Propitiation For Our Sins? ((last update to this study was made on 04/29/2003; extracts from original article 'God's Love Towards All" found in ARISE Journal - 10/1993)
A early church Christian father, Clemens Alexandrinus, said around the year 190 Anno Domini, "The Lord does good unto all, and delights in all; as God, he forgives our transgressions, and as man, he teaches and instructs us that we may not sin. Man is, indeed, necessarily dear to God, because he is his workmanship. Other things he made only by his order; but man he formed by his own hand, and breathed into him his distinguishing properties. Now, whatever was created by him, especially in his own image, must have been created because it was, in itself, desirable to God, or else desirable from some other consideration. If man was made because he was in himself desirable, then God loved him on account of his being good; and there certainly is in man that lovely principle, called the breath or inspiration of God." There are some, says Clemens, who deny that the Lord is good, because he inflicts punishments and enjoins fear. He adds that God's "justice is, of itself, nothing but goodness; for it rewards the virtuous with blessings, and conduces to the improvement of the sinful. There are many evil affections which are to be cured only by suffering. Punishment is, in its operation, like medicine: it dissolves the hard heart, purges away the filth of uncleanness, and reduces the swellings of pride and haughtiness, thus restoring its subject to a sound and healthful state. It is not from hatred, therefore, that the Lord rebukes mankind." Clemens says in another place, "How is he Saviour and Lord, unless he is the Saviour and Lord of all? He is certainly the Saviour of those who have believed; and of those who have not believed, he is the Lord, until by being brought to confess him, they shall receive the proper and well adapted blessing for themselves. The Lord is the propitiation, not only for our sins, that is, of the faithful, but also for the whole world (I Jhn 2:2): therefore he indeed saves all; but converts some by punishments, and others by gaining their free will; so that he has the high honor, that unto him every knee should bow, of things in heaven, on earth, and under the earth....". - end quote.
We agree with the words of the apostle John that Jesus Christ is the 'propitiation' for our sins, that is, he is the satisfaction, atonement, amendment, conciliation or expiation for our sins, which is the definition of the greek word hilasmos. It is also used when John tells us, "herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another" (I Jhn 4:10-11). A similar word, hilaskomai, brings to mind that we are justified because of God's mercy; not of our own self righteousness and many religious acts, nor even our ability to trust in ourselves. We share the parable of the pharisee and the publican as Jesus spoke these words to those who trusted in themselves to be righteous, while despising 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, (hilaskomai) 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. (Luke 18:9-14). This same word was also used in the book of Hebrews, "Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation (satisfaction, amends, mercy) for the sins of the people" (Heb. 2:17). And again, a similar word in the greek, hilasterion, is translated as 'mercyseat' and 'propitiation' to support our teaching (Heb. 9:5 and Rom. 3:25, respectively).
So we rejoice and should be comforted in the fact that He is the satisfaction FOR OUR SINS. To me, this boggles the mind at times and is perhaps forgotten, yet the fact remains that HE IS! The fact remains that His blood is our satisfaction and when this understanding is grasped, when we come to realize and believe that through faith in His blood we have already been amended, we then openly declare his righteousness for the remission of sins! Now to complete the remaining portion of John's statement, "he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for our's only, BUT ALSO FOR THE WHOLE WORLD". For whom? Read it again! The whole world!! So, I ask, is God satisfied with the blood offered by His Son for both us and the whole world? You can either believe it or be as the Pharisee, despising others and only seeing yourself amended?
Now this is not to imply that the whole world will right away experience the same things promised to the believer or the one who overcomes in this present age. Scripture is clear that certain promises are only for the overcomer (ref. Rev. chapter 2). Nor is it to suggest that all are of the household of God. Only those born of the Spirit have been placed into the family of God and share the position as "brethren" of Jesus Christ. However, it is a matter of timing and election on God's part as to when the "whole world" will come into the grace and glory of our Lord. And yet, I think that even their part in God's great drama as "vessels of dishonour" is one of timing and divine election. Here I am reminded of two men, Cyrus and Judas Iscariot. The first was the king of Persia, a heathen rather than one of the nation of Israel. Yet God stirred this man's spirit to perform the task the Lord had for him in the earth. Isaiah even tells us that the Lord regarded Cyrus as His "shepherd" and "anointed" (ref. Isa. 44:28 - 45:1). The second man was Judas Iscariot who went unto the chief priests of his day to deliver the Christ in return for thirty pieces of silver. Yet Jesus chose him from the beginning knowing full well he was a devil. In fact, holy script says the devil was PUT INTO THE HEART OF JUDAS ISCARIOT, Simon's son, to betray the Christ. And let me ask, was it any different for Judas as with Herod, Pontius Pilate and the people of Israel TO DO WHATSOEVER the hand and counsel of God determined before to be done?
So back to my subject. God will prepare the heart of the unbeliever and draw them out of darkness and into His marvelous light when He decides it to be so. Often, He will send or use one of the "brethren", one of His instruments of salvation to inform or rather "share Christ". Religion would try to tell them that first they are sinners, then they are to repent and accept Christ as their personal saviour in order for their sins to be removed from God. What blasphemy I say! Their sins have already been dealt with by Jesus! They cannot do something, make a sacrifice, etc. to make amends with God. His Son already paid the price. Furthermore, they cannot repent and then accept God. Holy script tells us "the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance" (Rom. 2:4). And repentance, my friend, is turning your mind and making it right regarding God.
When we, as sons of God, declare His righteousness, it should cause a person to behold the true and living God. They will correctly regard God's goodness. We should be telling them that there has already been One in whom God is completely satisfied with and that He is not imputing their sins against them. They will then realize through a turned mind, regarding God in His exactness and wonderful mercy, and awaken unto a new life. From God's point of view, the blood already covers them, from man's vantage, we are to believe and be transformed in our mind and way of thinking to EXPERIENCE what God has already done. From God's position, their 'standing' is one of not guilty, He is not holding them in their sins. Now, if they truly believe it, they will confess with their mouth and believe in their heart unto salvation. A renewing or transformation will take place in their minds and they will start to experience this new life and become the righteousness of God. This is good news. This is coming to the knowledge of the truth. Do we impute their sins against them or do we tell them to be reconciled to God? We have all been shut up in unbelief, both we and the whole world. Yet Paul reminds us "For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have HAVE MERCY UPON ALL", yes the whole world!
So, it is true that God will ultimately restore all into His glorious kingdom. David himself wrote "The Lord said unto my Lord, sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool" (Ps. 110:1). And Paul confirms the same of Christ, "For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under His feet" (I Cor. 15:25). And what are the 'all enemies to be put under his feet'? Paul gives us the answer that "....all things shall be subdued unto him...that God may be all in all". What then, is that subjection with which all things are subdued? Can it be none other than 'salvation' to be subjected to Christ? Even David said "stilled (subjected) is my soul, for from Him is my salvation" (Ps. 62:1-2 CV). And again, the idea that "at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth.....to the GLORY of God the Father", denotes a subjection to Jesus.
Man's final outcome (e.g., his "eternal" resting place or abode) is NOT solely based on the decisions he makes while in this "land of the living". Religion would want us to think that the ultimate condition of man after a physical death is settled forever, etched in stone, never to be changed or altered. Yet I remind you that our Lord is much greater than man's stubborn will and our Almighty God is not limited to only reaching souls on this side of the grave. The servant and apostle Peter showed this to be true as Christ went and preached to those spirits in prison which were disobedient in the days of Noah (ref. I Pet. 3:20). We reject the idea of any who would try to twist this verse to regard any others than whom Peter refers, THOSE WHICH WERE DISOBEDIENT IN THE DAYS OF NOAH. And I ask the simple question, what do you think He preached? Could it be that He paid the price and He came to set the captives free!