We Must Love as God Loves
Last week, we were asked to test the spirits. This is because not every spiritual event comes from the Holy Spirit. There is a spirit of error which comes from the antichrist as well as the Spirit of Truth which comes from God. The Holy Spirit never promotes Himself but proclaims Jesus Christ. And message which claims to come from the Holy Spirit which is not centered in the person and work of Jesus Christ is to be rejected as not coming from God. The Holy Spirit is sent to lead us into all truth. And we know that Jesus’ own statement in John 14:6 says that Jesus is not just a truth but “the truth.” It is by the Spirit which testifies of the work of Jesus Christ on the cross for us which lets us know we are overcomers.
Exposition of the Text
Verse 7: Beloved, we must love one another because love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been begotten of God and knows God.
The King James translates the start of this verse “let us love one another”. But the force of the Greek subjunctive in the first person plural (ἀγαπῶμεν, ah-gap-oh-men) is meant to be a command and not just a wish. This is not a take it or leave it proposition. It is the very proof that we are God’s children.
People want to be with people that they love. Those who had left had shown they did not love the ones they left behind. If they had loved them, they would have remained with them. Those who had left loved something else more. If we follow what John had said earlier, they were in love with the world and the approval of the world. And John has called the world, the very spirit of the antichrist.
The true source of love comes from God. This is how the Greek preposition ἐκ, ek, is to be translated here. This love is demonstrated by the fact that God did not leave us to perish in our sin. As God and Creator of all, He had and has the perfect right to destroy the human race. And He would not even have to get actively involved. Left to our own devices, we are perfectly capable of destroying ourselves. And this seems to be exactly where we are currently headed. But God so loved us that He sent His Son to die on the cross for our sins. And not only this, He has promised us eternal life. The person who loves hisher brethren truly knows God as well. The person who loves God loves God because heshe knows what God has done for him/her. And the person who has received of God’s love must give of the same to others as well.
Verse 8: The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
It is very important to get this verse right. It does NOT say “Love is God.” This is what the world says. It makes a god out of love. In Greek, the phrase clearly shows that God is the subject (ὁ θεὸς ἀγάπη ἐστίν, ho the-os ah-gah-pee es-tin). The article ὁ (ho) is masculine and goes with God. It also comes before the word for love, ἀγάπη, which is feminine. Love describes the character of God, not God the character of love. Duke Ellington was not right when he said “God is a three letter word for love” and “Love is a four letter word for God.”
This verse is the natural conclusion that has to be made from verse 7. If one knows God and loves God by loving God’s family, then it is equally true that the one who does not cannot either know or love God. These people might know something about God, but they do not know Him.
Verse 9: This is how the love of God has been shown to us that God has sent His only-begotten Son into the world in order that we might live through Him.
John keeps circling around love like a hawk circles in the sky looking for its prey. The Spirit wants to make it clear how important love is to the Christian. Sound doctrine and love are kept together in the person of Christ. If anyone wants to know what love truly is, they need look no further than the cross. In fact, the suffering of Christ for our sins is the very definition of love.
It is very important to notice that at the end of the verse it says that we might live “through Christ. In the Greek, the phrase is δι᾽ αὐτοῦ, dee-ahv-too, “through him”. The Greek could have said δι᾽ αὐτον, dee ahvt-on, instead which is translated “on account of Him” or “because of Him.” The change of one letter means this. If it were “because of Him” we live, it would be as if one were pulled out of a burning car by a stranger and then each went their own way without any further interaction. That saved person could reflect from time to time and be thankful that a stranger cared enough to risk life to save him. That person could rightly say that the only reason he is living today is because of the heroic deed of someone who pulled him from the fire.
However, the Greek says we live “through Him” here, not just “because of Him”. It is certainly true that we live “because of Him”. However the use of the genitive case here implies more than just “because of” with an occasional remembrance of gratitude of the work of a stranger. When δια, dee-ah, is used with the genitive, it indicates an ongoing relationship exists. Not only has Jesus saved us by His dying on the cross but He lives with us and in us. We are strangers no more. It also say we must continue in this relationship to be saved. Remember when at the beginning of the epistle when it was written that in Him (God) is light, and in Him is no darkness at all (1:5)? We can not come into the Father’s presence except through Christ. So then what we understand here is what Christ has done and is still doing for us that is important. Christ still intercedes for us to the Father. And it is through the Son we can come to the Father.
Verse 10: And this is the love, not because WE have loved God, BUT that HE loved us and sent His Son as a covering for our sins.
I have translated this verse literally here to bring out the force. The words in caps are emphasized in the Greek. We could translate the first part of this verse; “This is what true love is all about.” The rest of the verse is very similar to what Paul writes in Romans 5 when he says “while we were still God’s enemies, Christ died for us.” True love acts out of its own character without conditions. Christ died without pre-conditions. It is not that we even repented and promised to do good that Christ decided to help us by dying for our sins. True love is demonstrated when the possibility of rejection or even the probability of rejection is there. Jesus died for a world of which the vast majority want nothing to do with Him or His sacrifice. It is nothing we have done, and it is certainly not because we loved God that He came to die on the cross. In fact, the reason we can now love God is entirely because of what Christ has done for us. Without this, it would be impossible to love God.
Verse 11: Beloved, since this is how God has loved us, we must love one another in the same way.
This time I have paraphrased the Greek to bring out the force. The Greek say we are under obligation or debt to God to love one another. And this is not with some kind of lip service either. It has to be of the same quality of love that Christ has loved us. It is sacrificial and unconditional love that God expects from us. We must love even when others reject our love and us as well. This is not easy love. This is not mere toleration. Since we are God’s children, and God is love, then we as His children must also love. God has modeled how He expects us to act in His Son Jesus Christ.
Verse 12: God, no one has ever seen. If we love one another, God remains in you and His love in you is perfected.
God comes first in the Greek sentence, even though He is the direct object. We would have written it: No one has seen God at any time.” By putting God first in the sentence, it emphasizes that no one (except Jesus of course) has ever beheld God with the physical eyes. The word “behold” means a good look of the likeness of God. It does not rule out a peek such as Moses or Isaiah might have had of part of God. It also allows and actually is stated so in Scripture that we have beheld God in the person of Jesus Christ. But in Jesus, the fullness of the radiance of God was veiled in flesh or else those who saw Jesus in the flesh would have died. What is also stated here is that God is also seen in us when we love one another. Not only this, but this is the mark of true perfection, when the love of God in us is perfectly expressed. In other words, God is seen in us when we perfectly reflect to each other the love God has in us.
Verse 13: By this we know that we are in Him, and He in us—because He has given us of the Spirit.
Again John has set forth the argument of the necessity of loving first and mentions the indwelling of the Holy Spirit later. I feel this is significant because those who had left probably emphasized that they were filled with the Holy Spirit. In fact, they may have accused those who they left as being unspiritual. By mentioning love and unity first, he is keeping to the same order found in Acts. They were in one accord in one place. Then the Spirit fell. The emphasis here is that we need not look for an experience of the Spirit first and then love but rather love and the Spirit will be experienced and confirm we are His.
Verse 14: and we have beheld and testify that the Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world.
Here again we step back to the first chapter where John reminds the readers that he and the other Apostles were eye, hear, and hand witnesses to the human Jesus. This here is one of those soundly doctrinal statements which are weaved in among all of the commands to love. The idea of beheld here which is in the Greek perfect tense is the idea of having seen and still seeing. The Son, and no one else, is the Savior and way to God.
Verse 15: Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God is in Him and He Himself in God.
Sound doctrine again is emphasized here. Love is not tolerance. Love needs truth, and truth, love. The necessary confession here is that Jesus and no one else is the Son of God. If one does not confess this, then they are not a Christian. And if they are not a Christian, then they are clueless as to what true love is because they do not understand the truest demonstration of love for all time, the willing sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for our sins. But the one who confesses, here with the lips, but also confessed in living a life of unconditional love rooted in the love of God and demonstrated in the sending of the Son.
The emphasis on love in this epistle is clearly grounded in the Person and work of Christ. Jesus’ love is the perfect example of the Father’s love for us. This example is also become the example of how we should live our lives as Christians. Jesus’ love was entirely unconditional. He did not die for those who loved Him. He died for everyone, whether they would accept Him as Savior or not. We must love in the same way in laying our own will and desires aside that we might serve our brothers and sisters in love. The world thinks this to be utter foolishness and mocks the Christians. Their attitude is “me first”. And we can see by the crumbling of society and the loss of all values and truth how destructive this has become, not only of society itself, but even to those who seek this hedonistic life style. How has fame and adulation destroyed the Britney Spears’ and Michael Jackson’s of this world. I can still remember the cute little boy singing a love song “Whenever you call me, I’ll be there. What happened? Tolerance is certainly not saving the world, is it? What we really need is the bold and loving proclamation of the love of Christ. It is time to put the cross at the center of the message of love we preach because it is at the center of God’s message.