Propitiation And Substitution

Leslie M. Grant

These two truths are again connected with the value of the sacrifice of Christ. Both are most precious and both are distinct. 1 John 2:2 is a clear declaration of the first, "He (Jesus Christ) is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. "The Lord Jesus Christ, by His great work of suffering for sins, the Just for the unjust, is Himself the propitiation who perfectly vindicates and satisfies God in regard to the question of sin. His sacrifice is sufficient to enable God to receive and forgive every sinner under heaven who will receive the Lord Jesus Christ is not only the propitiation "for our sins" (those of believers), but also for the whole world. He died because of the sins of all mankind. The expression "not for ours only" clearly indicates that propitiation is for the sins of others too, that is, those of the whole world.

This same truth of propitiation is evident in 1 Corinthians 15:1‑4. The gospel that Paul preached and by which the Corinthians were saved was "that

Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures." Paul told them "that Christ died for our sins" before they were saved: in fact this was the means of their salvation. It is therefore right to tell the whole world, "Christ died for our sins." 2 Corinthians 5:15 insists, "He died for all," and the reason this was necessary is because of' the sins of all.

Because this is true, there are some who think it right to assume that everybody is therefore forgiven. This is because they confuse the truth of propitiation with another line of truth that is parallel to it, the truth of substitution. This word is not found in Scripture, but the truth described by this is found there. The fact that "Christ died for all" does not mean that all are saved. In fact, the Scriptural conclusion is, "If One died for all, then were all dead" (2 Cor. 5:14). Since it was necessary for One to die for all, then this simpIy confirmed the fact that all were "dead in trespasses and sins" before God. This is propitiation, not substitution.

Hebrews 9:28 affirms, "So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of' many." This is substitution. He did not bear the sins of all, but "of many", those who have in reality trusted Him as Savior. "As many as received Hirn, to them gave He the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name" (Jn. 1: 12). To say that He has borne our sins is a different thing entirely than to say He died for our sins. The former is true only of believers, the latter is true for all men. 1 Peter 2:24, written to believers, tell us, "He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross." When one has received the Lord Jesus, he may then have this precious certainty, but not before. Those lovely expressions in Isaiah 53:5,6 are only applicable to believers, "With His stripes we are healed," and "The Lord has Iaid on Him the iniquity of us all'.

God therefore has been propitiated in regard to the whole world. As a result the gospel message "whosoever will may come" can be proclaimed to all, but the benefits of this are only known to those who receive Christ as their Substitute. These two lines of truth must therefore be kept distinct, although both are to be deeply appreciated by the child of God.

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