Posted On April 27, 2016

When we talk about the vicarious aspect of the atonement, two rather technical words come up again and again: expiation and propitiation. These words spark all kinds of arguments about which one should be used to translate a particular Greek word, and some versions of the Bible will use one of these words and some will use the other one. I’m often asked to explain the difference between propitiation and expiation. The difficulty is that even though these words are in the Bible, we don’t use them as part of our day-to-day vocabulary, so we aren’t sure exactly what they are communicating in Scripture. We lack reference points in relation to these words.

Expiation and Propitiation

Let’s think about what these words mean, then, beginning with the word expiation. The prefix ex means “out of” or “from,” so expiation has to do with removing something or taking something away. In biblical terms, it has to do with taking away guilt through the payment of a penalty or the offering of an atonement. By contrast, propitiation has to do with the object of the expiation. The prefix pro means “for,” so propitiation brings about a change in God’s attitude, so that He moves from being at enmity with us to being for us. Through the process of propitiation, we are restored into fellowship and favor with Him.

In a certain sense, propitiation has to do with God’s being appeased. We know how the word appeasement functions in military and political conflicts. We think of the so-called politics of appeasement, the philosophy that if you have a rambunctious world conqueror on the loose and rattling the sword, rather than risk the wrath of his blitzkrieg you give him the Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia or some such chunk of territory. You try to assuage his wrath by giving him something that will satisfy him so that he won’t come into your country and mow you down. That’s an ungodly manifestation of appeasement. But if you are angry or you are violated, and I satisfy your anger, or appease you, then I am restored to your favor and the problem is removed.

The same Greek word is translated by both the words expiation and propitiation from time to time. But there is a slight difference in the terms. Expiation is the act that results in the change of God’s disposition toward us. It is what Christ did on the cross, and the result of Christ’s work of expiation is propitiation—God’s anger is turned away. The distinction is the same as that between the ransom that is paid and the attitude of the one who receives the ransom.

Continue Reading

Related Posts

Four Traps to Avoid When You Suffer

Four Traps to Avoid When You Suffer

4 Traps to Avoid When You Suffer from Crossway on Vimeo. The 2 Kinds of Doubt As I thought about my own experience, I wanted to organize my thoughts and experience for others in these two categories of traps that every sufferer faces and the comfort that is offered to...

Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God – Brian Zahnd (2017)

Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God – Brian Zahnd (2017)

COMMENDING JONATHAN EDWARDS I will never forget a very special evening with a small group of Christ-followers at the McLean home.  My good friend, Don suggested that we read Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God by Jonathan Edwards in one sitting – on our knees.  And...

Weekly Dose of Apologetics – 16-22 Jul 2017

Weekly Dose of Apologetics – 16-22 Jul 2017

Apologetics Deb Welch – Difficult Passages Series: Judges 19 and The Gospel "We are all prone to wander and forget our True King and Redeemer. Our savior Jesus, who has written our names on his hands, has rescued us from the kingdom darkness described in Judges 19 and...

Weekly Dose of Apologetics – 9-15 Jul 2017

Weekly Dose of Apologetics – 9-15 Jul 2017

Apologetics Denny Burk – Standing Against a Destructive Misogyny Threatening our Children "The sexual revolution promised us more sex and more pleasure. It has actually delivered to us a generation of men who think of women as objects to be used and abused for their...

Weekly Dose of Apologetics – 25 Jun – 1 Jul 2017

Weekly Dose of Apologetics – 25 Jun – 1 Jul 2017

Apologetics Bruce Ashford – A Dozen (or So) Things We Will Never Regret Doing with Our Kids "Schedules change at the last minute. Children get sick. Parents get tired. Et cetera.) So we put our trust in him, rather than in ourselves, as we try to make the most of...

Do Not Stretch the Truth

Do Not Stretch the Truth

“You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; you shall not lie to one another.” (Lev. 19:11) Nestled within commands to not steal or bear false witness is a three-word prohibition. It is stated in a matter of fact manner and simply – do not lie. There is no...

0 Comments

Share2
Reddit
Email
Buffer
Tweet