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THE TANGIBLE LOVE OF CHRIST

1 John   •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Christ loved believers in tangible ways, displaying His love in actions. Believers are to follow His example, loving one another in tangible ways.

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THE TANGIBLE LOVE OF CHRIST

Introduction
In our present passage, John presents the tangible love of Christ. When I use the word tangible, I use it in its strict dictionary definition. Tangible means “real and not imaginary; able to be shown, touched, or experienced.” (From Cambridge Dictionary Online, accessed 21 May 2020)
Christ’s love is tangible, it is real and not imaginary, able to be shown, touched, or experienced. This, from our point of view, is most readily seen in the four Gospels bearing witness to His perfect life, substitutionary death, and glorious resurrection. Jesus says, “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.” (John 15:9) But Jesus did not simply say I love you, He demonstrated that love in tangible ways.
Think about a man who says he loves his wife. At the altar he declared his love for her. And yet, as the couple experiences life together, it becomes increasingly clear that the man, in fact, does not love his wife. How can we tell? Because it is only in speech. The man boldly declares his love for his wife, and yet never spends time with her. When he is present with her, he is focused on his paper.
When given to the opportunity to sacrifice his own desires and wants for his wife, he always looks out for himself. Whenever he goes into the kitchen, he never asks his wife if she would like anything. He is self-serving, and because of these things we know his declared love for his wife is simply speech and nothing more.
But Christ’s love is infinitely different, and praise God for that! In our passage before us, John ties Jesus love for us in the fact that He willingly laid down His precious life for us.
But before we dive into our passage, I want to frame it within the greater context of this letter. Because these verses are only a part of this letter, and thus we must consider the part in relation to the whole.
Thinking of a recipe, we cannot take out a portion of the recipe and still create the intended result. No, we must take the recipe as a whole, made up of many parts that are interconnected.
As such, John uses this term for love several times. In chapter 2:5 and 10, John connects our love of our brothers and sisters directly to the love of God. Then, in chapter 3, John connects our spiritual birth (3:1) with our inward feelings and outward actions.
This is the context, the entire recipe, if you will, in which we see the Tangible Love of Christ. It is a beautiful love, an exquisite expression of God’s limitless and overwhelming love. And from this tangible love of Christ, we, as God’s children and brothers and sisters of Jesus, must love our brothers and sisters in Christ.

I. THE TANGIBLE LOVE OF CHRIST DISPLAYED- 1John 3:16a

John begins with the cream of the crop, the icing on the cake, the dessert, the best of the best: Jesus Christ. “We know love by this,” John tells us. That is, love is demonstrated, or defined, by this: that Jesus gave His life for us.
There are several points we must consider with this tangible love of Christ displayed.

A. WE CAN GRASP THIS TANGIBLE LOVE OF CHRIST—we know

“We know,” says John. We learn it, we grasp it, we handle it (not unlike his description of the incarnation of Christ in 1:1-3). The tangible love of Christ is real, and as such we are able to ascertain it.
It is like knowing Hannah’s love for me. I know she loves me, because she demonstrates it. She cares for me and my family, she takes care of me when I am sick, she encourages me when I am down, she cooks excellent food, and so on. I ascertain her love, I grasp it, because it is tangible.

B. WE GRASP THIS TANGIBLE LOVE OF CHRIST THROUGH HIS PERFECT LIFE, DEATH, AND RESURRECTION—that He laid down His life for us

John says we know love, we grasp it, because (that) He laid down His life for us. This is how we know: Christ’s sacrificial death.
At this point, I want to spend a moment discussing Christ’s death. This, after all, is how we know what love is (as contrasted with the flimsy love of the world).
Love, John tells us, is found in the self-sacrificing, substitutionary death of Christ in our place. You see, all human beings fall under the just and righteous wrath of Christ. We all deserve hell, everlasting hell, because we have sinned against infinite perfection and holiness. In his book Before the Throne: Reflections on God’s Holiness, Allen Nelson writes, “When we begin to grasp the fullness of God’s holiness, we realize that the best we have to offer God is filthy rages (Isaiah 66:2). That includes the best deeds you have ever done, all the money you have donated, the time you have spent volunteering at the homeless shelter, and the hours you have spent at church.” (167)
If Christ took not our place, if Christ did not lay down His life for us (on our behalf), then we as believers would be hopelessly lost and under the divine judgment of God.
You may say, why preach this in a message on the tangible love of Christ? Because, John tells us that we know love because Christ’s self-sacrifice. He died, for us. This is the Gospel. And so I implore you this morning, if you have never repented of your sins (1 John 1:9) and trusted in Christ’s substitutionary death (2:2), then would you do so this morning? Perhaps the Holy Spirit is drawing you this morning to do so. I would love the opportunity to share this love of Jesus with you this morning.

C. WE GRASP THIS TANGIBLE LOVE OF CHRIST BECAUSE IT IS SPECIFIC—for us

One final note before moving on to the example followed by believers: Christ’s love was specific. John tells us that He, Christ, laid down His life for us. His love was specific.
Thinking about the analogy of the husband and wife, the husband’s love is for his wife, it is specific. A husband does not purchase flowers for all the women in his life, he purchases them for his wife (unless he is asking for trouble). He shows his love for his wife. And Christ, our husband, demonstrates His love for us, specifically.
This thought is not foreign to Scripture. In fact, Paul says that marriage was used by God to illustrate the love Christ has for the church (Ephesians 5:25). Christ loves the Church, and He gave Himself up for her. Or, as John puts it, “He laid down His life for us.”
Knowing Christ’s love- understanding about a subject through its demonstration in the life and death of Christ
Christ’s life and death (John’s Gospel, particularly John 10:11 and 15:13)

II. THE EXAMPLE FOLLOWED BY BELIEVERS- 1 John 3:16b, 18

The example of believers is to imitate Christ in loving others
Fleshing out what it means to lay down one’s life

III. THE ABSENCE DISPLAYED BY UNBELIEVERS- 1 John 3:17

The contrast between believer and unbeliever is the willingness to love
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