Propitiation: A Big Word I Didn’t Know I Knew

I often say that God did all the hard work for our salvation.  He chased us throughout history, always loving us first; always making a way.  He proved His love for us in that while we were still sinners He sent His Son to die in our place.  He, by the power of His Holy Spirit, draws us to Himself, convicts us of our sin and even cries out on our behalf in prayer when we don’t know what to say.  Jesus stands at the right hand of the Father telling Him over and over again as we come to His throne with our humanness – in our sin – what it is like to actually walk around on this ball of dust held captive by skin.  He does the chasing.  He does loving.  He did the dying and the resurrecting.  He does the drawing.  He does the mediating.  By comparison, our job is so simple.  Our job is to recognize Him as Lord, to see that He loves us, to hear when He calls and to confess our sin – every time.  Our job is to repent and rest and be quiet and trust; to obey and follow and stay focused on Him.  He does the forgiving, the leading and the directing.  Our job is to receive it from Him.

I am working through a pretty hefty book right now by John Stott called The Cross of Christ.  This morning’s lesson is on “propitiation”.  How’s that for a vocabulary word?  It’s so funny to me that I am studying this now because 5 years ago, before sitting under the teaching of my current Pastor, I would have had to look it up in a dictionary.  (Don’t worry… you don’t have to get yours.  I am about to tell you what it means!)  Now, it at least doesn’t scare me!  To “propitiate” means to assuage or appease someone’s anger; to gain or regain the favor or someone else.  Turns out what I “often say” can be summed up in one really big word.  I don’t like thinking too terribly much about the anger of God, but to use my own terminology, “propitiation” simply means that God did all the hard work to save us.  To quote, Stott, “It is God Himself who in holy wrath needs to be propitiated, God Himself who in holy love undertook to do the propitiating, and God Himself who in the Person of His Son died for the propitiation of our sins.  Thus God took His own loving initiative to appease His own righteous anger by bearing it His own self in His own Son when He took our place and died for us.”

I don’t know about you, but that blows me away.  God took His own loving initiative to do the hard work for me because He knew I would never be able to do it for myself.  He bore His own righteous anger at MY sins because He knew I would never be able to withstand it on my own.  And then He, Himself, in His Son, Jesus, died for my sins so that I might be His very own daughter – chosen, adopted, blessed, gifted with every good gift, abundant and eternal life, the Fruit of the Spirit and the very fullness of Christ.  And my job is to simply accept His gift of grace and mercy, rest in His salvation and trust Him with all that I am and all that concerns me.  My job is to simply gaze into my Father’s face and fall in love with Him.

O Father, captivate me.  Even when I struggle and pull away – as children sometimes do – hold me fast.  Change my heart and draw me close.  Whisper my name in the winds of life in this world and the downpour of my daily.  Continue to do the hard work of drawing me to Yourself and make me more and more like Jesus as I keep my eyes fixed on Him.

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