Week 32: Propitiation
20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. 21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Romans 3:20-26
Now, in my opinion it is nearly impossible to understand the depths of what Christ accomplished on our behalf without understanding the meaning and concept of the word propitiation. Propitiation means, a payment that satisfies.
Satisfies what you may ask? A payment that satisfies the justice of God. A payment that satisfies the sin debt that has been incurred. A payment that satisfies or absorbs the wrath of God toward sin and sinners. Because God is just, all sin must be paid for. Because of God’s grace, He sent His son Jesus to make the payment. To be just and the justifier.
Now, the sacrificial system was a foreshadowing of what Christ would do for us. In the book of Leviticus 16, God institutes the Day of Atonement. Once a year the people of Israel would come together and confess their sins. The high priest would transfer the confessed sins of the people to the head of a scapegoat and then send it out into the wilderness, as far as the east is from the west.
Then the high priest would take another goat and shed its blood. He would take the blood of this goat or a lamb and sprinkle it over what is known as the mercy seat, inside the holy of holies. Now, the mercy seat was the lid that covers the ark of the covenant which contained the law of God.
Now, interestingly enough the word translated mercy seat in the Old Testament is the same word translated in Romans 3 as propitiation. So, from God’s perspective, the sins of the Jewish people would be covered by the blood of the lamb for one year. It happened year after year after year for hundreds and hundreds of years. It was a foreshadowing of what was to come.
Then one day at the Jordan River, John the Baptist declares, “Behold, THE LAMB of God who comes to take the sin of the entire world.” He was talking about Jesus. And Jesus begins His earthly ministry.
Now, His primary message was not how to live a better life. His message is that religion will not save you, but that He came to rescue us from our sin and restore us to our relationship with God.
The religious leaders and the power brokers of Rome have Him crucified for such claims. And on the cross, Jesus pushes up on His nail-pierced feet and declares, “It is finished.” Now, you ask “What is finished?” Well, the sacrificial system is finished. The blood of the Lamb has been shed once and for all not to simply cover our sins, but to take them away.
Jesus lived the perfect life and laid that perfect life down as a payment for the sin debt of all who would believe or trust in Him. Jesus is the propitiation, the payment that satisfies, for our sin.
Now, understanding this aspect of the gospel may be the single-greatest influence on your growing relationship with God. AW Tozer says, “the most important thing about you is what you think when you think about God.”
And so many of us believe that God is constantly frustrated or disappointed with us because of our lack of progress and our unending failures. Well, I have really, really good news. Because Jesus is the propitiation, the payment that satisfies, then God cannot be dissatisfied in us.
This is really good news. This means that God is not in love with some future version of you. For all who are in Christ, He loves you right now. In fact, the prophet Zephaniah tells us that God delights in us and sings over His children. Because of Christ, God is smiling over you right now. Not because of your performance, but because of Christ’s perfect work at the cross.
Knowing this kind of love that God has lavished upon us should cause us to run to Him and not from Him. Knowing this kind of love should lead us to trust Him and not doubt Him. Knowing this kind of love should lead us to share Him and not be ashamed. Knowing this kind of love should lead us to not feel condemned, but to know that we are eternally loved. Knowing this kind of love should lead us to deepen our relationship with Jesus Christ.