*1 John 4.7-21*
All throughout Scripture, one of the most prominent themes you will notice is that of "love."
God commanded the nation of Israel to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, and might.
And their obedience to God's commands would reveal their love for God.
Jesus stated time and time again that his followers would also love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind and strength.
This was the greatest commandment from the Old Testament.
The second was to love neighbor as yourself.
Paul dedicated an entire chapter in 1 Corinthians 13 to love.
In fact, Paul concludes the chapter by saying of faith, hope and love, the greatest of these is love.
The reason for this, I believe, is because when we see God in heaven, there will no longer be a need for faith and hope.
But love will remain because God is love.
As you look at this next paragraph in your Bibles, you may have the section heading of "God is Love."
This is likely a quite familiar phrase as people often quote it in different contexts.
People like to throw it around to speak to many different issues.
But I think that many use it in a way that is not faithful to its context.
This morning will present us an opportunity to investigate this phrase more deeply and hopefully more faithfully.
This section I found to be one of the most difficult to outline.
This paragraph is follows John's typical pattern of circular teaching.
So we will be moving around these verses a bit this morning.
I will try to be sure to keep you informed of which verses I am speaking to.
Let's read the text as we get underway.
READ. 1 John 4.17-21.
The first point we will look at is *Love Discloses a Relationship.
*This has already been demonstrated in several places in the letter.
In chapter 3, it is the one who loves his brother that shows himself to be a child of God.
And here again, John will say that a characteristic of God the Father will be seen in those who are truly his children.
In verses 7-8, John exhorts his readers to love one another.
And the reason for this is because love finds its source in God.
And if love has God as its source, wouldn't you expect to find that it is somehow exemplified also in his children.
After all, Paul has said in Ephesians 5 that Christians are to be imitators of God as beloved children.
John says here that "whoever loves has been born of God."
What a tremendous truth that this is!
John has written about becoming a child of God in his Gospel.
In John 1, he speaks of the Word of God becoming flesh.
He spoke of the world that did not know him or receive him.
But, by contrast, he says in verse 12 that "all who did receive him, who believed on his name, he gave the right to become the children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God."
This truth of becoming a child is due solely to God himself.
It is not the will of man, but the will of God that makes us his.
John says here that the one who loves has been born "of God" and knows God.
It is not the person's ability to love that causes the new birth, but his ability to love flows from his regeneration in Christ.
In verse 8, he provides a contrast.
"Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love."
We'll address this last statement shortly - that God is love - because John will show how this is to be understood.
For now, we recognize that John issues a word of caution as well.
Primarily, he is out to show that those who had defected from them, the false teachers, have disqualified themselves because they had failed to love.
Look down at verse 12. John will again reiterate by saying, "No one has ever seen God; if we love on another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us."
Initiially, it seems a bit odd that John would say that no one has ever seen God.
But I think the point he is making is that despite knowing that no one can claim to have seen God, believers who love one another demonstrate that the unseen God lives within them.
This is meant to reassure his readers that they do really know God, despite what the false teachers were saying and exemplifying.
In other words, if we claim to have a relationship with him, what we know of Scripture tells us that God lives in us and transforms us so that we too can demonstrate his love.
It gives Christians confidence and unbelievers caution.
Now jump down to verse 16.
The second part of this verse says that God is love and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
Again John reiterates that the one who is characterized by their love gives evidence of abiding in relationship with God.
Not only is this tremendously beneficial in the present but in verse 17, John says that this relationship is necessary for the future as well.
Throughout God's Word we recognize that it is vital that one not be alienated from God, but reconciled to him.
As Christians who believe the Bible, we know that one's relationship with God determines how that person will spend their eternity.
Often out of love and concern for unbelievers, we will challenge them on this issue.
We believe that there will come a day (day of judgment) where God will expose our deeds and examine our confession of Jesus Christ.
While on this earth, we all abide under the common grace of God where we still have opportunity to repent and believe in Jesus.
But we know that there is a day that we will cease to exist.
There is a one to one ratio on this.
Usually it is an unexpected experience.
People die in car accidents, because of diseases and crimes, and many because of aging.
Because sin entered the world at the outset of Creation with Adam and Eve, all will eventually die and meet face to face with their Creator.
So why do I bring up such an unpleasant and unpopular topic?
Because if you have not yet trusted in Jesus, you will need to address this issue while you have the benefit of still being alive.
And as a Christian, we need to embrace the urgency to speak the good news of Jesus Christ to those who remain alienated from God and will face the day of judgment unprepared.
Look to the middle of verse 18. John says that fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
Regarding this day when we see God face to face, the unbeliever will be inundated with fear and the Christian, confidence.
John has already mentioned in 2.28 that we "abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming."
In verses 19-21, John reiterates the point that the child of God will love his brothers and sisters.
In verse 19 he states that it is only because God loved us that we have the capacity to love.
Momentarily, we will address the issue of how he loved us.
But for now we need to note that apart from his intervention, we are dead in our sins and unable to love in the same manner that he loves.
In typical fashion, John sets up the clear distinctions yet again.
In verse 20, "if anyone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar."
It is incompatible for someone to love God and hate his brother because God loves people and we are to imitate him.
For someone to love God, he or she must also love the same things and seek to honor him in this way.
Then John inserts an interesting phrase.
He says that "he who does not love his brother who he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen."
What he means is that if people cannot carry out the lesser requirement to love their fellow believer (whom they have seen), they cannot carry out the greater requirement of loving God (whom they have not seen).
For us, people are tangible.
We can see them and love them directly and practically.
We see immediate results and benefits as we love them.
With God, the fruits of our love for him are often more subjective.
We develop our relationship with an invisible God.
The question John asks with this statement is "how is it that one claim the faith of trusting in and loving an unseen God when they cannot even love his own children who are physically present?"
It is incompatible.
And the actions of these detractors have disqualified their claims to God.
And this brings us back to his point in verse 12 when John says that "no one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us."
He works the same thought backward.
If we love, we show that we believe in an unseen God who abides in us.
He says it both ways to make the point.
The basis for this reasoning is in the commandment from him who told his followers: "whoever loves God must also love his brother" in verse 21.
In chapter 3 verse 23, he said that the commandment is to believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he commanded us."
In his gospel, he records Jesus' words to his disciples during the Last Supper: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love 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."
So it is pretty consistent throughout Scripture that the child of God will love one another.