1 John 4:10
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.
How do we know God loves us? How can it be proved? What hoops must we ask him to jump through in order to show us his love? Does God have to give us a new job, better health, or financial freedom in order to show us his love?
John tells us how we know of God’s love, and what he says is humbling and profound. How do we know God loves us? We did not love God first. But God loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
Let’s look at that verse in two halves. First, we did not love God. That may be the biblical understatement of all history. The Bible describes us as having rebelled against God. The Bible describes us as hating God. The Bible describes us as being dead in our sins and transgressions, following the world, following the flesh, and following the devil. The Bible describes us as children of wrath.
So, when we think that we did not love God first, that is significant. God’s love for his children is not something we earn. It is not something that God was drawn into. We did nothing to convince God to love us. On the contrary, we did a great deal to try to push him away. That is an amazing, selfless, powerful love.
Then look to the latter part of the verse. How did God show us his love? He sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sin. God the Father sent Jesus the Son to be our propitiation.
OK, most folks who have not studied the Bible deeply have never heard the word propitiation. Even many who have do not know what it means. To propitiate means to turn away someone’s anger by means of an offering or sacrifice. A propitiation is the sacrifice or offering that turns away another’s anger toward us and helps them to look at us with love and favor.
Jesus is our propitiation. Jesus came to earth and offered himself as a sacrificial substitute in our place. God poured out his anger for our sin on Jesus. Jesus absorbed that anger, took our punishment, and fully satisfied God’s wrath. Because of this work of Jesus, God can now look at those who have received his mercy through Jesus with complete love and favor. God’s anger toward us is gone, done away with, completely finished because Jesus has propitiated the Father.
So, how do we know God loved us? WE were sinners. We deserved wrath. We could have been judged by God, and that judgment would have been just. But instead, God sent Jesus to take our punishment, satisfy his wrath, and bring us to himself. God now looks at his children, former rebels against his glory, with nothing but love and favor. This is love, great, self-sacrificial, powerful love. This is proof of love far better than a simple and temporary earthly gift. This is amazing and soul-satisfying love. This is a love worthy of our gratitude and of our commitment. This is the love of our God.