Text: 1 John 4:7-21
The purpose of this Epistle. The need for reassurance. ‘We know’, 1 Jn 5:13. Three tests: head (believing the truth), 1 Jn 2:22; hands (obeying God’s commands), 1 Jn 2:2; heart (living a life of love); 1 Jn 4:20. These depend on each other, 1 Jn 3:23.
In this passage, tells us what should motivate our love for each other, vv7-11.
1. We should love one another because of what God is, v7,8
God is love.
God is love beyond comparison. ‘This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us.’ We do love god, don’t we; but it is fickle and changeable. If you want to know what love is really like, consider the love of God. “Could we with ink the ocean fill,/ Were the whole sky of parchment made;/Were every stalk on earth a quill/ And every man a scribe by trade;/ To write the love of God above/ Would drain the ocean dry;/ Nor could the scroll contain the whole,/ Though stretched from sky to sky.”
God is love beyond comprehension. Why should God love you? Deut 7:7-8. ‘It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love upon you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples; but it is because the Lord loves you.’ Another of the great marvels of God’s love is that it is eternal, Eph 1:4,5. ‘In the very beginning, when this great universe lay in the mind of God, like unborn forests in the acorn-cup; long ere the echoes waked the solitudes, before the mountains were brought forth, and long ere the light flashed through the sky, God loved his chosen creatures.’ [Spurgeon) I hope that we never stop being amazed at the love of God in Christ.
God is love beyond controversy. Not just, ‘God is loving’. God’s very nature is love. There is nothing about God about which you can say, ‘that is unloving.’ It is important to remember this when we realise that this is not all that Scripture reveals about God. God is spirit, God is light, and God is a consuming fire. God burns with righteous and implacable anger against sin. But God is love, and love will find a way of reconciling sinners to himself in a way utterly consistent with all of the divine attributes.
‘Dear friends, let us love one another, because love comes from God…whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.’
2. We should love one another because of what god has done, v10,11
John has already said, ‘Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and with truth’, 3:18. And that’s exactly what God’s love is like. It is love in action. ‘He loved us and sent his Son.’ Don’t imagine that God is sitting somewhere up there wringing his hands and longing for us to do something.
God loved us sacrificially. ‘He sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.’ He not only gave his Son, but he gave him up. The greatest sign of God’s love is a blood-stained cross. The pain experienced by the Father was as great as that felt by the Son.
God loved us extravagantly. Jn 3:16, ‘God so loved…’ This one gift guarantees all others. Rom 8:28.
And, John says, we should love like that, v11. We should love as God loves. Not because we are loveable; not because we deserve it.
3. We should love one another because of what God is doing, v12
No-one has ever seen God, although we will, 3:2.
But if we love one another, God lives in us by his Spirit, v13.
We are not simply readers of some old book. We are not just admirers of some shadowy figure from the past. We are not the custodians of some ancient tradition. We are participants in the drama of divine love! We love one another, because we are on intimate terms with the God who is love. We are inhabited by God.
His love is made complete in us. Isn’t God’s love perfect, infinite? And God does not consider his love complete until he sees it growing and maturing in his people. God’s love is proved at the cross, proclaimed in the word, but perfected in us.
It used to be thought that religion was becoming a thing of the past; that god, or at least interest in God, was dead. But this is no longer the case. Religions are sprouting up everywhere, like weeds in a neglected garden. Trouble is, religion is not a good thing. Humanity’s greatest crimes have been its religions. Not every spirit, and not every spiritual experience, is from God, 4:1.
So how can we be sure that our experience of God is true and valid? How can we know that at the great day of judgement we will not be turned away? Back to John’s three tests. “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”