The Book of 1 John
God Loves Us
1 John 4:7-12 SCC 8/21/11
Why is there such an emphasis on our ‘loving one another’ in the body of Christ? This body will be formed by differing personalities, from differing cultural, economic, and political backgrounds. This body will have differing colors of skin and social milieus. Contrasting convictions and diverse experiences will be concentrated within this body. We will simply become eternally related to people in heaven whom we may have very little practical relation with on earth. Within this diverse mix we are commanded to lovingly move toward one another and this command is never modified or rescinded by the apostles. But God, who differs in character from his creation, has also moved in love toward not just differing beings but sinful ones who are an offense to His character. Yet God loved us and here we have the single absolutely necessary condition of our loving one another. God loves us!!!!!
1. Believers ought to love one another because love comes from God 7a
The statement implies that love (the genuine love that is the topic of discussion here) has its source in God.
2. Everyone who loves is fathered by God and knows God 7b.
NB: This next clause, introduced by the conjunction ‘and’, but does not give a second reason but introduces a second and additional thought. Namely, that our loving one another is the by-product of being born of God and fellowshipping with Him.
NB: “Everyone who loves” refers to all genuine Christians, who give evidence by their love for one another that God has indeed fathered them and are thus God’s children. It is clear from 1 John 3:23 that the command to show love to fellow Christians is predicated upon belief in Jesus Christ, so that love is the effect rather than the cause of the spiritual birth spoken of here. The opposite situation is described in the following verse 4:8, where it is clear that a contrast is intended.
NB: The verb ‘born’ in this context means to be fathered by God and thus a child of God. The imagery the author uses is that of the male parent who fathers children. Love stems from a regenerate nature and from fellowship with God.
3. The absence of love is evidence a person does not know God 8.
NB: Significantly John did not say such a person is not born of God. In this negative statement only the second part of the positive statement (v 7b) is repeated. The emphasis is on the knowledge of God in context of fellowship with God. Since “God is Love” intimate acquaintance with Him engenders love toward other believers. Love is intrinsic to God’s nature and so is in ours as we fellowship with Him.
NB: The author proclaims, “God is love” but this is not a proposition in which subject and predicate are interchangeable (“God is love” does not equal “love is God”). This is qualitative as it is in two other formulas describing God, “God is light” in 1 John 1:5 and “God is Spirit” in John 4:24. The difference between saying “God is love” and merely “God loves” is that the latter statement might stand alongside other statements, such as ‘God creates,’ ‘God rules,’ ‘God judges’; that is to say, it means that love is one of His activities. But to say ‘God is love’ implies that all His activity is loving activity. If He creates, He creates in love; if He rules, He rules in love; if He judges, He judges in love. All that He does is the expression of His nature, which is—to love.
NB: Because this is so, because all God’s activity is loving activity and involves the expression of love, its is right conclude that the person who does not love must not know God. If they did, they would act in love, because all God’s activity is loving activity and consistent with the love of God in us.
4. God’s love was manifested in sending His only Son by whom we might obtain life 9.
NB: If you wish to authenticate how God revealed His love, you only need to know that He sent His
only begotten Son into the world to save us. God’s love is revealed in believers through his giving of his Son. The explanatory clause that follows makes it clear that this is emphasizing God’s love for us rather than our love for God, because it describes God’s action in sending his Son into the world.
NB: This phrase, ‘in us’ is best understood as being ‘within us’ where the love of God is revealed with regard to believers (i.e., internally within believers). This is true because in the context the concept of God’s indwelling of the believer is mentioned in 4:12: “God resides in us….”
NB: The meaning of “one and only” in 4:9 is often translated “only begotten”. The word in Greek was used of an only child, either a son (Luke 7:12; 9:38) or a daughter (Luke 8:42). From here it passes easily to a description of Isaac (Heb 11:17) who was not Abraham’s only son, but was one-of-a-kind because he was the child of the promise. Thus the word means “one-of-a-kind” and is reserved for Jesus alone in the John’s writings. While all Christians are children of God, Jesus is God’s Son in a unique, one-of-a-kind sense. The word is used in this way in all its uses in John (1:14, 18; 3:16, 18).
NB: It seems clear that in the context of 1 John 2:2 & 4:9 the reference to “the world” falls into line with statements in the Gospel of John like 3:16-17 and 12:46-47. There is some sense in which the propitiatory work of Jesus on the cross (the substitutionary atonement) extends not just to believers but also to the entire world (kosmos). This is not to say that the benefit of Jesus’ propitiatory work will accrue to the world unless the world turns to him and accepts the free gift of life, which he offers. But it is offered to the entire world and not to believers only 1 John 4:14.
5. Real love comes from God and we cannot love God except that he loved us first 10.
NB: The “in this” at the beginning of 4:10 is connected to the two explanatory clauses which follow, both of which explain what the love of God consists of: first, stated negatively, “not that we have loved God,” and then positively, “but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.” The two clauses reinforce each other.
NB: The ‘atoning sacrifice’ or ‘propitiation’ is the idea of turning away the divine wrath. God’s love for us is expressed in his sending his Son to be the propitiation (the propitiatory sacrifice) for our sins on the cross. What Jesus did during his incarnation was absolutely indispensable.
NB: So what is important is not whether we love God (or say that we love God), but that God has loved us and sent his Son to be an atoning (propitiatory) sacrifice which removes believers’ sins.
6. If God took the initiative in so loving us, we also ought to take the initiative in showing love for one another 11.
NB: God’s example of self-giving, sacrificial love – the giving of his own Son – serves as the model for believers to follow in loving one another. Once more the author of 1 John addresses his readers as Dear friends as in v 7.
NB: Reality is assumed for the sake of argument with the use of conditional ‘if’ and the author assumes his readers, as genuine believers, would also agree with it. Assuming that God has loved believers in this way, it follows that believers ought to love one another. God’s act of love in sending his Son into the world to be the atoning (propitiatory) sacrifice for our sins ought to motivate us as believers to love one another in a similar sacrificial fashion. So one expression of our loving one another is sacrificial in nature. Love is giving and costly giving as Gods love for us was and is.
NB: We might have expected the author to say that the proper response to God’s love for believers (as shown in the giving of his Son, v. 10) is for believers to love God in return. Such reciprocity may be implied, but the author emphasizes instead the necessity of believers showing love for one another. The author’s use of “we ought” here indicates that mutual love on the part of Christians is a duty. The command for Christians to love one another is not an optional extra. Instead, it is an integral part of normative Christian experience and cannot be dispensed with.
APPLICATION: The over-arching expression of believers intimate relation with God is the sacrificial nature of loving one another just as God’s sacrificial nature of love was expressed in giving His Son for our salvation and eternal life.