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RELIGION: What is propitiation?

by Graham Thomas | June 23, 2021 at 5:23 a.m.

"The New King James Version refers to Christ four times as our propitiation. What is a propitiation and what is its purpose?"

Thank you for asking. Since propitiation and expiation are interrelated and sometimes confused with each other, and atonement is involved, I'll address all three terms. I'll ask all the erudite scholars who are reading this to forgive me for not providing all the in-depth, theological details.

The verb "to propitiate" talks about appeasing someone's anger -- specifically God's anger. The noun "propitiation" is someone or something that appeases God's anger. When Adam committed high treason against God by submitting to Lucifer, he inadvertently allowed Lucifer to be the ruler of this world and that messed up God's plan. But even though man rebelled against God, God is not angry at man. Instead, God is angry at sin. A curse was placed on man because of sin, nevertheless, God loves His special creation -- man.

Expiation deals with removing something. In the Bible, it involves removing sin and guilt when a penalty has been paid or an atonement has been made and propitiation has been completed.

Atonement is the process of causing a transgression to be forgiven or pardoned.

Background: God originally created man for a special purpose, part of which was to govern His cosmic creation. When the first man (we call him Adam) disobeyed God (we call that sin), God became angry at the sin because it hurt man and messed up God's plan. The plan was put on "hold" until the sin problem was properly addressed. But has that been accomplished?

Problem: A man sinned, so a man who has never sinned must die to remove the effect and eternal consequence of sin. Since all of natural humanity has sinned to some degree or other, everyone is immersed in sin when he/she dies; but the sin nature of mankind remains unchanged. Before our relationship with God can be restored, sin had to be dealt with, and that includes the sin nature of man, and the individual sins we commit.

Mystery: Only God has never sinned. Since God cannot die, God devised a plan to rescue His special creation -- man -- and restore His eternal plan.

Method: A man who sinned cannot redeem himself. His own death cannot provide atonement for his own sin. Therefore, God had to become human, live a perfectly sinless life, miraculously take on the sin of the world and be put to death as a criminal. A pure, undefiled person is the only person who can die to break the curse of sin and death and rescue humanity while restoring His original plan.

Solution: Mary supernaturally conceived Jesus before she married Joseph. God -- in human form as Jesus -- was born into the human world. Read the remainder of the heavenly story in the Bible.

Result: Anyone and everyone who repents of their sin, puts their faith in Jesus Christ, asks God to forgive them for disobeying God, and asks to become a member of God's family, will be forgiven. (See Acts 20:21)

Why? Because Jesus was the propitiation; His death and resurrection negated the curse on man and made possible the restoration of man's relationship with God. The barricade that prevented us from approaching God was removed, and when we repent and ask for God to forgive us, He does. We no longer have to worry whether or not God will accept us when we approach Him. He welcomes us with open arms! All we need to do is ask to be forgiven.

First John 2:1-2 says, "My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world." Because Jesus was the propitiation for us, nothing now can prevent us from going directly to God and joining His family.

Romans 12:2 tells us, "Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." That simply means to live in a way that honors Jesus; and to do that, we need to change the way we think.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world (humanity), He gave His only begotten son, that whosever believes in Him will not perish (eternally) but have everlasting life.

-- S. Eugene Linzey is the author of 'Charter of the Christian Faith.' Send comments and questions to [email protected] Visit his website at The opinions expressed are those of the author.

Print Headline: Understanding The Meaning Of Propitiation, Expiation And Atonement


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