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The Cross of Atonement Pt. 2

Updated: Apr 9, 2020

Last post I alluded to the fact the people of God have interpreted The Cross of Christ Jesus in more ways than one. I even gave you a few words to chew on: Expiation, Propitiation, and Christus Victor. the first two words are translated from St. Paul's letter to the Romans and mean somewhat the same thing but not really. We'll get to that in a sec. The third word is a specific theory of the atonement, and I think knowing these theories is worthwhile, so I'll dive into those, too.

So we go back to Romans 3 where St. Paul uses the Greek word - hilasterion. The best definition of this word might be as "covering," or a "covering of mercy." Given it's use in Exodus, the word might also lead one to think of the Israelite doors covered/marked with the blood of the "spotless lamb." It was that covering that told the Angel of Death to have mercy on that house and pass-over them.

St. Paul uses hilasterion in reference directly to Jesus. Jesus is our "mercy-covering," and given His death and the way He speaks of His own blood as life-giving drink, it only makes sense to think of Jesus' blood (or SACRIFICE on the cross) as that which provides the "mercy-covering." Same as used back in Exodus when God told the Israelites to sacrifice the young, spotless lamb, AND...just a little more reading makes it clear that it is our SIN which is being covered or washed away.

Going back to the word hilasterion though, we find it translated into either Propitiation or Expiation. So what more do they mean and what's the difference?

You might just use it interchangeably as some bible translators have. Hilasterion, Propitiation, Expiation, SACRAFICE, Atonement, but there is some subtle difference and that difference can REALLY effect the lens you choose to look through.

Remember the lens? The way we look at things. We all look through a lens when exploring ANYTHING. The lens you choose to use here will determine how you choose to look at The Cross, the sacrifice Jesus made for you.

So back to the words. Propitiation means (very, very simply) that God is the one who no longer "sees" the sin because it is "covered" or washed away by the blood of Jesus. Basically, the blood is FOR God. It is to turn away His wrath. (Remember wrath from the last post?)

Expiation means (again, very very simply) that sin is for what the covering is for; the object of the sacrifice is sin. In effect, since Jesus is God, God uses the blood to "cover up" (I prefer wash away) the sin in our lives. Do you see the subtle difference here? Remember the lens.

If you see God as this holy and perfect King to whom we owe something because of our sin, you may prefer the word - Propitiation. However, if you see God as one who is constantly trying to fix that which we broke, you may prefer the word - Expiation.

Either way, the earliest of the early church saw it simply as - Sacrifice. Ah, but there is the rub. A sacrifice for what? We're back to that again. Well, I'll tell you.

The early (EARLY) church spoke of this sacrifice as if it were a RANSOM. It was the last and fullest ransom paid so that sinful humans would not suffer for sin. BUT AGAIN! Remember your lens!

The DEVIL gets his due, right? And the thought way back then was that sinful souls become the Devil's own. If a sinful person can't make it to Heaven, then the alternative of course would be....yep.

If that was the lens you chose to look through, then you would see the ransom PAID by Jesus was paid to the Devil. In effect, Jesus bought you away from Satan. Sins forgiven. No sins. No Satan. Ransom paid.


No? Then maybe your lens was more focused on God and His expectations for you. Your sin was an affront to God - an insult. He would never let a sinner pass through those Bright Pearly Gates, so...a RANSOM was paid by Jesus to God, and right on through the gates you walk.

Don't like that one either, huh? The Ransom Theory of The Cross?

Yeah...but stick with me. The theories do get better so come back tomorrow and I'll give you another.


P.S. Send me your questions and I'll do my best to answer! I love you guys and I hope you are all doing well.

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