1 John 4:10 This is love; not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation (atonement, payment) for our sins.
The word propitiation represents the work that Jesus did upon the cross for you and I. Specifically it means that Jesus' sacrifice (or payment) upon the cross fully satisfied God as the down-payment for the sins of humanity as a whole.
But this word "propitiate" is also the same word as "mercy seat" when translated from the Old Testament in Greek. It’s saying that Jesus is our mercy seat.
What does that mean? Well, it is a reference back to the Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament – refer to Exodus 25:10-22.
Exodus 25:17 describes the mercy seat or the Ark's cover which is called the place of atonement. It was one slab of gold 45 inches long and 27 inches wide. Both ends of the cover had cherubim wings spread out facing inwards over the mercy seat, protecting it. Inside the Ark was placed the tablets that the Ten Commandments were written on and which represented the law.
Now, this picture of the mercy seat is a picture of Jesus Christ today.
The mercy seat is where the High Priest would sprinkle blood once a year on the Day of Atonement. This atonement showed the righteous sentence of the law being executed, changing the judgment seat into a mercy seat or a throne of grace. The blood is a picture of Jesus' blood becoming our sacrifice allowing us to pass from judgment to be righteous before God (1 Corinthians 5:21).
Now, look where the mercy seat is in respect to the law of judgment (Ten Commandments tablets). The mercy seat is the lid, the covering, above the law which is in the Ark. This tells us that mercy is above the law. It shows that God’s grace is above the law.
God executes judgment because He is just but He delights in mercy and grace. And the good news is God has already executed judgment when He condemned Jesus to be judged upon the cross in our place. Jesus brought the Heavenly Father the greatest joy on this day because it meant sin had been defeated and judged by the blood of Jesus and God could now show only mercy and grace towards people (Hebrews 4:16).
So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.
This is why God is so pleased with Jesus – because He made a way for you and I to be forgiven of sin and made righteous in Christ.
This is the love the Apostle John is talking about in today’s scripture. The cross shows the greatest depth, width, and height of God’s love as Jesus became the propitiation for all your sins!
God no longer judges you, He only shows you mercy and grace in your times of need through His love displayed for you by His Son.