And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.
I John 2:2
Propitiation, it is a word absent in most of our daily vocabulary. Yet this specific word, rare as it is, John is inspired to use. This verb has three meanings. First, when used with a man as the subject, it means to placate or pacify someone who has been injured, offended or insulted, and especially a deity. Second, if the subject of the verb is God, then the verb means to forgive, and the understanding implies that God Himself provides the avenue in which a lost relationship is restored. It’s third meaning, is allied with the first meaning. The verb can, and usually does mean, that some deed is performed by which the stain of guilt is removed.
Consider John’s declaration that Christ Himself is our propitiation for sin. John is bringing all three of these meanings into one. This one being Jesus. Jesus is the person through whom the guilt for past and present sins are removed. Through what He alone, could uniquely do on the Cross the penalty of sin is paid, the guilt removed, and the defilement of sin is taken away. Jesus brings us forgiveness for the sins we have committed (including those we know not of); He clothes us with a new purity of righteousness which solely comes from Him. The great truth with this unusual word is that it is through Jesus that man’s fellowship with God is first perfectly restored, and then maintained. What follows is an illustration of this from my dear brother Jon–
…while driving 80mph through town, I’m pulled over by a police officer and taken straight into court. I enter with knees knocking and forehead perspiring, I am greatly relieved to discover that the presiding judge is my dad. Fear is gone and there is a smile on my face even after the evidence of my violations are presented. After all, the judge is my dad… he loves me– and he knows boys will be boys. Besides, my brother and sister are even worse than I!
Imagine my surprise, when I hear his voice thunder: “Guilty. The fine is five thousand dollars or five years in jail.”
“How can this be?” I cry. “You’re my dad.”
“Sir;” he answers, “in this courtroom I am your judge. And justice must be done.”
So, I open my wallet to pay the fine, but all I find is some crumpled dollar bills. And just as the bailiff is about to slap the cuffs on my wrists and haul me to jail, the judge stands up, deliberately removes his robe, and leaves the bench to stand beside me and to pay my fine. Thus, justice is served because the price was paid– not by me but by my father who paid a debt which I was completely unable to pay.
And that is what happened on the Cross, Jesus Christ became my propitiation, the perfect payment for my sin… not only mine, but yours too, and the sin of the whole world. Glorious!