What Do We Mean By Propitiation? Does It Only Count If We Accept It? -- By: Zane C. Hodges
JOTGES 19:36 (Spring 2006) p. 35
What Do We Mean By Propitiation?
Does It Only Count If We Accept It?
Have you ever heard an illustration like this? A man is spending his last week on death row. Suddenly the warden appears and shows him a piece of paper. The paper is a full pardon signed by the Governor. After the man looks it over, he says, “I don’t want it.” He hands it back to the warden. The illustration ends with the execution of the condemned man.
What’s wrong with this story? Well, to begin with, there is no way a state would execute a pardoned man. The prisoner would be ushered unceremoniously out of his cell—at least eventually, depending on legal technicalities. Yet users of such an illustration think it is a good one. If human beings reject the pardon Jesus Christ bought for them by His death on the cross, they will go to hell and pay for their sins.
Can this be true? No, it cannot.
II. Jesus, Our Propitiation
The illustration above cannot be correct. The reason is that it denies the reality of the propitiation that the Lord Jesus Christ made on the cross. An expected objection must be confronted. Someone might argue this way: “The propitiation that Jesus made on the cross is real. It is fully adequate for all men. However, it is only effective if men believe it.”
This view leads to a new illustration. A man deposits one billion dollars in the bank. Any debtor can come and draw freely on the account. It is sufficient to meet his needs. If he doesn’t draw on it, the account does not pay for his debt. He has to pay for it.
What’s wrong with this story? The same thing as before. It denies the reality of the propitiation that Jesus made on the cross. Nothing has really been paid for.
JOTGES 19:36 (Spring 2006) p. 36
Such illustrations fly into the face of the Word of God. Listen to the words of the Apostle John in 1 John 2:2, referring to Jesus Christ: “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.”
The Greek word translated “propitiation” (hilasmos) means either “appeasement necessitated by sin” or “expiation.”1 The long-running debate centering on the difference between “appeasement” and “expiation” can be ignored. It does not really make a difference to this discussion.
The word “appeasement,” or the softer term “satisfaction,” are each acceptable here....
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