Jesus Our Propitiation
The answer of a good conscience
For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.
In I Peter the apostle tells us plainly that the flood, and the saving of Noah and his family, is a figure of the baptism that saves us. That it does not refer to water baptism is clear from the context: not the putting away of the filth of the flesh but the answer of a good conscience toward God. If water baptism was meant then the filth of the body would be indeed washed away.
It is the conscience that Peter has in mind here and according to Hebrews it is the blood of Jesus that cleanses the conscience, not water. So water baptism is not in the apostle’s mind here. We conclude therefore that it is the spiritual baptism of which we have been considering that is in view,
How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
The wickedness of men
The flood record is given in Gen.6-8. We shall go through the account bringing out the application apposite to our theme.
… And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them. But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD. These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God. And Noah begat three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.
The opening verses to the account tell a woeful tale indeed. And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. Tracing the first few chapters of Genesis we see that two family lines are clearly set out. The ungodly line from Cain in Ch.4, and the godly line through Seth in Ch.5. Room forbids a detailed discussion of this.
The wickedness of men’s hearts, and the evil thoughts of their imaginations were such that God said He repented of making man! The record of the wickedness is plain to see: every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. This indeed is a sorry picture of the human race. The text also gives us an account of the sons of God coming to marry the daughters of men. Much has been written on this, and whatever the truth, it is included in Holy Writ to underline the wickedness of that age.
Because of this great wickedness God decided that judgement had to come upon the earth. The language of Genesis is unmistakable. The whole earth with all its inhabitants had to be judged. God’s method was to be that of a flood, the whole earth would return to its primeval state, completely covered or baptised in water!
The intent? To produce a new earth for humans to live in, a new creation in fact! But first the end of all flesh had to come together with the passing away of the old creation.
He Himself bore our sins
And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch…In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened. And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights… And every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl of the heaven; and they were destroyed from the earth: and Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark. And the waters prevailed upon the earth an hundred and fifty days.
God had a plan to save the human race. He found one righteous man Noah, who is described as perfect in his generation. To him God gave clear instructions to build an ark that would save him, his family and the animals. This ark would be borne up by the judgement waters and save those inside. The eight souls would indeed be saved by, in their case it was a water baptism! But this is only a type, and it is the spiritual baptism of which this is but an illustration that truly saves us.
Firstly to fulfil His plan of redemption God had to find a perfect man, and the only one that could be found was God Himself manifested in human flesh. Secondly, the ark itself is a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ. It was made from gopher wood. The identification of this wood is uncertain and may never be discovered. But the point is that wood in general is taken as an illustration of Jesus as the Son of man. That is, His actual identification with the human race in the incarnation as the God-man.
The ark was then covered with pitch, this was to waterproof the ark. But note also, that during the flood it was this pitch that bore the fierce wrath of the judgement waters. The word for pitch in the Hebrew comes from the same word as atonement/ appeasement or propitiation. The same word is used in Gen.32:20.
And say ye moreover, Behold, thy servant Jacob is behind us. For he said, I will appease (=to make atonement) him with the present that goeth before me, and afterward I will see his face; peradventure he will accept of me.
When Jacob returned home he was afraid of Esau, so he wanted to appease his anger. This he tried by a gift. This is one of the uses of the word atonement, to appease.
Jesus our Propitiation
In the flood we have a picture of Christ (the ark) bearing the judgement waters of God and those in Christ saved from the wrath to come. Christ’s death appeased the wrath of God, He bore the judgement of sin instead of us. This is amply seen by a variety of NT scriptures, such as the ones below.
Those inside the ark did not face the judgement waters, they were in the ark. Those who have been baptised into Christ do not have to face the wrath of God, for being in Him we are safe from the judgement of God, for the Saviour bore it all for us instead.
Being justified through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus whom 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 to declare I say at this time His righteousness that He might be just and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus.
..Christ also suffered for us ..Who did no sin,..Who in His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we being dead to sins should live unto righteousness…
Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the Law being made a curse for us. For it is written: cursed is every one that hangs on a tree
The NT states clearly that Jesus has been set forth as a propitiation. This is the same word that is used in Heb.9:5 for mercy seat. And this has connection to the day of atonement, where the goat’s blood was sprinkled on the mercy seat, where God’s justice for the year was satisfied.
At the cross Jesus bore the wrath of God in our place. The judgement we deserved was placed on the eternal Son of God, He became our propitiation, or mercy seat. Those who are baptised into Christ are thus saved from the wrath to come, for our life is hid with Christ, Col.3:3; I Thess.1:10; 5:9.
By putting our trust and faith in Him God is just and righteous to forgive us our sins and to justify us, that is to declare us not guilty. This because the Lamb of God bore our punishment in our place.