SURE OF GOD’S LOVE
1 John 4:7–13, 19–21
We know we are loved because God sent Jesus. (7–10)
John’s main point in this passage is that Christians must love one another. He uses love as a marker to indicate whether someone belongs to God. If you love others, you know God. At first glance, this may seem to suggest that the ability to express love to another is proof that one is saved. But remember the bigger theme of the epistle: if one does not love, it is proof one does not know God.
Christians have a deeper capacity to love than others because of their connection to God. He is the source of love in three ways. First, God is the embodiment of love. Love is not something God does, but something God is. Second, God the Father sent Jesus as the visible expression of love. Jesus demonstrated God’s love throughout His time on Earth. Third, Jesus committed the ultimate act of love in selflessly giving of His perfect life for us on the cross.
We must love others. (11–13)
John has already reminded readers twice in this short passage that God sent Jesus as Savior. This leads to the logical response: God loved us and we must pass that love to others.
“If God loved us” doesn’t mean there is doubt in John’s mind. The phrase could also be translated “since God loved us.”
When John writes that God’s love is made complete in us, he is not suggesting that love is incomplete without us. God’s love is always perfect because His nature defines love. When we love others, God’s love comes to its fullness within us. Love must have an object. “I love” may be a complete sentence, but without an object (I love my wife or I love my church) it makes no sense.
In the same way, God’s love doesn’t make complete sense in the life of a Christians unless it is given to another — in this case, other believers. Though the idea that through His love God sent Jesus as the sacrifice for sin indicates that God’s love is not limited to just those in the Church, and neither should the love of believers be limited only to other believers.
We must not hate. (19–21)
In a dating relationship, we might be afraid to be the first to express love. Being the first one can be risky. Fortunately for believers, God made the first step. Christians can love without fear of rejection or risk because Christ loved them first.
John imagines someone arguing that they do love, but their love is returned to God and not expressed to others. John has already noted that “no one has seen God at any time” (v. 12). Just as it is more difficult to express love to a person who is far away than someone seen daily, it is easier to express love to a fellow believer one sees regularly than it is to God who cannot be seen directly. In short, if we can’t or won’t love those in the Church, it is unlikely we are able or willing to love God.
Finally, as John records Jesus in John 15:12: “This is my command: Love one another as I have loved you.” Whatever argument we may find against loving others is superseded by this command.
By Daryl Watts
Watts is a church consultant in Fresno, California.