Today while I was doing my devotions I ended up reflecting on the idea of Propitiation. This word is one whose meaning has many nuances that are lost on most of us, if we have heard it before at best many of use would simply think of it as a synonym for Atonement. A lot of times we read about Christ’s atonement and we think “He died for us, Yay!” We often don’t take the time to truly think about what His death meant for us. Sometimes(not always, context determines the translation of a word) when we read the words “Atonement” or “Expiation” in some of our newer Translations it is a dumbed down translation of the greek word “ἱλαστήριον” (hilasterion) which in some contexts would be better translated as “propitiation.” One example is Romans 3:25. In the NASB, KJV, NKJV, ESV, and HCSB ἱλαστήριον is translated Propitiation; in the Living Translation we read Sacrifice; in the NIV Atonement; and in the RSV Expiation. Does it matter? defines propitiate as “to make favorably inclined; appease; conciliate.” These three words (Expiate, Atone, and Propitiate) actually have a deeper, more theological meaning, and that is where it matters. To Atone does not require any divine wrath; it is to make amends, as for an offence. To Expiate does not require any divine wrath; it is to make amends for a wrong, one expiates a sin or a crime, it is an impersonal word for an impersonal act. To Propitiate at its very core has to involve divine wrath; it is to appease the angry gods, one propitiates a person, propitiate is a personal word signifying a personal process by which the divine wrath is removed. And it is this word which in a few cases fits the context better. Christ did not just die for us, He made propitiation for our sins. No longer are we subject to God’s wrath!!!! We are God’s enemies, naturally deserving His strongest anger and judgement, He is righteously angry at our infringement upon His holiness. Because Christ bore our penalty, a substitute for us, He made propitiation for us; we are no longer under His terrible wrath, instead we (those who are saved) have been adopted, justified, are being sanctified, and have a relationship with Him. Reading Psalm 18 there is a hint of this terrifying side of God, and that is Him saving David from His enemies; how much more His righteous wrath against His own enemies (Deut. 9:28, 2 Kings 23, 2 Chronicles 29, Psalm 29, Isaiah 59:18, etc…)? Every time I reflect on Christ’s sacrifice I am awestruck at the amazing work Christ did on the Cross, and how that made possible the relationship I now have with God!!!


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