This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4:10 NIV).
I write this during the Christmas season, which remains a major cultural holiday in the western world. Every follower of Jesus the Messiah views Christmas differently from the people of the world. To us, it is more than a cultural holiday. It is the time we remember that the Son of God took on true humanity. The King of all was born in the lowliest circumstances, and his mother Mary made up his first bed in a manger. There the Shepherd of God’s people received his first visitors, a group of shepherds who would go and tell the good news of his birth. To the world, this is a strange story. To those who believe in God through Christ, this was the first step to the great events of the gospel, the good news of Christ’s crucifixion, resurrection, ascension,and second coming in glory. We know that the cradle led to the cross and then to the crown. But to accomplish this great purpose, many other purposes were included. Let’s consider them together.
Our first text clearly presents the core purpose that the Father sent his Son to accomplish. God, having decided to rescue his people from eternal ruin, knew what was necessary for our deliverance. A Savior must come to rescue us from the cause and the corruption of our sins. What makes sin such a great evil that a divine Rescuer is needed? Sin is the rejection of God as God, the refusal to love him completely, and rebellion against God and his will and ways. Sin is a heinous crime against the Divine Majesty. Therefore, God sent His one and only Son to do all that was necessary to pay the penalty for our sins and to make us right with him.
To do this, the Son had to become the atoning sacrifice or propitiation for our sins. He had to become what would satisfy God’s righteous wrath against sin and so turn it away from us. To do this he had to be a perfect sacrifice, without spot or blemish, and also powerful enough to absorb the wrath and to provide righteousness by his perfect obedience and sacrifice. Consider what happened when Christ died as the propitiation for our sins. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed… Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief (Isaiah 53:4-5, 10a ESV). Ponder what he suffered from God’s hand and weep for our sins that he died for.
Why did God send his Son to die as an atoning sacrifice for our sin? The simple, and beautiful and truly amazing, answer of the Holy Writings is this. God loved us. He loved sinners, who had rejected him as God, refused to love him with the total love that he deserves, and rebelled against his will and ways. John pushed aside any other reason with the all-encompassing rejection of any suggestion that we loved God. Our salvation is traced back to a single source, the love of God. Christ came because God loved us. Read that and weep also, but for a more glorious reason. Love sent the Lord of glory as a tiny baby. Love caused him to endure the sufferings of life in this broken world. Love took him finally to a cruel cross. And there, redeeming love showed itself in an atoning sacrifice for our sins. This Christmas, focus on God’s love, regardless of all the brokenness and evil that surround us.
Grace and peace, David