” 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. “
– 1 John 4:10 –
Commentary by Enduring Word
That we might live through Him: The love of the Father was not only in the sending of the Son, but also in what that sending accomplishes for us. It brings life to all who trust in Jesus and His work on their behalf, because He is the propitiation for our sins.
Propitiation has the idea of a sacrifice that turns away the wrath of God. God rightly regarded us, apart from Him, as worthy targets of His judgment. We were rebels and enemies of Him, even if we didn’t know it. But on the cross, Jesus took the punishment our sin deserved – His sacrifice turned away the judgment we would have received. We easily think how this shows the love of Jesus, but John wants us to understand it also shows the love of God the Father: He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
That we might live through Him: The greatness of God’s love is shown not only in saving us from the judgment we deserved, but also in wanting us to live through Him. Do we live through Him? This is a great way to define the Christian life, to live through Him.
God has sent His only begotten Son: This shows the love of God, because love gives its best. There was nothing better God the Father could give to lost humanity than the gift of the Son of God Himself. As Paul describes it in 2 Corinthians 9:15, Jesus was the Father’s indescribable gift.
“If there was to be reconciliation between God and man, man ought to have sent to God; the offender ought to be the first to apply for forgiveness; the weaker should apply to the greater for help; the poor man should ask of him who distributes alms; but ‘Herein is love’ that God ‘sent.’ He was first to send an embassy of peace.” (Spurgeon)
He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins: This shows the love of God. It might have shown enough love that the Father sent the Son, and not some lower-grade angel; but He sent the Son, not on a fact-finding mission or merely a mission of compassion – He sent the Son to die for our sins.
“If God had merely sent Jesus to teach us about Himself, that would have been wonderful enough. It would have been far more than we deserved. If God had sent Jesus simply to be our example, that would have been good too and would have had some value . . . But the wonderful thing is that God did not stop with these but rather sent His Son, not merely to teach or to be our example, but to die the death of a felon, that He might save us from sin.” (Boice)
For our sins: This shows the love of God. God gave His Son to die, and to die for sinners. We can think of someone paying a great price to save someone deserving, someone good, someone noble, someone who had done much for them. But God did all this for rebels, for sinners, for those who had turned their backs on Him.
“But who among us would think of giving up his son to die for his enemy, for one who never did him a service, but treated him ungratefully, repulsed a thousand overtures of tenderness, and went on perversely hardening his neck? No man could do it.” (Spurgeon)
In this is love: Real love, agape love, is not defined by our love for God, but by His love for us. His love for us initiates our relationship of love with Him, our love only responds to His love for us. We can’t love God the way we should unless we are receiving and living in His love.
Our love for God doesn’t really say anything great about us. It is only the common sense response to knowing and receiving the love of God.