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Propitiation, then, has been made inside the heavenly sanctuary. Of this we are assured on the authority of the Holy Ghost. He, the Comforter, would come, sent by Christ from the Father, the token that He had gone whither He told His disciples He would go. (John 15:2626But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: (John 15:26)) Israel knew it was effected annually for them, as the high priest emerged from behind the curtains which screened the entrance to the holy place. We know it has been made once for all, by the coming of the Holy Ghost to tell us of the perfect and abiding acceptance before God of the Lord Jesus Christ, our Sacrifice and High Priest. The need of it God knew, and has declared. The provision to make it He concerned Himself with, and now that it has been effected tells us of it. God on the throne is perfectly satisfied with that precious blood before Him. But what grace have we part in who share in the result of this! The High Priest, God's Son, has vindicated by His own blood the nature of God, and enabled Him righteously to accept guilty creatures before Him; and the Holy Ghost has come down to tell us of it for our joy, and peace, and confidence of heart before God. What a God, we may well say, is ours! and may indeed exclaim, " Unto thy name be the glory, for thy loving-kindness, and for thy truth's sake."
Now this propitiation concerns both sinners and failing saints. It concerns sinners, as they thereby learn that God is righteous in saving such from the judgment they had deserved. It was love, too, which provided for the propitiation to be made; for it has been effected by the blood of God's Son: " Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins." (1 John 4:1010Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)) A sacrifice was needed. Blood must be shed, and carried in, as it were, before God. What sacrifice could He accept? What blood would avail? The blood of bulls and of goats could never take away sins. The sinner could not die for himself; but God's Son could, and did die for us. Herein indeed is love. Propitiation made tells us what men are, and what we deserved; but having been made, and in the way in which it has been accomplished, it shows us too what God is. He is love, and He is light. As light He could only act in righteousness, and that is seen in the requiring a sacrifice; whilst love is displayed in providing it. So God on the throne, the Lord Jesus our Sacrifice and High Priest, and the Holy Ghost who declares it, are each seen engaged in the activity of divine love, caring for those who have sinned Surely we are very little alive to the love which has been thus manifested towards us. Two things, which to man it would have been impossible ever to unite without compromise of either the one or the other, are fully harmonized and displayed in the death of the Lord Jesus, and the propitiation made by His blood-God is light, and God is love. Propitiation then made, and it has been perfectly made, God can deal in grace with any and every sinner. His righteousness has been fully vindicated, and therefore He can justify the ungodly.
Neither the enormity then of a man's guilt, nor the length of his career in sin, are questions which affect the possibility of propitiation being made, though the heinousness of the guilt, and the length of time any one continued in it; must surely deepen in the heart of the justified one the sense of the grace in which he shares. But all that has no place at all in determining the question, Can God righteously act in grace? If He is righteous in so dealing with one, He will be equally so in thus dealing with all who now accept His terms; viz., believe on the Lord Jesus Christ for the saving of their soul. Hence propitiation is for the whole world (1 John 2:22And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2)), not for the sins of the whole world; but it is enough for the whole world, God requiring nothing more than what has been done, to be righteous in saving the whole world, if all were willing to be saved. Jesus Christ is the propitiation for the whole world, the value of His blood before God being all that is needed to deal in grace with the whole world. It speaks to God, and is ever before Him. How this simplifies matters "Is God able to have mercy on such a wretch as I am?" some one might say. "He is righteous, perfectly righteous, in having mercy," is the answer, the Word given us. Jesus Christ is the propitiation for the whole world. Nothing then is wanting but the sense of need and of guilt in the sinner's heart and conscience, for the acceptance on his part of the salvation proffered him by God. So that which in the book of Leviticus is treated of in the inverse order, we learn about in the New Testament in its proper order. God's righteousness is first met, and. then the sinner is evangelized.
But saints are concerned with this truth as well. Has failure come in? Has sin been committed? Confession then has to be made. Can God forgive the saint who has fallen, sinned against light, and perhaps in willfulness; sinned presumptuously? Yes; thank God. "We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and He is the propitiation for our sins." (1 John 2:1,21My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: 2And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:1‑2)) Our relationship to God never changes, and at such a moment, when the heart most needs it, God assures us of it. We have an Advocate with the Father, One who can always take up our cause and be heard; for He is righteous; One who has ever a place before the throne; for He is Jesus Christ the righteous, and He is the propitiation for our sins. He is the propitiation. It is of what He is abidingly that we are here reminded. Not merely that He was, but He is the propitiation. Hence the value of His blood abides unchanged before God, and the failing saint learns the immense comfort of such a truth, and the reassuring nature of it, as he reads those words by John. God is able righteously to forgive a failing saint, as He was to forgive the sinner at the outset; for propitiation has been made by blood, the blood of His Son. How the need for the death of Christ and the shedding of His precious blood comes out to us. How the need, too, for Him as High Priest to make propitiation, is made plain to us. Without it God could not righteously act in grace, nor the sinner stand before Him. By it He can act in accordance with all the desires of His heart; and the sinner who believes, and the saint when he has failed, both learn something of the value of that work, and together will have cause throughout eternity to bless God for it.
C. E. S.