“God is Love” 1 John 4:7-12

“God is Love” 1 John 4:7-12


“God is Love”

1 John 4:7-12

Pastor Ryan J. McKeen




Amen. Magnificent, marvelous, matchless love. That will be our focus this evening as we are back in 1 John.

So please take your Bible and turn with me to the book of 1 John. And again, we see in this passage, as we’ve, this morning we talked about testing the spirits and that there were many who’ve gone out into the world who are not of the truth, who are false prophets, who are of the Antichrist. And now John comes to another repeated theme. And that is the theme of love.

And tonight we see that the focus of his message in this passage is that God is love. That God is love. It’s not that God is loving. God is love itself. God in his very existence is love. What it means to be God is what it means to be love, because God is love.

We only know what love is because of God. We don’t measure God against other things and determine whether or not God is loving. We really measure our acts of love or other people’s acts of love against God. To determine whether or not it is love is whether or not it is God-like. God has existed eternally. Before the world existed, God existed. And God is love. This is one of the proofs of the Trinity. Because God is love, you have to have somebody to love in order to be love. And therefore, God existed eternally as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and they have eternally loved each other.

This is one of the reasons why the Islamic religion is illogical. Because they too claim that God is love, and yet they don’t believe in the Trinity. And when pressed, because others in apologetics have, in debates and things with Muslims, have pushed on the topic of, well, if you say God is love, how could God be love before creation, before anything else? And really, there is no good answer for them, because if God is not a Trinity, he therefore has no one to love. But we know that God is love and that God is in fact a trinity.

Three persons and one God in an existence of love. God is love and we were created in God’s image. In Genesis 1.26, God saw his creation and he said, let us make man in our image according to our likeness. So the God who is love made people who love. That’s part of our image bearing, the fact that we show love, that we can imitate God in the fact that he is love. We were created to love.

We as God’s image bearers, we were created to love one another. But we don’t do that very well on our own. because our existence is not love. We are not love itself, God is. We are made in that likeness, we are made to imitate him in that, but it is God who is love. That’s why we need passages like this to instruct us to do what we were created to do and love one another. And the truth is that we long to be loved by one another. It feels good to be loved. And it hurts to be unloved. It’s because that is falling short of what we were created for. Created in God’s image, the God who is love, we need love.

What we’ll see in our text this evening is why we are to love one another. Why is it that we are instructed over and over again throughout the Bible and even in this letter over and over again to love one another? John answers the question why and he gives us three answers.

He gives us three reasons why we as God’s people need to love one another. And number one is that God is love. Number two, that God loved us. And number three, that God’s love is perfected in us. And we’ll come to each of these as we get there in the text. In 1 John 3.16, we saw this theme already. 3.16 through 18. So this is really, chapter four of 1 John is really a review chapter. He’s picking up on all the things he’s already told them and just kind of wrapping up the instructions he’s got for them.

Because we saw in 1 John 3, 16 through 18, it says this, by this we have known love, that he, as Christ, laid down his life for us, and that we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But whoever has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and in truth.” And then as we saw, John moved on to some other topics, but here in 1 John 4, starting in verse 7, he’s back to this topic of love. Back to this instruction to love one another. We are to have a self-sacrificing, self-giving, self-denying love. A love that lays down our lives for each other.

So I’m gonna read our passage for this evening. 1 John chapter four verses seven through 12. This is the word of the Lord. Beloved, Let us love one another, for love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent his only begotten son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God, but that he has loved us and sent his son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No one has beheld God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

So that is our passage, and we see love in every verse. Love is discussed over and over and over again, because love is important. If we want to worship God rightly, we need to know what love is, because God is love. And that is our first reason why we must love one another. That’s because the God that we worship is love. God is love.

Again, John addresses his audience in his familiar way as beloved. This comes from the Greek word for love, and there are several Greek words for love. One of them is philos, is where we get the word Philadelphia. It’s a brotherly love. It’s almost the idea of I love you because there’s something lovely about you, that you’re my brother, or you’re my friend, or there’s a mutual love there. There’s a reason for that love.

This word beloved comes from, and the other uses of the word love here, comes from the word agape. And that is a self-sacrificing love. It’s a love with no reason. It’s a love that does not have a purpose that is demanding that love. It’s a love that is given freely. It’s not an emotional, physical, or friendship type of love. It is a love that gives of itself, expecting nothing in return. And that’s how we see that word used in its different uses throughout the Bible.

This type of love is the love that God showed us by giving of himself, by giving his son. Knowing that we could provide nothing in return to him, that is that agape love. It is granted to someone who needs to be loved, not necessarily to someone who is attractive or who is lovable. It is love despite all those things. So the first reason we are to extend this sacrificial love to one another is because God is agape. He is love. He is this self-sacrificing love. And John’s argument is very logical here. If believers, if Christians, if true believers possess the life of God in them, that if they walk in the light and if they are in Christ, they will also possess His love.

If God dwells in you, in the Spirit, as we’ve already seen, the Spirit who is in us, if God is in us, God is love. So therefore, love will be in us. If we are God’s children, we will show God’s love. And he says, everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Now, this doesn’t mean that unbelievers are incapable of loving or loving one another, but not in the way that God is love. They do not show the love of God. They are incapable of it. They are incapable of loving the way God loves, the way we are commanded to love. It’s not true love in the sense that God is true love.

Love is not something that God does. Love is what God is. All that God does is loving. Every single thing that God has ever done is loving because God is love. That’s why His love is eternal and His love is true and His justice is loving justice and His mercy is loving. Everything that He does is love. His love is righteous and pure. Everything that God does is characterized by love because God is love. And everything that is true of God is characterized by love. God is a God of love. The Father loves the Son and the Spirit. The Son loves the Father and the Spirit. And the Spirit loves the Father and the Son. That’s the Trinity. That’s the eternal relationship there. They love one another. And we were created in His image.

And in fact, in John 17, Jesus prays for His disciples. that God would show the same love to his children that he has for him, for Christ. God loves his children, his called ones, his elect, his believers, Christ followers. He loves them with the same love that he loves the Son. And here in 1 John 4, John argues that because God is love, those who possess the life of God, have the capacity to love like God loves. Because God is in you, you can love like God loves. You can love in this self-sacrificial way. And not only can you, you must.

And those whose lives are not characterized by this love are not Christians. That’s what John says. The one who does not love does not know God because God is love. This is one of the marks of a Christian, one of the tests he gives us, the test of love. Anyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God. You cannot not love if you know God. Love is who we are because love is who God is. And we are God’s children. We possess that character that God has.

So the first reason we are to love one another is because if God is in us and God is love, we must love. And number two, not only does he just give the theological reason, He gives an illustration. He shows us how this happens, how this happened in the past, and that is number two, that God loved us. This love that John speaks of is not just some idea. It’s not just a theory. He gives us an example, an explicit example of this love in action. In verse 9 he says, by this the love of God was manifested in us, or was revealed in us, that God sent his only begotten son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God, but that he has loved us, and sent his son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

So John pulls the trump card and gives the greatest example of love there has ever been. By this, the love of God was manifested. You want to know what John’s talking about? by the love of God, that God is love, look to Christ. Christ is the example of God’s love. By this love of God, it was manifested in us that God sent his son, his only begotten son. Verse nine here sounds an awful lot like John 3.16. This is how God loved the world. He sent his only begotten son. As he says here, into the world so that we might live through him. He is God’s only begotten son. The one who came in the flesh. The sending of his son was the supreme demonstration of God’s love. He didn’t have to do that. It was not owed to us. We did not deserve it. And yet, God took it upon himself to give of himself for people who could give nothing back, for people who owed everything and were owed nothing. He chose to love us.

And verse 10 says, it was not that we loved God because we didn’t. Not that we have loved God, but that he loved us. And he sent his son to be the propitiation for our sins. God didn’t send his son because we loved him so much. We didn’t. We were enemies with God. We hated God. And without his intervention in our lives, each and every one of us here would hate God this very moment. Not that we have loved God, but that He loved us. And He sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. We covered the word propitiation back in chapter two, verse two. It’s a covering for sin. It’s the fulfillment of the payment, the satisfaction of God’s wrath. That’s why He came. And John’s point is that God is sovereign in his mercy. He chooses. He decides. He takes initiative. He acts. Everything else is the result of that. God graciously displayed his love in sending Christ. And because of that, we should follow His example and love one another with this self-sacrificial love.

And again, the Father not only gave His children this perfect love by redeeming them, but also in the ultimate model of love in Christ. He shows us what it looks like to love. Look through all the Gospels. Look throughout the life of Christ. Everything Christ did is love. You wanna know what it is to love one another, what it is to love our neighbor? Look at what Christ did. Christ is the example, not just in his death, but in his life. And really, what John is saying here is because he loved us, verse 11, beloved, beloved, he’s getting their attention, beloved, listen, listen to this. If God so loved us, or really you could say since God so loved us. Since God loved us in this way, we also ought to love one another. The cross of Christ demands that we love one another. We are Christians, we don’t have a choice in the matter. We must love one another.

If you do not show love, if you do not ever love the brothers, you’re showing you’re not a Christian because that’s what a Christian is. If God has loved us this way, we also ought to love one another. As a Christian, you cannot permanently return to an ultimately self-centered lifestyle. We have been changed. We have been made new. That is what we were. But this love, this self-sacrificing love has invaded our hearts. And if you are a true Christian, that love will show itself. You will love the brothers. Once you believe in Christ and you’ve been granted eternal life, that is who you are now. God is love and you are God’s child. Therefore, you must love the brothers. You must love one another.

Ephesians chapter five, verses one and two. Therefore, be imitators of God. as beloved children and walk in love. Just as Christ also loved us and gave himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. Paul’s saying the same thing. Be imitators of God because you’re God’s children and walk in love. That’s what it means to imitate God. Be imitators of God as his children, and this is how, just walk in love. Love one another. Just as, he gives the illustration too, he gives the example. You wanna know how to do that? Just as Christ also loved us and gave himself up for us. Give yourself up. As an offering and a sacrifice to God. Stop living for yourself. Live for others, live for God. That’s what it is to walk in love. To live out the love of God that is in you. Stop living for yourself. Live to love others. Nothing in us and nothing we have done, nothing we will do, will cause God to have to love us. We can do nothing that demands God’s love. He simply loves us because he chooses to do so. And love is his sovereign attitude towards us. He loves us not because we’re lovable, but because He is love.

We just, in our men’s Bible study, we studied a book by John Owen called Communion with God. And in that book, he goes through the different ways we have communion with the Father, and communion with the Son, and communion with the Holy Spirit. And his argument in that book is that primarily, we have communion with God the Father through His love. And what he means is we know who God is because of his love. If God didn’t choose to show love, we wouldn’t know God. So the primary way that we have relationship, have communion with God is through his love. He loves us not because we’re lovable. He loves us because he’s love.

Our sins should repel God and cause him to want to throw us into the lake of fire for eternity. That is what we deserve. But he chose to love us. And his love for us is so great that he took our sins upon himself, something he had no obligation to do. He gave the best that he had for the worst he could find. This is an undeserved, grace-filled love. And that is why we love one another. Beloved, if God loved us this way, we also ought to love one another.

And that’s our second reason why we love one another. First, that God is love, and second, that God loved us. God loved us like this. And thirdly, God’s love is perfected in us. That’s in verse 12. No one has beheld God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and his love is perfected in us.

Now this can be a difficult verse to understand. There’s a few different statements here that don’t really square with our thinking. To say that God’s love is perfected in us sounds strange, as if without us God’s love would not be perfect, but that’s not what it means. That’s not what he’s saying here. And even the beginning statement, no one has seen God at any time. Well, what’s he mean there? What’s he getting at?

Well, that should sound familiar to you. No one has seen God at any time. Because in John’s gospel, John 1, verse 18, he says the same thing. He says there, no one has seen God at any time. The only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, he has explained him. John is arguing from history to show the significance of this revelation. No one has seen God physically in the flesh at any time. But the only begotten God, the only begotten Son, who’s the one that’s been begotten? It’s Christ. He has revealed Him. So no one has seen God until Christ came. They’ve seen God in the way that he’s revealed himself, but Christ is the full revelation of God. No one has seen God at any time until Christ has revealed or explained him.

Here in 1 John, John says it again. No one has beheld or no one has seen God at any time. Jesus is no longer present physically. No one can see Jesus. So John is going back to his argument he used in his gospel and he says, no one has seen God at any time, but where does God reside now? In us. The Holy Spirit dwells in us.

So how do people see God? When we love one another. How do people see God’s love? when we show it to them. That’s what he’s saying. No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. This love that originates from God and was manifested in his son is now on display in his people. And then we see that God’s love is perfected in us. And it is not as though it is made more than it was before. That it was less than perfect and now it’s perfect because I loved my neighbor. This is the sense of perfection that it’s brought to completion. It’s brought to its end. It’s accomplishing the purpose it was sent for. God sent his son into the world in love. We just saw that in verse 9, we see that in John 3, 16. This is how God loved the world. He sent His Son. That love produces its intended results when we believe in Christ, His love is implanted in us, and we love one another. That’s the end goal of God’s love. If Christians, the ones who God purchased in this love, do not love one another, then what purpose is God’s love in you?

You could say it remains unfinished until you bring it to completion in your life. Our theology ought to have a result in our life. It ought to have a practical application for us. The fact that God is love reaches its completion, has its full effect, when we show love, when we show love to one another. And this is a foreign concept in our world.

Our world is all about living for yourself. Do whatever you can to get as much as you can while you’re still here. That’s what life’s about. In our world today, most people are at least two or three generations away from anything Christian, if that. There is no Christian worldview in the world. Christendom is no longer a thing. We are living in a post-Christian world. Children grow up and never hear about Jesus. They’ve never even heard his name. They thought it was a swear word. Bibles don’t just stay on the shelf, they aren’t on the shelf to begin with. A lot of people don’t even own a Bible. In the age that we live in with the technology we have, most people don’t even have a Bible. Do you know how many people would have given an arm just to have a Bible? And we have all the access in the world to the Bible and most people don’t even care. That’s the world we live in.

So this idea of giving up yourself to love one another, what it means to be a Christian, is so far from the way of the world, even farther than the time of John. Today, the only way that many people will ever see God is to see him displayed in his people. Because when you don’t read the Bible, and those people who do go to church never hear the word preached, how else are they gonna see God? They see him in his love revealed in his children.

This is exactly what Paul says in 2 Corinthians. 2 Corinthians chapter three, Paul says, you are our letter. having been written in our hearts, known and read by all men, being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, ministered to by us, having been written on, not with ink, but with the spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of hearts of flesh. You are a letter. You are a letter of Christ. What Paul means there is you are a representative of Christ, you are what people see of Christ. People who don’t read their Bible and they meet you, you may be the only letter of Christ that they’ve ever read.

What will people read about Christ in you? What does your life tell them about Christ? What do you reveal about Christ to them? Do you reveal what John’s been talking about here? The love of God. The love of God within you. The love of God that has been implanted in our hearts. The spirit who dwells in you. Do people see that? No one has beheld God at any time, but if we love one another. So do you love one another? Do people see the love of God in your letter of Christ? Do you treat people the way that God treats us?

Even the word love, even the concept of love is such a strange idea to our world. I mean, you know what month it is, right? Love is love. Love is whatever I feel like. That is not true. That is a lie. That is a lie from Satan himself. You don’t get to define what love is. You are not love, God is love. We are made in his likeness, made to reflect him. He doesn’t reflect you. You are not the standard of what love is, he is. God is the one who is love. He is the one who gets to say what love is. So as we live in our world, in a world that is hostile to God, to love itself, how does your letter read?

Because if you remember from this morning in verse 5 of chapter 4, they are from the world and they speak as from the world and the world hears them. Do you sound like the world? Does the world think you’re speaking a foreign language? What does your letter read like? Does your letter of Christ reveal Christ? Do you take Christ to everyone you meet?

Sending Christ was the ultimate display of God’s love. So the greatest way that we can show love is to bring Christ to people around us, whether they like it or not. Christ is the only answer for sin. So to leave the world ignorant of Christ is not love. We need to bring Christ to them, just like God did for us. If you need a playbook on how to love We have it. God is love, and the whole Bible is about God. We see revealed throughout the pages of Scripture what God’s love looks like, because everything God does is love. Primarily, the greatest example is his plan of salvation, that he decided before the foundation of the world to crucify his son for you and for me. In this is love, not that we love God, but that he loved us and sent his son to be the propitiation for our sins. You are a letter of Christ. How does your letter read?

Let’s stand and close in a word of prayer this evening. Our God and Father in heaven, we praise you for your love. It is by your love that we know who you are. We thank you for revealing that to us. We thank you for showing your love to us and sending your son and then implanting your love within us by giving us your spirit. We thank you for who you are because it’s by who you are that you’ve made us who we are, your children. We thank you for your love. We pray that you would give us opportunity in our world this week to live out your love, to show your love to those around us. We thank you for who you are and for what you’ve done. We pray all of this in Christ’s name, amen.

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