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Propitiation and Expiation

PROPITIATION AND EXPIATION (Gr. hilastērion, hilasmos). KJV and NASB used the word propitiation three times—“God set forth [Christ] to be a propitiation” (hilastērion, Rom.3.25); “[Christ] is the propitiation for our sins” (hilasmos, 1John.2.2); “God...sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (hilasmos, 1John.4.10)—where RSV and NEB use expiation and NIV has either sacrifice of atonement or atoning sacrifice. Propitiation and expiation are not synonyms; they are very different in meaning. Propitiation is something done to a person: Christ propitiated God in the sense that he turned God’s wrath away from guilty sinners by enduring that wrath himself in the isolation of Calvary. Expiation is what is done to crimes or sins or evil deeds: Jesus provided the means to cancel or cleanse them. Certainly Jesus’ death provided an expiation for the sins of the world; the NT clearly affirms this. But was it necessary for Jesus to provide a propitiation (to avert the wrath of God against