Romans 3 – The mercy seat

mercy seat
The mercy seat on the ark of the covenant

‘God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness’ (Rom 3:25).

I want to focus on this one verse (3:25) and one phrase ‘sacrifice of atonement’ which in the Greek is hilasterion. Hilasterion refers to the lid, or ‘mercy seat’, of the Ark of the Covenant (see Exodus 25:17-20).

Exodus 25:22 says:

‘There I will meet you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim’.

So the mercy seat is the place where God is most present to his people. We see in Leviticus 16 that once a year the sins of the whole nation were atoned for by sprinkling the blood of the sacrifice on the ‘mercy seat’. This symbolized that the sins of the people were being taken into the presence of God and being dealt with. So what is Paul trying to tell us? He is saying that Christ is the point where the blood is splattered, where God is most present to his people, where atonement takes place.