What is Propitiation?

One of the key doctrines of Christianity is that of propitiation. Since this word isn't too common in our day-to-day language, we can also call it the doctrine of satisfaction, or atonement. The Bible teaches us about the character and holiness of God:

- God is absolute sovereignty, so He is in complete control of everything.
- God is perfect righteousness, and He lacks no goodness.
- God is perfect justice, so He is completely fair in all things.
- God is love, and He wants the best for us.
- God is omniscient, which means He knows everything.
- God is omnipresent, which means He is everywhere.
- God is omnipotent, which means He is all-powerful.
- God is immutable, which means He never changes.
- God is veracity, which means He is perfect truth.
- This is the glory of God.

However, God's perfect holiness, righteousness, and justice present a problem for us. We are not perfectly right and just like God.

Romans 3:23 says, "... for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."

Since God is perfect, He cannot have fellowship with sinners like us. God's love cannot violate His justice, or else He wouldn't be God. God is absolute righteousness, but man has only relatively righteous. Man can't satisfy God's demand of holiness. God demands that a penalty be paid for man's sin. His love toward us is restricted by our sin. We need atonement in order for God to be satisfied with us.

Isaiah 64:6 says, "All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away."

We can't do anything to be perfect, because we've already sinned. Once we sin, we are sinners stained with sin.

Psalms 39:5 says, "You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man's life is but a breath."

We are nothing compared to God. Our 60 or 70 years on earth is nothing compared to God's eternity. We are less than a vapor in the air.

Glory be to God that He provided His own plan of grace for restoring the fellowship we broke. In God's plan of grace, He does everything, entirely. We do nothing to earn His favor. All human element totally removed. Our fellowship with God depends only upon what God is, not what we are. We have nothing to add. If we are to receive atonement, it is going to have to come from God, not us.

Romans 4:4 says, "Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness." There is a way for God to be satisfied with us.

How can God preserve His own holiness, and at the same time, give eternal life to sinners? God's righteousness says that the penalty for sin is death. How can He ever find a way to be satisfied with us if we're stained with sin?

Romans 6:23 says, "The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Man would suffer eternal separation from God, if not for God's grace gift. God provided the solution to our problem by sacrificing His own Son, Jesus Christ.

Romans 3:25-26 says, "God presented him (Jesus) as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood... he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus."

This is the doctrine of atonement, or God's satisfaction (propitiation).

1 John 2:2 says, "He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world."

God is satisfied with the sacrifice He provided.

Even before Christ, God demanded a symbol of His atonement from the Jewish people. He had Moses' brother, Aaron, build the Ark of the Covenant. This was a holy box, overlaid with gold. Inside the box were the symbols of man's sin says, "the tablets containing the Ten Commandments, which man violated, Aaron's rod that budded when the people rebelled, and a bowl of manna that God provided when the people complained and questioned God. On top of the ark was an atonement cover called a mercy seat covering man's sins inside the ark. This was a symbol of God's atonement, or satisfaction, with the required sacrifice. The ark was kept in a special part of the tabernacle called the Holy of Holies. One day each year, on the Day of Atonement, the high priest would enter the Holy of Holies. He would sprinkle the blood of a sacrificed animal on the cover.

Hebrews 9:5 says, "Above the ark were the cherubim of the Glory, overshadowing the atonement cover."

These Cherubim were angels that were a symbol of God's righteousness. They verified the blood sacrifice that satisfied God's wrath against man's sin. However, this was only a symbol of the real thing. The real sacrifice was God's own Son, Jesus Christ.

1 John 4:10 says, "This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins."

The Jewish high priest had to offer a sacrifice once each year. Jesus Christ himself died on the cross, once for all. No further sacrifice is needed. God is satisfied with us.

1 Peter 2:24-25 says, "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls."

Hebrews 9:11-12 says, "When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption.

The Ark of the Covenant was only a copy of the real thing.

Hebrews 9:23 says, "It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these."

Hebrews 9:28 says, "So, Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him."

God's justice is satisfied. He holds nothing against us. We can be justified, not through our own works, but through the work of Christ.

Luke 18:11-14 says, "The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men says, 'robbers, evildoers, adulterers says,' or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.' But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner. "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

The Pharisee trusted in his own righteousness. The Publican asked God for mercy, and to be satisfied. He could only claim God's atonement if God was satisfied by the blood on the real mercy seat.

Christ's sacrifice made us all "savable." Since God is satisfied, it is now possible for us to have eternal life. Atonement depends on the character of God, not our own character. God is now free to express His love for us and give us everything. He is ready to bless us abundantly, forever. He is satisfied with the atonement that He Himself has provided.

Romans 8:38-39 says, "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

To have eternal life, you must only believe this gospel of good news. Simply trust Christ as your Savior, through a simple act of faith, in God's grace alone. God is satisfied with you. Are you satisfied with God?

Owen Weber 2009