The title serves as the final result in the life of a Christian summed up in a word that seems so foreign to us as Americans and even to those who would claim to be Christians. The word is propitiation.
In the posts that will follow, I shall try and share a paper that I recently wrote for my biblical theology class. I will admit that I am partially using this as an excuse to avoid studying for my two finals that I have tomorrow, but I must also say that I have been planning on doing this, but wanted to at least wait until my paper was returned. The mark was decent enough to give me a modicum of confidence to share it with you all in hope that you may some how benefit from what I learned. The paper is very straightforward and fairly introductory for a graduate level course, but I will expound somewhat where I see necessary. If you have any questions at any point, feel free to write back to me or post a comment; good discussion is necessary to flesh out some of the Bible's most profound truths!
Part 1: Definition of Propitiation
Propitiation is broadly defined in the New Bible Dictionary as signifying “the removal of wrath by the offering of a gift.”* Applied to Christian doctrine, John Murray states that “propitiation presupposes the wrath and displeasure of God, and the purpose of propitiation is the removal of this displeasure. Very simply stated the doctrine of propitiation means that Christ propitiated the wrath of God and rendered God propitious to his people.” To be even clearer one must acknowledge all mankind is sinful, deserving of God’s wrath, and that the “gift” which “propitiated the wrath of God and rendered God propitious to his people” was Jesus Christ’s bloody, sacrificial death on the cross (see Romans 3:23-25 ESV). This definition and the action it represents are very specific within the sweeping scope of the atoning work that Jesus accomplished on the cross.
Several key elements can be derived from this definition of propitiation, including 1) the reality of sinful man, 2) an Almighty God whose is wrathful toward and displeased with us because of our sins, 3) that Jesus Christ is the propitiation for our sins, with 4) the effect being the removal of God’s wrath and displeasure and placing us in a position of his favor. The doctrine of propitiation has been widely disputed, mainly because critics deny the key biblical truth that God is a God of wrath (2 Chr 36:16; John 3:36; Rom 1:18), favoring the term “expiation” (basically meaning to wipe away) instead. Though the debate will not be addressed directly here, it serves to form a question that is the basis of this paper, which is, “Can the theme of propitiation be traced through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation?” The intention in answering this question is then two-fold: 1) to show that the theme of propitiation is in fact traceable, thus being worthy of attention and study and, 2) to see the practical outworking of Christ’s propitiatory sacrifice in order that we might glorify God in all aspects of Kingdom work, from evangelism to the offerings of praise and adoration.
*I am neglecting to put the texts cited here, but do have a bibliography if anyone is interested
By His Grace.