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.
In yesterday’s post I gave what I hope was a fair explanation of sanctification, which is in a group of words not often used or heard in the 21st Century church. While answering comments on that post I suggested I would follow up with another word similarly not well used today, propitiation. Propitiation comes from the Greek word “hilasmos” in the New Testament, meaning “atonement.” In today’s verse our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is presented as our Propitiation (the Atonement for our sins). Earlier in 1 John 2:2 John shows us the immensity of His propitiation for sins in that it is not just for the sins of a select few, but “for those of the whole world.”
In recent generations there has been a move away from using propitiation in favour of the word “expiation,” the reason being that some theologians had a problem with propitiation’s focus on the appeasement of an angry God. Bear with me as I try to explain the subtle differences between the two words. Canon L. L. Morris (in the New Bible Dictionary) states that expiation relates to an object where propitiation relates to the act of an individual. In my simple thoughts on this I see expiation as the penalty (fine) paid for our sin by God, and the propitiation is our pardon for our sins – Jesus Christ was our pardon on the cross at Calvary, thus He was our propitiation.
To understand the immensity of this salvation we need to know what God’s reaction is to sin. There can be no debate on the fact that God is perfectly righteous in all His ways, thus He cannot overlook sin of any size. Psalm 7:11 clearly says “God is a just judge, And God is angry with the wicked every day.” As a loving Father God He is not quick to anger (Nehemiah 9:17), but in His righteousness He ” is longsuffering and abundant in mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He by no means clears the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation.” (Numbers 14:18).
Dear reader, our God is a compassionate Father willing to forgive us our sins if we repent (Psalm 78:38). He has provided a way for us His children through His Son Jesus Christ, as our propitiation (pardon). Through our Saviour we can turn away the wrath of God for our sins. Let us look on our Lord Jesus loudly proclaiming with John the Baptist ““Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).