The Greek word for propitiation is “hilasmos” and means to appease the wrath of an offended party or to satisfy the just demands of someone that has been offended. The Greeks used the word for appeasing their pagan gods. The Greek had to do this by some “righteous” act, which would demonstrate his true “good” character.
Since God is absolutely righteous, He must judge sin wherever He finds it. The Bible is very clear that all human beings are born with a sin nature and are spiritually separated from God. We know from Scripture that no one possesses the righteousness necessary to spend eternity with a perfectly righteous God. In other words, God’s righteousness cannot have fellowship with man’s “righteousness.” God is offended (not shocked) by the lack of righteousness and subsequent sinful condition of man. It is this offense and, therefore, God’s “wrath” that must be appeased. God’s “wrath” is an anthropropathism (language of accommodation ascribing to God human emotions that He does not possess) to explain His policy with regard to man’s sin. God is never angry, as we think of anger. (John 3:36; Romans 3:10-12, 23; 6:23; Isaiah 59:2, 64:6)
God’s integrity (holiness) must be satisfied. God’s integrity is made up of His righteousness and His justice. God’s righteousness is the standard or principle of His integrity and must judge sin. The judgment that God pronounced upon sin was spiritual death. Mankind, therefore, comes under the “wrath” and impending judgment of God. (Romans 3:9, 23)
We cannot forget that the other half of God’s integrity is justice. Justice is the function or action of God’s integrity. Therefore, what the righteousness of God condemns, the justice of God judges. In the case of human beings, God’s righteousness and justice must be satisfied (propitiated). Mankind is born physically alive but spiritually dead (separated from God). Under the sentence of spiritual death man is helpless to remedy the situation. (Romans 3:25-26)
Since the sentence that God pronounced on sin is spiritual death, only spiritual death will satisfy the just demands of God’s righteousness. Only one Person in history was qualified to meet this just demand. Jesus Christ literally became “the propitiation” for the sin of the entire world. By His impeccable (sinless) life, Jesus satisfied the perfect righteousness of God that was demanded by the Law of Moses. By His spiritual death,
Jesus satisfied the perfect justice of God that His righteousness demanded. (I John 2:1-2, 4:10)
The Greek word “huper”, translated “for” in Romans 5:8 is a preposition meaning “on behalf of” or “in place of”. The Greek word for “us” is “ego”. Combined in this passage and others, we see the substitutionary character of propitiation. Jesus Christ literally became sin “on behalf of us” or “in place of us”. It is the substitutionary spiritual death of Christ that completely satisfied the righteousness of God and provides eternal life for all who believe.
Christ’s sacrifice was complete and eternal. It was complete in that it never had to be repeated. Christ died once for all mankind. Any time a person attempts to secure eternal life by means of good works, the Bible declares that they are, in effect, attempting to crucify Christ over again (a blasphemous thought). It was eternal in that the results continue throughout the history of man and forever. God’s righteousness had to be satisfied in order for Him to be just in giving eternal life and the other spiritual assets to those who believe. The Doctrine of Propitiation explains how this was accomplished by Jesus Christ. (Romans 3:25; Hebrews 9:28)
Christ was a willing substitute. He was not forced by God the Father to become humanity and die in our place. Jesus willingly and joyfully fulfilled a plan that was designed in eternity past. This plan of salvation called for the substitutionary spiritual death of Christ, which would propitiate (satisfy) God’s righteous judgment of sin (a judgment carried out by God’s justice). (II Corinthians 5:21)
The perfect substitutionary payment for sin that propitiated the righteousness of God was accomplished by a Person of perfect character. This Person, of course, is Jesus Christ. As deity, Christ was not able to sin and as human, He was able not to sin. Therefore, He went to the Cross in a state of sinless perfection. How did Christ accomplish such a feat as living a sinless life? We must remember that Christ in His humanity could have sinned and was tempted to do so on many occasions. In His humanity, He endured much greater temptations and testing than we will ever face, and yet He was able to refrain from any form of sin (even mental attitude sin).
The power that Christ used to overcome the temptation to sin is the same power that you and I have as believers. This power is the supernatural power of God the Holy Spirit. Every miraculous act that
Christ performed: healing the sick, walking on water, calming the raging sea or feeding the 5,000 was done from His humanity by the power of the Holy Spirit (not by His deity). Had He performed one act by means of His deity, He would have violated one of the main reasons He came to earth and Satan would have won a victory. Jesus Christ came as our “prototype”, to demonstrate that the Christian Way of Life could be executed by means of the filling (control) of the Holy Spirit. He came foremost, of course, to make the substitutionary payment for sin. His impeccable life and the miracles that He performed were positive proof that He was the promised Messiah (the Savior). It took a Person of perfect character to satisfy the perfect character of God.
Another proof of Christ’s impeccability is the fact that He fulfilled the righteousness demanded by the Mosaic Law. No other person in history has been nor will be able to do this. Religion is man’s futile attempt to keep the Law, but he has never been able to do so. Only Christ, under the control of God the Holy Spirit, has been able to keep the Law perfectly. This is one more reason that He and He alone was qualified to make the payment for our sin. (Romans 10:4)
The penalty for sin (spiritual death) having been met by Christ, God is free to bestow all 40 spiritual assets upon all those who believe. These 40 assets are transferred to every believer at the moment of salvation. These assets are not seen nor are they felt. The instant a person believes in Christ as Savior all sins of the past are forgiven, he is in fellowship with God and is being controlled by the Holy Spirit. The potential then exists for the believer to execute the Christian Way of Life. (Romans 3:23-25)
The first time a believer sins after salvation he is out of fellowship with God and is no longer being controlled by the Holy Spirit. This is why God in His grace gave us the Rebound Technique. When you simply name your sins to God He forgives you, restores your fellowship with Him and restores the control of the Holy Spirit in your life. God is justified in doing all these things because Christ accomplished propitiation at the Cross. This means that though personal sins are not an issue at salvation, they are an issue in the Christian Way of Life.
God is also justified in imputing (crediting) His righteousness to sinful man because of propitiation. Only by possessing the righteousness of God can a person spend eternity with a holy God. Man’s righteousness falls well short of the perfection needed to enter Heaven. However, God is free to give His righteousness to all who believe in Christ because His righteousness and justice have been satisfied by Christ’s death. (Romans 10:4; II Corinthians 5:21)
When Christ became our substitute on the Cross and paid the penalty for the sin of the entire human race, the barrier of sin that previously existed between God and man was removed forever. The removal of this sin barrier means that sin is no longer an issue at salvation. The issue of salvation is whether a person will accept God’s free offer of eternal life through faith in Christ. It is because of propitiation that God is free to make this offer of eternal life.
Because His righteousness has been satisfied, God is justified in bestowing His grace blessings upon all who believe. God’s blessings, however, are only potential for the believer in Christ. Though God has promised certain logistical grace blessings to all believers, He has also promised greater grace blessings to those who faithfully execute His plan for their lives. Only increased capacity to receive blessing from God, through the consistent study and application of God’s Word, will allow these greater blessings to be given. God does not give greater grace blessings to immature, inconsistent Christians. God’s “blueprint” for success must be followed precisely if the believer is to enjoy the greater blessings in this life and in the one to follow. (Romans 5:19-21)
Greater grace blessings are those blessings that go beyond the logistical grace blessings of food, clothing and shelter. The logistical grace blessings are promised to all believers regardless of spiritual status. However, greater grace blessings are promised only to those believers who increase their capacity to receive these blessings though the faithful execution of God’s plan, purpose and will.
These greater blessings are not always material wealth or possessions. (Material wealth can actually be a curse). These blessings from God may be stability in the home, at work, at school or with family and friends. These blessings may be the perfect mate or no mate at all. Greater blessings may come in the form of a relaxed mental attitude or wisdom. These blessings may be good health and a long life. There are many ways in which God chooses to bless His children, all of which we should appreciate and for which we should be thankful.
Every blessing that we have, as believers in Christ, is a result of propitiation. If God’s righteousness and justice were not satisfied by Jesus Christ, none of us would be in a position to be blessed by God. It is only because of our union with Christ and the fact that we possess God’s righteousness, that God is able to bestow these logistical and greater blessings on us. May we never forget or take for granted the source of every blessing that we have in this life.