This refers to the golden lid of the wooden box called "the ark of the covenant" (cf. Exod. 25:17-22; 37:6-9). It was a special place for "covering" sins (i.e., Leviticus 16). The symbolism seems to be

1. YHWH dwelt between the wings of the two angelic creatures (the rabbis said this was His footstool, cf. 1 Chr. 28:2; Ps. 132:7)

2. the ark contained the "ten words" (decalog)

3. the high priest, on the Day of Atonement (cf. Leviticus 16), went into the Holy of Holies twice to sprinkle blood on the mercy seat, once for his own sin and once for the non-premeditated sins of the nation as a whole (cf. Heb. 9:7)

For the NT usage of this platform for forgiveness, I have included my notes from Rom. 3:25:

NASB "as a propitiation in His blood"
NKJV "to be a propitiation by His blood"
NRSV "as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood"
TEV   "so that by his blood he should become the means by which people's sins are forgiven"
NJB    "to sacrifice his life so as to win reconciliation"

In the Greco-Roman world this word carried the concept of a restoration of fellowship with an estranged deity by means of a price being paid. However, it is not used in this sense in the Septuagint. It was used in the Septuagint and in Heb. 9:5 to translate "mercy seat" (cf. Exod. 25:21-22; Lev. 16:12-15), which was the lid of the Ark of the Covenant located in the Holy of Holies, the place where atonement was procured on behalf of the nation on the Day of Atonement (cf. Leviticus 16). Obviously Paul is using sacrificial metaphors from Israel's sacrificial system (i.e., Leviticus 1-7). These metaphors (i.e., propitiation, ransom, sacrifice) are understood only in connection with the OT oracles of God. Paul then must explain their relevance to all mankind. YHWH revealed Himself to Abraham/Israel to reveal Himself to all; all are in His image; all have rebelled; all can be saved through faith in Christ (Jewish Messiah).
This term must be dealt with in a way that does not lessen God's revulsion to sin, but affirms His positive, redemptive attitude toward sinners. A good discussion is found in James Stewart's A Man in Christ, pp. 214-224. One way to accomplish this is to translate the term so that it reflects God's work in Christ; "a propitiatory sacrifice"; or "with propitiatory power."

"In His blood" is an Hebraic way of referring to the substitutionary sacrifice of the innocent lamb of God (cf. John 1:29). To fully understand this concept Leviticus1-7 is crucial, as well as the Day of Atonement in chapter 16. Blood refers to a sinless life given on behalf of the guilty (cf. Isa. 52:13-53:12).
One died for all (cf. 5:12-21)!

▣ "through faith" Here again is the mechanism (cf. 1:17; 3:22,25,26,27,28,30) for anyone's and everyone's personal benefit available in Jesus' substitutionary death.

This phrase is omitted in the ancient uncial manuscript A from the 5th century (also the Greek text used by Chrysostom) and a 12th century uncial MS (2127). It is included in all other ancient Greek manuscripts. Some have the definite article (cf. MSS P40, B, C3, D3) with "faith" and some do not (cf. MSS א, C*, D*, F, G), however, this does not affect the meaning. The UBS3 rates its inclusion as B (almost certain).

▣ "to demonstrate His righteousness" God must be true to His character and His word (cf. Mal. 3:6). In the OT the soul that sins must die (cf. Gen. 2:17; Ezek. 18:4,20). God said He would not acquit the guilty (cf. Exod. 23:7). God's love for fallen mankind is so great He was willing to become a man, fulfill the Law, and die in fallen humanity's place (cf. Rom. 5:12-21). God's love and justice meet in Jesus (cf. Rom. 5:26).


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