Propitiation and Substitution;

Leviticus 16  •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 7
Or, the Two Goats of Lev. 16
PROPITIATION is a word which is used in Scripture, and carries therefore a very distinct meaning. Substitution, though not actually used, is clearly taught, both in type and antitype, from the day when "Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain," to that when "Christ also once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God," and when "God commendeth His love toward us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us"; or again, "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us." This is plain. There was the transference of our guilt to Him when He "bare our sins in His own body on the tree," and when He not only died, but was "made a curse for us." The truth of what is called substitution is most clearly established. It is the manward aspect of the cross of our blessed Lord. "He was delivered for our offenses." Propitiation, on the other hand, presents the God-ward aspect. Its meaning is very, Simple—to appease.
This was necessary. The throne and majesty of God had been defied and insulted by sin. Vindication and appeasement were necessary.
His displeasure was provoked against the sinner. Divine holiness, in its detestation of sin, must be shown. Judgment became imperative, and without that judgment being met there could be no blessing. "Without the shedding of blood there is no remission." Hence the absolute need of propitiation.
But notice that God Himself meets the need. Our sin never changed Him. His nature is ever love, but it necessitated a change in His attitude. It forced Him to act as Judge.
We must distinguish between His nature and His throne. It is the latter that calls for propitiation. One familiar passage in John 3 covers all of this: "The Son of Man must be lifted up." There we have the requirement of the throne.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son." Here the nature displays itself in giving Him who alone could meet that infinite requirement.
The Son of God was given, gave Himself, died and was raised, and "when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”
The result is that propitiation has been effected. God glorified in the complete vindication of the throne, sin atoned for, good news of salvation announced over the world, and the present forgiveness and blessing of all who believe confirmed by the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven. God's righteousness is manifested and the believer declared righteous too, as the blessed consequence.
“The two goats," writes another, are but one Christ, but there is the double aspect of His sacrifice—Godward and bearing our sins.... He is the propitiation for the whole world. All has been done that is needed. His blood is available for the vilest. "Hence the gospel to the world says," Whosoever will, let him come. "In this aspect we may say Christ died for all, gave Himself a ransom for all, an adequate and available Sacrifice for whoever would come—" tasted death for every man.”
But when I come to bearing sins the language is uniformly different. He "bare our sins," He bare "the sins of many." "All" is carefully abstained from.
If we look at the difference of Arminian and Calvinistic preaching we shall see the bearing of this at once. The Arminiaus take up Christ's dying for all, and generally they connect the bearing of sins with it, and all is confusion as to the efficacy and effectualness of Christ bearing our sins, for they deny any special work for His people. They say, "If God loved all, He cannot love some particularly," and an uncertain salvation is the result, and man often exalted. Thus the scapegoat is practically set aside.
The Calvinist holds Christ bearing the sins of His people, so that they are effectually saved, but he sees nothing else. He will say, "If Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it, there can be no real love for anything else." Thus he denies Christ dying for all and the distinctive character of propitiation and the blood on the mercy-seat. He sees nothing but substitution.
“The truth is, Christ is said to love the Church, never the world. That is a love of special relationship. God is never said to love the Church, but the world. This is divine goodness; what is in the nature of God (not His purpose) and His glory is the real end of all.”
Iri the type of the two goats of Lev. 16 this useful distinction is placed before us. That on which the Lord's lot fell met the claims of the throne—its blood was sprinkled before and on the mercy-seat. That which was led into the wilderness carried away the sins of the people; they were transferred to him.
So in the antitype Christ is "set forth a propitiation [a mercy-seat] through faith in His blood"(Rom. 3:2525Whom God hath 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; (Romans 3:25)), and" was delivered for our offenses” (Rom. 4:2424But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; (Romans 4:24)), thus presenting, in His death, the double aspect of propitiation and substitution.
He is set forth world-wide as the former. The believer alone is entitled to claim Him as the latter—as the actual Bearer of his offenses.
J. W. S.