Title: God Is Love
Text: I John 4:7-12
FCF: We often struggle expressing love to fellow Christians
Prop: Because God is love, those who know Him love His children, so we must love one another.
[Slide 1] Turn in your bible to I John chapter 4. After the doctrinal aside from John last week, his transition to the text this morning may be quite stark. But as one commentator writes, if this letter was a hymn, John returns to the chorus to sing once again about the love that we ought to have for our fellow Christians. It is imperative that we love other believers. Not only because it is good and right, but because it proves that we are genuinely Christians ourselves.
Much of what John says in this text is not new – but there are some HUGE gems here that we dare not miss.
Doctrine of who God is. Doctrine of who we are. Doctrine of who God is making us to be.
I don’t think we could overstate it. And once again – God will get all the glory for what we are becoming in His Son.
Let’s not delay any longer. I am in chapter 4 starting in verse 7. I’ll be reading from the NET but follow along in the version you prefer.
It has been such a test to endure the lockdowns we have had. I am here preaching to an empty room. The instruments on the stage have been collecting dust.
But on a positive note- Several of you have expressed your absolute desperate heart felt need to be with one another again soon. The fires of love in our little congregation are growing.
Do you feel it?
It is the providence of God that we are studying this book at this time. For much of what John is saying today is so very relevant to what we are experiencing. Let me show you.
I.) Those who are God’s children and know God love others who are God’s children, so we must love one another. 1 (7-10)
a. [Slide 2] 7 – Dear Friends, let us love one another, because love is from God,
i. As we said last week – John by inspiration wanted to clarify his statement that we can know we are of God if we have His Spirit. Last week he addressed how you can know that the spirit you have is from God and not from the world.
ii. So after taking 6 verses to help us determine whether we have the Spirit of God or of the antichrist, he comes back to the practical test he mentioned in the last wave.
iii. Which is a genuine love for other disciples of Christ.
iv. But why should this be so?
v. Because love is from God.
vi. If we are genuine followers of Christ and through Him do enjoy true communion with God, we can expect His continued supply of His love to us through His Spirit.
vii. That love is both toward us, and gifted to us that we might use it toward others.
viii. That is why John says next…
b. [Slide 3] and everyone who loves has been fathered by God and knows God.
i. Anyone who has the ability to love like Christ loved, has been changed, born anew. They have been recreated.
ii. Not only are they new birthed but they also know God. They know Him and continue to know Him.
iii. This kind of love, this selfless, unconditional, laying down its life kind of love, has only 1 source.
iv. That is God Himself.
v. And God loves His children, because He loves His Son.
vi. So when someone shows God’s love toward God’s children, it can only mean that this person is God’s child and knows God.
vii. But as comforting as that is – the opposite must also be true.
c. [Slide 4] 8 – The person who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
i. The one who is not a loving one. A person who cannot or will not display this kind of love
ii. The one who does not show an enduring, selfless, unconditional, self-sacrificing love for other Christians, does not know God. Why?
iii. God is love.
iv. Just like God is Holy, God is Just, God is Light, so also God is love. God is the definition of what love is.
v. When people say, “If God is a loving God how can He…” and before they say anything after that they have already erred on two points.
1. God is not just loving, He is love.
2. If God is love, then all He does is love. Yes, even calamity is love. Even judgment is love. His Love does not stop when He doles out His justice. So no matter what follows the phrase how can he… it is always within His love.
vi. God is the definition of love. All that God does can be classified as love. And therefore, those who do not love the way He loves, do not know Him. To know Him, is to love LIKE Him.
d. [Slide 5] 9 – By this the love of God is revealed in us:
i. The word “in” is the same word the NET translates “by” in this verse. This word in the Greek is fairly fluid in its definition. It could mean among, to, toward, with, by, etc.
ii. Most of the time the word is translated “In”
iii. I think the NET missed it here though. I think that either among, or toward us is what John is meaning.
iv. So John is answering the question, how has God chosen to reveal His love, indeed, Himself, to His children?
e. [Slide 6] that God has sent His one and only Son into the world so that we may live through Him.
i. The vehicle to display God’s love for His elect, is the advent of Jesus Christ.
ii. But not just His coming into the world, but making God’s elect alive in Christ.
iii. In this short little phrase, John has piled up some astounding theological truths. Let me list them
1. God sending means that whatever is being sent is not only with God, but existed before it was sent.
2. God sending His unique Son removes any possibility of Jesus being a mere son of god as in an angel and specifies the true divinity of Christ.
3. God sending His unique Son into the world alludes to the real human nature of this divine being. That he was not on the world, but in it. He was a part of it.
4. God sending His unique Son into the world so that we might live through Him reveals the path of life for the elect is through the Son of God exclusively. And although it is not specified here, it is definitely true that being brought to life in Christ only happens after Christ has been crucified in our death.
iv. What greater demonstration of love could there be than God sending His unique Son into the world to bring us to life? If God is love – what better way to show Himself to us than to come to earth to give us life!
v. Our life is only because this happened.
vi. God demonstrated His love by sending His Son – but what is the essence of His love toward us?
f. [Slide 7] 10 – In this is love:
i. John moves to define exactly what God’s love is.
ii. How are we to measure all loves? How do we compare any love to the Love of God? How do we know the love we have is God’s love?
g. [Slide 8] not that we have loved God, but that he loved us
i. First of all – we do not compare God’s love with our love. Wow! That is a gut punch isn’t it.
ii. Why can’t we compare God’s love to our love?
iii. Because His love came before ours.
iv. God’s love toward us did not come to us because we were deserving.
v. The verb here is in perfect tense. That means that we have not loved God at any point in the past that has continued to the present.
vi. Never was there ever a time that any of us chose to love God which continued to this day.
vii. None who have ever had the love of God manifested to them can ever claim to have loved God first.
viii. This verse and many others like it is the great sinkhole of the Pelagian heresy. Pelagius said that mankind could choose to find God. That they could love God without any intervention from God at all.
ix. Even Semi-Pelagian thoughts are absolutely refuted by this verse and others. There is no point in our lives that we are able to love God first. Even after Christ’s cross (the context in which John is writing) no man can ever say that he chose God first.
x. To say such things would only cheapen God’s love for us. It would be infinitely less great if God merely returned our love. God’s love came first because if it did not, we would never have loved Him or any one else. We would not know love if God did not love first.
xi. And what is the defining attribute of His love that came first?
h. [Slide 9] and sent His Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.
i. He sent His Son to be the atoning sacrifice for the sins of His children.
ii. We talked about the word “atoning” at length in chapter 2.
iii. Suffice it to say, it means that Jesus both took away our sin and also satisfied God’s wrath for our sin.
iv. God’s love toward His elect – before we loved Him – while we were still dead in our sin – was to send His Son to take away our sin and to satisfy the wrath of God.
v. So that we may be brought to life in Him.
vi. That is the essence of God’s love. Unconditional, self-sacrificing love. He gave His unique Son, to atone for the sins of His people, so we might live.
vii. John Stott, in his commentary on I John has a couple quotes that I found absolutely essential to understanding these 4 verses.
viii. [Slide 10] “The sending of God’s Son was both the revelation of his love (This is how God showed his love…9) and, indeed, the very essence of love itself (this is love…10). It is not our love that is primary, but God’s (10), free, uncaused and spontaneous, and all our love is but a reflection of his and a response to it.”
ix. “No greater gift is conceivable because no greater gift is possible”
i. [Slide 11] Passage Truth: So John to his readers is telling them that God is the source of love, the definition of love, the revealer of love, and the greatest doer of love. That is fairly all inclusive. You get the impression that without God – love would be absent from the world entirely.
j. Passage Application: So what are they to do with this? Well, he has assured them that they are God’s children in Christ. They know God. The natural conclusion from that is what? Be like your heavenly Father and love one another!
k. [Slide 12] Broader Biblical Truth: As we broaden out to the rest of scripture, we see God’s love on display from the time He spoke the world into existence, to the day He sent Christ, to the day that He will dwell with His elect. God’s love is everywhere. And it doesn’t operate separately or distinctly from his holiness or wrath or justice – but rather all His acts in His holiness, justice, and wrath are loving acts. That is, it is not unloving for Him to exercise wrath. Or justice. Or Holiness.
l. Broader Biblical Application: So, essentially what this means is that we cannot love, understand love, know when we are loved, or know how to love without God. But once we know God – we cannot help but love, understand true love, know that we are loved, and know how to love like Christ. And so we must, as John says, love our fellow Christians.
[Slide 13 (blank)] But not only is it that we know God that produces this imperative to love fellow Christians, but also that we are loved by God.
II.) Those who have been given God’s love ought to love other Christians, so we must love one another. (11-12)
a. [Slide 14] 11 – Dear friends, if God so loved us,
i. After seeing this great love manifested to God’s elect, John feels he has the liberty to demand something from the inheritors of this great love.
ii. What is it?
b. [Slide 15] then we also ought to love one another.
i. Of course.
ii. We ought to love one another.
iii. There is no other conclusion.
iv. We might think that since God gave us great love, John’s point would be to love Him back. But this is the natural impulse upon our hearts. Loving God because He manifested His love to us is not supernatural – it is natural. All of us naturally love that which loves us.
v. But the love of God, this self-sacrificing, unearned, uncaused kind of love that God has given us can be given in the same way to fellow Christians.
vi. Our brothers and sisters in Christ are inheritors of this same love with which He loved us. Therefore, we do not love one another because it is earned, nor do we love because we get something out of it. We love our brothers and sisters because God’s love in us is great! And God’s great love is in them also.
vii. We have something in common! But it is not something petty – like politics, movies, food or philosophy. We have the Love of God in common. He gave all His children the same love He gives His Son.
c. [Slide 16] 12 – No one has seen God at any time.
i. This seems like a fairly awkward transition. Indeed, I almost did not include this in the text for this morning because the transition is so stark.
ii. I believe what we have here is a transitional phrase, interrupted by explanation from verses 13-18, and finished in verses 19-21 of this chapter.
iii. So we may not be able to see the full scope of what John is saying until later - but let’s just unpack it and assume it is related to what we’ve been talking about.
iv. This beginning portion is a statement of fact.,
v. No one has ever seen God at any time.
vi. People have come close. Some have seen him in visions or his backside, or his power on display- but no man has ever seen God because as God Himself said in Exodus, no man can see Him and live.
vii. So John puts this out there as a simple statement of truth
d. [Slide 17] If we love one another, God resides in us
i. This is something that he has said before.
ii. Jesus said it as well – if we love other disciples it proves that we are genuinely His disciples.
iii. This will be a point that John picks up and explains in the next several verses
iv. Along with what he says next.
e. [Slide 18] And his love is perfected in us.
i. Completed. God’s love is completed in us.
ii. What does this phrase mean?
iii. It means that God’s love is demonstrated, not only in His action toward us, but also in our action toward others.
iv. Did you catch that?
v. Just as God displayed His love for us by sending His Son to the world that we might live – so now, we, by loving one another, do also display God’s love to the elect and even the watching world.
vi. And so – although no man has seen God, as we love one another, we become a living display of God’s love, for His glory.
f. [Slide 19] Passage Truth: So John conveys to his readers that God has given such an amazing love to us that it ought to produce in us a loving response. Not simply toward Him, but like Him. And His love displayed in us toward our fellow Christians is not only proof that He is in us, but also the means that is now continuing to manifest His love to the world.
g. Passage Application: So John says, we ought to love one another.
h. [Slide 20] Broader Biblical Truth: Zooming out to the rest of scripture it is not hard to see that God has loved us with a great love. His providential hand leading Israel, bringing the savior through them, and somehow getting all the way down to you and I being unworthy inheritors of the covenant of grace. How marvelous is the love of God? How wonderous is His unending love? How great and vast it is? To speak of it is to never approach its splendor. To describe it is to insult its magnitude. Mere words cannot convey nor emotions contain the bountiful love that God has for His children. His love for His Son is unable to be measured and we are united to His Son.
i. Broader Biblical Application: So what ought we to do with this great love that we could never have earned? What ought we to do with this love for which we were so undeserving? It should be channeled through us to love unconditionally, and without expectation, those to whom God also has loved in His Son.
[Slide 21(blank)(end)] So how can we apply this scripture to ourselves today?
Friends this message is so very applicable to our situation right now for a couple different reasons. First because of COVID-19 and the restrictions placed upon us from our government.
I hope you feel the weight of being separated from one another like I do!
Do you feel the great desire within you to be together? To love one another?
I wonder if God is using this virus to rekindle the fires of love within His invisible church to love each other deeply. I wonder if He is forcing us to be physically separated so that we feel the sting of missing one another. I wonder if He is giving us a chance to test the love that we have for one another as we are forced to make all relationships, long distance.
Now more than ever, this love is tested. We cannot shake one another’s hands. We cannot hug one another. We cannot see each other physically.
But God in His mercy, and although they are tools that can be abused, has granted us ability to speak to, see, converse with, and help each other. All without ever being with the person. Of course this only leaves us pining for true interaction and fellowship in person – but it does also allow us to express the love of God toward one another.
My friends, as you sit there at home watching with your families – your options to show love to one another is slim. But it is not impossible. I would ask that you spend time with your family thinking of ways that you can show love to one another while we are forced to remain apart.
Stoke the fires of that love. It is powerful and strong because it is God’s love in us. It endures not because the object of our love is lovely, nor because are we exceptional, but because God’s love is GREAT. And it flows through us and among us.
Dear friends do not let another week go by without calling, facetiming, zooming, live-streaming, or otherwise interacting with your fellow believers. Not just within your home but in this church. Reach out – and show the love of Christ. Meet needs, pray, give, and speak truth to one another.
The second reason this message is so fitting at this time, is because today is Palm Sunday. Next week will be Easter – but before that, is Good Friday. This Friday is Good Friday. Many churches who typically have Good Friday services, won’t be having them. Perhaps this is a good thing.
Sometimes I fear that in an effort to marvel at the horror and brutality of the cross, we fail to see its beauty. We speak of the death of Christ as momentary defeat until the final victory of His resurrection. But according to John… Christ’s atonement for our sin equals God’s love. When we look at the crucifixion we ought not think poor Jesus, or just you wait until Sunday comes – but as His arms are stretched out that is our victory and God’s love!
Indeed, it is that love that has been placed in our hearts. It is that same love that God has gifted to His children to show to His children. That love will be perfected in us. The same love which God gave to atone for our sins, God is now using you and I loving one another to display that love to the world.
There is of course, a sharpness to this too.
For if this love is not in you. If the fire is not raging. If you do not pine to love other believers… than you have to wonder if you know God at all. Those who know God, and are God’s children, love God’s children.
Your assignment, your homework, you call - is to meditate on the Love of God displayed by His sent Son, defined as His atonement for our sins, and then love one another in deed and truth with that love with which He loved us.
Stoke the flame of our separation and God’s great love for you to deepen your love for your brothers and sisters.