Monday, 16 March 2020
And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. 1 John 2:2
John now explains the words of the previous verse which say, “and if anyone sins.” When they do, John says that the person has an Advocate with the Father who is “Jesus Christ the righteous.” In explanation of that, he says, “And He Himself is the propitiation.” Here, the words “And He” are in the empathic position – “He Himself.” The same Jesus of verse 1 is now identified as “the propitiation.” Here, John uses a word, hilasmos, found only here and in 1 John 4:10.
The word signifies a propitiation. It is an offering intended to appease an angry and offended party. Christ died on the cross, shedding His blood. Through His sacrifice, He provided the necessary propitiation which was only pictured in the Day of Atonement offering found in Leviticus 16 and 23.
Jesus Christ is the actual point of propitiation, but more, it is because of His death that this is so. Another noun, hilastérion, which is also found only twice in Scripture explains this. The word means “a sin offering.” It is that by which the wrath of the angry God is appeased.
In type, it was the covering of the ark which was sprinkled with the atoning blood on the Day of Atonement. Its two uses are found in Romans and Hebrews –
“…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, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” Romans 3:25, 26
“For a tabernacle was prepared: the first part, in which was the lampstand, the table, and the showbread, which is called the sanctuary; 3 and behind the second veil, the part of the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of All, 4 which had the golden censer and the ark of the covenant overlaid on all sides with gold, in which were the golden pot that had the manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant; 5 and above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail.” Hebrews 9:2-5
These two Greek words, hilasmós and hilastérion, which equate directly to the Hebrew words kaphar and kapporeth (covering and mercy seat), speak of Christ Jesus being both that which atones, and He is the place of the atonement “for our sins.” These words then explain the words, “if anyone sins,” of the previous verse. The implication is that without Christ Jesus, there would be no atonement for sin. But in Him, there is full atonement for all sin. That is then seen with the words, “and not for ours only but also for the whole world.”
The words, “the whole world,” show the potential scope of the propitiation. Bengel says, “The propitiation is as wide as the sin.” Vincent’s says, “If men do not experience its benefit, the fault is not in its efficacy.” For those who come to God through His offering of Jesus Christ, no sin is too great to be covered. For those who do not come to Him through Christ, even the smallest sin cannot be overlooked or forgiven. Jesus Christ alone is the means of restoration with the Father.
Life application: How often do we hear someone say, “We are all God’s children”? This sounds wonderful and is especially appealing to those who focus entirely on the love of God. A problem rests in this type of thinking though – a problem which is evident from both the Bible and from mere reason.
Biblically, the Bible says that we are “children of wrath” by nature, but even without the Bible, we can reason out that God must be infinitely holy, righteous, just, etc. The problem arises when we try to grab hold of the love without meeting the other standards – a tension between them exists which cannot be satisfied by anything we do.
For example, we simply cannot fulfill what is necessary to attain His righteousness or meet His just standards. The only option, when left to fend for ourselves, is to receive His wrath. It is, by necessity, the default position.
The word translated as “propitiation” was used in secular Greek writings to note a sacrifice used to appease a wrathful or angry god. This doesn’t merely imply a payment for sin. Instead, it indicates that God is – by nature – truly and justifiably angry at sin. It violates His very nature.
Jesus’ cross – his suffering and death – therefore, provides the propitiation or “appeasement” of this wrath. He is the One who stands between us and the righteous anger that God pours out on our wrongdoing. As a Man, He suffered and died – He was crucified for our sin. As God, He was able to deflect away from us the suffering we deserve and yet prevail over death. Thus, in one amazing action –
“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Corinthians 5:21
This appeasement is available to all people, meaning the whole world, but is applied only to those who receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. God’s infinite mercy, stemming from His perfect goodness, is expressed to the sons of Adam in a most amazing and wonderful way – the cross of Jesus Christ.
Lord God, what Jesus did is beyond our comprehension. Everything which came about because of His cross is simply beyond imagination. All we can do is look with awe and wonder at what You have done for people like us – lost in sin and in need of a Savior. May we never fail to acknowledge Your greatness, Your splendor, and Your majesty! We shall forever exalt You for what You did in and through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.