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)
“God loved us and sent His Son.” From their earliest weeks in Awana, each of our kids has memorized that sentence. I can still hear their little voices repeating back those words as we helped them learn them. I’m so grateful for the Awana ministry at our church, and I’m grateful even more that they are learning that wonderful truth at such an early age.
It’s a sentence that all of us would benefit from memorizing, no matter how old we get! The Apostle John, well in his 80s by this point, had obviously never gotten over the amazing love of God.
But there’s a big word that often gets left out of the sentence for young and old. And that word is propitiation. It’s admittedly a bit hard to say, and it’s not used in everyday speech. So what is propitiation? The basic definition is this: turning away all of God’s wrath for sin and turning all God’s attention to us as favor. In other words, Jesus our Savior took on Himself all of God’s anger toward us due to our sin until all of God’s wrath was completely satisfied and poured out. It’s like imagining a cup that’s full and turned over until every last drop is poured out. That’s what happened to God’s wrath. Jesus the Lord drank every last drop for all who call on Him by faith for salvation. What an amazing gift!
But please don’t miss this crucial thing: God the Father was not distant, angry, and unwilling to forgive sinners until Jesus satisfied Him. No, for our text tells us that even when we were the rightful recipients of all God’s wrath, even when He had all those charges against us, God loved us! This is the mystery of the heart of our God: that although He was full of justified anger toward sinners, He loved them and gave them His greatest gift, His own Son.
Oh, remember this Christmas Eve that the Father loved you and sent His Son. Remember that all God’s wrath towards you, if you have believed on Jesus Christ for salvation, has been completely satisfied. Now God looks on you with favor, motivated to withhold no good thing from you. And if you have a Christmas tree or any gifts nearby, may they remind you of one of the greatest gifts of God to you: propitiation for your sins.