The Importance of Love

Posted: July 11, 2010 in 1 John

1 John 4:7-11, “The Importance of Love”
—————–

It was the Beatles who sang “All you need is love…love is all you need.” (A bit redundant, but catchy!) The sentiment sounds nice – but the follow up question to them should have been, “What kind of love are you singing about?” All the lovey-dovey feelings in the world might be nice, but it can’t change a thing. What we need is a specific KIND of love: the love of God.

Define “love.” Brady had reviewed this a bit a few weeks ago… Out of several different Greek words that can be used for “love” (friendship – physical/romantic – familial), the word John uses again & again is the noun & verb form of the word “agape.” “Agape” is selfless & sacrificial… Paul describes it in depth in 1 Corinthians 13 [BIBLE: 1 Cor 13:1-7]. Agape love is an incredibly high ideal…not one of us ever examples it perfectly, though we strive for it, through the power of the Holy Spirit. … No one, except for One Person: the Lord Jesus Christ. … And because Jesus loved us, we ought to love one another. That’s the apostle John’s theme in the next few verses, and as he looks at it, he builds a systematic argument for the importance of love: the foundation of love – the revealing of love – the extent of love – and the response to love.

1 John 4:7-11 (NKJV)

– The foundation of love…
7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.

A. “Love” is absolutely foundational for the believer in Jesus Christ. If we claim that we’re born of God & that we know God, then it follows that we’ll naturally know the love of God & be able to share that same love with one another. It’s foundational!

B. The obvious question is “Why? Why is love so foundational?” To answer, we need to look at the origin of love. Where does love come from? God! “love is of God…” True agape love, in whatever form in which it is found finds its origin in our loving God Almighty. Like Creation itself, “love” springs forth from the Creator God, and can ultimately be found in no other place. If true agape love comes from God alone, then there are several implications for the believer in Jesus Christ:

C. Love is a reality for the believer. We are “beloved.” It’s been said that the Apostle John practiced what he preached. He told others to love, and he was more than willing to do the same – and consistently referred to his readers with terms of endearment. John could love others because he knew the love of God, as can we… (We can love Christians we’ve never met…) Beyond John’s love for his readers, there’s a deeper level here: Christians are “beloved” simply because we are in Christ. We know the love of God because we’ve experienced the love of God. We can love because we have BEEN loved – we are “beloved!”

D. Love is an exhortation for the believer: “let us love one another.” The mood in Greek is what’s called “the subjunctive” – which basically refers to something that’s a possibility. (Something may or may not happen.) Loving one another is something that doesn’t always happen perfectly, but it’s something that ought to happen among believers in Jesus Christ. We are beloved of God & love is of God, so we ought to love one another. Two aspects to this:

a. We love others through our attitude. Sadly, it’s far too common to hear people say, “Sure, I love that person – I just don’t like them at all.” Sorry…it doesn’t really work that way.  Not that we are always “happy” with one another, but if we truly love one another, our attitude is going to reflect it. Paul describes the fruit of the Spirit as being one (singular) fruit that is comprised of all sorts of good attitudes: Galatians 5:22-23 (22) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, (23) gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. [] Kindness & patience & goodness simply go along with love (affirmed also in 1 Cor 13) – you’re not going to have one without the other. To say “I love you” with our lips & then go behind their back & scheme up all sorts of ways to ‘get even’ or dwell upon all the things we really hate about that person isn’t love at all.

b. We love others through our actions. Attitude is crucial to demonstrating true agape love, but so are actions. John gave a vivid example of this back in Ch 3 [BIBLE: 1 John 3:16-18]. It’s one thing to claim we love our brothers & sisters; it’s another thing to actually love them “in deed & truth.” Telling one another that we love them is important; showing them is crucial.

E. Love is a sign of a believer: “everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” John has covered this general idea before (he tends to write in circles – going from one idea to another & then back again to expand)…here, John describes two things we can affirm about someone who truly demonstrates the love of Jesus. They are:

a. “Born of God”: Because we use the term “born-again” so often, be careful not to miss out on the wonder of what it means to be “born of God.” Every single baby in the world is born of the flesh – hospitals are full of them. Every single person in this room today has been born of the flesh; that ought to be obvious. What is NOT nearly as common is being born of God. Yet that is the greatest need of every man, woman, and child on the planet! The Bible makes it clear that we were born after our forefather Adam, inheriting his sin nature – and thus, death (Rom 5). The Bible tells us that outside of Jesus, we are dead in our trespasses & sins (Eph 2:1). IOW, apart from Jesus Christ, we are alive in the flesh, but dead in the spirit. We need to be born again! No one can even see the kingdom of God unless they are born again (John 3:3). But that’s exactly what happens to the believer in Jesus Christ. The one who has experienced the love of Christ is born of God…amazing!

b. “Knows God”: This has been one of the major themes running through this letter – how to know that you know God. John isn’t talking about mere facts or Bible trivia here…he’s speaking of experience. The one who has experienced the love of Christ has experienced God Himself. They know God – which is evident by the love they show others.

F. Question: what about people in other cultures & other religions who seem to demonstrate agape-love towards one another? Surely atheists have friends & family that they love deeply – surely Buddhists are capable of showing sacrificial love. Even Jesus gave an example of someone from a different culture that did not truly know God, who ended up demonstrating sacrificial love for his neighbor – we know him today as “the Good Samaritan.” (Lk 10:25-37) Is John making a blanket statement here that either: (1) anyone who truly demonstrates agape love is born-again, despite their belief or whether or not they even realize it themselves? Or (2) Even if a non-Christian sacrifices more than a Christian in a display of love, it cannot truly be called “love”? The answer would be “no” on both counts.

a. On the 1st question, John answers it in his own statement. Just because someone loves does not mean they are automatically saved. Someone cannot be born-again without knowing that they’re born-again simply because they love someone…why? Because the one who loves is both born of God & knows God. If someone knows God, then they know Jesus Christ as His only-begotten Son who went to the cross for their sins & rose again from the grave to offer eternal life to all who believe…

b. On the 2nd question (can non-Christian display of love truly be called “love”?), we need to remember not to pull individual statements or phrases in the Bible out of their context. What was the context of the letter? John wrote the letter to affirm the Church of their own faith in Jesus Christ, as well as to give them distinguishing marks of false teachers. He was helping them be able to determine the true & false Christians among them. He’s basically saying here, “If someone is claiming to be born of God, then one of the things to look for in their life is agape love. The one who loves is born of God.” []

c. So what DOES this say about the non-believer who loves? Obviously true love is of God. If that’s the origin of agape-love, how does the non-believer know anything about it? The same way a non-believer has any concept about justice, freedom, and righteousness – by the revelation of God through creation & our conscience. … This is simply another display of the common grace of God. Just as God sends the rain on the just & unjust (Mt 5:45), God allows people to experience glimpses of His love…it’s part of what it means to be made in the image of God (Gen 1:26).

d. At the same time, we need to realize that the human capacity of love will ALWAYS fall short outside of the work of Jesus Christ. Even the best display of secular human love pales in comparison to the love that Christ has for His Church & the love the Church will express back to Jesus Christ in eternity. The very reason God created us is that we would love Him & glorify Him forever – any love we may show outside the love that is grounded in God will always fall short of what the fullness of agape love.

G. If love is THIS foundational to a believer – if love is THIS important because it’s just part of who a believer is & what a believer does…what does this say about someone who does NOT love? See vs. 8…

8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

A. It’s tough to make it clearer than that. John doesn’t mince words or muddy the waters here. There’s a lot we can think about & question when a person who does NOT know God acts in a loving manner, but there’s only one conclusion when someone claims to know God but does not love: they’re wrong. Someone who does not love with sacrificial selfless agape love does not know God; no matter what their claims are to the contrary.

B. Why? Because “God is love.” It is one of His primary attributes/characteristics. “Love” is not simply something God does; it is part of who God IS – it is at the core of His Being. Just as much as the Bible tells us that God is holy & infinite & eternal & all-powerful (all attributes that define God AS God), the Bible tells us that God is love. Keep in mind these attributes do not contradict one another… [OT God vs. NT God] God does not stop being loving when He pours out His wrath – God is in no way “less” holy when He demonstrates His love. All of God’s attributes exist fully in God at all times, simply because God is God. [Revealing glory to Moses] Exodus 34:6-7 (6) And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, (7) keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.” [] God’s love (vs 6) is not lessened by God’s holy righteousness (vs 7) – God perfectly displays them both simply because He is God. (What an awesome God we serve!)

C. “God is love,” but note this is not in the reverse. God is love, but love is not God. In vs. 7 John very clearly affirms that “love is OF God,” but he does not say that love IS God. Love finds it’s origin in God, but love is not God Himself. There are many people today who attempt to make that argument – that we are all ‘spiritually connected’ with one another, and when we love one another then we are all taking part in the Divine… (And a whole lot of other spiritual sounding new-age gobbletygook…) The Almighty Creator God cannot be reduced down to a mere attitude or emotion. He is a Person – He has a mind & will, and although love is one of God’s primary attributes, it is not His only attribute. God is love, but He is vastly more than love. “Love” by itself cannot be made into God…we worship God; not an emotion or an action.

D. Have we ever seen this in action? I.e. does the world have any illustration of the fact that God is love? Yes, in the revealing of love – see vs. 9…

– The revelation of love…
9 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.

A. The love of God was manifested in the Incarnation… “manifested” = φανερόω (~ same root as “epiphany”) = “to make visible what is invisible.” Jesus did not come into existence when He was a baby inside Mary’s womb; Jesus (being God) has always existed. Yet in the Incarnation, Jesus was revealed (made visible) to creation by putting on flesh & dwelling among us. When God revealed His Son to the world, what was also revealed was the grandness of the love of God. How so? In the Incarnation, we see the selfless humility of the Creator dwelling among the creation. [speaking of Jesus] Philippians 2:6-8 (6) who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, (7) but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. (8) And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. [] Even if Jesus had never gone to the cross – just the fact that Almighty God became a living, physical human is a manifestation of the love of God…how much more that the Son of God died a death of a criminal? [] Remember how agape love is primarily defined: it is a selfless, sacrificial love. What is more “selfless” than having the Eternal Son of God who enjoyed perfect fellowship with God the Father & God the Spirit to willingly leave the glories of heaven, wrap Himself in human flesh, be born into poverty, experience all the discomforts of the fallen creation, and grow up to be rejected by those He came to save, dying one of the most painful deaths ever imagined by depraved minds? Truly this is the love of God revealed!! There’s no more selfless act that has taken place since the beginning of time. Nothing even comes close!

B. The nature of the Incarnation: God sent “His only begotten Son.” μονογενής = “of sole descent”… Compound word: “only” + “be made/come into existence.” [the uniqueness of the Son] [the eternity of the Son – begotten; not created] [the nature of the Son – God of true God]

C. The mission of the Incarnation: Jesus came into the world, “that we might live through Him.” This takes us back to vs. 7 – those who know the love of God & show forth the love of God are those that are “born of God”…and we NEED to be born of God. Otherwise we are dead in our trespasses & sins without hope. THAT’s what Jesus came to change! Jesus came to seek & to save the lost (Lk 19:10), to give His life as a ransom for many (Mt 20:28), to grant us everlasting life (Jn 3:16).

a. Have you partaken of the love of God? God wants & invites you to live!

– the extent of love…
10 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.

A. Not only was the fact of the love of God revealed, but the extent of the love of God has been revealed as well. If the fact of God’s love is made plain through the Incarnation, the extent of God’s love is seen in the crucifixion.

B. God’s love reaches the rebellious: Jesus was sent to the cross “for our sins.” Not for HIS sins, but for OUR sins. Jesus did not die on the cross because He deserved it; we are the ones who deserved that death, yet Jesus willingly took it on for us. We had rebelled against God, declared ourselves to be our own Lords, refused to submit ourselves to our Creator – in essence, lived in treason against the God who gave us life. Yet God loved us in the midst of our rebellion & sent Jesus to die in our place. Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. []

C. God’s love reaches the complacent: we didn’t love God, but “He loved us.” Think about it – this is the opposite of what should have happened. As the rebellious ones in need of forgiveness, WE should have made the 1st step by going to God. Yet not only were we not willing to do so, it was not possible for us to do if we had been willing (we were ‘dead’). So God did it all. God took the 1st step & God loved us while we were unlovable. At the time in which mankind cared nothing about God, God loved mankind & proved it – by sending Jesus to die on the cross.

D. God’s love is sacrificial: so much so that Jesus is “the propitiation for our sins.” John referred to this work earlier, in that Jesus “is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the whole world,” (1 Jn 2:2). “Propitiation” basically means to satisfy the wrath of God. Our sin had incurred the righteous wrath of God, and instead of God’s wrath being poured out on us, it was poured out upon Jesus instead. God the Father sent God the Son to be the perfect sin sacrifice on your behalf. Just as the incarnation is the perfect example of selfless love, the crucifixion is the perfect example of sacrificial love. It astounds the mind! May we know the width & length & depth & height of the love of Christ that passes knowledge! (Eph 3:18-19)

– the response to love…
11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

A. This is the natural response to God’s love towards us. What other logical, reasonable response could we have to the love of God? If you are a born-again Christian, you’ve been born of God – you know God – you’ve seen the revelation of the selfless love of God – you’ve partaken of the sacrificial love of God… What ELSE would we do except to love one another? It’s no wonder that John puts agape-love in such stark terms (the one who loves knows God; the one who doesn’t love doesn’t know God)…what other response could there be?!

B. Objection: “But it’s so hard! I can’t love someone else like that.” I wonder if we’re using the right term when we think that way…is it “can’t love” or “don’t want to love”? Remember that God loved us when we were unlovable. THAT is how we “ought to love one another.” If we’re not willing to love the unlovable, perhaps we haven’t properly understood the extent of God’s own love towards us. If it truly is a lack of ability, then we rely on the God who is all-powerful & has sent the Holy Spirit to dwell within us. If it is a lack of desire, the better prayer is that God would change our hearts & help us love others as He has loved us.

a. What does this look like practically? Ask yourself some questions: Do we forgive one another when forgiveness is needed? Do we believe the best about one another, even when we think we’re right in our assumptions? When we see someone in need, do we help them when it’s within our ability to do so? If Jesus was standing right next to you, what would He have you to do in regards to your neighbor and/or fellow believer? That’s how we ought to love.

Conclusion:
Love is not optional for the Christian. We have BEEN loved – we have SEEN love – the God we serve IS love…the only reasonable response we have is to love one another. As John says, this is just what Christians DO – the ones who have been born of God, the ones who know God, these are the ones who love one another. May we be those for whom love isn’t just a nice idea or something to talk about, but rather may we be those of whom love is a description. This is something the Church is supposed to be known for (Jn 13:35), may it truly be said of us.

Let me challenge you today: is there someone you are having trouble loving? Particularly another believer in the Lord Jesus. … Maybe you don’t even realize that you have a problem with that person – you’ve just written them off & don’t think about them. Ask God to reveal that person to you, and then do two things:

1. Ask God to change your heart. When we’re being unloving towards someone else; the problem isn’t with them, it’s with us. Jesus has commanded us to love one another – we’ve been exhorted & encouraged to love one another – we have a grand example of what it means to love one another. When we don’t love one another (esp. as Christians), we don’t have an excuse for it. Ask God to change your heart & help you see the other person as God desires for you to see them: as another brother or sister in the Lord Jesus.

2. Do something about it. That’s not to say you need to walk up to that person & say “I’ve hated you in the past, but now I’m going to love you in Jesus.” (After all, the other person may not even know you’ve had a problem!) But do something to make a conscious change in your attitude & your actions towards that other person. You need to make a decision to love them as Jesus loves them, and then act upon it. (Perhaps start with prayer. Prayer is a wonderful way to change one’s perspective…)

What about if you’re not yet born of God? What if you haven’t yet personally humbled yourself before God & asked Jesus to forgive you of your sins & give you new life? Then you have a grand invitation today to personally experience the marvelous love of God. God has already demonstrated His love for you by sending Jesus to die in your place – to take the punishment for your sins. But you’ll never experience the extent of that love until you personally receive Jesus as your Lord & Savior. Like any gift needs to be received… [] How do you receive it? Admit your sin for what it is & recognize Jesus as the Son of God crucified for sin, risen from the dead… Repent from your sin & turn to Jesus as your personal Savior, trusting Him by faith.

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