“Propitiation” in the Gospel – The transaction made to atone for the sin of mankind

28 09 2007

A key truth of the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ, has to do with “propitiation“. Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay the just penalty for the sins of His people. The idea that a blood sacrifice by Jesus Christ is necessary for people’s sins to be forgiven by God the Father is offensive and unacceptable to some people. The biblical truths of propitiation, blood sacrifice, atonement for sin, and the requirement by our righteous, Holy God that a just, equitable payment is required as punishment due for each person’s sin is not acceptable to many. But to be saved in Christ – the propitiatory substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ for sin is a requirement. We cant be saved from our sin without believing it.

To deepen your understanding and encourage your faith please take time to read through the commentary of W. E. Vines in the study resource An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (1966 – Flemming H. Revell Company, Old Tappan, New Jersey). Three alternative types of the use of the word Propitiation in the Scriptures are explained.

An understanding of the word “expiate” will be helpful in what follows:

Expiate (definition): to atone for; make amends or reparation for: to expiate one’s crimes.


I. HILASTERION (noun) “….a propitiation in His blood….”

Romans 3:21-25 (21) But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, (22) even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; (23) for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (24) being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; (25) whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; (26) for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”

In vs 25: HILASTERION….. – In Romans 3:25 this noun (propitiation) is used of Christ Himself…. The phrase “in His blood” is to be taken in immediate connection with “propitiation.” Christ, through His expiatory death, is the Personal means by whom God shows the mercy of His justifying grace to the sinner who believes. His “blood” stands for the voluntary giving up of His life, by the shedding of His blood in expiatory sacrifice, under Divine judgement righteously due to us as sinners, faith being the sole condition on man’s part.”

“The fundamental principle of which God deals with sinners is expressed in the words (from Hebrews 9:22) ‘And according to the Law, one may also say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.’ ……the blood shed was that of Christ. …..it is the Person that gives value to the work; the saving efficacy of the Death depends entirely upon the fact that He Who died was the Son of God.”


II. HILASMOS (noun) “…the propitiation for our sins…”

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

1 John 4:9-10 “(9) By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. (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.”

“(This noun) signifies an expiation, a means whereby sin is covered and remitted. It is used in the New Testament of Christ Himself as “the propitiation,” in 1 John 2:2 and 1 John 4:10, signifying that He Himself, through the expiatory sacrifice of His Death, is the Personal means by whom God shows mercy to the sinner who believes on Christ as the One thus provided. ….. In 1 John 4:10, the fact that God “sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins,” is shown to be the great expression of God’s love toward man, and the reason why Christians should love one another.”


III. HILASKOMAI (verb) “…to make propitiation for the sins of the people.”
Hebrews 2:17 Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.”

“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.”

“….it signifies….in Hebrews 2:17 to expiate, to make propitiation for (the object of the verb being sins)….. Through the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ, he who believes upon Him is by God’s own act delivered from justly deserved wrath, and comes under the covenant of grace. Never is God said to be reconciled, a fact itself indicative that the enmity exists on man’s part alone, and that it is man who needs to be reconciled to God, and not God to man. ….. He (God) can act differently towards those who come to Him by faith, and soley on the ground of the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ, not because He has changed, but because He ever acts according to His unchanging righteousness.”

“The expiatory work of the Cross is therefore the means whereby the barrier to sin interposes between God and man is broken down. By the giving up of His sinless life sacrificially, Christ annuls the power of sin to separate between God and the believer.”


My hope is that what is written above will lead you to worship God the Father and Jesus Christ His Son.

Thank You God, for the propitiation for my sin accomplished by the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. The grace of God be with us. Amen.




One response

30 09 2007

Thank you for your post. It is nice to know we have reformed brethren around the globe. As I was reading your post, it reminded me of John Owen’s “The Death of Death of the Death of Christ” in which JI Packer in the introducation points out that Owen is not trying to convert people to Calvinism but to restore the gospel to her former beauty. And for the restoration to take place we need to know “what did the atonement accomplish?” The atonement did exactly what it meant to do, to save a rement. Therefore, God loses none of the elect.
Blessings, B3

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