Everyone agrees that love is a good thing, and nobody is against it really. The problems arise when we try to define what we mean by it. For our purposes here, love is what Christ reveals His Father to be like (John 14:9), as that love is mediated to us by the Holy Spirit, shed abroad in our hearts, as He ministers the Word to us. “And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Rom. 5:5). But even this must be teased out further.
“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us” (1 John 4:7–12).
Summary of the Text
As believers, we summoned (as in, required) to love one another. The reason for this is that love is of God (v. 7). If someone loves, this shows that he is born of God, and that he knows God (v. 7). A person who does not love does not know God (v. 8). It is that simple because God is love (v. 8). This love of God was manifested toward us when God sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him (v. 9). Love is defined, not by our love for Him, but rather by His love for us—as marked and measured by propitiation (v. 10). And if God loved us like that, how much more should we love one another like that (v. 11). No one has ever seen God except as God dwells in those who love each other, and are seeing His love grow to perfection in us (v. 12).
God is Love
We have already seen that God islight (1 John 1:5). We see in two places in 1 John that God islove (1 John 4:8,16). We see it most clearly with love, but we must understand that God is not separable from His attributes. All that is in God is God. It is not as though a certain percentage of the divine nature is love, another percentage is just, another percentage All that is in God is God, and that is in God is holy, holy, holy. We speak of different attributes of God, and look them up under different headings in our Bible dictionaries because of the nature of our little finite minds. But keep in mind that God is a personal Lover, a personal Beloved, and personal Love, all three, and this triune God is the one eternal God.
As Finite Creatures Imitate It
Our love for God is exclusionary because no one can serve two masters. We have already considered what love for the world is, but we must also note what it drives out. “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).
And if we see, really see, what the Father has done for us, in calling us His sons, we will come to understand why the world is so bewildered by us.
“Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not” (1 John 3:1).
Love is Obedience
When God loved the world, He did something (John 3:16; 1 John 4:9). So also, when we love we must act. Love is not mere sentiment.
“For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another” (1 John 3:11).
“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:2–3).
Faith in Christ leads inexorably to action. Love your brothers and sisters as though you were not concerned at all about being accused of being in a cult.
“And this is his commandment, That we should believeon the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment” (1 John 3:23).
Obeying an impersonal list of rules is not the way to assurance, but is rather the way to a screaming lack of assurance. Works righteousness and legalism breeds either pride or despair. But the obedience of love is a different thing altogether—it leads straight to assurance.
“We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death” (1 John 3:14).
In short, we know because we love.
“But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him” (1 John 2:5).
In short, if we keep His word about love, His love is perfected in us, and this also leads to assurance.
So Love Is More Than Big Talk
“Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:16–18).
Bring It Back Around
The apostle John tells us an enormous amount about the love of the Father in this very short letter. Remember, the lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh and the pride of life remove you from the love of the Father. This lands you in the midst of a tangled cluster of lies. But God brings us to life in His Son through the gospel, and His life is not dark but rather light. Put it all together, and you discover that God has ushered you into His everlasting love.
“And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love him, because he first loved us. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also” (1 John 4:16–21).