NKJV Whopper No.2
"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."
Romans 3:25 NKJV
"Whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed."
The New King James Version changes "a propitiation through faith in his blood" to "a propitiation by His blood, through faith."
The effect of changing the word order and altering the punctuation is to make the NKJV agree at this place with the 1881 Revised Version of Westcott and Hort. W.E. Vine agrees with the theological implications of the R.V. of 1881 (and, by association, the NKJV). Quoting from W.E. Vine on Romans, John Phillips cites him thus,
"The commas which precede and follow 'through faith' (in ASV1) are important.2 Faith is never said to be in the blood....the phrase 'by his blood' expresses the means of propitiation."
John Phillips agrees with Vine here, adding,
"Important as the blood is to our salvation, we do not trust in it, but in Christ, a living redeemer. Faith is in a person. It is trusting in Christ which makes faith valid."3
As useful and as edifying as Mr. Phillips usually is, we beg to differ with both him and Vine on this matter. The change in the NKJV and some other modern bibles is significant.
It has been well said that a man, in order to teach error, must alter the A.V. 1611 in some way. The correct teaching according to the scriptures is 'faith in his blood.' It means exactly what it says!
In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul writes that his gospel was according to the scriptures. The New Testament was not written when Paul so wrote, therefore he must have been referring to the Old Testament. To give two examples which are clearly written to typify the work of Christ: what was it that saved the Israelite firstborn sons on Passover night? Was it the death of the lamb or was it the blood upon the doorposts? Any Israelite home that had slain and eaten the Passover lamb without applying the blood would have lost their son. God had made it plain:
"When I see the blood I will pass over you." Exodus 12:13
Again, in Leviticus 16 we have the story of the day of atonement. The high priest was to slay the sin offering outside the holy place, bring its blood, literally, into the Holy of Holies and sprinkle it upon the mercy seat. Where was the faith of Israel to be placed to find peace? Was the animal's death sufficient? No! Only when the blood was brought into the Holy of holies was God propitiated. Propitiation was not made at the brazen altar; it was made within the vail with blood: literal blood.
The atonement accomplished by the Lord Jesus exactly follows the type. The ninth chapter of Hebrews explains,
"Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: 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?" Hebrews 9:12-14
There was literal blood in both Old and New Testament cases. Peter in his first epistle also uses clear language, "...unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ..." 1 Peter 1:2
It takes nothing from the faith in the person of Christ to insist on faith in his shed blood. The blood has its power because it is his and because atonement wrought thereby necessitates his death.
1. The American Standard Version of 1901 was the R.V. of 1881 for American readers
2. Vine says the change is 'important'. So why do modern critics of the KJV keep telling us that the changes are not important?
3. John Phillips, Exploring Romans (Moody Press, Chicago, 1969)p.70