(29 verses, 1:35 to read)
What I am about to READ
John encourages and comforts Christians with the sacrifice of Christ and its benefits.
1-14: John speaks of Christ’s amazing propitiatory sacrifice for the sins of all mankind, and its meaning for the Christian’s salvation and life.
15-29: John speaks of the distinction between the things and wisdom of the world and the things and wisdom of God for His people.
Christ’s propitiatory sacrifice and its implications were and continue to be the great divide theologically between the religion of the Gospel and all other religions of the Law. This reality of Christ’s propitiatory sacrifice is a repeated theme throughout the Old and New Testaments. This profound connection is understood more deeply when one realizes that the word John uses here for propitiation is of the same specific family of words as the word for the Mercy Seat which received the blood of the lamb on the Day of Atonement.
The significance of Christ as our propitiation is addressed numerous times in the Book of Concord. The following is from the Apology of the Augsburg Confession IV.81-82:
By faith, therefore, for Christ’s sake, we receive remission of sins. We cannot set our own love and our own works over against God’s wrath…It is certain that sins are forgiven for the sake of Christ, as Propitiator, Rom. 3:25: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation. Moreover, Paul adds: through faith. Therefore this Propitiator thus benefits us, when by faith we apprehend the mercy promised in Him, and set it against the wrath and judgment of God. And to the same effect it is written, Heb. 4:14,16: Seeing, then, that we have a great High Priest, etc., let us therefore come with confidence. For the Apostle bids us come to God, not with confidence in our own merits, but with confidence in Christ as a High Priest; therefore he requires faith.
John’s use of “propitiation” in verse 2 (“sacrifice of atonement” in the NIV translation) brings to the front Jesus’ role as our Great High Priest, which finds Him both Priest and Sacrifice. Though it’s impossible to separate them out individually, Christ’s propitiation for our sins is one of the most comforting doctrines in the Christian faith. It’s quite a big word though! J.A.O. Preus describes it in a simple way as follows:
“A primary aspect of sacrificial metaphors in Scripture is that Jesus is expiation or propitiation for the sins of the people. Expiation and propitiation often are used interchangeably as synonyms. However, they are different, just as two sides of a coin are different. While the meaning of both words is somewhat fluid, expiation generally refers to the guilt of the sin that is taken away. Propitiation refers generally to the idea that, through the sacrifice, God’s wrath is satisfied. In other words, when we say our sin is expiated, we mean that its significance before God is eliminated. When we say that God is propitiated, we mean that He is no longer angry because of our sin. In either case, sin, the cause of our offense to God, is removed.” J.A.O. Preus, Just Words, p. 170.
Luther leads the Christian from the great struggles and temptations of this life to an increased godly desire for the Sacrament of the Altar. The final questions of “Christian Questions and Their Answers” are as follows:
19. What should admonish and encourage a Christian to receive the Sacrament frequently?
First, both the command and the promise of Christ the Lord. Second, his own pressing need, because of which the command, encouragement, and promise are given.
20. But what should you do if you are not aware of this need and have no hunger and thirst for the Sacrament?
To such a person no better advice can be given than this: first, he should touch his body to see if he still has flesh and blood. Then he should believe what the Scriptures say of it in Galatians 5 and Romans 7. Second, he should look around to see whether he is still in the world, and remember that there will be no lack of sin and trouble, as the Scriptures say in John 15-16 and in 1 John 2 and 5. Third, he will certainly have the devil also around him, who with his lying and murdering day and night will let him have no peace, within or without, as the Scriptures picture him in John 8 and 16; 1 Peter 5; Ephesians 6; and 2 Timothy 2.
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-Pastor Weslie Odom