Thursday, June 10, 2010

Terminology - Propitiate and Expiate

If you are reading this it must be Thursday, and you guessed it, it’s time for another word.  This time though due to the relationship this word has to another we here at The Old Dead Guys decided to give you a twofer.  Aren’t we generous. 

This week’s word(s) are Propitiate and Expiate

As before these words do not garner much attention nor receive much air time since some harsh realities are exposed.  So enjoy your God ordained two-fer. 

As is our custom let’s begin with a definition from Webster’s (1828)

PROPITIATE To conciliate; to appease one offended and render him favorable.

EXPIATE – To atone for; to make satisfaction for; to extinguish the guilt of

Some of the difficulty in these terms is that their close relationship makes them seemingly synonymous with each other and even when looking at their definitions above it can be difficult to really see the difference.  Here it becomes advantageous to look to the OT sacrificial system for a more clear view of just what those differences are and how they relate to one another.

In Lev 16 we see God’s instruction for the sacrifices which were to occur on the Day of Atonement. After the death of Aaron’s sons for offering “strange fire” to God, God gives Moses specific instruction on how Aaron was to offer the sacrifice on the Day of Atonement.  You will no doubt remember that the Day of Atonement was the day the sins of the entire congregation were dealt with.  In part Aaron was to take “two male goats for a sin offering and one ram for a burnt offering” (Lev 16:5). 

Of the two goats Aaron was to cast lots and one was to be “for the Lord” but the other was to be the “scapegoat” (Lev 16:8).  Verse 15 provides the detail in that the goat for the Lord was to be killed to make the temple clean “because of the uncleanness of the people” (Lev 16:16).  After the cleansing of the temple and alter by blood, he was to place both hands upon the scapegoat to symbolically transfer the sins of the people upon the goat for “the goat shall bear all their iniquities on itself” (Lev 16:22).  Next he was to then set the goat free in the wilderness.

This provides a beautiful picture of both the act of Propitiation and Expiation in that God was propitiated by the blood of the one and expiated by the bearing of the people’s sin by the other.  Friend this is a perfect picture of Christ for by his blood God’s wrath is appeased (propitiated) and by His bearing our sin upon the cross we have our guilt removed (expiated).  Again, this is a beautiful and complete picture of Christ’s atoning work.

So that the difference is one of object.  Christ expiates (atones for) our sin and as a result God is propitious toward us having had His wrath appeased.  In other words one propitiates a person and expiates a problem.

Sola Deo gloria

1 comment:

Kevin Sorensen said...

Thanks Jamie for this lesson. It's a good one to know and remember. I wonder how many theological toes have been stubbed upon these terms?