Three ways to live

Which is your way?

Expiation and propitiation

Filed under: Uncategorized — Vitali at 9:37 am on Tuesday, August 28, 2007

One of the main pillars of the Christian faith is the belief that due Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross the problem of sin has been resolved and we are free from God’s eternal anger. But how exactly? Expiation and propitiation are the two “loaded” theological terms are used to describe what happened.

In the modern English, to expiate something means to do something to indicate that you are sorry for what you have done. To propitiate somebody who is angry means to do something pleasing to him/her, in order to stop the anger. In the New Testament, the two words are used interchangeably to translate the same Greek word and, in most modern translations, are often substituted by the word “atonement”, as in Romans 3:25 (NIV)

25 God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished.

However, it is important to see subtle nuances in these two words. Expiation is the belief that sin is canceled out by being covered over by Christ’s death. It is as if the cover makes the sin invisible to God. Propitiation is the belief that Christ’s sacrifice covers our sin as a shield, so that the anger directed at our sin strikes the sacrifice instead. God still sees sin and is angry with it, but his anger never reaches us.

While there is a great debate about which term is more appropriate, recently “expiation” has been favored because it removes the need to talk about God’s anger, which appears archaic to many non-believers who prefer to think of God as a God of love. Yet for those unhindered by fleeting cultural settings it should be clear that our God is both absolutely loving and absolutely just, he would not let the sin unpunished – he cannot be blind to sin. Somebody has to pay for our sins, it cannot just disappear. Jesus has not just hidden our sins from God, he took them upon himself.

No Comments

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.