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What does 'propitiation' mean?

Submitted: 2/13/2006
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Question: In Romans3:25 and 1 John 2:12 & 4:10, the Word says that Jesus is our propitiation. What one word would apply here? I have used 'substitute' and 'covering,' but I have looked up all the word meanings and I am not sure about these words. How would you explain this? Thank you.

Answer: The word 'propitiation' means 'an expiation, a means whereby sin is covered and remitted' (Vine's Dictionary). What then is the means by which our sins are remitted? At the Last Supper Jesus said, 'For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins' (Matthew 26:28). Jesus accomplished the remitting of our sins by shedding His blood for us. Therefore, He is the propitiation for our sins--the means by which our sins are remitted.

Vine's Dictionary says, 'It is used in the NT of Christ Himself as 'the propitiation,' in 1 John 2:2 and 4:10, signifying that He Himself, through the expiatory sacrifice of His death, is the personal means by whom God shows mercy to the sinner who believes on Christ as the One thus provided.' The Bible says that we are baptized 'for the remission of sins' (Acts 2:38). But it is not the act of baptism itself that remits our sins; it is Jesus Christ. He is the propitiation!

I often explain these verses by saying that 'propitiation' means 'the place where mercy can be found.' This seems to make it understandable to most people. Of course, the place of mercy is actually Jesus Christ Himself.