By Pastor Paul Millermon
Various Scripture
01 October 2000


In one of Jesusí parables, He addresses self-righteous people. But this parable, known as the prayer of the Pharisee and the Publican, has another important lesson.

Luke 18:9-14, "And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men [are], extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as [his] eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified [rather] than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted."

Let us for a moment consider the publicanís prayer. Was this man asking for mercy as the King James Version translates it, or was he asking for something more? The word translated "mercy" here can be also translated "to be appeased, conciliate to one's self, or to become propitious."

Today I would like to help us understand a big word that we find in our Bible. It is a big word and perhaps hard to understand yet is a very important Bible word. The word is propitiation. It has to do with our salvation, so it is important. One of the places it is found in the Bible is Romans 3:25. "Whom God hath set forth [to be] a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God."

    1. I have been in religious gatherings where people are calling out for mercy. Sometimes I get the impression that they are not interested in making any changes in their lives but expect God to be merciful anyway. But maybe Godís mercy is not the whole answer. Maybe it is propitiation.
    2. When the sinner in the temple cried, out he was no doubt saying "God be propitious to me a sinner." I say this for two reasons.
      1. The first reason is that the temple where he prayed was designed to contain a place of propitiation. It contained the mercy seat, which was the covering of the ark. On the Day of Atonement in Old Testament times the priest of God would take blood of prescribed sacrifices and offer them on the Mercy Seat within the Vail. The word for mercy seat was "kapporeth" {kap-po'-reth} in the Hebrew. It was the place of atonement. The golden plate of propitiation on which the High Priest sprinkled blood 7 times on the Day of Atonement. That slab of gold on top of the ark of the covenant which measured 2.5 by 1.5 cubits had two golden cherubim facing each other whose outstretched wings came together above and constituted the throne of God. It was the dwelling place of God on earth at the time. That mercy seat was the place of propitiation.
      2. The second reason is that the word "mercy," which the sinner in the temple used, can be rendered "be propitious." That Publican was saying "God be propitious to me a sinner.
    1. Dictionary definition of the verb "Propitiate" is to appease, to conciliate or to gain the favor of.
    2. Theological understanding - Propitiation is the Godward side of the work of Christ on the cross. The manward side is reconciliation. We are washed in the blood and made acceptable to God when we put our trust in Christ as Savior. We are reconciled to God but God is not reconciled to us. By the work of Christ God is propitiated. Godís holy and perfect justice is satisfied in regard to our sin when we trust Christ. God sees the work of Christ to pay the price for our sin and is satisfied. He is propitious toward us when we trust Jesus as our Savior.
    1. Romans 3:25 "Whom God hath set forth [to be] a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God."
      1. God sent forth Jesus Christ to satisfy the holy demands of God in respect to our sin. He did that by being our substitute. He died the just for the unjust to bring us to God.
      2. 1 Peter 3:18 "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit."
      3. By Christ being our propitiation Godís justice is satisfied and His righteousness is not compromised, and our sins are forgiven. What an amazing work of salvation!
    2. 1 John 2:2 "And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for [the sins of] the whole world."
      1. Jesus Christ has satisfied the holy demands of God for our sins, but not just for us but for the sins of the whole world.
      2. This is the message we must somehow get out to people.
      3. Have you ever heard someone say "If I had only known?" When people are in hell suffering for their own sins, they may say "if I had only known that Christ had already satisfied the holy demands of God for my sin, I would have trusted in Him. I would not have to be here paying for them myself. I could have avoided this place."
      4. We are responsible to help people know that Christ is the propitiation for their sins.
    3. 1 John 4:10 "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son [to be] the propitiation for our sins."
      1. There is a lot of misunderstanding about love, but here is love pure, holy, and complete. It is seen in what God did in providing propitiation for our sins. He satisfied His own holy demands in regard to our sin.
      2. When we begin to understand what He did then, we see the depth of the love of God for us.


Why should we ask for mercy when God has already shown us such abundant mercy? All the mercy needed has already been expended in regard to the salvation of our souls. Donít ask for mercy but accept the mercy already shown through Christ. Christ is the propitiation for our sin! If you have any questions or need more information, contact us at pastor at biblecenteronline dot com.

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