1 John 4:7-12 Part One - The Charge To Love One Another
Our text this morning is 1 John 4:7-12.
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have 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 also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.”
Our text this morning can be divided into two sections. We will spend our time on the first section this morning and address the second section next week.
The first section of our text is rather short. It consists of the first six words of our text. In it we are given a charge by the apostle John, ‘Beloved, let us love one another’.
The second section of our text gives seven reasons for this charge which is given to believers.
Because love is from God (4:7b – ‘Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God’)
Because love is evidence that one is born of God (4:7c – ‘...whoever loves has been born of God’)
Because love is evidence that one knows God (4:7d - ‘whoever loves has been born of God and knows God’)
Because not loving is evidence that one does not know God (4:8 – ‘Anyone who does not love does not know God’)
Because God is love (4:8b – ‘Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love’)
Because God demonstrated His love (4:9-11 – ‘In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so love us, we also ought to love one another.’)
Because we are to demonstrate God’s love to others (4:12 – ‘No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.’)
A Brief Overview Of Our Text
As we begin let me draw your attention to several important considerations about these seven ‘reasons’ that John gives. First, these reasons are God centered and they are Gospel centered. They focus upon the LORD and what He has done. We are to love others because of what God has done and not because people have earned this love or because they deserve it in some way. We will obey this charge to love one another best when we keep our attention on the LORD and when we continuously apply the gospel in every situation.
Secondly, John is optimistic about the people we are to love. For example, John addresses them as ‘Beloved’ twice in our text. These are people who have been ‘born again’. These are people that have come to ‘know God’. These are people that have been ‘loved’ by God. God’s love for His people is ‘perfected’ in them. It is easy, because of past experiences with other believers, to become jaded and pessimistic about those in the church; but John would have us remember what God has done for each person in His church.
The third thing that we notice in this text is that John is also realistic about those who are being given the charge to love one another.
We see John’s realistic approach to this in the giving of the charge. A believer has no excuse not to love others; yet, we often need the charge to remind us to act consistently with the new life that we are to walk in. Believers are taught in the truths of the gospel and then they are charged to begin to apply the gospel in every area of life. That is what John is doing here.
Secondly, consider what John says in verse 9, ‘...so that we might live through Him.’ There is a sense in which a believer will either obey this charge or not. The words, ‘might live’, are in the subjective mood and this makes an assertion about which there is some doubt, uncertainty, or indefiniteness. We can all identify with this. On some occasions we succeed at loving others and on other occasions we do not. There are some occasions that we apply the gospel and then there are other times when we respond in the flesh towards someone.
Thirdly, John knows that he is giving this charge to people who had not loved God and were by nature sinners. He says, ‘...not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins’. Once we become a Christian then we begin to grow in the grace of God and in our sanctification; yet, it is not perfected in this life.
Lastly, we are limited in our perceptions of God. We cannot see Him right now with our physical eyes. We are to see Him through the eyes of faith as we look to Jesus through the Word of God. We are so prone to respond to what our natural eyes see; rather than by what we see by faith. Therefore believers need to discipline and train themselves in righteousness by looking continually to the Word of God and praying for the grace needed to be obedient.
The Charge: “Beloved, let us love one another”
It would be so hard for me to overstate the importance of these opening words. Let’s begin with the word ‘Beloved’. This word is in the perfect participle passive form. The Perfect Tense describes an action, or a process, that took place in the past, the results of which continue to the present. For every believer, there was a time when they went from being at war with God and under the wrath of God, to being granted peace with God and experienced the love of God from that time forward.
The Passive Tense reveals that the subject receives the action of the verb. The ‘beloved’ is loved by God and receives it passively. They cannot earn this love from God and they do not deserve this love. It is the (agape) love of God that comes to us by the decision of His will. [John speaks of this in John 1:13 when he writes, ‘...who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God’.]
John speaks of our passive reception of this love in our text when he writes, ‘In this is love, not that we have 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 also ought to love one another.’
Having been loved (agape) by God, John then calls upon believers to love one another with that same kind of love. John says, ‘Beloved (agapao), let us love (agapetos) one another…’.
Some commentators have observed that John had two Greek words that he could have used for the word ‘one another’. The Greek word that he chose to use here speaks of loving others of the same kind. The charge that is given here is for believers to love other believers and for Christians to love other Christians.
In some ways, the visible church is made up of a very diverse group of people. We all have come from different backgrounds and we have all had different life experiences. The church is made up of young people and old people; men and women; employers and employees; educated and uneducated. And yet, because of the ‘new birth’ we are all one in Christ. Even though we are so different we are the same in Christ.
There is lot’s of talk about the need to love one another in our culture today but it is only believers who can display this kind of love. John gives evidence of this in our text. For example,
This love is from God (4:7b)
This love gives evidence that one has been born of God (4:7c)
This love is evidence that one knows God (4:7d)
Those who don’t love with agape love give evidence that they do not know God (4:8)
It is believers who are to demonstrate this love to others because it is seen nowhere else (4:12)
Can you imagine just how powerful our testimony would be to the world if they saw the body of Christ obeyed this charge that we are being given today? Can you imagine the profound impact that loving each other in the church would have on this secular world who speaks so much about love and yet is powerless to truly demonstrate it in an agape kind of way? Jesus spoke of this in John 13:34-35 when He said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love (agape) one another; just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Let me give you two examples of what obedience to this charge looks like when it is carried out by believers.
First Example Of This Love Being Expressed By Paul
When Paul comes to the end of his first letter to the Corinthians he ends it with these words, “I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord come! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.” (16:21-22)
Let me make a couple observations about these closing words. First, notice that Paul contrasts the love he has for the believers with those who do not love (phileo) the Lord. These individuals cannot love the Lord with an agape kind of love because they are not saved. Paul uses the word phileo to show that they have no common fellowship or friendship with God. James speaks of these people when he writes, “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4)
Secondly, notice that Paul loves these believers with an agape kind of love. He says, ‘My love be with you all in Christ Jesus.’ He loves them with the same type of love that we are being charged with today in 1 John. He loves them with an agape kind of love because they are all ‘in Christ Jesus’.
Paul had spoken about agape love in 1 Corinthians 13. These are verses that we have all heard. “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” (1 Cor. 13:4-8a)
Paul had no idea that as he closes this letter to these Christians that his relationship with these believers was about to be put to the test. The believers in Corinth would soon read this letter and learn about the love that believers are to operate in, but soon they would see it put into practice in their relationships with each other and in their relationship with Paul.
After Paul wrote to the Corinthians he had hoped that things would turn around and he had sent Timothy to the church to help help the church through their problems but he returned to Paul and informed him of the continuing troubles at the church. When Paul heard the news he left and went to address the church in person.
This visit did not go well for Paul. During his visit he encountered many false teachers and the congregation also did not receive Paul as he had hoped. Because of this the apostle left Corinth without having been reconciled to the church. In 2 Corinthians 2:1 Paul calls this a ‘painful visit’.
After Paul left the church he returned to Ephesus where he wrote them a letter of rebuke and hoped that they would repent. He placed the letter into the hands of Titus who was sent back to the church. Then Paul waited to hear back from him about their response. After some time Titus returned with good news. The Corinthians had repented and they wanted to be reconciled to the apostle.
Paul then sits down again and writes another letter to them and begins it with these amazing words, “Grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (1:2)
A bit later he writes these words, “I made up my mind not to make another painful visit to you. For if I cause you pain, who is there to make me glad but the one whom I have pained? And I wrote as I did, so that when I came I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice, for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all. For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.” (2:1-4)
All of this sounds a lot like life in the church today. What we just saw between Paul and this church is a lot like like how our relationships go when we are doing life together side by side.
If Paul would have ended 1 Corinthians by simply saying that he had a phileo type of love for them it may not have survived all of the pain, affliction, and anguish of heart that occurred at this time. And even if it did make it through this period of time it probably would have been weakened. However, Paul had an agape love. This love allowed him to go through all of this and then write that he wanted to let them ‘know of the abundant love’ that he had for them.
This trial, this affliction, this anguish had not made Paul love these Christians less; rather, love them through these things Paul loved them all the more. His love abounded towards these believers. The tears that he had cried during this time of bitter disappointment did not quench his love for them; instead this love was made stronger.
The Second Example Of This Love Being Expressed By The Lord
The love of God that abounded from Paul to the Corinthians is just a small reflection of the love that God has for every believer. In just a few moments we will be celebrating communion and it is fitting that we would end our time together by reflecting upon the love of God which sent His Son into the world to be a propitiation for our sins. Propitiation speaks of the fact that God has atoned for the sins of His people. He sent His only Son to be the only acceptable sacrifice that could remove the wrath of God from sinners.
In Numbers 14:18 and Exodus 34:6 we see the need for God to atone for our sins because His holiness must judge the guilty. We read, “The LORD is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but He will no means clear the guilty…”
In Psalm 103:3-4 David considered all of the blessings that are given to those whom the LORD redeems from their sins. He says, “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, and crowns you with steadfast love and mercy…”. He goes on to say in verses 9-12, “He (the LORD) will not always chide, nor will He keep His anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His steadfast love toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us.”
As we come to the Communion Table this morning we are to remember the grace, mercy and steadfast love that has been given to believers. We are reminded not to forget all of His benefits. We are to remember Him who forgives our iniquities, who heals all our diseases, who redeems our life from the pit, and crowns us with steadfast love and mercy.
Having taken refuge in Christ we can say, “He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.” Yet, we know that to receive this benefit Jesus became sin. Jesus took upon Himself our sins and received the death penalty that we deserved and suffered and died because of our sins. Yet, He gives to all those who come to Him His righteousness. Therefore we are now at peace with God and can legally be crowned with Gods steadfast love and mercy.
As we come to the Communion Table this morning and remember these words from Romans 5:6-11,
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
As we come to the Communion Table this morning and remember these words from 1 John 4:9-10,
In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
All Christians who confess their sins and walk with Christ by faith are now called to the Communion Table to celebrate the love of God that sent His only Son to be the propitiation for our sins. We are called to celebrate Christ’s life, His death, His resurrection, His continuing intercession on our behalf before the Father, and to look forward to His return when we will celebrate a feast in His presence.
If we can truly celebrate these things then this celebration that we partake in together this morning becomes all the more special. Having been loved by God we now celebrate this Communion with the church that we have come to love with an agape kind of love.