In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 1 John 4:10 (ESV)
So often we read through the bible and come across words that we have difficulty pronouncing much less understand their meaning? We often read through these difficult words and never take the time to ascertain as to how they apply to our lives. Maybe the word “propitiation” is one of those words.
Propitiation (propitiate) means to appease or conciliate (to work with opposing parties with the goal of bringing them to an agreement or reconciliation) somebody or something. The Greek word used by John in the scripture above means atonement or even more concretely an expiator. An expiator is one who atones for wrongdoing.
John is telling us that God sent his Son, Jesus, to atone for wrongdoing in order to bring agreement between opposing parties. Obviously the wrongdoing is on our part because John said that the propitiation was made for our sins. The opposing parties are God and us because God loved us, but we did not love God. The fact that we did not love God put us at odds with him and in a dangerous position. We faced the judgment of his wrath.
Paul wrote to the Roman believers, For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. (Romans 1:18 ESV) Jesus said, Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. (John 3:36 ESV) Paul exhorted the Ephesian church that before they came to Christ they were dead in their sins, followers of Satan, fulfilling the desires of their flesh and by nature children of wrath (Ephesians 2:1-3).
So our problem was a wrath problem caused by our sin. We had sinned and had fallen short of God’s glory therefore God’s wrath was abiding on us. Our only hope was that somehow that wrath could be abated and we could find favor with God. Since we were dead in our sins we couldn’t make peace, so God took the initiative by sending his Son.
For those who have believed, Jesus has appeased God’s wrath. That is the meaning of propitiation. Jesus became a sacrifice for our sin by taking our place on the cross. We deserved to die not him. He paid our debt (the wages of sin is death) with his blood and in so doing he stayed God’s hand of wrath upon us and upon all those who believe and have faith in him.
In Romans we read, But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. (Romans 5:8-9 ESV) Those who do not believe in Jesus for salvation will incur the wrath of God. Those you do believe will escape God’s wrath.
Have you believed?
Scriptures for meditation:
1 Thessalonians 1:9-10
1 John 2:1-2