January 10, 2017: What Does “Propitiation” Mean?

Morning: Genesis 21-23; Romans 3:21-26; Evening: Psalm 8

It is a strange word to come across in the English language. The Oxford dictionary defines propitiation as “win or regain the favour of; appease.” Webster references “pacify” as a synonym to the word. The Greek New Testament uses the word only twice, curiously by the apostle Paul in Romans 3:25 and again in Hebrews 9:5 (Paul?). The passage in Hebrews 9:5 in most standard versions of the Bible translates the same word as “mercy,” referring to the mercy seat that sat above the ark. One version also calls it the “Ark’s cover.”

The mercy seat that sat above the ark was commanded by God, and its design was set forth to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai (Exodus 25). The mercy seat was constructed of pure gold, possibly four feet in length, and about two feet wide. The mercy seat sat on top of the ark, acting as the cover of the ark, with two cherubs of gold, angelic like creatures, standing on opposite ends of the mercy seat facing one another with their wings covering the mercy seat. Inside the ark was placed the testimony, i.e., the word of God, and from above the mercy seat, between the two cherub, God promised to speak to Moses the commandments for Israel. It was here that Aaron, the High Priest, would be instructed to sprinkle the blood of animal sacrifices to make atonement for sins (Leviticus 16).

The Hebrew writer reminds us, however, that these things were only symbolic for the present time. It was not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins (Heb. 10:4). It was necessary that a greater sacrifice, one of an eternal spirit, be provided to atone for sins forever and for all people, in one complete sacrifice. That sacrifice that could “win the favor,” “appease,” “pacify,” and eternally “satisfy,” the righteousness of God in passing over the sins of man, was Jesus Christ. His blood was symbolically sprinkled upon the mercy seat, even He Himself in a figure becoming the mercy seat, in whose seat we may now sit upon in the day of judgment and receive the mercy of God. Propitiation in Romans 3:25 means that God offered a sacrifice for your sins, by means of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Give back… If God sacrificed His own Son for you, what sacrifice can you make for Him?


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