Romans 3:25
Whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(25, 26) The death of Christ had a twofold object or final cause:—(1) It was to be, like the sacrifices of the old covenant, an offering propitiatory to God, and actualised in the believer through faith. (2) It was to demonstrate the righteousness of God by showing that sin would entail punishment, though it might not be punished in the person of the sinner. The apparent absence of any adequate retribution for the sins of past ages made it necessary that by one conspicuous instance it should be shown that this was in no sense due to an ignoring of the true nature of sin. The retributive justice of God was all the time unimpaired. The death of Christ served for its vindication, at the same time that a way to escape from its consequences was opened out through the justification of the believer.

Precisely in what sense the punishment of our sins fell upon Christ, and in what sense the justice of God was vindicated by its so falling, is another point which we are not able to determine. Nothing, we may be sure, can be involved which is in ultimate conflict with morality. At the same time, we see that under the ordinary government of God, the innocent suffer for the guilty, and there may be some sort of transference of this analogy into the transcendental sphere. Both the natural and the supernatural government of God are schemes “imperfectly comprehended.” In any case, Christ was innocent, and Christ suffered. On any theory there is a connection between His death and human sin. What connection, is a question to which, perhaps, only a partial answer can be given. Some weighty remarks on this subject will be found in Butler’s Analogy of Religion, Part II., Romans 5 (latter part).

(25) Hath set forth.—Rather, set forth, publicly exhibited, in the single act of the death upon the cross.

A propitiation.—The Greek word properly means “that which renders propitious.” Here, “that which renders God propitious.” In some way, which is not explained at all in this passage, and imperfectly explained elsewhere, the death of Christ did act so as to render God “propitious” towards men. He became more ready to pardon as they became more anxious to be pardoned.

There is a remarkable use of the same Greek word in the LXX. version of the Old Testament to express the mercy-seat, i.e., the lid or covering of the ark which was sprinkled by the high priest with the blood of the victim on the Day of Atonement. Some have thought that there is a reference to this here. Christ is the mercy-seat of the New Covenant. It is upon Him, as it were, that the divine grace, drawn forth by His own atoning blood, resides. It would hardly be a conclusive objection to this view that, according to it, Christ would be represented as at once the victim whose blood is sprinkled and the covering of the ark on which it is sprinkled; for a similar double reference certainly occurs in Hebrews 9:11-12, where Christ is typified at one and the same time both by the victim whose blood is shed and by the high priest by whom it is offered. There seem to be, however, on the whole, reasons for supplying rather the idea of “sacrifice,” which is more entirely in keeping with the context, and is especially supported by the two phrases, “whom God hath set forth (i.e., exhibited publicly, whereas the ark was confined to the secrecy of the Holy of Holies), and “in His blood.” We should translate, therefore, a propitiatory or expiatory (sacrifice).

Through faith.—Faith is the causa apprehendens by which the proffered pardon takes effect upon the soul of the believer.

In his blood.—On the whole, it seems best not to join these words with “through faith,” but to refer them to the main word of the sentence. “Whom God set forth by the shedding of His blood to be a propitiatory offering through faith.” It was in the shedding of the blood that the essence of the atonement exhibited upon the cross consisted. No doubt other portions of the life of Christ led up to this one; but this was the culminating act in it, viewed as an atonement.

Romans 3:25-26. Whom God hath set forth — Before angels and men: hath in his infinite mercy exhibited to us in the gospel, to be a propitiation — Greek, ιλαστηριον, a propitiatory, or mercy-seat, where mercy may be found by the penitent, in a way consistent with divine justice. The reader will observe, the cover of the ark, in the tabernacle and temple of the Israelites, was called the mercy-seat, or propitiatory, and is termed by the LXX., Exodus 25:17, ιλαστηριον επιθεμα, a propitiatory cover, “because it was the throne on which the glory of the Lord was wont to be displayed, and received the atonements made by the high-priest on the day of expiation, and from which God dispensed pardon to the people. In allusion to this ancient worship, the apostle represents Christ as a propitiatory, or mercy-seat, set forth by God for receiving the worship of men, and dispensing pardon to them. Or, if a propitiatory is, by a common metonymy, put for a propitiatory sacrifice, the apostle’s meaning will be, that, by the appointment of God, Christ died as a sacrifice for sin, and that God pardons sin through the merit of that sacrifice. Hence Christ is called ιλασμος, a propitiation, 1 John 2:2; 1 John 4:10. By teaching this doctrine, the apostle removed the great objection of Jews and heathen against the gospel, that it had neither a priest nor a sacrifice.” — Macknight. Through faith in his blood — Through believing that Christ’s blood was shed to expiate our sins, and trusting therein for pardon and acceptance with God, and all other benefits which he has thereby procured for us: to declare, εις ενδειξιν, for a demonstration of his, God’s, own righteousness: both his justice and mercy, especially the former, that thereby it might appear he could pardon sin, without any impeachment of his righteousness, in that he did not pardon it without full satisfaction made to the law by the sufferings of Christ, who was wounded for our transgressions, and on whom was laid that chastisement of sin which was necessary to procure our peace, and render our acceptance with God consistent with the divine perfections, and the equity of his government. For the remission of sins that are past — All the sins antecedent to their believing. Or the expression, δια την παρεσιν των προγεγονοτων αμαρτηματων, may be properly rendered, on account of the passing by, or not instantly and adequately punishing, sins which were before committed, that is, before the coming of Christ: the sins of which both Jews and Gentiles had been guilty before the gospel was promulgated, and on account of which both deserved destruction, and were unworthy of the blessings of God’s covenant. Now God’s righteousness or justice might have appeared doubtful, on account of his having so long, in his great forbearance, thus passed by the sins of men, unless in the mean time he had made a sufficient display of his hatred to sin. But such a display being made in the death of Christ, his justice is thereby fully proved. Doddridge thus paraphrases the passage: “The remission extends not only to the present but former age, and to all the offences which are long since past, according to the forbearance of God, who has forborne to execute judgment upon sinners for their repeated provocations, in reference to that atonement which he knew should in due tinge be made.” To declare, προς ενδειξιν, for a demonstration of his righteousness (see the former verse) at this time εν τω νυν καιρω, at this period of his showing mercy to sinners. As if he had said, When he most highly magnified his mercy in finding out this way of reconciliation, he did also most eminently declare his justice, in requiring such satisfaction for the transgression of his law: that he might be just — Might evidence himself to be strictly and inviolably righteous in the administration of his government, even while he is the merciful justifier of the sinner that believeth in Jesus — Who so believes in Jesus, as to embrace this way of justification, renouncing all merit in himself, and relying entirely on the sacrifice and intercession of Christ, for reconciliation with God, and all the blessings of the new covenant. The attribute of justice must be preserved inviolate; and inviolate it is preserved, if there was a real infliction of punishment on Christ. On this plan all the attributes harmonize; every attribute is glorified, and not one superseded, nor so much as clouded.

By just, indeed, in this verse, Taylor would understand merciful, and Locke, faithful to his promises; but “either of these,” as Doddridge observes, “makes but a very cold sense, when compared with that here given. It is no way wonderful that God should be merciful, or faithful to his promises, though the justifier of believing sinners; but that he should be just in such an act, might have seemed incredible, had we not received such an account of the atonement.” This subject is set in a clear and striking light by a late writer: “The two great ends of public justice are the glory of God, and in connection with it, the general good of his creatures. It is essentially necessary to the attainment of these ends, that the authority of the government of God should be supported, in all its extent, as inviolably sacred; — that one jot or tittle should in no wise pass from the law; — that no sin, of any kind, or in any degree, should appear as venial; — that if any sinner is pardoned, it should be in such a way, as, while it displays the divine mercy, shall at the same time testify the divine abhorrence of his sins. All this is gloriously effected in the gospel, by means of atonement; — by the substitution of a voluntary surety, even of him whose name is Immanuel, to bear the curse of the law, in the room of the guilty. In his substitution we see displayed, in a manner unutterably affecting and awful, the holy purity of the divine nature; for no testimony can be conceived more impressive, of infinite abhorrence of sin, than the sufferings and death of the Son of God. Here too we behold the immutable justice of the divine government, inflicting the righteous penalty of a violated law. It is to be considered as a fixed principle of the divine government, that sin must be punished; that if the sinner is pardoned, it must be in a way that marks and publishes the evil of his offence. This is effected by substitution; and, as far as we can judge, could not be effected in any other way. In inflicting the sentence against transgression on the voluntary and all-sufficient Surety, Jehovah, while he clears the sinner, does not clear his sins; — although clothed with the thunders of vindictive justice against transgression, he wears, to the transgressor, the smile of reconciliation and peace; — he dispenses the blessings of mercy from the throne of his holiness; and, while exercising grace to the guilty, he appears in the character — equally lovely and venerable — of — the sinner’s friend, And sin’s eternal foe!

“In this way, then, all the ends of public justice are fully answered. The law retains its complete unmitigated perfection; is ‘magnified and made honourable:’ the dignity and authority of the divine government are maintained, and even elevated: all the perfections of Deity are gloriously illustrated and exhibited in sublime harmony. While the riches of mercy are displayed, for the encouragement of sinners to return to God, the solemn lesson is at the same time taught, by a most convincing example, that rebellion cannot be persisted in with impunity; and motives are thus addressed to the fear of evil, as well as to the desire of good. Such a view of the Divine Being is presented in the cross as is precisely calculated to inspire and to maintain (to maintain, too, with a power which will increase in influence the more closely and seriously the view is contemplated) the two great principles of a holy life — the LOVE, and the FEAR OF GOD; — filial attachment, freedom, and confidence, combined with humble reverence and holy dread.” See Mr. Ralph Wardlaw’s Discourses on the Principal Points of the Socinian Controversy, pp. 211-213.3:21-26 Must guilty man remain under wrath? Is the wound for ever incurable? No; blessed be God, there is another way laid open for us. This is the righteousness of God; righteousness of his ordaining, and providing, and accepting. It is by that faith which has Jesus Christ for its object; an anointed Saviour, so Jesus Christ signifies. Justifying faith respects Christ as a Saviour, in all his three anointed offices, as Prophet, Priest, and King; trusting in him, accepting him, and cleaving to him: in all these, Jews and Gentiles are alike welcome to God through Christ. There is no difference, his righteousness is upon all that believe; not only offered to them, but put upon them as a crown, as a robe. It is free grace, mere mercy; there is nothing in us to deserve such favours. It comes freely unto us, but Christ bought it, and paid the price. And faith has special regard to the blood of Christ, as that which made the atonement. God, in all this, declares his righteousness. It is plain that he hates sin, when nothing less than the blood of Christ would satisfy for it. And it would not agree with his justice to demand the debt, when the Surety has paid it, and he has accepted that payment in full satisfaction.Whom God hath set forth - Margin, "Fore-ordained" (προέθετο proetheto). The word properly means, "to place in public view;" to exhibit in a conspicuous situation, as goods are exhibited or exposed for sale, or as premiums or rewards of victory were exhibited to public view in the games of the Greeks. It sometimes has the meaning of decreeing, purposing, or constituting, as in the margin (compare Romans 1:13; Ephesians 1:9); and many have supposed that this is its meaning here. But the connection seems to require the usual signification of the word; and it means that God has publicly exhibited Jesus Christ as a propitiatory sacrifice for the sins of people. This public exhibition was made by his being offered on the cross, in the face of angels and of people. It was not concealed; it was done openly. He was put to open shame; and so put to death as to attract toward the scene the eyes of angels, and of the inhabitants of all worlds.

To be a propitiation - ἱλαστήριον hilastērion. This word occurs but in one other place in the New Testament. Hebrews 9:5, "and over it (the ark) the cherubim of glory shadowing the mercy-seat. It is used here to denote the lid or cover of the ark of the covenant. It was made of gold, and over it were the cherubim. In this sense it is often used by the Septuagint Exodus 25:17, "And thou shalt make a propitiatory ἱλαστήριον hilastērion of gold," Exodus 18-20, 22; Exodus 30:6; Exodus 31:7; Exodus 35:11; Exodus 37:6-9; Exodus 40:18; Leviticus 16:2, Leviticus 16:13. The Hebrew name for this was כפּרת kaphoreth, from the verb כּפר kaaphar, "to cover" or "to conceal." It was from this place that God was represented as speaking to the children of Israel. Exodus 25:22, "and I will speak to thee from above the Hilasterion, the propitiatory, the mercy-seat. Leviticus 16:2, "For I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy-seat." This seat, or cover, was covered with the smoke of the incense, when the high priest entered the most holy place, Leviticus 16:13.

And the blood of the bullock offered on the great day of atonement, was to be sprinkled "upon the mercy-seat," and "before the mercy-seat," "seven times," Leviticus 16:14-15. This sprinkling or offering of blood was called making "an atonement for the holy place because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel," etc. Leviticus 16:16. It was from this mercy-seat that God pronounced pardon, or expressed himself as reconciled to his people. The atonement was made, the blood was sprinkled, and the reconciliation thus effected. The name was thus given to that cover of the ark, because it was the place from which God declared himself reconciled to his people. Still the inquiry is, why is this name given to Jesus Christ? In what sense is he declared to be a propitiation? It is evident that it cannot be applied to him in any literal sense. Between the golden cover of the ark of the covenant and the Lord Jesus, the analogy must be very slight, if any such analogy can be perceived. We may observe, however,

(1) That the main idea, in regard to the cover of the ark called the mercy-seat, was that of God's being reconciled to his people; and that this is the main idea in regard to the Lord Jesus whom "God hath set forth."

(2) this reconciliation was effected then by the sprinkling of blood on the mercy-seat, Leviticus 16:15-16. The same is true of the Lord Jesus - by blood.

(3) in the former case it was by the blood of atonement; the offering of the bullock on the great day of atonement, that the reconciliation was effected, Leviticus 16:17-18. In the case of the Lord Jesus it was also by blood; by the blood of atonement. But it was by his own blood. This the apostle distinctly states in this verse.

(4) in the former case there was a sacrifice, or expiatory offering; and so it is in reconciliation by the Lord Jesus. In the former, the mercy-seat was the visible, declared place where God would express his reconciliation with his people. So in the latter, the offering of the Lord Jesus is the manifest and open way by which God will be reconciled to people.

(5) in the former, there was joined the idea of a sacrifice for sin, Leviticus 16. So in the latter. And hence, the main idea of the apostle here is to convey the idea of a sacrifice for sin; or to set forth the Lord Jesus as such a sacrifice. Hence, the word "propitiation" in the original may express the idea of a propitiatory sacrifice, as well as the cover to the ark. The word is an adjective, and may be joined to the noun sacrifice, as well as to denote the mercy-seat of the ark. This meaning accords also with its classic meaning to denote a propitiatory offering, or an offering to produce reconciliation. Christ is thus represented, not as a mercy-seat, which would be unintelligible; but as the medium, the offering, the expiation, by which reconciliation is produced between God and man.

Through faith - Or by means of faith. The offering will be of no avail without faith. The offering has been made; but it will not be applied, except where there is faith. He has made an offering which may be efficacious in putting away sin; but it produces no reconciliation, no pardon, except where it is accepted by faith.

In his blood - Or in his death - his bloody death. Among the Jews, the blood was regarded as the seat of life, or vitality. Leviticus 17:11, "the life of the flesh is in the blood." Hence, they were commanded not to eat blood. Genesis 9:4, "but flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat." Leviticus 19:26; Deuteronomy 12:23; 1 Samuel 14:34. This doctrine is contained uniformly in the Sacred Scriptures. And it has been also the opinion of not a few celebrated physiologists, as well in modern as in ancient times. The same was the opinion of the ancient Parsees and Hindus. Homer thus often speaks of blood as the seat of life, as in the expression πορφυρεος θανατος porphureos thanatos, or "purple death." And Virgil speaks of "purple life,"

Purpuream vomit ille animam.

AEniad, ix. 349.

Empedocles and Critias among the Greek philosophers, also embraced this opinion. Among the moderns, Harvey, to whom we are indebted for a knowledge of the circulation of the blood, fully believed it. Hoffman and Huxham believed it Dr. John Hunter has fully adopted the belief, and sustained it, as he supposed, by a great variety of considerations. See Good's Book of Nature, pp. 102, 108, New York edition, 1828. This was undoubtedly the doctrine of the Hebrews; and hence, with them to shed the blood was a phrase signifying to kill; hence, the efficacy of their sacrifices was supposed to consist in the blood, that is, in the life of the victim. Hence, it was unlawful to eat it, as it were the life, the seat of vitality; the more immediate and direct gift of God. When, therefore, the blood of Christ is spoken of in the New Testament, it means the offering of his life as a sacrifice, or his death as an expiation. His life was given to make atonement. See the word "blood" thus used in Romans 5:9; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14; Hebrews 9:12, Hebrews 9:14; Hebrews 13:12; Revelation 1:5; 1 Peter 1:19; 1 John 1:7. By faith in his death as a sacrifice for sin; by believing that he took our sins; that he died in our place; by thus, in some sense, making his offering ours; by approving it, loving it, embracing it, trusting it, our sins become pardoned, and our souls made pure.

To declare - εἰς ἔνδειξις eis endeixis. For "the purpose" of showing, or exhibiting; to present it to man. The meaning is, that the plan was adopted; the Saviour was given; he suffered and died: and the scheme is proposed to people, for the purpose of making a full manifestation of his plan, in contradistinction from all the plans of people.

continued...

25, 26. Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation—or "propitiatory sacrifice."

through faith in his blood—Some of the best interpreters, observing that "faith upon" is the usual phrase in Greek, not "faith in" Christ, would place a "comma" after "faith," and understand the words as if written thus: "to be a propitiation, in His blood, through faith." But "faith in Christ" is used in Ga 3:26 and Eph 1:15; and "faith in His blood" is the natural and appropriate meaning here.

to declare his righteousness for the remission—rather, "pretermission" or "passing by."

of sins—"the sins."

that are past—not the sins committed by the believer before he embraces Christ, but the sins committed under the old economy, before Christ came to "put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself."

through the forbearance of God—God not remitting but only forbearing to punish them, or passing them by, until an adequate atonement for them should be made. In thus not imputing them, God was righteous, but He was not seen to be so; there was no "manifestation of His righteousness" in doing so under the ancient economy. But now that God can "set forth" Christ as a "propitiation for sin through faith in His blood," the righteousness of His procedure in passing by the sins of believers before, and in now remitting them, is "manifested," declared, brought fully out to the view of the whole world. (Our translators have unfortunately missed this glorious truth, taking "the sins that are past" to mean the past sins of believers—committed before faith—and rendering, by the word "remission," what means only a "passing by"; thus making it appear that "remission of sins" is "through the forbearance of God," which it certainly is not).

Whom God hath set forth; i.e. God the Father hath proposed this Jesus, in the eternal counsel, and covenant of redemption, Ephesians 1:9 1 Peter 1:20,21; or in the types and shadows of the old tabernacle; and hath now at last shown him openly to the world.

To be a propitiation, or atonement, 1Jo 2:2. He alludes to the mercy seat sprinkled with blood, which was typical of this great atonement; and from whence God showed himself so propitious and favourable to sinners, Leviticus 16:2 Numbers 7:89.

Through faith in his blood: he goes on to show the instrumental cause of justification, to wit, faith; i.e. the close adherence and most submissive dependence of the sinner; together with the peculiarity of the object of faith, viz. the blood, @ i.e. the death and sacrifice, of Christ; in contra-distinction to his dominion, (with which yet on other accounts faith is so much concerned), and in opposition to the blood of beasts slain and sacrificed.

To declare his righteousness; i.e. for the showing forth either of his goodness and mercy; see 1 Samuel 12:7,8,10 Psa 36:10; or of his faithfulness in his promises, and fulfilling all types and prophecies; or else of his vindictive justice, in the just proceedings of God against sin, which he hath condemned in his Son, though he justify the sinner. Or further, it may be understood of the righteousness of faith, of which Romans 3:22, which is hereby shown to be his; and to manifest itself in the forgiveness of sins, which is so declared as to be exhibited.

For the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; he means, either the sins committed before justification, while God bore so patiently with the sinner, and did not presently take the forfeiture; or else the sins committed under the Old Testament, before the proposed propitiation was exposed to the world, when God so indulged our fathers, as to pardon them upon the account of what was to come: see Hebrews 9:15-18. Whom God had set forth to be a propitiation,.... Redemption by Christ is here further explained, by his being "a propitiation": which word may design either Christ the propitiator, the author of peace and reconciliation; or the propitiatory sacrifice, by which he is so; and both in allusion to the mercy seat, which was a type of him as such. The apostle here uses the same word, which the Septuagint often render "the mercy seat", by; and Philo the Jew calls it by the same name, and says it was a symbol, "of the propitious power of God" (b). Christ is the propitiation to God for sin; which must be understood of his making satisfaction to divine justice, for the sins of his people; these were imputed to him, and being found on him, the law and justice of God made demands on him for them; which he answered to satisfaction, by his obedience and sacrifice; and which, as it could not be done by any other, nor in any other way, is expressed by "reconciliation", and "atonement": whence God may be said to be pacified, or made propitious; not but that he always loved his people, and never hated them; nor is there, nor can there be any change in God, from hatred to love, any more than from love to hatred: Christ has not, by his sacrifice and death, procured the love and favour of God, but has removed the obstructions which lay in the way of love's appearing and breaking forth; there was, a law broken, and justice provoked, which were to be attended to, and Christ by his sacrifice has satisfied both; so that neither the wrath of God, nor any of the effects of it, can fall upon the persons Christ is the propitiation for, even according to justice itself; so that it is not love, but justice that is made propitious: for this is all owing to the grace and goodness of God, who "hath set him forth", for this intent, in his eternal purposes and decrees; in the promises of the Old Testament, in the types, shadows, and sacrifices of the old law; by the exhibition of him in our nature, and in the ministration of the Gospel; and this is said to be

through faith in his blood. The "blood" of Christ is that, by which Christ is the propitiation; for without the shedding of that blood, there is no redemption, no peace, no reconciliation, or remission of sin; and "faith" in his blood is the means by which persons become partakers of the benefits of his propitiation; such as peace, pardon, atonement, justification, and adoption: and the end of Christ's being set forth as a propitiation, on the part of God's people, is,

for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God: by "sins that are past", are meant, not sins before baptism, nor the sins of a man's life only, but the sins of Old Testament saints, who lived before the incarnation of Christ, and the oblation of his sacrifice; and though this is not to be restrained to them only, for Christ's blood was shed for the remission of all his people's sins, past, present, and to come; yet the sins of the saints before the coming of Christ, seem to be particularly designed; which shows the insufficiency of legal sacrifices, sets forth the efficacy of Christ's blood and sacrifice, demonstrates him to be a perfect Saviour, and gives us reason under the present dispensation to hope for pardon, since reconciliation is completely made: "remission" of sin does not design that weakness which sin has brought upon, and left in human nature, whereby it is so enfeebled, that it cannot help itself, and therefore Christ was set forth, and sent forth, to be a propitiation; but rather God's passing by, or overlooking sin, and not punishing for it, under the former dispensation; or else the forgiveness of it now, and redemption from it by the blood of Christ, "through the forbearance of God"; in deferring the execution of justice, till he sent his Son, and in expecting satisfaction of his Son; which shows the grace and goodness of God to his people, and the trust and confidence he put in his Son: the other end on the part of God, in setting forth Christ to be a propitiation, was

to declare his righteousness Psalm 22:31; meaning either the righteousness of Christ, which was before hid, but now manifested; or rather the righteousness of God the Father, his faithfulness in his promises relating to Christ, his grace and goodness in the mission of his Son, the holiness and purity of his nature, and his vindictive justice, in avenging sin in his own Son, as the surety of his people: the execution of this was threatened from the beginning; the types and sacrifices of the old law prefigured it; the prophecies of the Old Testament express it; and the sufferings and death of Christ openly declare it, since God spared not his own Son, but sheathed the sword of justice in him.

(b) Philo de Vita Mosis, l. 3. p. 668.

{10} Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his {x} blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that {y} are past, through the {z} forbearance of God;

(10) God then is the author of that free justification, because it pleased him: and Christ is he who suffered punishment for our sins, and in whom we have remission of them: and the means by which we apprehend Christ is faith. In short, the result is the setting forth of the goodness of God, that by this means it may appear that he is indeed merciful, and faithful in his promises, as he that freely, and of grace alone, justifies the believers.

(x) The name of blood reminds us of the symbol of the old sacrifices, and that the truth and substance of these sacrifices is in Christ.

(y) Of those sins which we committed when we were his enemies.

(z) Through his patience, and his enduring nature.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Romans 3:25. See on Romans 3:25 f. Ritschl, in the Jahrb. f. Deutsche Theol. 1863, p. 500 ff.; Pfleiderer in Hilgenfeld’s Zeitschr. 1872, p. 177 ff.; the critical comparison of the various explanations in Morison, p. 268 ff.

ὃν προέθετο κ.τ.λ[843]] whom God has openly set forth for Himself.[844] This signification, familiar from the Greek usage (Herod. iii. 148, vi. 21; Plat. Phaed. p. 115 E; Eur. Alc. 667; Thuc. ii. 34, 1, 64, 3; Dem. 1071, 1; Herodian, viii. 6, 5; also in the LXX.), is decidedly to be adopted on account of the correlation with εἰς ἔνδειξιν κ.τ.λ[845] (Vulgate, Pelagius, Luther, Beza, Bengel and others; also Rückert, de Wette, Philippi, Tholuck, Hofmann and Morison); and not the equally classic signification: to propose to oneself, adopted by Chrysostom, Oecumenius, Theophylact, Toletus, Pareus, de Dieu, Elsner, Heumann, Böhme, Flatt and Fritzsche (Romans 1:13; Ephesians 1:9; 3Ma 2:27): “quem esse voluit Deus piaculare sacrificium,” Fritzsche.[846] In that case an infinitive must have been required; and it was with the publicity of the divine act before the whole world that the Apostle was here concerned, as he has already indicated by πεφανέρωται in Romans 3:21. Matthias explains it: whom He caused to be openly made known, to be preached. But the classical use of προτίθημι, in the active and middle, in the sense of promulgare is here foreign, since it refers to the summoning or proclamation of assemblies (Soph. Ant. 160, and Hermann in loc[847]; Lucian, Necyom. 19, and Hemsterhuis in loc[848]; Dion. Hal. vi. 15 al[849]; see Schoem. Comit. p. 104; Dorvill. a[850] Charit. p. 266 f.) or to the promulgation of laws. Besides the ἔνδειξις τῆς δικαιοσύνης of God rests, in fact, not on the preaching of the atoner, but on the work of atonement itself, which God accomplished by the προέθετο Κ.Τ.Λ[851]

God’s own participation therein (for it was His ἱλαστήριον, willed and instituted by Himself) which is expressed by the middle, is placed beyond question by the εἰς ἔνδειζιν κ.τ.λ[852], and decisively excludes Hofmann’s conception of the death of Christ as a befalling. Compare on Romans 3:26.

ἱλαστήριον] is the neuter of the adjective ἹΛΑΣΤΉΡΙΟς, used as a substantive, and hence means simply expiatorium in general, without the word itself conveying the more concrete definition of its sense. The latter is supplied by the context. Thus, for example, in the LXX. (in the older profane Greek the word does not occur) the lid of the ark of the covenant, the Kapporeth, as the propitiatorium operculum, is called τὸ ἱλαστήριον (see below), which designation has become technical, and in Exodus 25:17; Exodus 37:6 receives its more precise definition by the addition of ἘΠΊΘΕΜΑ. They also designate the ledge (choir) of the altar for burnt offerings, the עֲזָרָה (Ezekiel 43:15; Ezekiel 43:17; Ezekiel 43:20) in the same way, because this place also was, through the blood of reconciliation with which it was sprinkled, and generally as an altar-place, a place of atonement. When they render כַּפְת̇ר in Amos 9:1 (knob) by ἱλαστήριον, it is probable that they read בַּפֹּרֶת. See generally Schleusner, Thes. III. p. 108 f. The word in the sense of offerings of atonement does not occur in the LXX., though it is so used by other writers, so that it may be more specially defined by ἹΕΡΌΝ or ΘῦΜΑ. Thus in Dio Chrys. Orat. xi. 1, p. 355 Reiske: ἱλαστήριον Ἀχαιοὶ τῇ Ἀθηνᾷ τῇ Ἰλιάδι, where a votive gift bears this inscription, and is thereby indicated as an offering of atonement, as indeed votive gifts generally fall under the wider idea of offerings (Ewald, Alterth. p. 96; Hermann, gottesd. Alterth. § 25, 1); again in Nonnus, Dionys. xiii. p. 383: ἱλαστήρια (the true reading instead of ἱκαστήρια) Γοργοῦς. 4Ma 17:22 : διὰ τοῦ αἵματος τῶν εὐσεβῶν ἐκείνων καὶ τοῦ ἱλαστηρίου τοῦ[853] θανάτου αὐτῶν. Hesych.: ἱλαστήριον· καθάρσιον. Comp Schol. Apoll. Rhod. ii. 487, where λωφήϊα ἱερά is explained by ἐξιλαστήρια; also the corresponding expressions for sacrifices, σωτήριον (Xen. Anab. iii. 2, 9; v. 1, 1; LXX. Exodus 20:24); καθάρσιον (Herod. i. 35; Aeschin. p. 4, 10); καθαρτήριον (Poll. i. 32); χαριστήριον (Xen. Cyr. iv. 1, 2; Polyb. xxi. 1, 2); εὐχαριστήριον (Polyb. v. 14, 8). Compare also such expressions as ἐπινίκια θύειν; and see generally Schaefer, a[855] Bos. Ell. p. 191 ff. Even in our passage the context makes the notion of an atoning sacrifice (comp Leviticus 17:11) sufficiently clear by ἐν τ. αὐτοῦ αἴματι; compare Pfleiderer l.c[857] p. 180. The interpretation expiatory sacrifice is adopted by Chrysostom (who at least represents the ἱλαστήρ. of Christ as the antitype of the animal offerings), Clericus, Bos, Eisner, Kypke, and others, including Koppe, Flatt, Klee, Reiche, de Wette, Köllner, Fritzsehe, Tholuck, Messner and Ewald; Weiss (bibl. Theol. p. 324) is in doubt between this and the following explanation.[858] Others, as Moms, Rosenmüller, Rückert, Usteri and Glöckler, keep with the Vulgate (propitiationem) and Castalio (placamentum), to the general rendering: means of propitiation. So also Hofrnann (comp Schriftbew. II. 1, p. 338 f.), comparing specially 1 John 4:10, and σωτήριον Luke 2:30; and Rich. Schmidt, Paul. Christol. p. 84 ff. But this, after the προέθετο which points to a definite public appearance, is an abstract idea inappropriate to it (as “propiatition”), especially seeing that ἐν.… αἵματι belongs to προέθετο, and seeing that the view of the death of Jesus as the concrete propitiatory offering was deeply impressed on and vividly present to the Christian consciousness (Ephesians 5:2; 1 Corinthians 5:7; Hebrews 9:14; Hebrews 9:28; 1 Peter 1:19; John 1:29; John 17:19 al[860]). Origen, Theophylact, Erasmus, Luther, Calvin, Piscator, Pareus, Hammond, Grotius, Calovius, Wolf, Wetstein, and others; also Olshausen, Tholuck (ed. 5), Philippi, Umbreit, Jatho, Ritschl in the Jahrb. f. Deutsche Theol. 1863, p. 247, and altkathol. Kirche, p. 85; Weber, vom Zorne Gottes, p. 273; Delitzsch on Heb. p. 719, and in the illustrations to his Hebrew translation, p. 79; Märcker, and others, have rendered ἱλαστήριον in quite a special sense, namely, as referring to the canopy-shaped cover suspended over the ark of the covenant (see Ewald, Alterth. p. 164 ff.), on which, as the seat of Jehovah’s throne, the blood of the sacrifice was sprinkled by the high priest on the great day of atonement (Exodus 25:22; Numbers 7:89; Leviticus 16:13 ff.; Keil, Arch. I. § 84, and generally Lund, Jüd. Heiligth. ed. Wolf, p. 37 ff.), and which therefore, regarded as the vehicle of the divine grace (see Bähr, Symbolik, I. p. 387 ff.; Hengstenberg, Authent. des Pentateuches, II. p. 642; Schulz, alttest. Theol. I. p. 205), typified Christ as the atoner.[861] That the Kapporeth was termed ἱλαστήριον is not only certain from the LXX.[862] (Exodus 25:18-20; Exodus 31:7 al[863]), but also from Hebrews 9:5, and Philo (vit. Mos. p. 668, D and E; de profug. p. 465 A), who expressly represents the covering of the ark as a symbol of the ἵλεω δυνάμεως of God. Compare also Joseph. Antt. iii. 6, 5. There is consequently nothing to be urged against this explanation, either as respects the usus loquendi or as respects the idea, in accordance with which Christ, the bearer of the divine glory and grace, sprinkled with His own sacrificial blood, would be regarded as the antitype of the Kapporeth. But we may urge against it: (1) that τὸ ἱλαστηρ. does not stand with the article, as in the Sept. and Hebrews 9:5, although Christ was to be designated as the realised idea of the definite and in fact singly existing כפרת (τὸ ἀληθινὸν ἱλαστήριον, Theodoret); (2) that even though the term ἱλαστήριον, as applied to the cover of the ark, was certainly familiar to the readers from its use by the LXX., nevertheless this name, in its application to Christ, would come in here quite abruptly, without anything in the context preparing the way for it or leading to it; (3) that ΠΡΟΈΘΕΤΟ would in that case be inappropriate, because the ark of the covenant, in the Holy of Holies, was removed from the view of the people; (4) that, if Christ were really thought of here as כפרת, the following ΕἸς ἜΝΔΕΙΞΙΝ Τῆς ΔΙΚΑΙΟΣΎΝΗς ΑὐΤΟῦ would be inappropriate, since the כפרת must have appeared rather as the ἜΝΔΕΙΞΙς of the divine grace (comp Hebrews 4:16); (5) and lastly, that the conception of Christ as the antitype of the cover of the ark is found nowhere else in the whole N. T., although there was frequent opportunity for such expression; and it is therefore to be assumed that it did not belong to the apostolic modes of viewing and describing the atoning work of Christ. Moreover, if it is objected that this interpretation is unsuitable, because Christ, who shed His own blood, could not be the cover of the ark sprinkled with foreign blood, it is on the other hand to be remembered that the Crucified One sprinkled with His own blood might be regarded as the cover of the ark with the same propriety as Christ offering His own blood is regarded in the Epistle to the Hebrews as High Priest. If, on the other side, it is objected to the interpretation expiatory offering (see Philippi), that it does not suit προέθετο because Christ offered Himself as a sacrifice to God, but God did not present Him as such to humanity, the objection is untenable, since the idea that God has given Christ to death pervades the whole N. T.—not that God has thereby offered Christ as a sacrifice, which is nowhere asserted, but that He has set forth before the eyes of the universe Him who is surrendered to the world by the very fact of His offering Himself as a sacrifice in obedience to the Father’s counsel, as such actually and publicly, namely, on the cross. An exhibition through preaching (as Philippi objects) is not to be thought of, but rather the divine Acts of redemption, which took place through the sacrificial death on Golgotha.

διὰ τῆς πίστεως] may be connected either with προέθετο (Philippi, following older writers) or with ἱλαστήριον (Rückert, Matthias, Ewald, Hofmann, Morison, and older expositors). The latter is the right construction, since faith, as laying hold of the propitiation, is the very thing by which the ἱλαστήριον set forth becomes subjectively effective; but not that whereby the setting forth itself, which was an objective fact independent of faith, has been accomplished.[865] Hence: as a sacrifice producing the ἱλάσκεσθαι through faith. Without faith the ἱλαστήριον would not be actually and in result, what it is in itself; for it does not reconcile the unbeliever.

ἘΝ Τῷ ΑὐΤΟῦ ΑἽΜΑΤΙ] belongs to ΠΡΟΈΘΕΤΟ Κ.Τ.Λ[866] God has set forth Christ as an effectual expiatory offering through faith by means of His blood; i.e. in that He caused Him to shed His blood, in which lay objectively the strength of the atonement.[867] Observe the position of ΑὐΤΟῦ: “quem proposuit ipsius sanguine.” Krüger, § 47, 9, 12. Comp Romans 11:11; Titus 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 2:19; Hebrews 2:4 al[869] Comp Romans 3:24. Still ἘΝ Τ. ΑὐΤ. ΑἽΜ. is not to be joined with ἹΛΑΣΤΉΡΙΟΝ in such a way as to make it the parallel of ΔΙᾺ Τ. ΠΊΣΤ. (Wolf, Schrader, Köllner, Reithmayr, Matthias, Mehring, Hofmann, Mangold, and others); for ΕἸς ἜΝΔΕΙΞΙΝ Κ.Τ.Λ[871] requires that ἐν τ. αὐτ. αἵμ. shall be the element defining more closely the divine act of the προέθετο κ.τ.λ[872], by which the divine righteousness is apparent; wherefore also ἘΝ. Τ. ΑὐΤ. ΑἽΜ. is placed immediately before ΕἸς ἜΝΔΕΙΞΙΝ Κ.Τ.Λ[873], and not before ἱλαστήριον (against Hofmann’s objection). Other writers again erroneously make ἐν.… αἵματι dependent on πίστεως (Luther, Calvin, Beza, Seb. Schmid, and others; also Koppe, Klee, Flatt, Olshausen, Tholuck, Winzer, and Morison), joining διὰ τ. πίστ. likewise to ἱλαστήριον: through faith on His blood. In that case ἐν would not be equivalent to εἰς, but would indicate the basis of faith (see on Galatians 3:26); nor can the absence of the article after πίστ. be urged against this rendering (see on Gal. l.c[874]): but the ἐν τῷ αὐτ. αἵμ. becomes in this connection much too subordinate a point. Just by means of the shedding of His blood was the setting forth of Christ for a propitiatory offering accomplished; in order that through this utmost, highest, and holiest sacrifice offered for the satisfaction of the divine justice—through the blood of Christ—that justice might be brought to light and demonstrated. From this connection also we may easily understand why ἐν τῷ αὐτ. αἵμ., which moreover, following ἱλαστήριον, was a matter of course, is added at all; though in itself unnecessary and self-evident, it is added with all the more weight, and in fact with solemn emphasis. For just in the blood of Christ, which God has not spared, lies the proof of His righteousness, which He has exhibited through the setting forth of Christ as an expiatory-sacrifice; that shed blood has at once satisfied His justice, and demonstrated it before the whole world. On the atoning, actually sin-effacing power of the blood of Christ, according to the fundamental idea of Leviticus 17:11 (compare Hebrews 9:22), see Romans 5:9; Matthew 26:28; Acts 20:28; Romans 3:25 f. But the question whether the word ἀπολύτρωσις involves of itself a reference to the cost at which the thing is accomplished is after all of minor consequence: that cost is brought out unambiguously in Romans 3:25. The ἀπολύτρωσις is in Christ Jesus, and it is in Him as One whom God set forth in propitiatory power, through faith (or, reading διὰ τῆς πίστεως, through the faith referred to), in His blood. προέθετο in Ephesians 1:9 (cf. Romans 1:13) is “purposed”; but here the other meaning, “set forth” (Vulg. proposuit) suits the context much better. ἱλαστήριον has been taken in various ways. (1) In the LXX it is the rendering of כַּפֹּרֶת, (A.V.) “mercy-seat”. If one passage at least, Exodus 25:16, כַּפֹּרֶת is rendered ἱλαστήριον ἐπίθεμα, which is possibly a combination of two translations—a literal one, a “lid” or “covering”; and a figurative or spiritual one, “a propitiatory”. Many scholars argue that Paul’s use must follow that of the LXX, familiarity with which on the part of his readers is everywhere assumed. But the necessity is not quite apparent; and not to mention the incongruities which are introduced if Jesus is conceived as the mercy-seat upon which the sacrificial blood—His own blood—is sprinkled, there are grammatical reasons against this rendering. Paul must have written, to be clear, τὸ ἱλαστήριον ἡ μ ῶ ν, or some equivalent phrase. Cf. 1 Corinthians 5:8 (Christ our passover). A “mercy-seat” is not such a self-evident, self-interpreting idea, that the Apostle could lay it at the heart of his gospel without a word of explanation. Consequently (2) many take ἱλαστήριον as an adjective. Of those who so take it, some supply θῦμα or ἱερεῖον, making the idea of sacrifice explicit. But it is simpler, and there is no valid objection, to make it masculine, in agreement with ὃν: “whom God set forth in propitiatory power”. This use of the word is sufficiently guaranteed by Jos., Ant., xvi. 7, 1: περίφοβος δʼ αὐτὸς ἐξῄει καὶ τοῦ δέους ἱλαστήριον μνῆυακατεσκευάσατο. The passage in 4Ma 17:22 (καὶ διὰ τοῦ αἵματος τῶν εὐσεβῶν ἐκείνων καὶ τοῦ ἱλαστηρίου [τοῦ] θανάτου αὐτῶν ἡ θεία πρόνοια τὸν Ἰσραὴλ προκακωθέντα διέσωσεν) is indecisive, owing to the doubtful reading. Perhaps the grammatical question is insoluble; but there is no question that Christ is conceived as endued with propitiatory power, in virtue of His death. He is set forth as ἱλαστήριος(ν) ἐν τῷ αὐτοῦ αἵματι. It is His blood that covers sin. It seems a mere whim of rigour to deny, as Weiss does, that the death of Christ is here conceived as sacrificial. It is in His blood that Christ is endued with propitiatory power; and there is no propitiatory power of blood known to Scripture unless the blood be that of sacrifice. It is not necessary to assume that any particular sacrifice—say the sin offering—is in view; neither is it necessary, in order to find the idea of sacrifice here, to make ἱλαστήριον neuter, and supply θῦμα; it is enough to say that for the Apostle the ideas of blood with propitiatory virtue, and sacrificial blood, must have been the same. The precise connection and purpose of διὰ (τῆς) πίστεως is not at once clear. Grammatically, it might be construed with ἐν τῷ αὐτοῦ αἴματι; cf. Ephesians 1:15, Galatians 3:26 (?), Mark 1:15; but this lessens the emphasis due to the last words. It seems to be inserted, almost parenthetically, to resume and continue the idea of Romans 3:22, that the righteousness of God which comes in this way,—namely, in Christ, whom God has set forth in propitiatory power in virtue of His death—comes only to those who believe. Men are saved freely, and it is all God’s work, not in the very least their own; yet that work does not avail for any one who does not by faith accepts it. What God has given to the world in Christ, infinitely great and absolutely free as it is, is literally nothing unless it is taken. Faith must have its place, therefore, in the profoundest statement of the Gospel, as the correlative of grace. Thus διὰ (τῆς) πίστεως, though parenthetic, is of the last importance. With εἰς ἔνδειξιν τῆς δικαιοσύνης αὐτοῦ κ.τ.λ. we are shown God’s purpose in setting forth Christ as a propitiation in His blood. It is done with a view to demonstrate His righteousness, owing to the passing by of the sins previously committed in the forbearance of God. God’s righteousness in this place is obviously an attribute of God, on which the sin of the world, as hitherto treated by Him, has cast a shadow. Up till now, God has “passed by” sin. He has “winked at” (Acts 17:30) the transgressions of men perpetrated before Christ came (προ-γεγονότων), ἐν τῇ ἀνοχῇ αὐτοῦ. The last words may be either temporal or causal: while God exercised forbearance, or because He exercised it, men sinned, so to speak, with impunity, and God’s character was compromised. The underlying thought is the same as in Psalm 50:21 : “These things hast Thou done, and I kept silence: Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as Thyself”. Such had been the course of Providence that God, owing to His forbearance in suspending serious dealing with sin, lay under the imputation of being indifferent to it.” But the time had now come to remove this imputation, and vindicate the Divine character. If it was possible once, it was no longer possible now, with Christ set forth in His Blood as a propitiation, to maintain that sin was a thing which God regarded with indifference, Paul does not say in so many words what it is in Christ crucified which constitutes Him a propitiation, and so clears God’s character of the charge that He does not care for sin: He lays stress, however, on the fact that an essential element in a propitiation is that it should vindicate the Divine righteousness. It should proclaim with unmistakable clearness that with sin God can hold no terms. (The distinction between πάρεσις, the suspension, and ἄφεσις, the revocation, of punishment, is borne out, according to Lightfoot, Notes on Epp. of St. Paul, p. 273, by classical usage, and is essential here.) In Romans 3:26 this idea is restated, and the significance of a propitiation more fully brought out. “Yes, God set Him forth in this character with a view to demonstrate His righteousness, that He might be righteous Himself, and accept as righteous him who believes in “Jesus.” The words ἐν τῷ νῦν καιρῷ refer to the Gospel Age, the time in which believers live, in contrast to the time when God exercised forbearance, and men were tempted to accuse Him of indifference to righteousness. πρὸς, as distinguished from εἰς, makes us think rather of the person contemplating the end than of the end contemplated; but there is no essential difference. τὴν ἔνδειξιν: the article means “the ἔνδειξις already mentioned in Romans 3:25”. But the last clause, εἰς τὸ εἶναι αὐτὸν κ.τ.λ., is the most important. It makes explicit the whole intention of God in dealing with sin by means of a propitiation. God’s righteousness, compromised as it seemed by His for bearance, might have been vindicated in another way; if He had executed judgment upon sin, it would have been a kind of vindication. He would have secured the first object of Romans 3:26 : “that He might be righteous Himself”. But part of God’s object was to justify the ungodly (chap. Romans 4:5), upon certain conditions; and this could not be attained by the execution of judgment upon sin. To combine both objects, and at once vindicate His own righteousness, and put righteousness within reach of the sinful, it was necessary that instead of executing judgment God should provide a propitiation. This He did when He set forth Jesus in His blood for the acceptance of faith. (Häring takes the ἔνδειξις of God’s righteousness here to be the same as the “revelation” of δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ in Romans 1:17, or the “manifestation” of it in Romans 3:21; but this is only possible if with him we completely ignore the context, and especially the decisive words, διὰ τὴν πάρεσιν τῶν προγεγονότων ἁμαρτημάτων.) The question has been raised whether the righteousness of God, here spoken of as demonstrated at the Cross, is His judicial (Weiss) or His penal righteousness (Meyer). This seems to me an unreal question; the righteousness of God is the whole character of God so far as it must be conceived as inconsistent with any indifference about sin. It is a more serious question if we ask what it is in Christ set forth by God in His blood which at once vindicates God’s character and makes it possible for Him to justify those who believe. The passage itself contains nothing explicit—except in the words ἐν τῷ αὐτοῦ αἵματι. It is pedantic and inept to argue that since God could have demonstrated His righteousness either by punishment or by propitiation, therefore punishment and propitiation have no relation to each other. Christ was a propitiation in virtue of His death; and however a modern mind may construe it, death to Paul was the doom of sin. To say that God set forth Christ as a propitiation in His blood is the same thing as to say that God made Him to be sin for us. God’s righteousness, therefore, is demonstrated at the Cross, because there, in Christ’s death, it is made once for all apparent that He does not palter with sin; the doom of sin falls by His appointment on the Redeemer. And it is possible, at the same time, to accept as righteous those who by faith unite themselves to Christ upon the Cross, and identify themselves with Him in His death: for in doing so they submit in Him to the Divine sentence upon sin, and at bottom become right with God. It is misleading to render εἰς τὸ εἶναι αὐτὸν δίκαιον κ. δικαιοῦντα, that He might be just and yet the justifier,” etc.: the Apostle only means that the two ends have equally to be secured, not that there is necessarily an antagonism between them. But it is more than misleading to render “that He might be just and therefore the justifier”: there is no conception of righteousness, capable of being clearly carried out, and connected with the Cross, which makes such language intelligible. (See Dorner, System of Christian Doctrine, iv., 14, English Translation.) It is the love of God, according to the consistent teaching of the New Testament, which provides the propitiation, by which God’s righteousness is vindicated and the justification of the ungodly made possible. τὸν ἐκ πίστεως Ἰησοῦ is every one who is properly and sufficiently characterised as a believer in Jesus. There is no difficulty whatever in regarding Ἰησοῦ as objective genitive, as the use of πιστεύειν throughout the N.T. (Galatians 2:16, e.g.) requires us to do: such expressions as τῷ ἐκ πίστεως Ἀβραάμ (Romans 4:16) are not in the least a reason to the contrary: they only illustrate the flexibility of the Greek language. See on Romans 3:22 above.25. hath set forth] Lit. did set forth; the aorist (see on Romans 3:23). The Gr. verb bears also the derived meaning “to purpose, design,” (so Ephesians 1:9), which would not be unsuitable here. But the E. V. is made more probable by the context, which dwells on the fact of the manifestation of redemption.

a propitiation] The Gr. word is only found elsewhere in N. T., Hebrews 9:5, where it means the golden lid of the Ark, the “Mercy-seat.” (In 1 John 2:2; 1 John 4:10, where E. V. has “propitiation,” the Gr. has another but cognate word.) The translation “Mercy-seat” is insisted on here by many commentators, and it is a fact on their side that in the LXX. the Gr. word is always used locally, of the Mercy-seat, or the like. But on the other side are the facts (1) that the word, as to its form, can quite well mean a price of expiation; (2) that it is found, though very rarely, in that sense in secular Greek; and above all (3) that the context here is strongly in favour of the sense “an expiatory offering.” He becomes “a propitiation” to the soul “through faith in His blood;” an expression which naturally points to the Victim, not the Mercy-seat, as the type in view.

through faith] This, as always in the Scripture doctrine of salvation, is the necessary medium of application. In Himself the Saviour is what He is, always and absolutely; to the soul He is what He is, as Saviour, only when approached by faith; i.e. accepted, in humble trust in the Divine word, as the sole way of mercy. The progress of the Epistle will be abundant commentary.

in his blood] The same construction as in Gr. of Mark 1:15 : “believe in the Gospel.” The idea is of faith as a hand, or anchor, finding a hold in the object. Here first in the Epistle the holy Blood is mentioned; once again at ch. Romans 5:9, in precisely the same connexion. For similar mentions see Matthew 26:28; John 6:53-56; Acts 20:28; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:20; Hebrews 9:12; Hebrews 9:14; Hebrews 9:22; Hebrews 10:19; Hebrews 12:24; Hebrews 13:12; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 1:2; 1 Peter 1:19; 1 John 1:7; Revelation 1:5; Revelation 5:9; Revelation 7:14; Revelation 12:11.

to declare his righteousness] Lit. to be a demonstration, or display, of his righteousness. The Redeemer’s expiatory death, and the gift of pardon solely “through faith in” it, explained beyond all doubt that the Divine mercy did not mean indifference to the Divine Law. Many questions regarding the atonement may be beyond our knowledge; but this at least is “declared,” as the sinful soul contemplates it.—Here, probably, the phrase “Righteousness of God” bears a sense (suggested in the note) exceptional to the rule given in note on Romans 1:17. But the meaning as in Romans 1:17 is not wholly out of place.

for the remission, &c.] Lit. on account of the letting-pass of the fore-gone sins in the forbearance of God. Almost every word here needs special notice. “Letting-pass:”—a word weaker than full and free pardon, and thus specially appropriate to God’s dealings with sin before the Gospel, when there was just this reserve about the forgiveness, that the Reason of it was not fully revealed.—“Fore-gone, or fore-done, sins:”—i.e., those before the Gospel. These are specially mentioned here, not because sin was more, or less, sinful then than now, but because the matter in hand here is the display of the righteousness of the Divine pardon of any sin. Cp. Hebrews 9:16.—“In the forbearance, &c.:”—perhaps = in the time when God forebore, i.e. did not punish sin, though without a fully-revealed propitiation. But the words may mean, practically, as E. V., through, &c.; i.e. “His forbearance was the cause of that letting-pass; of that ‘obscure’ pardon.”—Lastly, “On account of the letting-pass:”—the point of this phrase will now be clear. The pardon of sinners under the O. T., being (in a certain sense) unexplained, demanded such a display at last of the Righteousness of Pardon as was made in the Cross.Romans 3:25. Προέθετο) hath set forth before the eyes of all. Luke 2:31. The πρὸ in προεθετο does not carry with it the idea of time, but is much the same as the Latin proponere, to set forth.—ἱλαστήριον, a propitiatory [Eng. vers. not so strictly, “propitiation”]) The allusion is to the mercy-seat [propitiatory] of the Old Testament, Hebrews 9:5; and it is by this Greek term that the LXX generally express the Hebrew בפדח, Exodus 25:17-22. Propitiation goes on the supposition of a previous offence, which opposes the opinion of the Socinians.—ἐν τῷ αὐτο͂υ αἳματι, in His own blood) This blood is truly propitiatory. Comp. Leviticus 16:2; Leviticus 16:13, etc.—εἰς ἔνδειξιν τῆς δικαιοσύνης ἀυτο͂υ, to the declaration of [for the demonstration of] His righteousness) This is repeated in the following verse, as if it were after a parenthesis, for the purpose of continuing the train of thought; only that instead of ἐις, Latin in, there is used in the following verse προς, ad, which implies a something more immediate,[38] ch. Romans 15:2. Ephesians 4:12.—ἔνδειξιν [demonstration], declaration) Comp. notes at ch. Romans 1:17.—διὰ τὴν πάρεσιν, for [Engl. Vers.] the pretermission [passing by]) Paul, in the Acts, and epistles to Ephesians, Colossians, and Hebrews, along with the other apostles, often uses ἄφεσιν, remission: None but he alone, and in this single passage, uses πάρεσιν, pretermission; and certainly not without some good reason. There was remission even before the advent and death of Christ, ch. Romans 4:7; Romans 4:3; Matthew 9:2, in so far as it implies the application of grace to individuals; but pretermission in the Old Testament had respect to transgressions, until (ἀπολύτρωσις) redemption of [or from] them was accomplished in the death of Christ, Hebrews 9:15; which redemption, ἀπολύτρωσις, itself is, however, sometimes also called ἄφεσις, Ephesians 1:7. Παρίεναι is nearly of the same import as ὑπεριδε͂ιν, Acts 17:30. Hence, in Sir 23:3 (2) μὴ φεὶδεσθαι and μὴ παριέναι are parallel; for both imply the punishment of sin. Ed. Hoeschel, p. 65, 376. πάρεσις, pretermission [the passing over or by sins] is not an imperfect ἄφεσις, remission; but the distinction is of quite a different sort; abolition or entire putting away is opposed to the former (as to this abolition, ἀθέτησις, see Hebrews 9:26), retaining to the latter, John 20:23. Paul, at the same time, praises God’s forbearance. The object of pretermission are sins; the object of forbearance are sinners, against whom God did not prosecute His claim. So long as the one and other of these existed, the justice [righteousness] of God was not so apparent; for He did not seem to be so exceedingly angry with sin as He really is, but appeared to leave the sinner to himself, ἀμελεῖν, to regard not. Hebrews 8:9 [ἠμέλησα, “I regarded them not”]; but in the blood and atoning death of Christ, God’s justice [righteousness] was exhibited, accompanied with His vengeance against sin itself, that He might be Himself just, and at the same time accompanied with zeal for the deliverance of the sinner, that He might be Himself [at the same time also] the justifier; and therefore very frequent mention of this vengeance and of this zeal is made by the prophets, and especially by Isaiah, for example, Isaiah 9:6, and Isaiah 61:2. And διὰ, on account of [not for, as Eng. vers.] that pretermission in the forbearance of God, it was necessary that at some time there should be made a demonstration [a showing forth, ἔνδεοξιν] of His justice [righteousness].—προγεγονότων) of sins which had been committed, before atonement was made for them by the blood of Christ. Comp. again Hebrews 9:15.

[38] εἰς, towards, with a view to; πρός, for, with the effect of.—ED.Set forth (προέθετο)

Publicly, openly (πρό); correlated with to declare. He brought Him forth and put Him before the public. Bengel, "placed before the eyes of all;" unlike the ark of the covenant which was veiled and approached only by the high-priest. The word is used by Herodotus of exposing corpses (v. 8); by Thucydides of exposing the bones of the dead (ii. 34). Compare the shew-bread, the loaves of the setting-forth (τῆς προθεσέως). See on Mark 2:26. Paul refers not to preaching, but to the work of atonement itself, in which God's righteousness is displayed. Some render purposed or determined, as Romans 1:13; Ephesians 1:9, and according to the usual meaning of πρόθεσις purpose, in the New Testament. But the meaning adopted here is fixed by to declare.

Propitiation (ἱλαστήριον)

This word is most important, since it is the key to the conception of Christ's atoning work. In the New Testament it occurs only here and Hebrews 9:5; and must be studied in connection with the following kindred words: ἱλάσκομαι which occurs in the New Testament only Luke 18:13, God be merciful, and Hebrews 2:17, to make reconciliation. Ἱλασμός twice, 1 John 2:2; 1 John 4:10; in both cases rendered propitiation. The compound ἐξιλάσκομαι, which is not found in the New Testament, but is frequent in the Septuagint and is rendered purge, cleanse, reconcile, make atonement.

Septuagint usage. These words mostly represent the Hebrew verb kaphar to cover or conceal, and its derivatives. With only seven exceptions, out of about sixty or seventy passages in the Old Testament, where the Hebrew is translated by atone or atonement, the Septuagint employs some part or derivative of ἱλάσκομαι or ἐξιλάσκομαι or Ἱλασμός or ἐξιλασμός is the usual Septuagint translation for kippurim covering for sin, A.V., atonement. Thus sin-offerings of atonement; day of atonement; ram of the atonement. See Exodus 29:36; Exodus 30:10; Leviticus 23:27; Numbers 5:8, etc. They are also used for chattath sin-offering, Ezekiel 44:27; Ezekiel 45:19; and for selichah forgiveness. Psalm 129:4; Daniel 9:9.

These words are always used absolutely, without anything to mark the offense or the person propitiated.

Ἱλάσκομαι, which is comparatively rare, occurs as a translation of kipher to cover sin, Psalm 65:3; Psalm 78:38; Psalm 79:9; A.V., purge away, forgive, pardon. Of salach, to bear away as a burden, 2 Kings 5:18; Psalm 25:11 : A.V., forgive, pardon. It is used with the accusative (direct objective) case, marking the sin, or with the dative (indirect objective), as be conciliated to our sins.

Ἑξιλάσκομαι mostly represents kipher to cover, and is more common than the simple verb. Thus, purge the altar, Ezekiel 43:26; cleanse the sanctuary, Ezekiel 45:20; reconcile the house, Daniel 9:24. It is found with the accusative case of that which is cleansed; with the preposition περί concerning, as "for your sin," Exodus 32:30; with the preposition ὑπέρ on behalf of A.V., for, Ezekiel 45:17; absolutely, to make an atonement, Leviticus 16:17; with the preposition ἀπό from, as "cleansed from the blood," Numbers 35:33. There are but two instances of the accusative of the person propitiated: appease him, Genesis 32:20; pray before (propitiate) the Lord, Zechariah 7:2.

Ἱλαστηριον, A.V., propitiation, is almost always used in the Old Testament of the mercy-seat or golden cover of the ark, and this is its meaning in Hebrews 9:5, the only other passage of the New Testament in which it is found. In Ezekiel 43:14, Ezekiel 43:17, Ezekiel 43:20, it means a ledge round a large altar, and is rendered settle in A.V.; Rev., ledge, in margin.

This term has been unduly pressed into the sense of explanatory sacrifice. In the case of the kindred verbs, the dominant Old-Testament sense is not propitiation in the sense of something offered to placate or appease anger; but atonement or reconciliation, through the covering, and so getting rid of the sin which stands between God and man. The thrust of the idea is upon the sin or uncleanness, not upon the offended party. Hence the frequent interchange with ἀγιάζω to sanctify, and καθαρίζω to cleanse. See Ezekiel 43:26, where ἐξιλάσονται shall purge, and καθαριοῦσιν shall purify, are used coordinately. See also Exodus 30:10, of the altar of incense: "Aaron shall make an atonement (ἐξιλάσεται) upon the horns of it - with the blood of the sin-offering of atonement" (καθαρισμοῦ purification). Compare Leviticus 16:20. The Hebrew terms are also used coordinately.

Our translators frequently render the verb kaphar by reconcile, Leviticus 6:30; Leviticus 16:20; Ezekiel 45:20. In Leviticus 8:15, Moses put blood upon the horns of the altar and cleansed (ἐκαθάρισε) the altar, and sanctified (ἡγίασεν) it, to make reconciliation (τοῦ ἐξιλάσασθαι) upon it. Compare Ezekiel 45:15, Ezekiel 45:17; Daniel 9:24.

The verb and its derivatives occur where the ordinary idea of expiation is excluded. As applied to an altar or to the walls of a house (Leviticus 14:48-53), this idea could have no force, because these inanimate things, though ceremonially unclean, could have no sin to be expiated. Moses, when he went up to make atonement for the idolatry at Sinai, offered no sacrifice, but only intercession. See also the case of Korah, Numbers 16:46; the cleansing of leprosy and of mothers after childbirth, Leviticus 14:1-20; Leviticus 12:7; Leviticus 15:30; the reformation of Josiah, 2 Chronicles 34; the fasting and confession of Ezra, Ezra 10:1-15; the offering of the Israelite army after the defeat of Midian. They brought bracelets, rings, etc., to make an atonement (ἐξιλάσασθαι) before the Lord; not expiatory, but a memorial, Numbers 31:50-54. The Passover was in no sense expiatory; but Paul says, "Christ our Passover was sacrificed for us; therefore purge out (ἐκκαθάρατε) the old leaven. Let us keep the feast with sincerity and truth;" 1 Corinthians 5:7, 1 Corinthians 5:8.

In the Old Testament the idea of sacrifice as in itself a propitiation continually recedes before that of the personal character lying back of sacrifice, and which alone gives virtue to it. See 1 Samuel 15:22; Psalm 40:6-10; Psalm 50:8-14, Psalm 50:23; Psalm 51:16, Psalm 51:17; Isaiah 1:11-18; Jeremiah 7:21-23; Amos 5:21-24; Micah 6:6-8. This idea does not recede in the Old Testament to be reemphasized in the New. On the contrary, the New Testament emphasizes the recession, and lays the stress upon the cleansing and life-giving effect of the sacrifice of Christ. See John 1:29; Colossians 1:20-22; Hebrews 9:14; Hebrews 10:19-21; 1 Peter 2:24; 1 John 1:7; 1 John 4:10-13.

The true meaning of the offering of Christ concentrates, therefore, not upon divine justice, but upon human character; not upon the remission of penalty for a consideration, but upon the deliverance from penalty through moral transformation; not upon satisfying divine justice, but upon bringing estranged man into harmony with God. As Canon Westcott remarks: "The scripture conception of ἱλάσκεσθαι is not that of appeasing one who is angry with a personal feeling against the offender, but of altering the character of that which, from without, occasions a necessary alienation, and interposes an inevitable obstacle to fellowship" (Commentary on St. John's Epistles, p. 85).

continued...

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