Show God By Your Love (1 John 4:7-12)
Start with video from Samaritan’s Purse, Kids answering “What Is Love?” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BcYlA58E_ss
John is sometimes referred to as the expert on love. I read that he uses the word agape (love) over 30 times from . Paul is the apostle of faith. Peter is the apostle of hope. James is the apostles of good works. And John is the apostle of love. We know that John really identified with Jesus’ love for him, even to the point of referring to himself as “the apostle whom Jesus loved” in his gospel record.
And just when you might think how much more can I learn about love?, John gives us even more insight into the love of God. Though we have heard the command love one another before, John is clarifying some things even further and makes a case that we haven’t quite seen yet: we show God by our love.
I am going to break this passage down and walk though it explaining the command to love, reason to love, example of love, standard of love, rationale for love, and the result of loving like we should.
We can start with the command, and I won’t spend any more time on it than to say that we are to love one another. Simple enough, right? But very hard to do.
There are actually 3 reasons given in v.7-8 why we should love.
Love is from God. The end of v.8 says that God is love. So love is the very character of God, and it is going to come from Him. Just like when you have fire, you have heat; when you have the sun, you have light. Love is part of God’s nature. You can’t separate it from who He is.
Love is evidence that a person is born of God. It makes sense—if you have God dwelling in you and love is from God, then you should be loving. God has regenerated your heart, taken that dead, fleshly heart and made it alive.
It might be easy to read this and think this is saying that love is the determining factor of salvation. If someone is loving, then they must be saved. This verse is not going against teaching that clarifies that salvation is by grace alone through faith.
Being saved doesn’t come through good works. And some might say I’m loving, so I must be saved. The ESV Study Bible footnote on this verse says it nicely, “Love is presented here as a consequence of, not a precondition for, being born again.”
This verse also doesn’t mean that an unsaved person can’t love. Even unsaved people can reflect their Creator in some ways. All people are made in the image of God, and by his grace, they are able to act lovingly. But a person will not understand love to the degree that they would when they experience the personal touch of God, who is love. They will be able to love even their enemies, and love unconditionally, because they have a new power within them and perfect example before them.
Love demonstrates that you know God. Whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Love takes it beyond just knowing about God. When you have been born again, then you have an intimate, personal connection with God. You know him.
So love is from God and you should reflect that love since you’ve been born of God. It shouldn’t be inseparable from who you are.
Starting at v.9, the focus shifts slightly. V.7 begins with “Beloved.” V.9 & 10 begin with further explanations: “In this...” Then v.11, he goes back to “Beloved.”
He starts personal and endearing, then goes a little deeper with explanation, then comes back up to make personal appeal and application.
starts the deeper look into an example of love. God is love. How was that manifested?
Here’s our answer: God sent his only son into the world, so that we might live through him.
God was giving. He sent his son.
God was selfless. He sent his only son.
God was personal. He acted toward the world.
God was purposeful. So that we might live.
God was consistent. That we might live through him.
Am I following that example?
Now we press further. What is the standard of love? What I mean is this: what makes love, love?
In this is love: John begins with a negative statement; not this: not that we have loved God.
Imagine if our love (actions, words, thoughts) was the standard. If the example we just learned about in v.9 would only have been done if we were loving properly, then we would be toast! God’s love is gracious, meaning it was not dependent upon what we had done up to a certain point.
Our love is not the standard. Some might think that certain actions are loving, while some others think those same actions are hateful. For example, telling a person that he is sinful and needs Jesus is an act of love because you’re giving him the hope and help he needs. But that same action might be declared by others to be hateful.
Our emotions and feelings change all the time. They don’t make a good standard.
In this is love: not that we have loved God. It isn’t based upon what we have done or thought or said. No, there’s a better standard of love:
In this is love: that he loved us and sent his son to be the propitiation for our sins. God set the standard of love. Verse 10 mirrors so well. God loved us and sent his son. Jesus Christ is the propitiation for our sins. We’ve talked about this term before when John mentioned it previously in this letter—it means that Jesus was the substitutionary atonement, he took our punishment that we deserved, and then the second part of the meaning is that Jesus fully satisfied the wrath of God. So nobody who accepts Christ will ever face the wrath of God.
How’s that for a standard??!! This is partially why only those who are saved will understand the depth of true love. And we also realize that v.7 is explained a little more by v.10. How are we going to love sacrificially like God? We’ll only ever come close if we are born of God and know him personally. V.19 says that we love because God first loved us. His love will change us, and it will allow us to love like we wouldn’t be able to without His love first.
Now here’s the rationale for our love. In case nothing yet that John said about love has made sense, he summarizes it. He turns back to a very personal, practical, endearing tone: Beloved.
If God did this for you, then you ought to love one another.
If God sent his son to stand in your place and take your punishment, then you ought to love those who even seem to be your enemies, but enemy doesn’t even seem like a word we can use anymore when we think about how Jesus stood in our place though we didn’t deserve it.
If God let Jesus satisfy the full wrath of God so that we won’t come under the wrath of God, then we ought not to hold other sunder our wrath but rather lead them to the truth.
Finally, what happens when we love properly? God will be seen in us. His love will be perfected in us, meaning it reaches its mature end.
No one will see God physically. But they will see God as they see our love.
Someone has said that we might be the only Jesus someone will see.
Let me try to explain why: because if we are loving properly and in the full maturity God intended, following the pattern of selfless, sacrificial love, you are acting in a way that is so counter-cultural, that someone might be curious and eventually be pointed to Christ.
Show God by your love.