I was sitting at the kitchen table during my morning devotional time preparing to teach the youth group 1 John 4. I was specifically looking at verses 7-21; familiar passage with familiar verses. As I studied, though, the Lord opened up His Word and made it kind of fresh for me in an obvious, yet profound way.
In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. - 1 John 4:10
That word propitiation. It was floating in my head all morning. David Guzik says this about it, “Propitiation has the idea of a sacrifice that turns away the wrath of God.”
Biblically, in the Old Testament, a sacrifice was required as atonement for sins. It was necessary to remain in right standing with God according to ceremonial law.
God wanted to redeem His people. He wanted to restore us to Himself. But since Genesis, sin was in the way. The only way to do that, the only way to truly redeem us was through the blood of a perfect Lamb. So, God sent Jesus; His only Son, perfect in every way, to (eternally) pay for our sins.
Here’s the thing…it didn’t have to be like this. Sometimes we get caught up thinking that God did this because it’s just what had to happen; the sacrifice was necessary because of the law. We recognize the love in that Jesus loved the Father and us enough to be obedient to the point of death on the cross (Phil. 2:8), but overlook the love of God Himself, and what this shows us about His character without even realizing it.
God is sovereign over all of it, He isn’t bound to the laws of man. He’s powerful, mighty, in control.
He could’ve rewritten the law, scrapped the whole idea of atonement for sins and said, “I’m redeeming my people without a sacrifice because I’m God and I can.” But He didn’t.
He could’ve given up on us and poured out the wrath we deserved at any time since the fall in Genesis 3. But He didn’t.
He honestly could’ve just scrapped all of mankind and started over. But He didn’t.
And all three of those options would have still exemplified parts of God’s character: His sovereignty, justice and authority.
It didn’t have to be this way, but God chose this way and sent Jesus. Why?
Because we serve a God that wants us to know Him and the fullness of His character, chiefly His love for us. By sending Jesus, He showed us the depth of His love. He willingly laid down His perfect, blameless Son, who was present with Him in the Heavenlies - always - as evidence of His great love. For us.
This is how much God loves us. This is how much He wants us to know Him.
It’s important to understand that we spend our lives responding to that love, one way or the other. We don’t get it right every moment of every day. We stumble, we struggle and we get it wrong. A lot. God knows that (Psalm 103:14). He knew that when He sent Jesus, too. The stumbling and struggling, while very real and necessary to work through, are covered in the blood of Christ when our hearts say “yes” in response to His love and accept Jesus as our Savior.
I’m not sure if that blows your mind like it did mine, but I just can’t get over the way God unfolded His love for me in 1 John. It felt brand new.
And, to go a bit further, this truth prevails in our everyday lives today. Your life didn’t have to be this way. You didn’t have to experience the hurt, loss, poverty, loneliness, confusion, chaos, depression, addiction or any specific struggle you find yourself dealing with. It could’ve been avoided. It could’ve gone differently. God could have rewritten your story before He even crafted the skies and seas to exclude every major struggle you’ve experienced, but He didn’t. Why?
Because He’s using it. He’s using it show you pieces of His character; to help you experience who He is in a very real, deep way. He’s using it for your good and His glory.
It didn’t have to be this way, but thank God it is.