Expiation and Propitiation

Jesus' crucifixion and death was in atonement for the sins of mankind. Atonement, what Jesus did to reconcile human beings with God, has many aspects to it and this lesson introduces you to one facet of the extent and depth of His work on the cross.

As Bible translations grappled with the concept of atonement, some Greek terms were challenging to translate. So some Bible translations used similar but different terms which can be seen here. The terms "expiation" and "propitiation" find their basis in the Old Testament sacrificial system.

Romans 3:25

"whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins." (RSV)

"whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation of His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed. NASB)

1 John 2:2

"and his is the expiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world." (RSV)

"And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world." (NASB)

1. Use a Bible dictionary and look up "expiation" and "propitiation." What do the two words mean and how do they differ?

2. Examine this example and identify which instance is expiation or propitiation. You just stole a piece of candy and you've been caught by the furious store owner.

a) Because Jesus intercedes and offers to pay for the candy or go to jail for the crime, justice has prevailed.

b) Because Jesus is paying fully for your crime, the offended store owner is no longer angry.

3. What if the store owner was the Father of Jesus? What are the implications if atonement was just simply expiation? What are the implications if atonement was just simply propitiation? What do you conclude about atonement?

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