Propitiation is the removal of wrath from God, as well as the avenging of sins. It can also be defined as a “votive gift” or a “ransom payment”. The word for propitiation in Greek is hilasterion. In English it is translated as apology, expiation, or sacrifice. A theology of propitiation is a view that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, provided salvation to humanity by dying as a substitute for the sinner. This ransom payment sets the sinner free from the penalty of sin and removes the power of the sinner’s presence.
Several texts in the New Testament indicate that Christ was used as a propitiation. One of them is Hebrews 9:11-12, which typifies Christ as both high priest and victim. Other examples are 1 John 2:2 and Luke 18:13. As a propitiation, Christ removes the wrath of God against sinners. He also magnifies the grace of God and demonstrates the righteousness of God.
To explain propitiation, it is important to understand that a sinner cannot propitiate God. Instead, God will forgive them. During the time of the sacrificial system, animals were used as types of Christ. They served as a symbol of death for unfaithful behavior and a sinful life. Neither the animals nor the humans could legitimately punish someone for their sins, or save someone from their sin.
Propitiation is the act of satisfying or appeasing a deity or power through the offering of a sacrifice. In Christian theology, propitiation refers to the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, where he offered himself as a sacrifice to atone for the sins of humanity. According to the Bible, God is both loving and just. His love for humanity is demonstrated through the gift of his son, Jesus, who willingly suffered and died on the cross to pay the price for our sins. God’s justice is satisfied because the punishment for sin, death, was carried out on Jesus, who was without sin.
Apostle Paul discusses propitiation in the book of Romans, specifically in Romans 3:25, where he writes, “God presented Jesus as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished.”
In Romans 5:8-9, Paul writes, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!” These passages show that through Jesus’ death on the cross, God’s love and justice are both satisfied. Jesus’ sacrifice propitiates, or atones for, our sins and reconciles us to God.
Another important text is Romans 3:25. Paul explains that the purpose of Christ’s death is to “pass over” or eliminate the wrath of God against sinners.
However, there is more to the gospel message than this. Christ is also the basis of mercy, which outranks the law of God.
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