In order to understand this passage and this part of the gospel, we need to understand what propitiation means. When you break it down, propitiation is the act of appeasing GOD’s anger against sin, evil and injustice, and incurring divine favor and avoiding divine retribution. So how does it apply to the Gospel?
To start with, we need to look at how those in other religions live and try to earn their “salvation.” They are trying to appease their god(s) by living in a certain way…often it involves living a good enough life where their good deeds add up to a longer list than their bad deeds do and they hope they will appease their god. But it can also involve sacrificing their children and doing a host of other things at different times, to appease their gods and keep them happy. In this life, they never know if they have done enough.
Christians serve a GOD who is different from those gods
As you read the Bible and understand the GOD of the Bible, He is holy, just and righteous. He cannot stand sin. He cannot have it in His presence. It is difficult for us to imagine it. We often focus on His forgiveness, grace, and love. That is present. But we tend to underestimate the holy, just and righteous part. That doesn’t go away when He forgives and shows grace and love. He can only do that when His holiness, justice and righteousness is satisfied.
That is why He was in a quandary…if that is possible for GOD. He wasn’t really. He had this plan already in place before creation! But to us, it seems like He was in a quandary. How could His justice and anger over our sin be satisfied so He could show us mercy and grace?
Jesus came to earth…GOD in human flesh, to pay the penalty for our sin
That’s where Jesus came in. He is the second person of the Godhead. He is GOD, but has a different ministry within the Godhead, than each of the other two. He came to earth in human form in order to redeem us. Well, specifically, in order to take on our propitiation. And that is what He did on the cross. He took on Himself the Father’s wrath against sin, the sin of His people for all time. As horrible as the physical part of the crucifixion was for Him, the spiritual side of it was way worse! For the first time in all of eternity, Jesus, the Son, was separated from the Father by the sin He carried on Himself for us. The Father poured out His wrath against sin, evil and injustice as Jesus hung on the cross. No wonder the earth shook! No wonder the world went dark! It was a very dark time for those few hours as the eternal penalty for all our sin was poured out on Jesus!
Jesus took on Himself all the anger and fury of a holy GOD against sin, evil and injustice! It was both horrible and wonderful.
We don’t have to do any penance for our sin. We don’t have to earn our salvation. It is impossible. The good news is that Jesus already did it. HE was our propitiation. He took all the punishment for our sin on Himself! That means that we are now in a good place with GOD the Father if we are in Christ. His anger has been appeased…if we accept the work Christ did for us as enough to pay for our sin.
We no longer have to do the work of appeasing GOD. It is finished. Remember? That is what Jesus said. The work of propitiation is completed. It is finished. The work of paying for the sin of those who would believe, was done. Thank GOD!
The message of this passage doesn’t end here, however. In fact, our propitiation by Jesus for us, is only the beginning! The outworking of that forgiveness is our love for each other, particularly our fellow believers! Love for each other is what is supposed to characterize GOD’s family.
How often have you heard people say, “I love people, but I often have a hard time with other Christians.” According to this passage (and the book of I John), this should not be true of us. We may need to examine why it is true of us if that is the case.
- Does it have to do with our expectations of other Christians? Do we expect them to be other than normal people who fail just as we do?
- Do we realize that other Christians are just as different and diverse as the general population? Do we expect our churches to be bubbles where forgiveness and forbearance are not needed? This is not a reasonable expectation. We are not in heaven yet.
- We still need the grace of GOD to relate to other Christians in the Body of Christ just as we need His grace to relate to non-Christians in the world around us with a supernatural, self-sacrificing love from the Father.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God,
and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.
Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
In this the love of God was made manifest among us, t
hat God sent his only Son into the world,
so that we might live through him.
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.
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
I John 4:7-11 ESV
Call to Action: My sin is paid for. All of it. Jesus took care of all of it on the cross! I no longer have to appease GOD because of my sin. This is wonderful news! Now, when that voice in my head is trying to make me feel guilty inappropriately, I can speak back. I am in Christ now. I am fully forgiven. I am a new creation in Christ. I don’t have to try harder. Jesus took care of my sin and all of its guilt. Think about the ramifications of this. How will it change your life now in the way you love others?