Sunday, 17 March 2013
…whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, Romans 3:25
Continuing from the previous verse, Paul says that “…the redemption that is in Christ Jesus whom God set forth.” This term in Greek is proetheto and signifies a public display of some sort. In the case of Jesus, it was the cross of Calvary where He was exposed to public humiliation and death. This wasn’t done in a back alley where no one could witness it, but it was done in the public setting of the people of the law, the temple of God, and in the presence of the angels who ministered to Him. God set forth His own Son for all to see and understand the action for what it was – “a propitiation by His blood.”
The term “propitiation” is of immense importance here. It is the Greek word hilasterion. It is a sin-offering or a “covering” of sin by the blood which is shed. Its purpose is to bring together parties at odds with each other and to restore a favorable relationship; to make things propitious again. This word is used only one other time in the New Testament, in Hebrews 9:5 where it is translated as “mercy seat” –
“…and above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail.”
It is the same word which is used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament in Exodus 25:17 (and elsewhere) when describing the Hebrew word kapporeth, or “mercy seat.” The mercy seat is where the covering of blood was applied to the Ark of the Covenant on the Day of Atonement and which restored felicity between God and His people for another year. But the Day of Atonement, like all of the Bible, required something more than rote ritual. It required faith that it would accomplish what was intended. As a demonstration of that faith, the people were told to fast and confess.
Likewise, the propitiation God offers through Jesus’ shed blood is “through faith.” It is through faith in what God has done in this final sacrifice of which the temple sacrifices only prefigured. Jesus’ life was given “to demonstrate His righteousness.” This phase is pointing directly to the voluntary giving of His life as the means of obtaining this propitiation. In this offering, the sins of the people are removed from them and they are also removed from God’s presence. It is as if they never occurred. Complete and total restoration is accomplished through the cross of Jesus.
Now that the sin has been removed, the ungodliness of the sinner is remembered no more and God’s wrath at the sin has been appeased in His punishment and death. The blood of Jesus accomplishes all of this; it is a suitable offering for the sins of the world. Because of this, Paul continues on by stating that “in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed.”
What this means is that the sins prior to the cross are dealt with in the cross as well as those are that look back on it. Before Jesus’ offering, God would punish sin in sinful man in various ways – at the Flood of Noah, for example. However, He didn’t fully punish sin because if He had, then all humanity would have been destroyed. Instead, God “passed over the sins” and enacted a temporary system of offerings through the nation of Israel to temporarily atone for their transgressions.
This system, the rituals in it, the items used in the rituals, every detail of them actually prefigures Jesus. The entire picture of the Old Testament comes into focus when looked at through the lens of who Jesus is and what He accomplished. It cannot properly be understood apart from Him.
Life application: As you read the Old Testament, it may seem unnecessary and outdated. But every word and every detail is noted and has been selected specifically to show us the majesty of what God has done in and through the Person of Jesus. The New Testament does not stand alone and it must be evaluated based on what previously occurred. Take time to read and absorb the Old Testament so that you can properly grasp the significance of the New.
Lord God, what happened at the cross of Calvary was done in a public display of Your anger at our sin and how You deal with it. When I see sin’s consequences so revealed, it makes me understand the magnitude of what You did through Jesus. Without Him, there would be no hope, but through Him I know there is complete restoration and that all my sins are washed away. Thank You for Jesus. Amen.