Romans 3:25 – Christ the Mercy Seat


Romans 3:25


Jesus crucified fulfills once and for all God’s instructions to Israel concerning an atoning sacrifice for sin.


In the Old Testament, God prescribes various laws concerning sacrifice. Among them are laws for the Day of Atonement. Moses is instructed to build a “mercy seat” as a covering over the ark of the covenant containing the Ten Commandments (Exodus 25:17-22). On the Day of Atonement the high priest is to make atonement for the people of Israel, using a prescribed sacrificial rite within the holy of holies of the tabernacle or (later) the temple (Leviticus 16:11-17). In Greek, the term for the “mercy seat” is hilastērion, and that is precisely the term that Paul uses at Romans 3:25 (translated in the NRSV as “a sacrifice of atonement”) concerning the crucified Christ. Consequently, the crucifixion of Jesus is portrayed as fulfilling the commandments concerning the Day of Atonement. By means of the crucifixion of Jesus, God has provided the “mercy seat” once and for all, and opened it to all. One can trust (have faith) that atonement has been made.