Sacrifice for Our Sins

A large square nail is placed over a blood stained hand ready to be hammered in for crucifixion.

40 Names of Jesus in 40 days of Lent — Day 40

Saturday in Holy Week 2022

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

1 John 4:10 ESVUK

Propitiation is an unusual word. Looking it up in a dictionary does not really help either, it gives a meaning as expiation. Thanks, dictionary, but no thanks.

Checking on different translations of the Bible shows how difficult it is to put the Greek of this passage into English:

  • The ESV, ASV Authorized Version and CSB say propitiation.
  • The Bible in Basic English says an offering.
  • The CEB says sacrifice that deals with…
  • GNB says the means by which sins are forgiven.
  • GW says payment,
  • Jubilee Bible says reconciliation.
  • The Message says a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God.
  • The RSV says expiation.

It is not a problem about which of the above is correct, they all are. What was achieved in the death of Jesus is much bigger than I can imagine, and I have a vivid imagination. It is propitiation (more on that below), expiation, an offering, a sacrifice, the means by which sins are forgiven, a payment, reconciliation with God and with each other and it clears away the damage done to our relationship with God by us sinning.

Atonement is at the heart of what the cross means, many Christian theologians have disagreed about what atonement means, but it is still the heart of the message. It means to make a payment for a wrong, who is going to make a payment for the darkness in my life? Who is going to pay for my sin? In the Old Testament it was the sacrifice of an animal, what sin deserved was death. In the New Testament, we hear that sacrificing an animal still won’t deal with the darkness. “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins,” (Hebrews 10:4 NLT) it cannot take away the darkness caused by sin.

God is too holy to look on evil it says in the Old Testament (Habakkuk 1:13). But is that true? That phrase is Habakkuk talking to God and the book is about how God does see the evil that has been done to the Israelites by the coming Babylonians, but the theme is that God does see evil being done by and to his people. God does see evil being done and the evil in people’s hearts. Propitiation means that for those who believe in Jesus that sin, that evil is covered over so that when God looks on us he sees the sacrifice of Jesus for those sins.

On the Eve of Easter liturgy asks us to imagine that the resurrection of Jesus has not happened. But even if it hasn’t Jesus sacrifice is still sufficient to cover our sin. The resurrection brings something new. But that is another blog.

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