ came to this earth to perform one task and that was to render me favourable before a holy and just God.
Think about it for a moment. The Bible declares that we are wicked; condemned; lost; lovers of self; haters of God; depraved; insolent; accursed. The Bible says we deserve death; judgement; eternal punishment; the wrath of God (Rom 3; Jer 17:9; Rev 16:1). This is why this word “propitiation” is so important not only for believers, but also for those who have not heard the good news. You don’t have to face the wrath of God if you have repented and put your faith in Jesus for what He has done on the cross for you! We know this because the Hebrew writer goes on to say “we have been sanctified (set apart) through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man (Jesus), after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, (Heb 10:9-12). Jesus has completed, fulfilled and borne the wrath for all humanity by becoming our propitiation.
Again, do we really understand what John is proclaiming in that small epistle? As I read verse 2 of 1 John, I see my shame, my death, and my sin. But most important of all, I see my new life placed upon the Son of God. Put in simpler terms, Jesus said ‘I will die for Mike Andrews even though he is a hater of God and a sinner who deserves death, but I, God of all creation, will have favour and mercy on him. But not only him; I will be the propitiation for every wicked person, every ethnic background, every false cult, every atheist, our Prime Minister of Canada, the President of the U.S.A., my family, your family; I will be the whole world’s propitiation because I love them and I came to drink their cup of wrath. I do this because I know my Father requires Me to do that for them.’ John the Baptist said "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29). Jesus takes away our sin punishment. Jesus is the only way to be reconciled back to the Father, and he has accomplished this by being the propitiation for the whole world for in whom He died for.
Now doesn’t that word begin to mean something to you when you look at it a little deeper? But remember, there are two sides to every coin. On the other side of the coin there is still the wrath of God abiding on those who surpress the truth and those who deny Jesus is Lord. What I mean is, yes Jesus is the propitiation for the whole world but He is not the Savior to everyone. There are, and will be many people who will still face the wrath of an almighty God because they don’t believe in who Jesus was and why He came.
We read John 3:16 and say “what a loving Savior we have”, but we forget to read the verses that follow, because they say “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned (destined, damned), already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:17-19).
Does that concern you? Because it concerns me deeply that many: seniors, adults, young children are still going to fall under the wrath of God. Paul Washer says they will be like “a wax figurine in front of a blast furnace”. All because they chose not to believe, or worse yet, they do not want Jesus to be their substitution because they don’t care about their own sin. This should make our hearts grieve for the lost and have even more of a desire to share the good news of the Gospel; because many will follow the broad road of destruction; many will fall into a ditch. Many will say “did we not... in your name..?”, and He (Jesus) will say “depart from Me, you workers of iniquity”. ‘Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe,’ as the hymn writer put it. Jesus has become the substitute for you and me.
So next time you read scripture and you come across the word propitiation, stop and ponder what this word means, what Jesus Christ has done for you, and what He can still do for those who don’t care about that word or the Savior. Maybe, just maybe, this will motivate you to share your faith with someone else today, because He has unselfishly faced the fire and wrath on your behalf to satisfy the debt you owe.