Christ our Propitiation (3:25)
In verses 24 and 26 Paul puts us to the test by making us think about some very difficult words. It is important to not skip over difficult words, especially in Paul’s writings. These words have specific purposes and meanings and uses in Paul’s thinking and understanding of God, salvation and sin. Let’s look at them here.
The purchase back of something that had been lost,
by the payment of a ransom.
The Greek word so rendered is apolutrosis, a word occurring nine times in Scripture, and always with the idea of a ransom or price paid. The work of Christ is a work of redemption. We are lost in sin and God has sent His son to find us and “buy” us back. The purchase was made when Jesus offered His blood as full payment for our sin.
The second word is:
Covering; atoning sacrifice.
This is not an easy word to grasp, but it is important to try if we are going to understand Paul’s argument and thinking. In propitiation the wrath that God should let loose upon the sins of men is absorbed by the Son. Jesus is our covering because He has bought the right to do so on the cross. In this ministry of covering and absorbing, the judgment that should rightly fall on us is taken on by Jesus. John helps by providing for us some further insight to what Jesus is doing for us in heaven when He executes this propitiatory work. As we grow in our understanding of these concepts we can begin to grasp the depth of God’s grace and work toward us in Christ. The cost of grace illustrates the depth of love.
This aspect of Christ’s sacrifice in propitiation is something that should be properly understood.
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:1-2, ESV)
God is both Just and the Justifier (3:26)
Verse 26 contains an interesting phrase: “It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
So how does God remain just and still justify a sinner? God remains just because he demands and receives payment for sin, but that payment does not come from me. The payment comes from Christ, the perfect sacrifice, and so God is able to fulfill both roles and still remain holy and just. God’s righteousness nature demand compensation for the offense of sin. But God’s nature is also described by God’s ability to love perfectly and completely.
Only God could manage to do both without violating any principles needed for either side. God’s character demands justice and grace, but in order to provide both God had to stand on both sides, and He does. God executes judgment for sin upon His very own Son. There is no great evidence of the love and grace of God than this.