The apostle John returns to the command for us to love one another. In 1 John 3:14 the apostle taught that we know we have passed from spiritual death to spiritual life in the Lord when we love our brothers and sisters in Christ. In this paragraph John is going to present to us six reasons why we should be motivated and zealous to love each other.
Love Because God Is Love (4:7-8)
The first reason we love is because it is the character of God. God is love. This means that we do not get to make excuses for ourselves. We cannot bypass this command because we are just not a loving kind of person. Now it is important to define what the scriptures mean by love. Love does not refer to feelings or being an emotionally soft person. Love is the denying of self for the gain of another. This is what love looks like in marriage. I don’t do what I want or what is in my interest, but what is for the gain of the other. This is what love looks like among us as well. Our actions are controlled by what will bring gain to another person through the denying and sacrificing of ourselves. So if we are not loving people what we are admitting is that we are self-consumed and only act selfishly. We are looking at how others can deny themselves for the gain of me. This is not love but selfishness and is sin. Love is thinking about others and not thinking about ourselves. Relationships are destroyed when we think about how things affect us, rather than thinking about how our acts are affecting others. Therefore, we cannot excuse ourselves because we think we have an unloving personality. We need to repent of being that way and change our personality toward being self-sacrificing. Children think they are the center of the universe. They are self-consumed. Parents, you are loving your children by training, teaching, and disciplining them to think about others and not themselves. If your parents did not teach you this, I am sorry, but this is still not an excuse to not love each other. Do not do what is good for you. Do what is good for God and do what is good for your Christian family.
Consider what John says. If we do not deny ourselves for the gain of our Christian brethren, then we have not been born of God and do not know God. If we are born of God we are going to share in his character traits. Loving each other is the proof that we know God and are born of God. This is to be a confidence for our eternal salvation. We know that we have eternal life because we are treating each other properly, denying ourselves, and allowing our Christian family to gain through our sacrifice. Otherwise, we are not children of God. We must change our conduct to love or change our name because we are not Christians.
Love Because God Loved Us (4:9-11)
God reveals his love in the most dramatic and powerful way: the sending of Jesus, his only Son, to die on the cross so that we might live. This expression of love shows that we are defining love properly. How did God show love? God denied himself for our gain. He sacrificed his Son so that we could have life in him. Jesus reveals the heart of God. Notice the boldness of John’s words in verse 10. “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us.” (1 John 4:10 NIV2011) Love is not that we love him but he loved us. Love is not that we do things for God, but God has done so much for us. This is the proper attitude of the disciple of Jesus. We do not think about what we are doing for God. We do not see what we are doing as a sacrifice or a forsaking of ourselves. All that we see and are motivated by is what God has done for us. What did God do? He sent his Son as the propitiation for our sins. God removed the offense and covered our sin with his mercy so that the relationship is restored. The greatness of the sacrifice reveals the love. To those who are parents you understand that if there is a choice between the life of yourself or the life of your child, the decision does not require any time to consider. We will immediately give ourselves. Why would we do that? We do that because our love is so great for our children. Therefore, we see how great God’s love is for this world. We see how great God’s love is for every person. We see how much he loves you and me. There was no question that God would send his Son to save the world. He loves us beyond measure. Or as the apostle Paul wrote, “…to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:19 ESV) His love for us cannot be quantified. Verse 11 gives us the life instruction. “If God loved us in this way, we also must love one another.” (1 John 4:11 HCSB) What God did for us drives us to do the same for one another.
Love Because We Show God To The World (4:12)
No one has seen God but the love of God should be seen in us by loving each other. We cannot see God and the world cannot see God. But the world is supposed to see the love of God in us by the way we treat each other. We are convincing people that the invisible God truly exists. God is seen in that he abides in us. His love is perfected in us. We prove God by the love we show for each other. God’s love which originated in himself (vs. 7-8) and was revealed in his Son (vs. 9-10) is perfected in his people. God’s love is perfected when it is reproduced in us and among us, the community of faith. In this community of faithful believers we see God’s love have its ultimate fulfillment. To put this another way, God revealed his love for us by sending his Son in a sacrifice for us. When we do not sacrifice for each other, then it shows that God’s love is not in us and God’s love has no meaning or value to us. When we see God’s love and act upon that love by loving others, then God’s love is being made complete in our lives and God’s love is being brought to completion on this earth because we are carrying out God’s purpose.
Love Because We Understand God’s Love (4:13-16)
The love of God becomes part of our confession and way of life. We know that we are staying in God and he is staying with us in a relationship because of the Spirit he has given to us. John already taught this point in 1 John 3:24 and I will refer you to that portion of our study for an explanation of that point. Notice the life changing confession that John develops. We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world (vs. 14). This is the confession we make and the hope in which we believe. Therefore, whoever believes those words and makes that confession that Jesus is the Son of God is in a relationship with the Father (vs. 15). John has made this point repeatedly as he has defended the truth that Jesus has come in the flesh as the Son of God to save the world from sins. Watch how John amplifies this message further in verse 16. “We have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us.” When you grasp the love God has for you, it leads you to love others, proving that you are remaining in God and God remains with you. To put this another way, when you do not love each other then you do not get it. You are missing it completely. If you have come to know that God has for us and believe in that love, then you will remain in that love by loving others, proving you have a relationship with God.
Love Because It Casts Out Fear (4:17-18)
When we show our the love of God perfected in our lives because we are loving one another, John says that we have confidence on the day of judgment. This love in action proves to us and gives us confidence that we will have no fear of the coming judgment. I want to make sure that we understand the direction that John is teaching this confidence. John is not teaching to just be sacrificial and starting giving to others. That is not the point. The point is when you have grasped the love of God then love others is the natural outflow. When God’s love is perfected in us, then it is not about us making loving others part of the duty list. Loving others will be part of the regenerated life that we are living. Don’t start at the end point and try to tell yourself to love people more. That is not the starting point. The starting point is that you need to know God. You need to get to know his love for you. That is the starting point that when perfected in our hearts and lives leads to proper treatment of others and loving others. That is why John can say that when we do not show love for each other and deny ourselves for the gain of others, we do not know God and are not born of God. We clearly have no relationship with him. Therefore, if we know God which is leading to this loving and giving of ourselves to our Christian family, then we have confidence on the day of judgment. Fear has been driven out and we have confidence. There is nothing to fear if we remain in the love of God. But we are not loving as John is describing, then there is reason to fear. Or to put it how John puts it, if we fear the judgment then we must not grasp the love of God and are not loving others from that knowledge.
Now listen to the confidence that we are to have as God’s children. Read verse 17: “For we are as He is in this world.” We stand before the Father as the Son does. As the Father loves the Son so also the Father loves us. As the Son has an intimate relationship with the Father, so we also have an intimate relationship with the Father. The love of God has brought us into a special relationship and status with God like Jesus while in this world. Could Jesus face his death with confidence? Absolutely because the love of God was perfected in him. We also can face death with confidence. Did Jesus had to fear any judgment? Not at all and neither do we because his love is perfected in us. How incredible is the thought that we can go to the day of judgment and stand there with the confidence as the Son would have standing before the Father!
Love Because We Love God (4:19-21)
Finally, we love others because we love God. Verse 19 makes that very point. John draws a simple conclusion for us. We cannot think that we love God and hate our brother. We are lying if we hate our brother or sister in Christ while claiming to love because we cannot love the unseen God if we do not love our visible brethren. How can we possibly think that we have love for God when we do not deny ourselves for the gain of our brethren? How can we think we have love perfected or have a relationship with God at all when we treat each other poorly? This is the command: the one who loves God must love his brother. If we love God because of what he has done for us then we must love each other.
In summary, here are the six reason we love one another.
- Because God is love
- Because God loved us
- Because we show God to the world
- Because we understand God’s love
- Because love casts out fear
- Because we love God