If you’re ever playing Scrabble, a word that is guaranteed to win the game is “propitiation.” Of course, it’ll probably be contested because it’s not a commonly used word, unless you live in the 19th century or spend a lot of time with Bible teachers and theologians. But as obscure as this word might be, it is critical to our understanding of Christ’s work in saving sinners.
Because of God’s righteousness and holiness, humanity’s sins must be atoned for in order for people to be reconciled to God. That happens through propitiation, which means to appease or satisfy, to gain or regain the favor of another.
As the propitiation for sins, Christ’s death is the appeasement or satisfaction of God’s wrath against sin. Jesus took all of God’s anger toward sin upon Himself, becoming sin despite not knowing sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God.
But Christ’s propitiation isn’t just about satisfying God’s wrath. It is also the necessary payment that results from the penalty of sins. We are forgiven not because God turns a blind eye to our sin, but because Jesus took the penalty upon Himself.
Finally, propitiation is a powerful demonstration of God’s great love toward sinners, as 1 John 4:10 says, “Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice”, the propitiation, “for our sins.”