The Call to Love ~ 1 John 4:7-8
by David Guzik
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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!
- 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.
“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)
- 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.
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.
“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)
“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)
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.
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).
- 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.
“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)
© David Guzik, Blue Letter Bible; Study Guide for John 1