Saturday, April 20, 2013


Much is said in the Scriptures about God's mercy and His grace.  Mercy is not getting what one deserves - death (Rom. 6:23a).  God has shown us mercy in providing the propitiation for our sins in the death of Christ on our behalf.  Grace is getting what one does not deserve - eternal life (Rom. 6:23b).  God shows His grace in saving us and adopting us as His children (Jn. 1:12; 1 Jn. 3:2).

The word, "propitiation" appears three times in the Bible, and all three refer to the sacrifice of Jesus as the satisfaction of our "death sentence" (Rom. 3:25; 1 Jn. 2:2; 1 Jn. 4:10).  Romans renders it from the Greek, hilastērion, which means "mercy."  This can be clearly seen from the only other time hilastērion is used in the Bible, where it is translated, "mercy seat" (Heb. 9:5).  In the two 1 John references, "propitiation" is from the Greek,  hilasmos, which means "an appeasing," or a "satisfying of a debt."

Taken in context, the Apostle Paul used it thusly:  "Being justified freely by . . . Christ Jesus, whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that . . . He might be just, and the justifier of Him which believeth in Jesus" (Rom. 3:24-26).  

Here is how the Apostle John used it.  "My little children, these things write I unto you, that . . . Jesus Christ the righteous . . . is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world" (1 Jn. 2:1-2).   Again, in 1 John 4:10, he wrote, "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins."

The writer of Hebrews wrote, "Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; and over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercy seat (hilastērion); of which we cannot now speak particularly ( Heb. 9:4-5).

Paul compared the scope of the consequences of Adam's sin, to the scope of the payment for sin by Jesus in Romans 5:19:  "For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous."  Some have said that the word "many" does not encompass all, but if Adam's sin brought about death to all, then Jesus' death made righteousness available to all.

I see it as being like a man walking into a bank and paying off all the loans of every customer.  All the customers are declared debt free.  However, there are many who believe that no one gets anything for nothing.  They see the payment of their debt as being too good to be true, so they continue to make payments, even though the bank repeatedly tells them it is no longer necessary.  Sad, isn't it.
Religious works are man's effort to pay a non-existing debt.

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