We meet with this word but twice in the Bible, namely, Rom. 3:25; and 1 John 2:2; but it is most blessed and precious in both. The Septuagint renders it hilasmos; and the propitiatory, or mercy-seat, they call Hilasterion. The plain and evident sense of propitiation is, that of conciliating favor and reconciling persons which before were at variance. To propitiate, therefore, is to restore that amity and friendship which had subsisted before the quarrel took place, and thus make friends again. Such, in a very high degree, is the propitiation accomplished by Christ Jesus for his people; and hence, by way of special emphasis, Christ is himself called the propitiation. For when sin had made a dreadful breach between God and man, Christ stood forth the propitiation, and made "peace by the blood of his cross?" This doctrine was beautifully shadowed forth in the Old Testament, and accomplished under the New. (See Exod. 25:17-27)
As the subject itself is of all others the most late resting, and the just and proper apprehension of it highly important, I persuade myself that I shall have the reader's indulgence if I enter into the consideration of it a little more fully.
The two great features in the doctrine of propitiation, are the greatness of the act itself by the Lord Jesus Christ, and the authority and approbation of God the Father in the appointment. And Scripture is express in explaining both; for speaking of Christ as a propitiation, the apostle saith, that "having made peace by the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things to himself; by him, I say, (saith the apostle) whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven." (Col. 1:20) The apostle lays the greatest stress upon the personal glory of Christ in this act, and repeats his expression by him, I say, as if to show, and which is indeed the chief glory of it, how much depended upon the infinite dignity of Christ's person, and the infinite merit of his work. And no less to show the momentous consequence that the hand of JEHOVAH should also be found to concur in this great design, the same apostle was commissioned to tell the church that it was God "which set him forth as a propitiation, through faith in his blood." (Rom. 3:25) Yea, so much was the heart of JEHOVAH in every part of this gracious undertaking, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them." (2 Cor. 5:19) Oh, precious consideration of a precious God in Christ!
Reader, what saith your experience of these things? What views have you of Christ, the propitiation with the Father, and set forth by the Father? Are you daily, hourly, looking to this for the only acceptation of your person and your offering? Depend upon it, it is to this propitiation of his dear Son alone that God hath respect. The very sight of Christ, the lamb slain, in the midst of the throne, becomes the cause of God the Father being propitious to the sinner. To Jesus, as to the rainbow round the throne, JEHOVAH looks, and remembers his everlasting covenant. And what a sweet thought! Jesus not only thus appears in the presence of God for us, but his blood pleads for us too. It is indeed a speaking blood, for it speaks to God of Jesus' preciousness, and it speaks from God of the Father's faithfulness; and by both to confirm the blood of the covenant. Jesus! My full, my glorious, my complete, and all-sufficient Savior! be thou my daily object of unceasing delight, my mercy-seat, propitiation, high priest, altar, sacrifice, and sacrificer; yea, my all in all: I need no more in time, and to all eternity!