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Romans 3:25


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Heavenly Father,


I feel as if I can imagine standing before Your holy throne right now, with Your Word clutched tight to my chest, my eyes starting at the floor. Just being in Your presence fills me with peace. I'm feeling a little shy and uncertain this morning, so I'm not qute sure what to do other than to ask that You would teach me, and us, from Your Word this day.


You are holy...You are God. I need and want You to take my life this day, and to accomplish whatever You will. I have no requests at the moment, and I don't really have much to say, except a desire to continue this study in Romans.


So, teach me Father, grow me, and may You, by the power of Your Holy Spirit who lives in my heart, do the perfect work You have planned for me.


In Jesus Name,




25. Whom God set forth a propitiation [mercy-seat] through faith in His blood, unto showing forth His [God's] righteousness in respect of the passing over of the foregoing sins in the forbearance of God;


Watchman Nee writes, "In the Old Testament, the propitiation place, the lid of the ark, as a type, was hidden in the Holy of Holies, in the New Testament, Christ as the reality of the propitiation place is openly set forth before all men.


The propitiation place is typified in Exodus 25:15 by the sin-covering lid on the ark. The ark waswas the place where God met with people. In the ark was the law of the Ten Commandments, which by its holy and righteous requirement exposed and condemned the sins of the people who came to contact God. However, by the lid of the ark, with the propitiating blood sprinkled on it on the Day of Propitiation, the entire situation on the sinner's side was fully covered. Therefore, upon this sin-covering lid God could meet with the people who broke His righteous law and He cuold do this without, governmentally, any contradiction to His righteousness, even under the observing of the cherubim that bore His glory and overshadowed the lid of the ark. Thus, the problem between man and God was appeased, enabling God to forgive and be merciful to man and thereby to give His grace to man. This is a prefigure of Christ as the Lamb of God taking away the sin that caused man to have a problem with God (John 1:29), thus satisfying all the requirements of God's holiness, righteousness, and glory and appeasing the relationship between man and God. Hence, God could pass over the people's sins that had previously occurred. And, in order to show forth His righteousness, He had to do this. This is what this verse refers to.


The Hebrew word for the lid of the ark is kapporeth, from a root meaning 'to cover'. In the Septuagint this word is translated hilasterion, which means 'the place of propitiation' (implying to forgive and to give mercy - the word rendered propitious in Heb. 8:12 is the root of hilasterion, and the word rendered propitiated in Luke 18:13 is derived from this root). The King James Version adopts the rendering "mercy seat," referring to the place where God grants mercy to man. In Heb. 9:5 Paul also used hilasterion for the lid of the ark. Here, in Rom. 3:25, the same word, hilasterion, is used to show that the lid of the ark signifies Christ as the propitiation place set forth by God.


In addition to hilasterion, two other words derived from the same Greek word hilasterion are used in the New Testament to show how Christ took away man's sin to appease the relationship between man and God. One is hilaskomai (Heb. 2:17), which means to propitiate, that is, to appease, to reconcile one by satisfying the other's; the other is hilasmos (1 John 2:2, 4:10), which means 'that which propitiates', that is, a propitiatory sacrifice. Christ made propitiation for our sins (Heb. 2:17); hence, He has become that which propitiates, the propitiatory sacrifice, between us and God (1 John 2:2, 4:10), and He has also become the place, as typified by the lid of the ark (Heb 9:5), where we enjoy propitiation before God and where God gives grace to us.


During the Old Testament time, the sins of the people were not taken away but were only covered with the blood of the animal sacrifices, which were types of Christ. God passed over these covered sins until Christ came. He was the Lamb of God who took away the sin of the world (John 1:29). By His death on the cross and the shedding of His blood for redemption, He carried away all the sins that had been previously covered and passed over. In passing over their sins, God demonstrated His righteousness to the Old Testament saints."


The rvbv writes, "This verse looks back to the whole history of human sin before it was judged at the cross, - the vast scandal (so to speak) of the universe! - a holy God letting sin pass for four thousand years, from Adam to Christ. God had been righteous in thus passing over human sin, both in pardoning without judgment, the sins of the Abels, Enochs, Noahs, and the patriarchs, - even all whom He knew as believing Him; and not only so, He was righteous in forbearing with the impenitent, His enemies; for He purposed both sending Christ to become the propitiation for the whole world; and He would also deal in due time in righteous judgment with those rejecting all His goodness.


But now, in the gospel, His righteousness in all this is publicly shown forth; and the ground of it all seen - even the Lamb "foreordained, indeed, from the foundation of the world, but now manifested," and sacrificed. At the cross was sin seen at its height; and also the righteousness of God in dealing in judgement with it. (There are, respecting human sin, 3 judgment days: (1 ) of the human race, in Eden; (2 ) of the human sin, at the cross; and (3 ) of human rebels, at the Great White Throne of Revelation 20). It was not until the gospel that all this was manifested. Although God had been dealing righeously in the past ages, it was first seen clearly when He judged human sin openly in the Great Sacrifice: where His own Son was not spared!


Whom God set forth a propitiation - Let us consider now this word "propitiation," concerning the meaning of which there is much uncertainty in many hearts.


Inasmuch as Christ died for our sins "according to the Scriptures" (I Cor. 15:3), we must go to those Scriptures (Old Testament, of course) to find what is there set forth concerning His death.


Now the two goats, on the Great Day of Atonement, represent two great effects of Christ's sacrifice. To quote: "Aaron shall take the two goats, and set them before Jehovah at the door of the tent of meeting. And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats: one lot for Jehovah, and the other lot for Azazel" ("removal" - the goat of removal of sins) (Lev. 16:7,8). (Azazel, the Hebrew word, means goat of dismissal, or departure, figuring most vividly the effect for Israel of the blood shed by the first goat: for the two goats are one in representing Christ's work in its double effect. First, as answering all the claims of the being and throne of a holy, righteous God; and, second, in removing the transgressions from the people "as far as the east is from the west."


On the great Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16) the high priest presented before Jehovah these two goats: one was slain, and its blood brought by the high priest into the tabernacle, through the holy place, and past the second veil into the holy of holies. There the high priest sprinkled the blood upon "the mercy-seat" (the covering of the ark of the covenant, where the Shekinah glory of God's presence was above the cherubim), and also before the mercy-seat, seven times. This was the blood of the goat upon which the lot fell "for Jehovah"; therefore we have here first the holy and righteous claims of the throne of God as to sin completely met. The golden covering of the ark was called the "mercy-seat" (Hebrew, kapporeth). In the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, this golden covering of the ark is always called by the same Greek word, hilasterion, which we find translated "propitiation" here in verse 25; and "mercy-seat" in the only other New Testament occurrence of the word, Hebrews 9:5. (The meaning of the Greek word hilasterion, translated "propitiation" in Romans 3:25 plainly is, propitiatory sacrifice. How else could it be fore "the showing of God's righteousness:? If we translate it only "mercy-seat," we forget that it was the propitiatory sacrifice, in its death, which made a mercy-seat possible. It was the slain goat, on the Day of Atonement, (in Lev. 16:15), the blood of which was brought in to be sprinkled upon and before the mercy-seat. The righteousness of Jehovah was proclaimed in the offering's death, and in the meeting, on the ground of this shed blood, of Jehovah and man, at the mercy-seat. Therefore righteousness is set forth in the death of the vicitim; mercy in its effect at the "mercy-seat."


It will be noticed that all explanations (of hilasterion) rest on the thought that "Christ's death was sacrificial and expiatory; a real atonement, required by something in the character of God, and not merely designed to effect moral results in man. We may not know all that this propitiation involves, but since God Himself was willing to instruct His ancient people, by types, of this reality, we ought to know something positive respecting it. The atoning death of Christ is the ground of the 'reconciliation,' since it satisfies the demands of Divine justice on the one hand, and on the other draws men to God. Independently of the former, the latter could not be more than a groundless human feeling: (Schaff and Riddle).


"All that God was in His nature, He was, necessarily, against sin. For, though He was love, love has no place in wrath against sin, and the withdrawal of the sense of it - consciousness in the soul of the privation of God, is the most dreadful of all sufferings, the most terrible horror to him who knows it: but Christ knew it infinitely. But God's Divine majesty, His holiness, His righeousness, His truth, all in their very nature bore against Christ as made sin for us. All that God was, was against sin, and Christ was made sin. No comfort of love enfeebled wrath there. Never was the obedient Christ so precious; but His soul was to be made an offering for sin, and to bear it judicially before God" (Darby)."


The above paragraph is profound. Darby's style of writing causes me to have to read it very slowly lol, but one of the things that struck me was where he said, "consciousness in the soul of the privation of God, is the most dreadful of all sufferings, the most terrible horror to him who knows it...". This 'privation' (the state of being depreived...the lack of what is needed for existance) is what I feel when I sin. I feel that 'privation' from the Lord, and it is not until I confess and repent from these sins, that I once again sense and know that I'm freely in His presence. His presence is so real to me that I literally know when I'm out of it...and the thing that kinda still surprises me is that I can no longer live that way without Him...something's changed in me. So, while I still sin, that draw, that need to be right before Him trumps any permanent defiance and/or sin, and I once again find myself desperate for His forgiveness...and THAT has grown out of my love for Him.


Does "propitiation" (hilasterion), here in Romans 3:25, then, mean that the death of Christ made expiation for human sin? Or does it mean also that Christ, having thus died, therefore becomes to the soul, the "mercy-seat" where God in all His holiness, and the sinner in all his guilt, may meet?


The latter may be included; for the type is thus carried out; inasmuch as the blood was sprinkled upon the mercy-seat (Lev. 16:14), the covering of the ark of the covenant, which was called the mercy-seat; the "mercy-seat" thus calling attention to the effect of the sacrifice as affording a righteous meeting ground between the sinner and God. But in Chapter 3:25 it was to show forth God's righteousness that Chrst was "set forth," = the fact that God, though forbearing 4000 years, had not forgotten or abated His wrath against sin; so that it is Christ's actual death as an expiation of human sin that is seen here as showing God's righteousness. We may well read, "God set forth Christ propitiatory": thus showing Himself righteous, and also a gracious Justifier of sinners.


The other quesiton connects itself with what we have just said: Should we regard our faith as making the propitiation actual? Of course, the expiatory death of Christ becomes effectual only for those who believe, who rest upon it. But the expiation was made to God for human sin and the propitiation effected, apart from any man's faith therein! This is a plain fact of revelation. Christ "tasted death for every man." "He gave Himself a ransom for all" - whether any avail themselves of it or not. Faith does not have any part in the propitiation, though it avails itself of it. Propitiation is by blood alone.


It is forgotten that our God is a consuming fire. Many there are who, in the blindness of unbelief of the last days, proudly say, "We reject the Jehovah of the Old Testament." It is "the Jesus that loved little children," and "went about doing good," who "taught us to call God, Father": - this is the one in whom people say they believe. But will you remember that this same Jesus is called in the Old Testament Jehovah's Servant, and that under Jehovah's smiting hand of wrath He poured out His blood on Calvary and was laid in a tomb, dead, and that it is this Jesus, the Son of God, dead and risen, upon whom you are called to believe?


Now, why did He thus die? or, if you wish, Why must He die, at all? Death is the wages of sin, and He had none! Why should He die?


The answer to this quesiton, false teachers crowd to give you. But we must find the answer in what Scripture says, or risk our eternity! For Jesus Christ is the only Savior, and His death is His one saving act. Concerning His person, therefore, and His death, you must learn what God says from His own Word, and believe it. I find thousands of people ready to say, "Christ died for us, to save us"; thousands, I say, who speak thus, but who are able to give no account whatever of salvation; who exhibit, upon being questioned, the most awful ignorance of the character and attributes of God, and of where lay the necessity for Christ's death, and what it really accomplished.


The shed blood on the Day of Atonement witnessed that a death had taken place. The person for whom the blood was shed could not approach or stand for a moment in the presence of the infinitely holy God. When the high priest came in before Jehovah on the Great Day of Atonement, carrying the basin containing the poured out life blood of the slain goat, he swung the censer, and the cloud of incense filled the holy of holies, covering from all human sight or approach, the mercy-seat where dwelt, upon the cherubim, the Shekinah Presence of God. He approaches and sprinkles the blood upon the mercy-seat, and before the mercy-seat seven times, and retires.


Now, what does this witness? Not an angry, vengeful God, but infinitely the opposite - One who would send the Son of His bosom as the spotless Lamb to pour out His blood for us sinners, and then ascend to His God and Father, - and, unspeakable grace, now our God and Father also!


But, this laid-down-life witnesses that all approach to God on our personal part is impossible forever! To be made nigh unto God in the blood of Christ means that we come as those who Substitute has been smitten unto death, - and that under forsaking and wrath by God Himself. There is peace through this blood, but a peace that leaves for us in our own right, no place whatever. Herein is the "offense" of the cross. Shall Christ be smitten for my sin? Then I deserve such smitting. Shall Christ be forsaken? Then I should have been forsaken. Shall Christ give up the ghost? Then all my hopes in myself have perished forever, for He who stood in my place has been smitten, forsaken; has died.


All this men hate and will not hear.


The essence of the truth concerning what men call "atonement," is that God's wrath fell upon Christ bearing our sins. Man's unbelief has sought in every way to avoid or mitigate this awful truth. But if Divine wrath fell not upon Christ, it must fall upon us; for God can not let sin pass. The preacher must study the Scriptures until he sees for himself from God's Word this most solemn of all Divine revelations: in the coats of skins - obtained by death as a covering for Adam and Eve in God's presence, in Abel's accepted sacrifice; in all the offerings of the patriarchs; and afterwards in those prescribed to Israel in Leviticus, - where neither remission of the penalty of sin to the offender nor the bringing of man into God's presence was possible except through blood-shedding; and alike strikingly in the Psalms of Christ's sufferings, - as 16, 22, 40, 69, 88, 102, 109; and in the prophets: "It pleased Jehovah to bruise Him," "The chastisement of our peace was upon Him"; "Awake, O sword against My shepherd, against the Man Who is My Fellow, saith Jehovah of Hosts"; and in the gospels - "The Son of Man must be lifted up"; "The cup [of what but wrath?] that my Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?" Throughout the New Testament, as in the Old, this is taught, that God's wrath for sin fell upon Christ upon the cross.


It has ever been the first step to heresy - the denial that Divine wrath for sin fell on Christ. It was, indeed, certainly not anger at Christ's Person - He was obediently drinking a cup His Father had given Him. Nor was it anger at the sinner: "God so loved that He gave." But it was wrath against sin, - the going forth of the infinitely holy nature of God against sin. Alas, how little we feel its awfulness! How poor our knowledge of it; how weak our hatred of it! But wrath against it fell full on Christ. We beseech you, hold this fast. "God spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all."


God is holy in His being: He is righteous in His character. Righteousness appears in His dealings with others. The term righteousness is a relative one; it assumes the existence of others. It is a word of relationship: whether in attitude or in governement, God will ever be righteous. But holiness is not a word of relationship, but of nature, of being. God is holy: if there were no creatures He would yet be holy, the Holy One, "Whose Name is Holy."


It is in this holiness of god that we must look for the necessity of propitiation. That there must be propitiation does not indicate, primarily, that God is offended and must be appeased; but that God is holy and cannot by sinful creatures be approached. Only holy beings (like the seraphim, the cherubim of glory, and the elect angels) can possibly abide in His presence. Sin cannot come nigh Him. It is not that He hates sinners (He gave His Son to ransom them!) but it is that He is holy and cannot look upon sin. And if there be sin, there must be wrath against it: not merely the vindication of God's offended government, but the infinite abhorrence of His holy nauture! He "dwelleth in light unapproachable." It is death to draw nigh: not because God is vindictive, - He is love, but because He is holy, and we are sinful, unclean, unholy.


True, we are also guilty: the penalty of sin is upon us. And that means judgment, and the infliction of wrath. But behind this, and deeper than even our guilt, is the abhorrence of a holy God of our sin itself. It is the abominable thing His holy being hates. We must be banished under wrath from His sight! Let all those who think to stand in the day of judgment before god think on this. The atonement arises out of a necessity in the nature of God Himself.


Now in the type of the great Day of Atonement of Leviticus 16, we have the two goats setting forth two great facts, which we must not confuse: First (and most important) the blood of the slain goat brought into God's presence in the holy of holies: the sprinkled blood being the witness that there has been death, a life laid down: and no effort to come otherwise into God's presence, no Cain-way, which does not recognize sin, or that holiness of God which was wrath and death toward sin. The blood of the goat sprinkled on the mercy-seat was the witness that all the claims of God, His holiness, His truth, His righteousness, and the majesty of His throne, had been admitted and met by a substitute which had laid its life down.


Then, second, there was the transferring in type of the actual sins, - all of them, to the head of the scape-goat (the "goat of dismissal"), which was then led to the wilderness, enver to be found again: thus setting forth the result of the death of the first goat, - for the two are really one, in that the two set forth the effect of Christ's death: (1 ) toward God; and (2 ) toward sinners.


It is this latter phase of Christ's work, - His taking away our sins forever, that we so constantly find our hymns (and rightly). But it is the first phase that the Word of God calls "the lot for Jehovah" (Lev. 16:8,9,15). It is of first importance that God should be glorified where sin had so dishonored Him. Sin outraged His holiness, insulted His Majesty, defied His righteous government. And the cross made good all this, and publicly, before the universe. This was first. And second, God could now let sinners, in all their guilt, turn to Him! And we should learn to look at the cross as first of all glorifying God; and not solely from the viewpoint of the blessed and eternal benefits accruing to us thereby!


It is the character of God and the character of sin that are before us in Leviticus 16, in the Great Day of Atonement. "That I die not" (verse 13) was upon the mind of the high priest as he swung the censer when entering the presence of Jehovah, the Holy One, to sprinkle the blood, "to make atonement for the holy place, because of the uncleannesses of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions, even all their sins." Not here that it is "uncleannesses" that are mentioned, even before "transgressions" or "sins"! Read carefully Leviticus 16 - especially verses 15 and 16.


Taking the blood in before God, in the holy of holies, was not a gift to God! Nor was it that God "delighted in bloodshed" - the monstrous claim of God's enemies. Christ's blood writnesses that a life has been laid down (though that of a Substitute, a Lamb, God Himself in love has provided). So that a sinner, unable to be in God's presence at all, and guilty, might, in the Name and Person of that Substitute, be in God's presence, pardoned and justified. So that the blood witnesses at once the infinite holiness and righteousness of God, and also His fathomless love! The words "made nigh in Christ's blood" should be in the constant consciousness of every Christian!


Now in order that these things may be impressed on our hearts, we quote a few of the ever recurring references in Scripture to the holiness of God: its effect in godly fear upon the saints, and also its effect upon the wicked. We have placed these passages in a footnote. We beg you to stop and humbly read them; for the God of the Old Testament is the God of the New. Indeed, that great passage in the Sixth of Isaiah in which the seraphim veil their faces, crying, "Holy, holy, holy, is Jehovah of hosts," is directly declared in the Twelfth of John to have been spoken of the Lord Jesus Christ: "These things said Isaiah, because he saw His glory [Christ's] and he spake of Him (John 12:39-41). The fact that the Son of God has come, sent by a God of love, and has borne sin for us, so that we who believe shall not come into judgment, but draw near to God by Christ's blood, does not at all change the character of the holy God; but, on the contrary, reveals His holiness as nowhere else!


Therefore we see in the word translated "propitiation" a propitiatory sacrifice that has expiated guilt; and therefore the "mercy-seat" where God is in all His holiness, and the effect of Christ's expiatory sacrifice, in the bringing into God's holy presence sinners, the defiled and guilty, - whose Substitute has borne their defilement and guilt, His blood becoming the witness thereto before God.


We know that we read in Hebrews 9:8 concerning the sacrifices in that first tabernacle: "The Holy Spirit this signifying, that the way into the holy place hath not yet been made manifest, while the first tabernacle is yet standing." Besides, we also read in Hebrews: "Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by the way which he dedicated for us, a new and living way...let us draw near with a true heart, in fulness of faith? (Heb. 10:19,22). God's being and character do not change. The cross is the deepest witness of all to that fact!


In every great revival in church history, as in the Old Testament, there has been a coming back into the consciousness of being guilty, lost sinners, dependent on the shed blood of a Redeemer. If the world has gotten past being recalled to that blessed sinner-consciousness in the presence of a God of mercy at the cross - there is nothing left but judgment!


Footnote Scriptures as mentioned above:

Ex. 3:5, 19:22, 24:1,2, 24:17, Lev. 9:7, 10:1-3, Deut. 4:24, Isa. 13:14, Heb. 12:29.



Heavenly Father,


As I was typing up todays study, it began to dawn on me, the understanding of why the enemy seems to be fighting me so hard from doing this Romans study. Things that I guess I only knew on the surface, are being explained on a much deeper level, and that is removing the enemy's ability from messing with my position in Christ, before You, my Heavenly Father.


May Your mercy and grace flood this study...by the power of Your Holy Spirit, guide me, strengthen me and propel me, to on a consistant level, finish this study. I need to learn more, and I believe what You said to me before I even started it...that there were critical things I needed to learn to get through the days ahead. While I believed You, there was just no way I could comprehend until I got into this study. I'm beginning to comprehend what You meant a little better, day after day.


So thank You Father...thank You for leading me into Romans. Sometimes it intimidates me, and sometimes I don't care...I'm still going to finish that, which You, and You alone, started.


Open the eyes of my heart and mind, that I might continue to see all that You have purposed.


I love You.


In Jesus Name I pray,

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