Romans Chapter 3 Vs 21 to 31; Leviticus Chapter 16: Propitiation - Dr J Stewart Gillespie 

 Surely the very first discovery that we make on our spiritual journey is that there is a God! 
We make come to this discovery by means of considering: 

Creation – the subject of Romans chp 1 
Conscience – the moral order Romans chp 2 
Covenant – God speaking by His Word – Romans chp 2 
Cross – Romans Chp3 – there were those of course who first came face to face with the reality of Christ at the Cross: the centurion: “Truly this man was the son of God” (Mk 15:39); the thief on the cross: “And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.” (Lk23:42) 


The 2nd significant discovery which we make on our spiritual journey is that the fact there is a God doesn't solve our problem, for He is for some reason afar off, He is an offended God: “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.” (Isa 59:2) 

The solution to this 2nd great discovery is the 3rd spiritual discovery, the subject of our meeting tonight: The subject of propitiation. 
Many years ago, as Adolf Hitler was rising to power in Germany in 1930's, another German, Gerhard Kittel was compiling a dictionary of NT words: TDNT, 10 volumes, Prof. Kittel when he comes to define 'propitiation' takes over 20 pages! 
I'm not going to take 20 pages! I'll take 3 fingers! 
Propitiation has 3 dimensions: 

Upwards – God satisfied 
Backward – Man justified 
At 90 degrees, side to side, bringing in the breadth of Gods mighty work of salvation – Christ Crucified. 

Propitiation: 'God satisfied, Man Justified by Christ Crucified' 
Only 1 way to be right with God. 
Everyone who has ever been right with God, was right with God by this very means: by the power of the sacrifice of Christ! 
See that in various places in scripture: “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (Joh 14:6); “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Act 4:12) 
See it again here in Romans 3: as God forgave men there sins in days gone by, men who trusted and rested that God could forgive sin, exactly how it would be that God could forgive their sins remained in part obscure: 

 “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” (Heb 11:13) 

“Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.” (1Pe 1:10-12) 

 “Then Job answered and said, I know it is so of a truth: but how should man be just with God?” (Job 9:1-2) 

It seems clear that Godly men of old knew that God would and that God could save the sinner but at times they were at least in part in ignorance as to How God would save the sinner. 
David is clear that his sins are forgiven (Rom 4:7; Psalm 32:1,2; Psalm 51:7-14) 
A question mark hangs over all of the OT scriptures, how can a just God forgive sins? 
It is not until “this time” (Rom 3:26) that God has revealed and declared His righteousness in forgiving the sinner His sins. 
If His righteousness was ever under question, the answer is now given, and Hios righteousness is 'declared' (3:25). 

Leviticus Chp 16: Propitiation Pictured: 

The Problem - of sin (16:1-2) 
The Place - of relationship / of meeting / of mercy (16:2) 
The Purity - of the priest 
The Power - of the blood 

The Problem -  of sin (16:1-2) 

The whole subject of atonement, in one of these little echoes of scripture is interestingly prefaced by the loss of a son! 
The subject of redemption was likewise prefaced by the loss of a son, brought out under the blood of the lamb and under the blood of the firstborn son! 
The first mention of the meal offering (Gen 4:3) – linked with the death of a son. 
The first mention of the sin offering (Gen 4:7) – linked with the death of a son 
The 2nd mention of the ascending offering (Gen 22:2) – linked with the death of a son! 
The chapter begins with a reference to the loss of Aarons 2 sons: to the problem of sin and the consequences of sin.          
Verse 1 takes us back to Leviticus chapter 10 to the death of Nadab and Abihu who "offered strange fire before the Lord" (10:1) 
Possibly they were drunk (Lev 10:9) with their judgment impaired and compromised 
So serious was their sin that Aaron their father was not even permitted to mourn for them (10:6) 
There sin although specific to them is a picture of the consequences of all sin: separation from the presence of God 
Linked with the problem of sin we have the reason that sin is such a problem: the Holiness and the Righteousness of God 
This too is how Rom 3:21-31 begins 
The Problem of Sin in chapters 1 to 3 of Romans, linked with the Righteousness of God in condemning men and women (Rom3:23) 
God reminds Moses in Lev 16:1-2 of the Righteousness that keeps men out 
The question is - is there a righteousness that can bring men in? 
We have previously seen that there is a righteousness of God that saves from wrath, we saw that in the case of Lot and Rahab 
There is a righteousness of God that saves from judgment 
Is there a righteousness that draws us near to Himself? 
Not only can Gods righteousness save us from WRATH but can Gods righteousness bring me into Relationship? 
These 2 are not the same thing. 
Nadab and Abihu died under the wrath of God - for drawing near to God with strange fire - they died 
You could avoid dieing like Nadab and Abihu by not drawing near to God with strange fire! 
That would save me from His WRATH! 
But it wouldn't bring me into RELATIONSHIP with Him. 
Is it possible for God not only to save from judgment but also to bring me into His presence? 
We need to be sure about this for if we get it wrong the consequences are huge: "and died" (16:1) 
Not good enough to do what we think, do what we please or 'come as you are to worship'! 
To fail to meet Him and to fall short of Him is to fail to meet He who is Life and Light and Love! 
The stakes are high! Agreed? 
Can Gods Righteousness not only: 

Bring us out - of wrath 

can it also: 

Bring us into Relationship? 

The Place - of relationship / of meeting / of mercy (16:2) 

3 Closely related words in this chapter: 

Mercy Seat 

Very simply we might consider these 3 words as referring to: 

Mercy Seat – The Place / Object (16:2) 
Atonement – The Sacrifice (16:6,10) 
Propitiation – occurs when the place and the sacrifice come together, it is the blood stained mercy seat (Rom 3:25) – in Rom 3:25 you notice the importance of the blood! 

God would meet with Aaron the High Priest, but at 1 place; the "mercy seat" 
"mercy seat": Heb. 'kapporeth' from the Heb. word 'kippur' - atonement 
'Yom Kippur' : the Day of Atonement 
What is 'atonement' - 'at-one-ment' - reconciliation - relationship 
Mercy seat is the place of reconciliation or relationship 
"mercy seat": 'kappoerth' in Greek the word is 'hilasterion' 
What does that have to do with me and our studies in Romans? 
Rom 3:25: 'propitiation' : 'hilasterion' 
The place of the mercy seat becomes a picture of the work of Christ! 
Place where God and man could meet 16:2, but only when a condition had been fulfilled: 16:14 when blood was sprinkled 

The Power - of the blood  (16:11-15) 

As it was with redemption so too it is with propitiation – the power is in the blood. 
Don't want to make the message unnecessarily complex and the debate of scholars goes beyond the simplicity of our thoughts on Rom 3:25 but there is a little problem with the translation / interpretation of Rom 3:25, over the precise meaning of "propitiation" 
Not everyone agrees that the word here 'hilasterion' refers simply to the mercy seat: 

The article is perhaps wrong for this meaning to hold 
We note the importance of "His blood" in Rom 3:25. 

So some scholars have suggested that really it is not so much the mercy seat that Christ is been likened to but rather the sacrifice whose blood was sprinkled upon the mercy seat. 
In reality of course the 2 go hand in hand 
The picture and the pattern are seen foreshadowed quite clearly here in Leviticus chapter 16 
The mercy seat had no power without the blood sprinkled on it 
Without the blood, the mercy seat was merely an aspiration and not a reality 
Without the blood there was still no relationship 
The mercy seat in fact took its name from the sacrifice: the 'kapporeth' and the 'kippur' 
The place has no real significance without the sacrifice 
Today we can have every vestige, every outer appearance of religion, bibles, baptisms, names, routines, services, prayers but if the sacrifice, the power of the death, dieing, suffering and resurrection of Christ is absent, the whole thing is powerless 
It is as powerless as a mercy seat with no blood! 
It is the blood that puts the mercy into the mercy seat! 
Why was the blood so powerful? 
It was the blood of sacrifice (16:11, 14-15) for sin - blood of the sin offering 
Sprinkled 7 X – Gods work, cf. Redemption 7 X in Exodus chp 6. 
In picture sin was transferred from the offerer to the offering 
The sacrifice was consumed with fire as the wrath of God fell on the sacrifice 
Perhaps a little echo in Lev 16:14 of a looking forward to of something more: "eastward" : the side of the rising sun, that is how Malachi chp 4 ends with the "sun of righteousness rising with healing in His wings" 
The day of of atonement looked forward to the dawning of a new day! 


The Purity - of the priest (Lev 16:4) 

"And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints." (Rev 19:8) 
The sacrifice not only brings the offerer in but makes him fit to come in. 
God satisfied, man justified by Christ crucified!


Notes from our bible study teaching series of messages preached systematically, verse by verse, through Paul's letter to the Romans. Free to download audio mp3 recordings of this sermon and other sermons are available at the end of this blog and on the website page.    

Yours by Grace in Christ    

Dr J Stewart Gillespie