West Point Road Church of Christ
Jesus as Expiation
  • One Word, Two Meanings

    There is a word in the Greek called “hilasmos.” This word and its cognates, actually carries with it two different ideas. Our English may have a harder time translating both of these ideas into just one word.
    “In classical Greek, hilasmos was used to refer to a sacrifice that would somehow avert a god’s wrath.”
    Tremper Longman III, Peter Enns, and Mark Strauss, The Baker Illustrated Bible Dictionary, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2013), 811.
    This is the idea of propitiation. A propitiation is a sacrifice to appease the wrath of someone.
    “The OT shares this Greek usage to a degree but also expands it to include the more familiar biblical notion of expiation or atonement.”
    Tremper Longman III, Peter Enns, and Mark Strauss, The Baker Illustrated Bible Dictionary, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2013), 811.
    The definition of “expiation” is “The act of making amends or reparation for guilt or wrongdoing; atonement.”
    “expiation.” Lexico.com. https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/expiation. (07/15/2020).
    Leviticus 25:9
    Leviticus 25:9 KJV 1900
    Then shalt thou cause the trumpet of the jubile to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month, in the day of atonement shall ye make the trumpet sound throughout all your land.
    The Septuagint is the Greek translation of the Old Testament Hebrew and Aramaic. In the Septuagint here, the cognate word “hilasmou” is used for the word “atonement” in “day of atonement.” Atoning for something is making amends for something wrong. It is a means by which guilt for wrongdoing can be removed.
    Romans 3:25
    Romans 3:25 KJV 1900
    Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;
    Many translations give the idea of Jesus as “propitiation,” but there is really the idea here of expiation or the removal of a barrier in a relationship. Our sin has caused a rift in our relationship with God. An expiation is needed to be able to make amends and restore the relationship.
    Some translations translate this verse differently by calling Jesus an “atoning sacrifice.”
    There is also the idea of forgiveness connected with the idea of expiation. A making amends and removing the rift of separation in a relationship would include the idea of forgiveness. Without forgiveness, the rift would still exist.
    Psalm 130:4
    Psalm 130:4 KJV 1900
    But there is forgiveness with thee, That thou mayest be feared.
    The word translated “forgiveness” here is the Greek word “hilasmos” in the Septuagint.
    The two ideas we are dealing with are:
    Propitiation - appeasement of wrath
    Expiation - making amends and removing our guilt
    connected with that is the idea of forgiveness

    Jesus is Our Expiation

    Besides being our propitiation, Jesus is also our expiation.
    When we sinned, we offended God. That caused a rift in our relationship. We deserved and incurred His wrath. We had to be separated from God and His holiness, due to our being stained with sin. Our relationship was injured. God lost the perfect man He had created. God is also just and cannot ignore sin. Sin had occurred and the penalty of death must be paid.
    In summary, our sins:
    Offended God
    Incurs His wrath
    Causes our separation
    Causes a rift in our relationship with God
    Robs God of the perfect man
    Incurs the penalty of death
    By offering back what God had lost and paying the penalty, Jesus made amends for our sin.
    By accepting the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf, we are forgiven of our sins.
    Romans 3:25
    Romans 3:25 KJV 1900
    Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;
    According to the BDAG Greek-English lexicon, this use of “hilasterion” states that Jesus is the means of expiation. Yes, Jesus is our propitiation, but He is also our expiation. This verse might be better translated “atoning sacrifice” to reference the atonement and expiation Jesus has effected. Notice the verse continues by saying that it is for the “remission of sins.”
    Romans 3:26
    Romans 3:26 KJV 1900
    To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
    It was not possible for God to accept us back into His presence without sacrificing His just nature or violating His own commandments. God is still a just God. He said there was the penalty of death when sin occurs, and there was. Only Jesus is the one who paid it for us. Notice the verse says that God is just, and we will be justified if we believe in Jesus.
    God is still a holy God. He cannot tolerate sin in His presence, and we were separated when we sinned. Now that Jesus has made amends and washed us clean, we can be restored to the presence of God.
    Hebrews 2:17
    Hebrews 2:17 KJV 1900
    Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.
    The word “hilaskesthai” is translated “reconciliation.” The BDAG Greek-English Lexicon gives the definition of “to eliminate impediments that alienate the deity.” The impediments that are causing the rift and separation in our relationship to God is eliminated. The sin is expiated and we are able to restore our relationship with God. We are no longer alienated, but can be in the presence of God.
    With the expiation of Jesus:
    Our sins are forgiven
    God does not violate His just nature
    Our relationship with God can be restored
    We can be in His presence

    Jesus is Our Atoning Sacrifice

    A propitiation would get rid of God’s anger, but would not necessarily get rid of our guilt and give us forgiveness. Imagine if you crashed into my car and ruined it. Eventually my anger might subside, but I can’t forgive you if you don’t repent.
    An expiation would get rid of your guilt, but if the anger is not appeased there would still be a rift in the relationship. If you repented for crashing into my car and offered me a replacement, there would still be a rift in our relationship if I don’t let go of my anger and forgive you. Would it even be possible for God to forgive us if His anger was not appeased? Could I really say that I have forgiven someone if I retain my anger?
    We sinned and offended God. This deserves and incurs God’s wrath. This caused a separation between us and God and a rift in our relationship.
    We needed something that would:
    appease God’s wrath, which would allow Him to be able to forgive us, and
    make amends by restoring what had been lost, thereby giving us that forgiveness from God, removing our guilt, and restoring our relationship with God.
    Romans 3:25
    Romans 3:25 KJV 1900
    Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;
    As mentioned before, some versions translate this as saying that Jesus is an atoning sacrifice.
    We might think of it in two ways:
    Jesus is our expiation and atonement
    Jesus is our propitiation sacrifice
    Jesus is our atoning sacrifice.
    In summary, the atoning sacrifice of Jesus:
    Removed the guilt for our offenses against God
    Appeased the wrath of God
    Brought us back into God’s presence
    Healed the rift in our relationship with God
    Restored to God the perfect man
    Paid the penalty of death

    It’s About God

    The Baker Illustrated Bible Dictionary explains how in pagan worship, the gods would allegedly be offended by something done by someone. The worshipper would bring a sacrifice to the god in order to appease their anger. The worshipper is thus the subject and the god being appeased is the object.
    In the Bible, however, it’s about God.
    “There are three elements that help summarize expiation/propitiation in the Bible: 1) God was rightfully wrathful because of our sin; 2) God offered the sacrifice that averted his own wrath; and 3) God was the sacrifice that atoned for our sin.”
    Tremper Longman III, Peter Enns, and Mark Strauss, The Baker Illustrated Bible Dictionary, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2013), 813.
    Let that sink in for a minute. God was the one offended, yet God offered the sacrifice of propitiation, and God was the atoning sacrifice.
    1 John 4:10
    1 John 4:10 KJV 1900
    Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
    Even though God was justly wrathful toward us, His love was also present. He then offered the sacrifice that would be the propitiation and the expiation for our sins, and He also was the sacrifice for the propitiation and the expiation for our sins.
    John 3:16
    John 3:16 KJV 1900
    For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
    1 John 3:1
    1 John 3:1 KJV 1900
    Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.
    God loved, God offered, and God was.
    The difference in pagan propitiation and biblical propitiation is that biblical propitiation is about God. In pagan religions an imperfect man can restore his relationship to a god. Maybe this is possible because the imperfect man invented the imperfect god and the imperfect god is not real. But, the God of the Bible is so holy and perfect that an imperfect man could never restore his relationship to the perfect God, especially with an imperfect sacrifice of himself or something he had. Biblical propitiation has God taking care of the problem of sin because man is incapable of doing it. Why? Because the God of the Bible is too holy and too perfect for imperfect man to do it.
    This begs the questions, “Why would man invent such a God?” and “How did he even think of such a God?” An accusation is made that man invented God to simply be a comfort to himself. So, is the idea that man invented a perfect God that created a perfect man, and our imperfect actions would deserve and incur His wrath, but our imperfect nature would never be sufficient to restore to God the perfect man He had lost, and therefore we would be condemned to eternal separation and punishment from God in a tormenting hell? If so, how is that supposed to be a comfort?
    When man invents a god, the god is like the man. In pagan propitiation, the imperfect man offends the god, but the imperfect man is able to make up for it. So, what does that say about the god?
    In biblical propitiation, it isn’t about the man, it’s about the holy and perfect God.
    God loved, God offered, and God was.
    1 John 4:10 KJV 1900
    Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
    1 John 4:10
      • Leviticus 25:9ASV

      • Romans 3:25ASV

      • Psalm 130:4ASV

      • Romans 3:25ASV

      • Romans 3:26ASV

      • Hebrews 2:17ASV

      • Romans 3:25ASV

      • 1 John 4:10ASV

      • John 3:16ASV

      • 1 John 3:1ASV

      • 1 John 4:10ASV

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