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1 John 4:9–10 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 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.
If we need to love as God loved, we might wonder how God loved. The clear answer appears in 3:16: This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. Verse 9 says the same thing from the Father’s perspective. God the Father showed how he loves. He sent his one and only Son, knowing he would be horribly treated and ultimately crucified. This is how God loved. He sacrificed his Son so we might live through him.
This immeasurable gift was in no way a response to humanity’s love for God. Quite the opposite. It was initiated by God. We respond to him. Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sins. God solved our problem at his expense. He made Jesus our atoning sacrifice. This term (hilasmos) appears only here and in 2:2 (related words are used in Matt. 16:22; Luke 18:13; Rom. 3:25; Heb. 2:17; 8:12; 9:5). This is language of religious sacrifice, used in Greek religion for rites designed to placate the anger of the gods. Theologians argue whether Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross should be described as expiation or propitiation. Expiation emphasizes payment of a penalty to remove guilt. Propitiation speaks of appeasing or averting God’s wrath.
By David Walls and Max Anders