The Berean Expositor
Volume 51 - Page 135 of 181
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us (John 3: 16; Gal. 2: 20; Eph. 5: 25).  Even in the human realm the Lord said
"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends"
(John.xv.13). It is all beautifully expressed in the children's hymn:
"It is a thing most wonderful,
Almost too wonderful to be,
That God's own Son should come from heaven,
And die to save a child like me" (Bishop W. W. HOW).
Some have judged from verse 25 that we have the pagan idea that God needed to be
appeased. The word `propitiation' hilasterion is related to the verb hilaskomai which in
pagan Greek did mean "to placate". In the Septuagint the word is parallel to the Hebrew
kipper ("Make atonement") and among cognate words we find kapporeth, "mercy seat".
These words acquired a new meaning from their Biblical context. We should note
carefully in Romans, it is not man who is trying to placate God, for Paul insists that it is
God, not sinful man Who has provided this mercy seat (verse 25), as He did typically in
the O.T.
Some modern translations seek to avoid the word "propitiation" and substitute
"expiation" and "the means of expiating sin" (R.S.V. and N.E.B.) which means to wipe it
out. This is certainly true of Christ's redemptive work. God has so dealt with His
peoples' sin and removed it, so that it can be said with truth, "their sins and iniquities I
will remember no more" (Jer. 31: 34); "As far as the east is from the west, so far hath
He removed our transgressions from us" (Psa. 103: 12); "Thou wilt cast all their sins into
the depths of the sea" (Micah 7: 19).
On the other hand we cannot Scripturally remove the wrath of God from the problem
of sin. Has not Paul already said that "the wrath of God is reveled from heaven against
all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men?" (Rom. 1: 18). How then is this wrath to be
removed? It can only come through the hilasterion, "propitiation" that God has provided
whereby through Christ men's sins can be righteously cancelled, in which case
retribution (the wrath of God) does not arise. The wrath of God is not a popular theme in
modern theology but it is inevitable in a moral universe and is one of the revelations of
Holy Writ.
The Apostle sums up this section of the epistle by saying:
"Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.
Is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also:
seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision
through faith. Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid; yea, we
establish the law" (3: 28-31).
Is any distinction to be made in the prepositions `by' (ek) and `through' (dia) faith? It
appears that the Apostle uses them interchangeably. Ek is used in Rom. 1: 17, ek & dia
in connection with law in 3: 20: and dia in 3: 22, 25 joined with faith & in Gal.ii.16.
Likewise in English the words `by' and `through' can have the same meaning.