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1 John 4:10 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
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.
In this is love. In this great gift is the highest expression of love, as if it had done all that it can do.
Not that we loved God. Not that we were in such a state that we might suppose he would make such a sacrifice for us, but just the opposite. If we had loved and obeyed him, we might have had reason to believe that he would be willing to show his love to us in a corresponding manner. But we were alienated from him. We had even no desire for his friendship and favor. In this state, he showed the greatness of his love for us by giving his Son to die for his enemies. See Rom. 5:7-8.
But that he loved us. Not that he approved our character, but that he desired our welfare. He loved us not with the love of complacency but with the love of compassion, kindness, and generosity.
And sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. On the meaning of the word propitiation (ἱλασμός hilasmos), has the sense of the means of appeasing wrath and gaining the good will of an offended person. means of forgiveness, an atoning sacrifice (NRSV, NIV, REB), expiation (RSV, NAB, NJB), propitiation (KJV, NKJV, ASV, NASB, UASV), the remedy for defilement (neb), (1Jn 2:2; 4:10+) note: expiation focuses on the means for the forgiveness of the sin, propitiation would focus on God’s view of satisfaction or favorable disposing. There is much debate which English word is the better rendering.
Reconciliation made possible. The restoration of friendship and fellowship after estrangement. OT reconciliation contains the idea of an “atonement” or covering for sin (Lev. 6:30; 16:20; Ezek. 45:20). In the NT it possesses the idea “to change thoroughly” (Gk. katallassō, 2 Cor. 5:18–19), “to change thoroughly from one position to another” (apokatallattō, Eph. 2:16; Col. 1:20, 22). Reconciliation, therefore, means that someone or something is completely altered and adjusted to a required standard (cf. Rom. 5:6–11). By the death of Christ the world is changed in its relationship to God. Man is reconciled to God, but God is not said to be reconciled to man. By this change lost humanity is rendered savable. As a result of the changed position of the world through the death of Christ the divine attitude toward the human family can no longer be the same. God is enabled to deal with lost souls in the light of what Christ has accomplished. Although this seems to be a change in God, it is not a reconciliation; it is rather a “propitiation.” God places full efficacy in the finished work of Christ and accepts it. Through His acceptance of it He remains righteous and the justifier of any sinner who believes in Jesus as his reconciliation. When an individual sees and trusts in the value of Christ’s atoning death, he becomes reconciled to God, hostility is removed, friendship and fellowship eventuate.
Justice satisfied by propitiation. The divine side of the work of Christ on the cross. Christ’s atoning death for the world’s sin altered the whole position of the human race in its relationship to God, for God recognizes what Christ accomplished in behalf of the world whether men enter into the blessings of it or not. The cross has rendered God propitious toward the unsaved as well as toward the erring saint (1 John 2:2). The fact that Christ has borne all sin renders God propitious. The Gk. words dealing with the doctrine of propitiation are hilasmos, signifying what our Lord became for the sinner (1 John 2:2; 4:10); hilastērion, denoting the place of propitiation (Rom. 3:25; cf. Heb. 9:5); and hilaskomai, indicating that God has become gracious, or propitious (Luke 18:13; Heb. 2:17). In this present age since the death of Christ, God does not have to be asked to be propitious, because He has become so through the death of Christ. To ask Him thus to become propitious, in view of Christ’s sacrifice, manifests unbelief. In the OT the Mercy Seat in the Holy of Holies could be made a place of propitiation by sacrifice (Heb. 9:5). Now, however, the blood-sprinkled body of Christ on the cross has become the Mercy Seat for sinners once and for all. The Mercy Seat is thus a continual throne of grace. What otherwise would be an awful judgment throne becomes an altar of infinite mercy. The prayer of the publican (Luke 18:13), “God, be merciful to me, the sinner!” better translated, “God, be Thou propitiated to me, the sinner,” was not a request for mercy as though God had to be persuaded to be propitious. Rather, it was expressive of the relationship then existing between God and the OT covenant people of God on the ground of offered sacrifice, when God was requested to be propitious on a special basis. Now the believer can rejoice that God is propitiated. To believe this is to enter into the benefits of it.
By Albert Barnes and Edward D. Andrews
 Merrill F. Unger, “Reconciliation,” ed. R.K. Harrison, The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1988).
 Merrill F. Unger, “Propitiation,” ed. R.K. Harrison, The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1988).