This is the manuscript for the sermon I preached at West Bradenton Baptist Southside on Sunday November 3rd, 2019.
In the past six verses of chapter 4 John talked about testing the spirits. Last week I talked a little about these verses and how they can apply to us today. If you missed this message, then it is available online by going through the church’s Facebook page or on you can go to my personal website jeffreyholton.com to listen. Today I would like to continue in our study and look at chapter 4 verses 7 – 12.
In verse seven John makes an abrupt change in subject from discernment of spirits to love. As I have stated throughout this series the theme of this letter is love and John does not fail to remind us about the importance of love in a believer’s life throughout this epistle. In today’s message we are going to look at John’s complete definition of love, how love equates to God, and since love comes from God, we must love one another.
Once again John refers to his readers as “beloved”; this word is used six times throughout this short letter and it just continues to show the heart and passion he has for this struggling congregation. He loves these people like they are his own family. John continue to stress that this letter is a message of love and encouragement and is not necessarily one of rebuke and criticism.
So, to make thing easier I have broken todays passage it up into six bullet points to help us understand exactly what John is trying to get across to his readers. I will briefly introduce each point and then take a few minutes to touch on each point as we break down this passage and see how John makes the connection between love and God.
1.Love one another – Verse 7
2.Love comes from God – Verse 7b
3.God is love – Verse 8
4.God’s love is manifested through Jesus Christ – Verse 9
5.We love because God first loved us – Verse 10
6.Love one another – Verses 11, 12
(Read 1 John 4:7 – 12)
Vs 7: John continues his exhortation for believers to love one another. This is the third time John tells his readers to love one another. Not only do I believe that his repetition If you say something more than once you are trying to stress the importance of what you are saying) shows the importance of loving one another since it was commanded by Jesus and is the evidence of Jesus in you, but also that we are to love because love is the nature of God and love is grounded in God.
Jesus spoke of loving one another as one of the two great commandments for all believers to keep, ““Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.” (Matthew 22:37 – 40). The love spoken about in this verse does not refer to that emotional feeling one gets when they are around someone they are attracted to, I talked about how this concept of love and how it cheapens the truth of real biblical love. The word “love” in this verse is agapeo which means to love dearly, to be fond of, to be well pleased, and be contented at or with a thing. As believers we are called to be fond of one another, to love one another dearly or as I would put it… find great pleasure and satisfaction in being with those you consider your spiritual family. I have heard people say, “I know Jesus said I have to love fellow believers but that doesn’t mean I have to like them.” I disagree… I believe the translation of this word Agapeo does in fact mean that we are also called to like fellow believers.
Vs 7b: Love is from God. We can love because love comes from God. When we are obedient to Christ’s command and display love to one another we know that we are born of God. “Being born of God” is a metaphor of God making or adopting us as his son’s and daughter’s through faith in Jesus Christ’s work on the cross. We will see in a moment the reality that God is the very essence of love. Author Stephen S. Smalley writes, “(L)ove originates in God, and thus it belongs to the divine dimension”
Vs 8: “The one who does not love does not know God…” Once again John re-iterates that if one chooses not to love as Christ commanded then this person does not know God. The reason being is not only is love from God, but God is love. According to Gary Burge, “It is important to note what John is not saying. He is not saying that ‘God is loving’ (though this is true). Nor is he saying that one of God’s activities is ‘to love us’ (though this is true as well). John is saying that God is love, that all his ‘activity is loving.’ Love is the essence of his being. But the reverse is not the case. We cannot say, in other words, that ‘love is God’ as if any displayed affection suddenly qualifies as divine.” I believe the saying “God is love” happens to be one of the most misunderstood verses in the Bible and often quoted out of context because people confuse the word love with such words as tolerant, passive, and accepting of everything… including sin. The truth is God is tolerant with us and accepting of us, however He will not excuse or justify sin in our lives. You and I know that love does not mean that you get to or can do whatever you want. We learn this with our own children. We discipline, guide, correct and withhold things from them as acts of love; because we know that not everything is beneficial to our children. The truth is we need to say, “no” at times and not allow them to do certain things because they are harmful. Thus we need to understand that “God is love” does not mean God will let you do whatever you want or get away with anything you want. So, I feel it is important for us to look at three observations about what “God is love” does and does not mean.
A summary of observations about what “God is love” does and does not mean.
John shows that His love is his essence and now in verse 9 he shows us God’s love looks like.
Vs 9: This is what God’s love looks like – God’s love was revealed among us... His greatest display of love was shown through sending His beloved son Jesus Christ. Verse 9 is very similar to John 3:16 which says, “For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” Verse 9 tells us that Jesus came so that “we might live through him.” When you break this sentence down in the original language it essentially says, “God sent His one and only son into the world so we may be made alive (to enjoy real life, to have true life) through Jesus.” God’s love is a sacrificial in the reality that He sent his son to die so we may have life. This love not self-serving but life giving.
Vs 10: “Love consists of this: not that we loved God, but he loved us…” This is God’s representation of love. We are not able to love correctly outside of God. We have the ability to love God and others because God first loved us, and he loved us by sending Jesus Christ to be the atoning sacrifice (Christ is the “the propitiation of sin, because by his becoming our substitute and assuming our obligations he expiated our guilt, covered it, by the vicarious punishment which he endured.) for our sins. So, when we look at the full context, we conclude that God’s love is shown through Him sending Jesus Christ and we might have abundant life through Him. Since Jesus was God’s way of showing His love, we can love both God and one another. We can love properly because God has loved us properly.
Vs 11: Since God showed us how much He loves us through Jesus Christ, then we can love one another. I have found two truths that painfully obvious in verses 10 & 11, but I would be remiss if I didn’t point them out.
1.God showed how much He loves you through sending Jesus as an atoning sacrifice. Think about that for a moment. God loves you that He gave his most beloved son. s. I am sure many of you have heard people say, “If God is such a loving God then how does he let (insert tragedy or difficulty) happen to me?” The answer to that question is “God shows how loving He is through His son Jesus Christ to die on the cross so that you may be made alive through Him, enjoy life and be a partaker in the Kingdom of heaven.” Isn’t that enough? God doesn’t owe you or me anything! But since He so loves you and me, He has made provisions for us to live a full Kingdom life.
2.We must love one another. John tells us “If God loved us in this way (sacrificially), then we must love one another. We should look at the word MUST. I believe this word makes this a command and NOT a suggestion. There is no clause stating that we should only love those who love us, it says that we must love one another period. The very minimum you or I must do as Christians is love one another. Many Christians cannot even do this, but this is entry level Christianity. We have the obligation to love one another.
Vs 12: “No one has ever seen God….” This seems like the statement was just thrown in there as it doesn’t seem to fit the flow of this portion of the letter, but as Stephen Smalley writes, “John maintains that God cannot, in fact, be seen; but he goes on to draw a contrast between this truth and the equal truth that he can (in any case) be spiritually discerned through the exercise of love which he himself inspires.” This is true… No one has ever physically seen God, but they have seen Jesus (John 1:18). We are told in Exodus 33:20, “But he added, "You cannot see my face, for humans cannot see me and live.” However, God dwells in us and this is evidenced when we show love for one another, and for him. We do not need to see God for him to dwell in us. God dwells in us, so we can show him to others by loving others. By loving one another it shows that God is in us and when we love one another we are loving completely or the way that God intended. The truth, reality and concluding thought to this passage is We can love properly because God has loved us properly.
 Smalley, Stephen S. Word Biblical Commentary: Volume 51 – 1, 2, 3 John. Word Books, Waco. 1984. Page 237
 Burge, Gary M. The NIV Application Commentary: The Letters of John. Zondervan Books, Grand Rapids. 1996. Page 186, 187
 Smalley, Stephen S. Word Biblical Commentary: Volume 51 – 1, 2, 3 John. Word Books, Waco. 1984. Page 246
Jeff has been in full-time ministry for thirty years. He currently serves as Executive Director at Anchor House Ministry at SeaPort Manatee in Palmetto, FL and he is a part-time Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Southside in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored A Lent Devotional (A Spiritual Journey to Lent) an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). All three are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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