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Propitiation describes the means by which the wrath of God is turned away from us. There are two places in the New Testament where it is especially important. In Romans 3, Paul speaks about Jesus Christ being the propitiation for our sins. Similarly, 1 John says, “Christ is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2).

The background to propitiation is the offering of a particular kind of sacrifice in the Old Testament, of which there were different kinds. Some were sacrifices of thanksgiving. Others, however, involved the individual laying his hands on the animal not just to say, “This is my sacrifice,” but “God is giving me the privilege of this sacrifice that is taking my place to bear the judgment against my sin that I deserve.” Ultimately, these are types or pictures of what the Lord Jesus Christ would do. This is why Jesus’ words on the cross are so significant—“My God, My God, why am I forsaken?” The answer is He is the one on whom our sins have been laid as a propitiatory sacrifice to absorb the judgment of God against us so that we might be set free.

This transcript is from a live Ask Ligonier event with Sinclair Ferguson and has been lightly edited for readability. To ask Ligonier a biblical or theological question, email ask@ligonier.org or message us on Facebook or Twitter.