1 John 4:7-11
“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he 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.”
Love is the premier Christian language. It speaks loudly both to the outside world as well as to other believers. Christians ought to be known for their love above all else. We see in 1 Corinthians 13 that love is the fuel for Christian service.
After speaking on spiritual gifts in chapter 12 of 1 Corinthians Paul explains in chapter 13 verses 1-2 that these gifts mean nothing if not accompanied by love as their motivation. Verse 3 tells us that giving to others and even sacrificing ourselves means nothing if love is not the root motive.
Paul goes on to describe Christian love and what we find is that it’s a description of true Christianity because true Christianity is in essence a life of love. 1 Corinthians 13:4 says that love is longsuffering, and humble and does not envy.
Paul says it doesn’t behave itself in a wrong manner, is patient and does not think evil. It rejoices in truth and it endures, it doesn’t give up, it presses on. When Paul describes love he is describing how the Bible in other places says a believer should live, and think and endure. He describes fruits of the Spirit.
We are commanded to love even our enemies.
“But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.” (Luke 6:35)
What does this mean in a practical way? Well it means to be patient, to not think evil, to be forgiving. It means to be humble with others and even sacrifice ourselves for them.
“For us to hate those who are in error, or talk of them with contempt or wish them ill, or do them wrong is not according to the Spirit of Christ. You cannot cast out Satan by Satan, nor correct error by violence, nor overcome hate by hate. The conquering weapon of the Christian is love. “ C.H. Spurgeon.
We are commanded to love the brethren.
“This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)
In fact loving the brethren is a sign of true salvation.
“By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:35)
“If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” (1 John 4:20)
My Grandpa is a great example of this. He grew up in a very racist South and was raised to hate black people. All of his life even into adulthood he hated those who looked different than him and would let out a racial slur without hesitation.
When he became a Christian everything changed. I only knew him as a Christian so I never experienced the other man but I witnessed my Grandpa hug black men in church calling them brother so and so. There was love where once hatred existed. That is the love of God shed abroad in his heart.
“He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.” (1 John 2:9-11)
Let’s take this passage apart and examine it first then we will make application at the end.
“Beloved…” (1 John 4:7a)
Our text starts off with the word “beloved.” Let’s put this on hold and come back to it at the end. Look at the rest of the verse.
“let us love one another…”
If you had any doubt let this command put those doubts to rest. We are to love each other. It doesn’t put a qualification on it.
Whether we like each other, agree with each other, or anything else we must have a genuine love for one another. This means we have to love on purpose.
“for love is of God…”
We reflect the love of God because God is love and we have His nature in us when we are saved. Look back at verse 7.
“and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.”
This goes back to what I said previously that our love demonstrates that we are truly saved. A saved person cannot hate because he has the nature of God in Him and the Holy Spirit. Do you hate? Then you don’t know God. You still have the old nature. Let’s go to verse 8.
“He that loveth not knoweth not God…”
Why? Why would we say you don’t know God if you don’t love? Continue in the verse.
“for God is love…”
That’s why. God is love and we are being conformed to His image, we have received His Spirit, and we have been given His nature therefore we will have His characteristics like love. Go on to verse 9.
“In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.”
Love is action not feeling. God’s love was manifested, or demonstrated. How? God sending His only begotten Son into the world. The giving of Jesus for us was the love of God on display.
In the same way our laying down our lives for others is a display of the love of God in us. If love is mere words then it’s not the love of God. The love of God is demonstrated by action. It’s easy to say you love someone but when you lay down your life for them that’s love in action.
When you put their needs and desires before your own. When you care for their happiness before your own, when you stop asking how they can meet your needs and start saying how can I meet their needs that is the love of God. Move on to verse 10.
“Herein is love…”
Or here is an example of the love of God. John is going to give us two examples of the love of God. Let’s take the second one first.
“…and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
We nearly always see the love of God spoken in direct context of the offering of Jesus. The reason is that God’s love is not mushy emotionalism but action. God loved us in a visible way. Consider the references to the love of God in the following passages.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
The term “God so loved” could also be said “God loved in this way.” It’s love in action.
“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
The word commendeth means to demonstrate. Again it’s love in action.
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
“But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved).” (Ephesians 2:4-5)
We see here again love in action because it was through the offering of Jesus that grace was extended to us
“Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” (1 John 3:16)
Now I want to draw your attention back to the first descriptor John gives about the love of God.
“Herein is love, (or here is an example of the love of God) not that we loved God, but that he loved us…”
The love of God was not a response to us loving Him first. Too often we love those who love us or do good to those who return it back to us. Not so with the love of God. He set His love on me when I was in sin and rebellion.
“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
If we are living the love of God then we are going to love those who are our enemies, I mean truly love them in action not just in words. If we are only loving those who love us back we are not demonstrating the love of God.
“But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloak forbid not to take thy coat also. Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.” (Luke 6:27-36)
Let’s go back to 1 John 4 verse 11.
“Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.”
If God so loved us, another way to say that is if God loved us this way then we ought to love one another in the same way. We are to love each other the way we have been loved. We who have received mercy should be merciful and we who have been forgiven should be forgiving, and we who have been unconditionally loved should love unconditionally.
This is why I wanted to circle back to the opening word in verse 7, “Beloved.” We are beloved not for anything we have done or any good in us but because He has chosen to set His love on us. In that same way we must choose to set our love on others based not on their worthiness but our having been made beloved ourselves.
What is Christian love? How do we make application of what we saw in the text? Let me give you three basic applications.
1. Love for the Christian is a reflection of the love of God.
“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.” (Vs. 7)
The love of God is put into us and flows outward. As believers we take on the new nature or the nature of Christ. We are simply reflecting outward the love that God has shined inward in our hearts.
2. Love for the Christian is intentional.
“For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people.” (Deuteronomy 7:6-7)
God set His love on the nation of Israel. He chose them to be a special people among the nations. He did this that so that they would be a reflection of His love to the nations. The very purpose of the nation of Israel was to make Him known among the Gentiles.
We see very similar terminology used of us as Christians. We are chosen of God according to 1 Peter 1:2, and we are to be a peculiar or special people according to 1 Peter 2:9. That verse also says that we are intended to show forth Christ to the nations.
We can conclude from this that God set His love on us intentionally and purposefully. This is how we are to love others. We are to choose to love them and to love them on purpose.
3. Love for the Christian is action not feeling.
We are not called to simply feel feelings but to live out the love of God. This is how God loves. When we see the love of God in the Bible it’s largely in demonstration.
Christian love is putting the needs, feelings, and happiness of others before ourselves a literal laying down of our lives for someone else. It’s not a rewarding of those who already love you but a seeking out of those who don’t and showing them love.
It’s easy for us to avoid those we don’t like in church and just grouping with those who share our interests or viewpoints. We justify ourselves by rationalizing that we are loving them by keeping peace and not fighting with them. There is one big problem with this: God’s love is never demonstrated as inaction.
God’s love is action. We are not showing the love of God by avoiding those we differ with. We are showing the love of God by engaging them and laying down our lives for them by not arguing small differences or demanding they do things our way.
I hope this gives us a better understanding of love in the life of a Christian. We each need to ask ourselves if we are loving with the world’s love or the love of God. There is a big difference isn’t there?
I tell the men in prison don’t look to Hollywood for love, look to Calvary for love. The love of God is totally different than this world’s love. If we love others in the church the same way unbelievers love each other then it’s not the love of God.
Our love should be radical, intentional, self-sacrificing, and always, always, always demonstrated by action.
“My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:18)