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1 John 4
Paul J. Bucknell
God is Love
If we want to know love then we need to know God. Love's feelings soon pass under trials and testings, but genuine love from God persists. Where can we find such explanations and teaching on love? 1 John 4 is a remarkable collection of sayings that reveal how love is connected to God Himself. Two times love is equated with God.
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Twice in a row John makes the remarkable statement that God is love. If we have been confused by any personification of love, we are here instantly enlightened. A source of love so powerful to touch our lives is the same as God. God in His sovereign power and majesty is known as love. Everything that God has and does shines in the glory of His love.
Where does love come from?
The Christian's main task is to love God and man. We need to ask, "Where is that love going to come from?" After a study of the following verses from 1 John, we believe that you will join us in affirming that we need to first experience God's love before we can give it. Let's look at the scriptures which affirm this.
|1 John 4:7
|Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.
|1 John 4:10
|In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son [to be] the propitiation for our sins.
|1 John 4:9
|By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.
|1 John 4:11
|Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
|1 John 4:12
|No one has beheld God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.
In each case, we see that the ultimate source of love is from God. The condition for loving others is to first experience God's own love. God's love was clearly seen when He sent Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son to die for His people. When a person becomes a Christian, we are actually seeing a person coming to know of God's love through Christ. We often ask, "Whether a person believes in Jesus Christ or not?" We could ask, "Do they know of God's love for them in Christ?"
The Fruit of God's Love
The argument is so strong. John conclusively states that a person has not met God if He has not been able to love God and man. The way one loves God is to obey Him. We would hope there are other proofs to knowing God such as attending church or trying to be good, but obedience to what He has told us to do is the real test. One of the most basic commands is to love our fellow Christian (i.e. brother).
- "And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also." 1 John 4:21
- "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments." 1 John 5:2
The Tests of God's Love
We might wonder how is it that obeying commands is a test of whether we know God's love. The answer is actually quite simple though it seems most people seem to miss the connection. God's love is shown through His commandments. God in His love set the commandments so that we would have sufficient revelation to know Him and have fulfilled lives. Every command becomes a whisper of love to keep us well protected. Parents give commands and rules for the blessing of the children. Parents do not seek to hurt or hold back their children by rules. The commands become special containers each with their special treasure of a command insights from God from the parents passed down to their children . God too, reveals His truths in the form of rigid commands to keep us well protected. This is why John says in 1 John 5:3,
"For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome."
One other test of love is mentioned here(1). We are to love the brethren.
- "The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love." 1 John 4:8
- "If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen." 1 John 4:20
We call them tests because John refers to them this way. They are, in fact, an outflow of knowing God's love. As a apple tree will bear apples, so those who know God will bear the fruits of His love. In this case we find that God's love will cause us to love one another. We will by nature (our new nature) love what God loves. We will patiently care and help others that God has patiently cared for and helped out. This love also causes us to be slow of anger and forgiving. We should at once find that bitterness will close our hearts to God and His love just like turning a faucet on our shower.
See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; (Hebrews 12:15). Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.
If we think about it at all, we find that these very things God forbids us to do are the things that would hurt and damage relationships. God's commandments are for our good. They enable us to love one another even if we were not brought up in a loving family. They are like the lights directing the plane to land in bad weather. They are only needed when we are confused and unclear.
The Christian's main task is to love God and man. This is how Jesus summarized the question to which is the greatest command. However, this love is impossible until their lives are first changed. Let's look at the scriptures which affirm this.
This practically means several things:
In summary, with John we affirm
"And we have come to know and
have believed the love which God has for us.
God is love,
and the one who abides in love abides in God, and
God abides in him"
(1 John 4:16).
Scriptures typically quoted from the New American Standard Bible unless noted:
(C) Copyright The Lockman Foundation 1988
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