Explore the Bible
July 5, 2014
1 John 4:7-21
For many of us, the use of the word “propitiation” in relationship to God’s love seems to be contradictory. According to the Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, “propitiation” means “the turning away of anger by the offering of a gift.” Pagan religions often used this word to describe their practice of human sacrifice to their gods.
When missionaries began to go to the South Sea Islands in the 1800s, they found this practice in use. Often a beloved child was given as an offering to the angry volcano gods to appease the destructive force of the volcano. The sacrifice had to be something or someone of value or the anger would not be appeased.
We see this demonstrated by the story of Abraham and Isaac (Gen. 22:1-19). Abraham is instructed to take Isaac, his only son, and sacrifice him on an altar to demonstrate his love for God. Little did Abraham know that this was a foreshadowing of what God was going to do for all mankind’s sin through His only Son’s sacrifice on the cross.
God’s love for mankind is demonstrated by the fact that He offered His own Son to be and atonement, or propitiation, for our sins. God’s anger has always been toward sin. His holiness cannot look upon or tolerate sin; therefore, the only way to appease this anger was through an offering of love.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16, NKJV).
Similarly, 1 John 4:9 says, “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.”
When we consider how the word “propitiation” was used in biblical times, we can see how God’s love is not contradictory. True love is then exercised in our lives by the acceptance of God’s sacrifice for our sins and demonstrated by exhibiting that same love toward others.
As 1 John 4:11 says, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”