To Be a Propitiation for our Sins
“Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17).
You have the birth of Christ and the death of Christ in the same sentence. He was born as a man that he might be made like us. He died as a propitiation for the sins of the people. To propitiate means to turn away wrath by offering a gift. When Christ died, he voluntarily took upon himself the wrath of God that was meant for you and me. We know that God is too righteous to overlook sin. Psalm 7:11 says “God is angry with the wicked every day" (KJV). If a man sins, he faces the wrath of God. God cannot wink at sin. Before I can have peace with God, my sin must be dealt with. There is no escape from this fact because God is 100% righteous and will not clear the guilty. Any solution to the sin problem must face that fact.
But another Biblical principle tells me God is merciful toward sinners. His mercy means he loves me in spite of my sin. God so loved the world (John 3:16) that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). Any solution to the sin problem that involves his mercy must also satisfy his righteousness.
What gift can I bring to turn away his wrath?
Money? No, because all the silver and gold comes from him.
Animals? No, because he owns the cattle on a thousand hills.
My possessions? No, because he made the stars.
What can I bring to turn away his wrath? Nothing. God knew that. He knew I didn’t have anything to offer, so he offered the gift of his one-and-only Son, Jesus Christ, to die in my place. That’s the mercy of God. When Jesus died, his death on the cross was the perfect sacrifice for sin. That satisfied the righteousness of God. His anger was turned away by the offering of his own Son. The Father was propitiated.
In 1863 Charitie Bancroft wrote a hymn called Before the Throne of God Above. Recently it has gained new popularity because it has been set to a Celtic melody. The second verse offers one of the greatest statements of the gospel I have ever heard:
When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see him there
Who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free.
For God the just is satisfied
To look on him and pardon me.
I can rest my soul on this wonderful fact. God isn’t angry at me anymore. Why? Because I’ve believed in Jesus. I’ve trusted in what he did on the cross. He took the wrath of God in my place. Forever and ever God is my Father and I am his Son. The blood of Jesus has paid the debt and turned away God's righteous wrath against me. That’s propitiation.
Lord Jesus, no one could ever take your life from you. You willingly laid it down for us. Because you were forsaken, I am forgiven. Glory to your name forever! Amen.