Propitiation and Faith

Note that this follows the previous post on propitiation (i.e. appeasement of wrath).

We mentioned last time that propitiation means that the righteous wrath of God toward sinners has been appeased and that propitiation was done in Christ. 

It is this propitiation that glorifies God by making the exhibition of many of His attributes possible.  One of the key attributes involved is the righteousness of God.  We read in Romans 3:23-25:

"for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 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." (Rom 3:23-25)

This passage explains that not only was Christ put forward as a propitiation, but that this was done to show God’s righteousness – this was necessary because God had passed over former sins.  That is that in the Old Testament and right up to Christ the sins that was commited was passed over – this confirms that the blood of bulls and goats does not take away sin (Heb 10:4) – as all the sin that was committed to Christ was overlooked by God with a view to the propitiation of Christ.

If Christ had not propitiated our sin, God would be unrighteous – because he would have negated justice on all the sin that He passed over.  Thus on the Christ the death of Christ fulfills all righteousness – and so everything is brought together in Christ (Eph 1:10 HCSB, NASB) – the  plan of God through the ages is centralized in the cross.

In the case of the Passover, it is important to note that if the household had simply sacrificed the lamb, they would be no more saved than if they had not slaughtered the lamb.  The reason for this is that the sacrifice of the lamb was not what would cause the angel of the Lord to pass over the house.  The angel of the Lord was looking for the blood on the doorpost.  Likewise, the death of Christ on the cross will not in and of itself save.  However, regardless of whether people are saved through the death of Christ or not – God is glorified through Christ’s death.

Of Christ, Paul wrote that

"God put [Him] forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith"

The key here is that the propitiation is received or applied through faith.  In the case of the Israelites, they were required to believe that putting the blood on the doorpost was sufficient for salvation.  There is no direct cause and effect here – rather just a promise that those who put the blood of the sacrificed lamb on the door post will be spared, those who do not will not be spared.

Likewise, unless we are covered by the blood of Christ we too will perish:

"Anyone who believes in Him is not judged, but anyone who does not believe is already judged, because he has not believed in the name of the One and Only Son of God." (John 3:18)

"The one who believes in the Son has eternal life, but the one who refuses to believe in the Son will not see life; instead, the wrath of God remains on him." (John 3:36)

There is much implied in believing in the Son (Christ).  It is not enough to simply believe that He existed, nor can we simply agree that He was a great moral teacher.  A great moral teacher could not propitiate the wrath of God on our behalf – at best he can propitiate the wrath of God that he deserves.  To propitiate the justice of God it requires a perfect sacrifice (hence the importance of the parallel between Christ and the Passover lamb in Ex 12:5 and Heb 9:14 as being without blemish) – one who is without sin who could sufficiently appease the wrath of God for all mankind.  Thus to believe in Christ requires that we believe He is sufficient to appease the wrath of God – something which only God himself could do – which is exactly who Christ claimed to be:

"I and the Father are one." (John 10:30)

"Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”" (John 8:58)

The other implication of propitiation is that if Christ has indeed satisfied the requirements of God’s justice and righteousness, then what more can we do to satisfy God? 

This is the great news – the gospel – there is nothing we can do to make up for the sin we have committed – and in fact because Jesus was punished in our place on the cross and has satisfied the righteousness of God – there is nothing that we need to do.  There is but one response required of us – trust Him – believe that He is Lord, repent of your sin, and trust that he paid the penalty, and can free you from the bondage of sin.

Behold the love of God:

"In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." (1 John 4:10)

"God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Rom 5:8)

This love glorifies God by showing that he is exalted over his creatures – and worthy of our worship.

Scroll to Top