God Is Love
1 John 4:7-17
7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.
David Guzik Study Guide on “Blue Letter Bible”
David Guzik Study Guide to 1 John 4-17
1. (1Jo 4:7-8) The call to love.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
a. Beloved, let us love: The ancient Greek sentence begins in a striking way – agapetoi agapomen, “those who are loved, let us love.” We are not commanded to love one another to earn or become worthy of God’s love. We love one another because we are loved by God, and have received that love, and live in light of it.
b. Let us love one another, for love is of God: John’s emphasis on love among the people of God (shown in passages like 1 John 2:9-11 and 3:10-18) is powerful. Here, he shows why it is so important. If love is of God, then those who claim to be born of God, and claim to know God, must be able to love one another in the body of Christ.
i. Again, John insists that there is something that is given to the believer when they are born of God; a love is imparted to their life that they did not have before. Christians are not “just forgiven” – they are born anew by God’s Spirit.
c. And knows God: There are several different words in the ancient Greek language translated “know” into English. This specific word for knows (ginosko) is the word for a knowledge by experience. John is saying when we really experience God it will show by our love for one another.
i. Of course, this love is not perfected in the life of a Christian on this side of eternity. Though it may not be perfected, it must be present – and it should be growing. You can’t truly grow in your experience of God without also growing love for one another. John can boldly say, He who does not love does not know God. If there isn’t real love for God’s people in your life, then your claim to know God and experience God isn’t true.
d. Love is of God: The love John speaks of comes from the ancient Greek word agape; it is the concept of a self-giving love that gives without demanding or expecting re-payment – it is the God-kind of love.
i. Since this is God’s kind of love, it comes into our life through our relationship with Him. If we want to love one another more, we need to draw closer to God.
ii. Every human relationship is like a triangle. The two people in the relationship are at the base of the triangle, and God is at the top. As the two people draw closer to the top of the triangle, closer to God, they will also draw closer to one another. Weak relationships are made strong when both people draw close to the Lord!
e. Everyone who loves is born of God… He who does not love does not know God: This does not mean that every display of love in the world can only come from a Christian. Those who are not Christians still can display acts of love.
i. “It is because men are created in the image of God, an image that has been defaced but not destroyed by the Fall, that they still have the capacity to love… Human love, however noble and however highly motivated, falls short if it refuses to include the Father and Son as the supreme objects of its affection.” (Marshall)
f. For God is love: This is a glorious truth. Love describes the character and heart of God. He is so rich in love and compassion, that it can be used to describe His very being.
i. When we say God is love, we are not saying everything about God. Love is an essential aspect of His character, and colors every aspect of His nature. But it does not eliminate His holiness, His righteousness, or His perfect justice. Instead, we know the holiness of God is loving, and the righteousness of God is loving, and the justice of God is loving. Everything God does, in one way or another, expresses His love.
ii. “He hates nothing he has made. He cannot hate, because he is love. He causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends his rain on the just and the unjust. He has made no human being for perdition, nor ever rendered it impossible, by any necessitating decree, for a fallen soul to find mercy. He has given the fullest proof of his love to the whole human race by the incarnation of his Son, who tasted death for every man. How can a decree of absolute, unconditional reprobation, of the greater part or any part of the human race, stand in the presence of such a text as this?” (Clarke)
iii. “Never let it be thought that any sinner is beyond the reach of divine mercy so long as he is in the land of the living. I stand here to preach illimitable love, unbounded grace, to the vilest of the vile, to those who have nothing in them that can deserve consideration from God, men who ought to be swept into the bottomless pit at once if justice meted out to them their deserts.” (Spurgeon)
iv. Great problems come when we try to say love is God. This is because love does not define everything in the character of God, and because when most people use the term love, they are not thinking of true love, the God-kind of love. Instead, they are thinking of a squishy, namby-pamby, have-a-nice-day kind of love that values being “nice” more than wanting what is really best for the other person.
v. The Bible also tells us that God is spirit (John 4:24), God is light (1 John 1:5), and that God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29).
g. God is love: There are few people who really know and really believe that God is love. For whatever reason, they won’t receive His love and let it transform their lives. It transforms our life to know the love of God in this way.
i. “There is love in many places, like wandering beams of light; but as for the sun, it is in one part of the heavens, and we look at it, and we say, ‘Herein is light.’… He did not look at the Church of God, and say of all the myriads who counted not their lives dear unto them, ‘Herein is love,’ for their love was only the reflected brightness of the great sun of love.” (Spurgeon)
- (1Jo 4:9-11) The meaning of love and its application.
In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. 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. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
a. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God sent His only begotten Son: This shows us what love is and what it means. Love is not only defined by the sacrifice of Jesus (as stated in 1 John 3:16); it is also defined by the giving of the Father. It was a sacrifice for the Father to send the Second Person of the Trinity, and a sacrifice to pour out the judgment we deserved upon God the Son.
i. We need to appreciate this fully, and receive the Fatherly love God has to give us. Some of us, for whatever reason, have come to think of God the Father as aloof and mean, perhaps the so-called “angry God” of the Old Testament. In this wrong thinking, many imagine they prefer the nice and loving Jesus instead. But the Father loves us too; and the love Jesus showed in His ministry was the same love God the Father has towards us. We can receive the healing power in our Father’s love.
b. That God has sent His only begotten Son into the world: John is careful to call Jesus the only begotten Son. This special term means Jesus has a Sonship that is unique (only) and begotten indicates that Jesus and the Father are of the same substance, the same essential Being.
i. We use the term create to describe something that may come from someone, but isn’t of the same essential nature or being. A man can create a statue that looks just like him, but it will never be human. However, we use the term beget to describe something that is exactly the same as us in essential nature and being. We are adopted sons and daughters of God, but we are not of the same essential nature and being as God – we are human beings. But Jesus is the only begotten Son, meaning His Sonship is different than ours; He was and is of the same essential nature and being as God the Father. We are human beings; He is a “God-being” – who added humanity to His deity.
c. That we might live through Him: The love of the Father was not only in the sending of the Son, but also in what that sending accomplishes for us. It brings life to all who trust in Jesus and His work on their behalf, because He is the propitiation for our sins.
i. Propitiation has the idea of a sacrifice that turns away the wrath of God. God rightly regarded us, apart from Him, as worthy targets of His judgment. We were rebels and enemies of Him, even if we didn’t know it. But on the cross, Jesus took the punishment our sin deserved – His sacrifice turned away the judgment we would have received. We easily think how this shows the love of Jesus, but John wants us to understand it also shows the love of God the Father: He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
ii. That we might live through Him: The greatness of God’s love is shown not only in saving us from the judgment we deserved, but also in wanting us to live through Him. Do we live through Him? This is a great way to define the Christian life, to live through Him.
d. God has sent His only begotten Son: This shows the love of God, because love gives its best. There was nothing better God the Father could give to lost humanity than the gift of the Son of God Himself. As Paul describes it in 2 Corinthians 9:15, Jesus was the Father’s indescribable gift.
i. “If there was to be reconciliation between God and man, man ought to have sent to God; the offender ought to be the first to apply for forgiveness; the weaker should apply to the greater for help; the poor man should ask of him who distributes alms; but ‘Herein is love’ that God ‘sent.’ He was first to send an embassy of peace.” (Spurgeon)
e. He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins: This shows the love of God. It might have shown enough love that the Father sent the Son, and not some lower-grade angel; but He sent the Son, not on a fact-finding mission or merely a mission of compassion – He sent the Son to die for our sins.
i. “If God had merely sent Jesus to teach us about Himself, that would have been wonderful enough. It would have been far more than we deserved. If God had sent Jesus simply to be our example, that would have been good too and would have had some value… But the wonderful thing is that God did not stop with these but rather sent His Son, not merely to teach or to be our example, but to die the death of a felon, that He might save us from sin.” (Boice)
f. For our sins: This shows the love of God. God gave His Son to die, and to die for sinners. We can think of someone paying a great price to save someone deserving, someone good, someone noble, someone who had done much for them. But God did all this for rebels, for sinners, for those who had turned their backs on Him.
i. “But who among us would think of giving up his son to die for his enemy, for one who never did him a service, but treated him ungratefully, repulsed a thousand overtures of tenderness, and went on perversely hardening his neck? No man could do it.” (Spurgeon)
g. In this is love: Real love, agape love, is not defined by our love for God, but by His love for us. His love for us initiates our relationship of love with Him, our love only responds to His love for us. We can’t love God the way we should unless we are receiving and living in His love.
i. Our love for God doesn’t really say anything great about us. It is only the common sense response to knowing and receiving the love of God.
h. If God so loved us: Having received this love from God, we are directed to love one another. This pattern of receiving from God, then giving to others was familiar to John (John 13:14).
i. When Jesus washed the feet of the disciples, and showed such great love and servanthood to them, we might have expected Him to conclude by gesturing to His own feet and asking who among them was going to do to Him what He had just done for them. Instead, Jesus said: If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet (John 13:14). The proper way to love God in response to His love for us is to go out and love one another.
ii. This love will lead to practical action. “Has anybody offended you? Seek reconciliation. ‘Oh, but I am the offended party.’ So was God, and he went straight away and sought reconciliation. Brother, do the same. ‘Oh, but I have been insulted.’ Just so: so was God: all the wrong was towards him, yet he sent. ‘Oh, but the party is so unworthy.’ So are you; but ‘God loved you and sent his Son.’ Go write according to that copy.” (Spurgeon)
iii. If we do not love one another, how can we say that we have received the love of God and have been born of Him? Love is the proof we are taught to look for. If you had a pipe that was clogged – water kept going into it, but never came out, that pipe would be useless. You would replace it. Just so, God puts His love into our lives that it might flow out. We want the Lord to clear us and fill us so that His love can flow through us.