TODAY’S SCRIPTURE Romans 3:21-26
Each instance of propitiation in English translations of the Bible is a variation of the same Greek word hilasmos. Bible study resources consistently associate this word with an act of appeasement towards an offended or wrathful party. Greek scholars tell us that this word indicates “the means of appeasing God, or averting His anger; and not a single instance to the contrary occurs in the whole Greek literature.” If we are going to form an understanding of propitiation, we absolutely must start by grappling with the concept of God’s wrath.
Some may not like the idea of a wrathful God, but a comprehensive view of Scripture does not leave us much choice. John 3:36 states: “Whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” Ephesians 5:6 and Colossians 3:6 also speak in clear terms of the wrath of God. Revelation 16 recounts the pouring out of seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God.
Consider also today’s reading from Romans 3. In verse 25, we are offered “the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by His blood, to be received by faith.” Why do we need this propitiation? Because, as the first chapter of Romans has already stated plainly in verse 18, “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” Propitiation is the appeasement of wrath!
The tax collector described by Jesus in Luke 18:13 understands this reality, and he “beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’” As it happens, the tax collector actually uses a variation of the word hilasmos. He is literally praying, “God, be propitiated for me!” Praise God for Jesus’ analysis in the next verse: “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified…. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Today, I will…bow before God in prayer, as one who has incurred His righteous wrath and who humbly accepts the propitiation by His Son’s blood.