Yesterday, we looked at propitiation in Romans 3:25. I gave a brief overview of the word and discussed how it shows God’s righteousness. I encourage you to read “Justification (Hilasterion)” before reading this article. Along with God’s righteousness, propitiation also shows God’s love. Before we dive into 1 John 4:10 we need to look at the depravity of man.
The depravity of man is something that causes much debate in Christian circles. Calvinists call it “total depravity”. I do hold to this view but not because it happens to fit into my theological construct. I hold this view because Scripture clearly teaches it. There are many passages that speak on this but I will focus on two of them. The Apostle Paul understood the sinfulness of man. He understood that depravity was all encompassing and total. We see this in Romans 5:10 and Romans 8:7. Let’s start with Romans 5:10, which says:
For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. -ESV
Paul describes humans as enemies of God. Left alone to themselves, humans do not want to be united with God. The natural man battles against God, rejects God, and hates God. They do not want to accept his call to repent and believe, in fact, they cannot. This inability to respond to God’s call is shown in Romans 8:7 when Paul writes:
For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. -ESV
Paul describes the natural mind as hostile towards God. This fits with Paul’s description of humans being enemies of God. Paul takes this one step further when he says that humans cannot submit to the law of God. It is clear that humans do not want to submit to God’s law but we need to understand that humans can’t do so. In passing, Jesus established this point in his ministry when he says:
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” – (John 6:44, ESV)
So, we see that humans are enemies of God and are hostile towards God. They fight God. They spit at God. They hate God. R. C. Sproul speaks on this in The Holiness of God and says it better than I could when he writes:
If we are unconverted, one thing is absolutely certain: We hate God. The Bible is unambiguous about this point. We are God’s enemies. We are inwardly sworn to His ultimate destruction. It is as natural for us to hate God as it is for rain to moisten the earth when it falls. -R. C. Sproul. The Holiness of God (Kindle Locations 1822-1823). Kindle Edition.
This now brings us to the love of God shown through the propitiatory sacrifice of Jesus. 1 John 4:10 says:
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. -ESV
I love how John describes Jesus’ sacrifice and how it is consistent with Jesus’ and Paul’s teaching on the depravity of man. Notice that John tells us where love comes from and what love is. John tells us that we don’t love God. This is consistent with total depravity. We are enemies of God so it makes sense that love doesn’t come from us. So, where does love come from? Love comes from God!
God loved us so much that, even though we were deserving of death, he sent his Son to pay for our sins. Jesus fulfilled the need for humanity to enter into a life-giving relationship with God. His death makes people righteous before God even though they were deserving of punishment. This shows us how amazing God’s love is. God loved us more than we hated him. If you are looking for God’s love look no further than the propitiatory sacrifice of Jesus Christ. As the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 5:8:
but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. -ESV
Yesterday I posted “Peace With God” which featured Romans 5: 1-2 which says:
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. -ESV
I highlighted that the Gospel of Jesus brings peace with God. Along with peace the Gospel brings something just as amazing…access.
Access with God in history has always been limited. Only a handfull of OT people were allowed to have access to God. The Gospel completely changed that. Through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ we, as believers, have access to a holy and transcendent God.
Paul, the Pharisee of Pharisees, understood fully what it meant to not have access to God. He knew the OT teaching about the holy of holies. He knew that only a high priest was allowed to enter that place and have access to God. Yet, Paul’s understanding of this is totally transformed by the Gospel. This is evidenced when he writes this in Romans 5, “we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand”.
R.C. Sproul writes:
The moment Jesus was slain, the instant the Just One died for the unjust, the veil in the temple was torn. The presence of God became accessible to us. For the Christian the “No Access” sign was removed from the gates of paradise. We may now walk freely on holy ground. We have access to His grace, but even more, we have access to Him. -R. C. Sproul. The Holiness of God (Kindle Locations 1569-1572). Kindle Edition.
The veil that separated humanity from God has been torn. The inaccessible God became accessible through Jesus’ death. Matthew 27: 50-51 says:
And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.
And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. -ESV
The curtain that designated the holy of holies which was only limited to the high priest once a year was torn. That created access for the regular believer to enter in through faith in Jesus. Approaching the most holy God was once inconceivable. But Jesus changed that by creating access to God through his sacrifice. One of my favorite passages in the Bible is Hebrews 4:14-16 which says:
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. -ESV
We have a high priest that has obtained access to God. We come before Him through faith in that great high priest. We come in confidence, fear, and respect to the transcendent and holy God.
Draw near to Him through the access obtained by the work of Jesus!
I hear a lot about God’s love. People speak about the love of God as if it his most important characteristic. Of course, love is an important characteristic of God. 1 John 4:8 shows this when John writes:
“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” -ESV
God is love. He is perfectly love. However, if we only view God as love we miss the greatness of that love. We need to view God’s love within his most important attribute…his holiness. R.C. Sproul gives some great insight on the importance of God’s holiness when he writes:
“The Bible says that God is holy, holy, holy. Not that He is merely holy, or even holy, holy. He is holy, holy, holy. The Bible never says that God is love, love, love; or mercy, mercy, mercy; or wrath, wrath, wrath; or justice, justice, justice. It does say that He is holy, holy, holy, that the whole earth is full of His glory.” -R. C. Sproul. The Holiness of God (Kindle Locations 267-269). Kindle Edition.
Before Sproul penned these words he gave an elaborate examination of how repetition is used in Scripture to indicate the importance of a word or thought. So, when Scripture says that God is “holy, holy, holy” it is greatly important.
So, God is “holy, holy, holy” and “God is love”. But, what does God’s holiness have to do with God’s love?
God’s holiness means that he is pure, righteous, and complete. When we have this in view we see the amazing greatness of God’s love. The pure, righteous, and complete God loves those that are impure, unrighteous, and broken.
That is the greatness of God’s love. He loves those who are undeserving of it.