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philologos
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Joined: 2003/7/18
Posts: 6566
Reading, UK

 Propitiation and the red heifer

In my conversations on another forum I was talking to a gentle Calvinist who genuinely wanted to know what I thought. His question was 'if God has been propitiated, and that propitition was for the 'whole world', in its fullest sense, how can God remain angry with the sinner whose sins have already received atonement? Good question, I thought.

I have prayed a little and thought a little, and this was my reply. There will be some nuances you will miss because you haven't seen the rest of the conversation, but I think this will stand on its own feet so here we go...

I fell to sleep last night talking to the Lord about propititiation and woke up this morning thinking about the red heifer. So let me take one last try at making my thinking clearer.

The red heifer [Num 19 & Heb 9:13] was a unique application of the Sin Offering found in Lev 4 & 6. In the sin offering, the sinner identified himself with an animal by laying his hands on its head, after which the sinner slaughtered the animal. The slaughtered animal was entrusted to the priest who divided it up into parts. The blood was sprinkled on the alter, the inwards were set apart for sacrifice, the remainder was burned outside the camp. Hebrews sees Christ's death as a permanent fulfilling of this sacrifice. The sacrifice was immediate, the atonement was immediate, the forgiveness was immediate. [Lev 4:26, 31, 35]

But God made special provision in the sacrifice for those times when there was need but the apparatus of the sacrifice was not available. I presume this is why we have this sacrifice in Numbers, rather than in Leviticus. The scenario is everything packed up and ready to go and a sudden need for a sin offering. What do you do? You can't erect the tabernacle and rekindle the altar fire. The answer was a pre-fabricated sacrifice known as the red heifer. I am not being frivolous when I say it was an instant-coffee kind of a sacrifice.

This is how it worked. At an earlier time a sin-offering had been sacrificed. Its blood sprinkled before the tabernalce. [Num 19:4] As the heifer was being burned, some extra ingredients were added to the flame. Finally someone would gather up the ashes of the red heifer and preserve them safe, outside the camp. This sacrifice was then 'on hold' until it was needed. When someone (seems most likely that priests were in mind) sinned the second part of the process kicked in.

The ashes of the heifer were placed in a recepticle and running water was added. [the Hebrew idiom for this in Nu 19:17 is 'living water'.] The addition of the living water reconstituted the sacrifice. It was ready for instant use. The liquid of this reconstituted sacrifice, being the equivalent of the blood that was originally sprinked outside the tabernacle, was then sprinkled on the 'sinner'. The offering is now effectual.

My understanding is that this is the pattern of Christ's sacrifice. The sacrifice is made, God is propitiated, but the blood must be sprinkled on the individual for the atonement (sin-covering) to become effectual. In the case of the red heifer we might have a time interval of several months in between the sacrifice made, God propititiated and the sinner receiving his cleansing. We can also envisage the scenario in which a sinner chose not to avail himself of the provision that was available for him. So with Christ, the sacrifice is made, God is propitiated but the sinner cannot come into the presence of God until he has been blood-sprinkled. Redemption was accomplished (I believe) for all, but is only applied to those who avail themselves of the provision.

It may be significant that the Hebrews reference is linked with that phrase 'through the eternal Spirit' that I mentioned in my previous post. For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? [Heb 9:13,14] The effect of Christ's sacrifice was 'captured' 'in the Spirit'. It is not the letter or the objective facts that save, but the addition of the 'Living Water' (which John says is the Spirit). So the Spirit comes to 'reconstitute' (just a metaphor) what Christ accomplished and to apply it to me personally. As a result of the sprinkling I am joined to the place of the original sacrifice and what He did becomes mine.

One last comment. The word propitiation in the KJV translates two connected words. The word hilasmos is used in John's first letter
1 John 2:2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.
1 John 4:10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

The second word, hilasterion, is more correctly the 'place of' propitiation.
Romans 3:25 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;
Hebrews 9:5 And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat ; of which we cannot now speak particularly.

God has provided the hilasmos, protitiatory sacrifice, that is done and can never be repeated or added to. But to avail ourselves of His great provision we must come to the hilasterion, place of propitiation (the cross), where faith in his blood will make all the benefits of that propitiation mine. Redemption is thus accomplished and applied, 'though the application may be hundreds of years after the accomplishing. And there is that remaining possibility that if we do not have 'faith in his blood' the redemption will never be applied.

What do you think folks?


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Ron Bailey

 2004/1/24 0:11Profile
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 Re: Propitiation and the red heifer

Ron, I think this is a wonderful exegesis.

Quote:
how can God remain angry with the sinner whose sins have already received atonement?


Mat 23:37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and [b] ye would not![/b]

Quote:
But to avail ourselves of His great provision [b]we must come[/b] to the hilasterion, place of propitiation (the cross), where faith in his blood will make all the benefits of that propitiation mine.


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Mike Balog

 2004/1/24 5:41Profile
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 Re: Propitiation and the red heifer

This is enlightening, I never saw this before.

To use your theological math model then;

ashes + living water = purification or

Christ's work on Calvary + power and grace of Holy Spirit = application of redemption

We decieve ourselves if we believe we are saved by the work of Christ when we don't submit to the power of the Spirit!

I do have one question though, it seems the purification by the ashes/water mixture was to be applied twice over the course of a week with hyssop for the specific purpose of cleansing of defilement as a result of close contact with a corpse(Num 19:14-19).

My question is, why is contact with the corpse a defilement?

Ok, I just thought of another question, what is the significance of the hyssop?

In Christ,

Ron


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Ron Halverson

 2004/1/24 7:32Profile
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 Re: Salvation: accomplished and applied

here's another little extract from my other conversation.

my friendYou see it as "potential" in a sense, in that it is not actually applied until the sinner "lays his hands on it", so to speak. My view is actually similar, only different. When John says that Jesus is the propitiation for our sins, he is speaking in the context of verse 1 in which he said that He is also our Advocate. Thus, our Advocate rightly applies the propitiation to us. John finishes his thought with "not for ours only". To me, John is saying, "If there is any propitiation in the world for anyone ever, it is only Christ. He is the sole propitiation available for the world." This statement would not require that propitiation be actually applied, but that it would actually be available.
What is the ‘it’ in this context? Propitiation can’t be potential in my understanding in this sense. It is the God-facing word. God has been propitiated by the Son that He set forth as that Propitiation. It is the sin-facing words that we are struggling with; atone, atonement. It’s a little crude but bear with me if I say propitiation affects God, atonement affects man. These are the two sides of one coin. The result was that the man was reconciled, cleansed. Although this took place in the same compass of time I think it is helpful to consider the thought order. Surely this would be God propitiated and man atoned for, and then the benefits received by the man. This is why I thought the red-heifer was a helpful theme in that in this case propitiation and atonement was clearly made ahead of the benefit being received, and it is clear that a substantial gap might exist between the salvation accomplished and salvation applied.

You say that our Advocate applies the propitiation to us. I think we are mixing pictures here; advocates did not apply propitiation. An advocate is the man representing me, who pleads my case. In this case the Advocate who represents me has the perfect evidence for sins forgiven in that He Himself is the Propitiation. In this divine courtroom He Himself is ‘exhibit one’ your honour; “the price paid to remove the offence”. The sinner here will need to receive fresh forgiveness and cleansing, but there will need to be no fresh propitiation. He does not supply or apply the Propitiation; He is the Propitiation; the price that has been paid.

my friend Thus, our Advocate rightly applies the propitiation to us. John finishes his thought with "not for ours only". To me, John is saying, "If there is any propitiation in the world for anyone ever, it is only Christ. He is the sole propitiation available for the world."
I am struggling to understand this. not for ours only, but also for the sins of the world seems to be to be making a very clear contrast between us and our sins, and them and their sins. Who is they? (excuse the grammar!) ‘They’ is the world, as distinct from us. It seems to me that John is saying that there is Propitiation-accomplished and its benefits are available for two groups of people; us and the those who are not us. Your statement , "If there is any propitiation in the world for anyone ever, it is only Christ. He is the sole propitiation available for the world. is absolutely true but I don’t think it is what John is saying. The first chapter has clearly defined the people who John has in mind when he says ‘ye’. He identifies himself with them when he says ‘our’ but he casts the net much wider when he says not only but also, and this time he has ‘the whole world’ in view. John himself is one group, but not the other

my friendThe parallel I have in mind would be from a town in the Old West, where a school marm would be there to teach the kids. She would be "the town teacher". Now, that wouldn't mean that she taught everyone in the town. That merely meant that she was the sole teacher in that town. By the same token, Jesus is the "propitiation for the sins of the world". That doesn't mean that He actually applied that propitiation. It simply means that He is the sole propitiation for the world.

To me, if I read it this way I avoid all the logical difficulties I find in reading it any other way. If He actually applied the propitiatory properties to the world, then either the entire world would be saved, or at least God's wrath against the entire world would be abated. In either case, I can find no righteous way for judgment to occur if the price was already paid in full for the world.
So in that sense the phrase “Saviour of the World” would also mean not the Saviour of the whole world, but the only Saviour in the World. Do you really want to say this? Is that what John means in John 4:22 and 1John 4:14?

You see, personally I don’t have any ‘logical difficulties’ with this passage, but that is because I am not bringing the idea of a pre-specified selection of people to the verse. I don’t believe He has actually applied the propitiatory properties to anyone. He has made atonement for sins and God is propitiated in that Christ’s death, as God’s propitiatory Lamb, ‘took away’ the sins of the world. There is no longer any obstruction; man can now approach God, if he will, BUT ONLY THROUGH THAT TORN VEIL.



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Ron Bailey

 2004/1/26 10:27Profile
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 Re:

Hi Rons,
USA Ron said:

"This is enlightening, I never saw this before."
DITTO.

Also he said:
"We decieve ourselves if we believe we are saved by the work of Christ when we don't submit to the power of the Spirit"

The blood of the sacrafice, preserved in ashes, ressurected in power by the washing of the Spirit!
I'm continuously amazed . Where do you guys get this great stuff? :-o
Clutch :-)


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Howard McNeill

 2004/1/26 11:41Profile
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 Re:

I'm continuously amazed . Where do you guys get this great stuff?

I just keep reading this big black book. I do have an advantage in that the author is a personal friend. :-P


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Ron Bailey

 2004/1/26 13:12Profile
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 Re:

I knew that.
Clutch


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Howard McNeill

 2004/1/26 13:16Profile
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 Re: more on the red heifer

I know that many scholars would say that the NT propitiation is a translation of OT atonement and that we should not think in terms of God being placated. However, although the Septuagint gave a ready made vocabulary of Greek words in a Hebrew context, I prefer to retain some feeling of 'appeasment' but not in any crude pagan fashion.

Let's take a wider view. Propititian is price paid to remove the offence; it is God-facing as many sacrifices were. "When I see the blood I will pass over you". The shed passover blood was daubed on the doorposts and lintel for God's benefit. He needed to see the blood. I know we are talking in anthropomorphisms, but so does Exodus as this stage. All sacrifices have this element, they are God-facing. It is God who needs to be satisfied of their appropriateness. The Day of Atonement sacrifice was actually so that God could remain among His people. In this sense that was God-facing too. But when we think in terms of the people we are not counting sins in the Day of Atonement; this was for all their sins. It was a sacrifice which covered all eventualities, whether an individuals sins were many or few; it was for the sins of the whole of Israel. We do not have an individual mapping of single sins to the Day of Atonement sacrifice.

In a similar way we do not have a simple mapping of individual sins to the red heifer. Whatever sins the sinner committed he discovered that a sacrifice had already been made which covered them. BUT for him to benefit personally that all-including sacrifice had to be applied to his unique personal condition for him to benefit personally. AND if we think this through, that one sacrifice was effective for individual sins of many individuals. I am presuming that not all the ashes were used for one application. If the ashes, reconstituted with living water, are not applied he will die, even though God has been propitiated and his sins atoned for. Because the cleansing of his sin must be joined to the sacrifice and this is effected by the sprinkling of the living water. If he remains unsprinkled, for him, the sacrifice is in vain. In Christ too, there is no individual mapping of single sins to His sacrifice, but as we come we find they were all covered; He is the Propitiation. For the next sin, and this next, there is still only the once for all Propitiation.


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Ron Bailey

 2004/1/27 4:27Profile
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 Re: and a little more

The benefits of God having been propitiated are not applied until appropriated. Christ's sacrifice will be 'in vain' for many. I am linked to His propitiating work through the Living Water of the Spirit. From the moment of the link I receive all the benefits of God having been propitiated. The Propitiation for the whole world is in place, the blood is shed, the sacrifice accepted, all that is necessary now is that the individual receives the personal sprinking that will link him to all that God has already accomplished.


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Ron Bailey

 2004/1/27 7:10Profile
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 Re:

I am reminded of:

Ezekiel 36:25-26 [i]Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.[/i]

In Christ,

Ron


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Ron Halverson

 2004/1/27 7:19Profile





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