My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. 3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: 6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. – 1 John 2:1-6
Keith Getty and Stuart Townend have written a powerful and extremely popular hymn which expresses the truth of God’s love and grace along side of his justice and holiness. The hymn is In Christ Alone. It is said that they were asked by one publisher to change the words of one stanza from, “Till on that cross as Jesus died/the wrath of God was satisfied” to “Till on that cross as Jesus died/the love of God was magnified.”
They refused the change, believing that the atonement language of God’s wrath being satisfied was more important to maintain than to have the song included in the hymnal with altered words. (For a more complete background regarding this particular hymn verse controversy, check out this article from the Gospel Coalition website.) Because of that the hymn was rejected in that particular hymnal.
I believe Getty and Townend are reflecting the thoughts of John in this passage which speaks of Jesus as the propitiation for the sins of the world. The word refers to Jesus’ appeasing God and atoning for our sin. In righteous anger and holy anger God poured out his wrath on Jesus. That appeased God’s wrath and cleared the way for us to have access to God’s riches of glory and eternal salvation.
We need this assurance: God is not angry with us. Jesus’ propitiation, as the Reformation Study Bible says,
“was the sacrifice to God meant to take away the enmity brought by sin between God and [man]. Only Christ can be an effective propitiation. This gift is for the whole world. Christ’s sacrifice is sufficient not only for John and his immediate community, but is valid anywhere in the world. It is a sacrifice that requires no addition or supplement.”
That’s good news for all of us sinners!