The Berean Expositor
Volume 19 - Page 91 of 154
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This redemption that is in Christ Jesus sets forth one aspect of His sacrificial work;
the other, its complement, is expressed in the word propitiation (hilasterion).
The mercy-seat.
There are two commonly-received interpretations of this word:  1. the mercy-seat
(Heb. 9: 5; Exod. 25: 18, 19; Lev. 16: 2, &100:) and  2. propitiation (Rom. 3: 25).
It is evident from the double usage of the word in Romans and Hebrews that we have
type (mercy-seat) and anti-type (propitiation) clearly set forth.
A word or two with regard to the way the word hilasterion is used in the LXX may be
helpful. In some cases hilasterion stands alone; in others it is followed by epithema or
"covering", e.g., Exod. 25: 17: "And thou shalt make a propitiatory, a lid of pure gold."
This is an example of hilasterion being followed by epithema. In Lev. 16: 2: "Before
the propitiatory, which is upon the ark of the testimony", hilasterion is not followed by
epithema, but by an explanatory clause, "which is upon the ark". In the few places where
the word "propitiatory" stands alone, the context speaks of the ark, the cherubim or
something to do with the tabernacle, temple, or their furniture. Moses, Ezekiel and Amos
are the only users of this word in the Greek O.T. It does not mean a propitiatory victim,
or offering so much as the golden mercy-seat upon which the atoning blood was
The Hebrew equivalent of hilasterion in the twenty-one occurrences of the word in the
law of Moses is always kapporeth, the mercy-seat. There are only two occurrences of the
word in the N.T., viz., Rom. 3: 25, and Heb. 9: 5, and as Heb. 9: 5 most certainly
adheres to the O.T. usage of the word, the meaning of Rom. 3: 25 must be regarded
as the same. We have gone to this length because a great number of expositors have
said that while it is true that the Septuagint usage leads us to the one translation--
"mercy-seat", we need not therefore assume that Paul was bound to follow that usage.
This, however, is neither good argument nor sound exegesis.
Righteousness---provided and manifested.
As we have seen by structure given in Volume XVIII, page 85, righteousness is to
the fore, and it is viewed from two angles.
The provision of a righteousness of God by faith of Jesus Christ, which is "through
the redemption that is in Christ Jesus."
The declaration of God's own righteousness, while He thus graciously deals with
past and present sins, which is set forth by the "propitiatory".
The two aspects come together in the words, "That He might be just and the Justifier".
Man has "come short"; there is none righteous among men, whether Jew or Gentile,
but the mercy-seat covered the unbroken tables of stone, the unaltered covenant and
testimony, so that where the atoning blood was sprinkled God was free to become "the
justifier of the ungodly" while Himself remaining "just" in all His ways.