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Last week we saw that we are supposed to test the spirits. We can absolutely know if a spirit is from God or from anti-Christ. We must lovingly confront false teaching. You are a child of God and the One that resides in you is greater than the one that resides in the word. This morning John changes subjects . . . back to something you may have heard before.
1 John 4:7-10 says, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so 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.”
The third time’s the charm. John has given an appeal to love twice before. He mentioned it in 2:7-11 where it’s an indicator of someone that’s walking in the Light. He mentioned it again in 3:11-18 as evidence that a person is a child of God. So the third time’s the charm and John raises the subject of brotherly love again. In the last six verses, John was pretty pointed in his discussion about testing the spirits. The encouragement is for Christians to love Christians, but the love for non-Christians is not to be excluded. How can John make such a request? Because love is from God. Any love that is demonstrated is because of God. Love flows from and out of God because He is the source of love. “Everyone who loves is born of God and knows God” Can a non-Christian demonstrate love? Sure, but it’s an incomplete kind of love and John’s statement that, “Everyone who loves is born of God and knows God” would not include these incomplete expressions of love. Even someone with the smallest capacity to love; that love still comes from God because all love comes from Him no matter how incomplete it might be. But don’t expect a non-Christian to demonstrate godly love. Christians can love because we’re born of God. Being born of God is something that occurred in the past, and produces results today. The reason we can love is because this love flows out of us as a result of our regeneration. Not only are we born of God, but we know God too. That means our knowledge of God continues to grow and grow.
John turns all that around in v. 8. The person that does not or cannot express love is not able to do so because they don’t know God. This is the opposite of the one that knows God. The one that doesn’t love doesn’t know God. How can this be? Because God is love – it’s another character quality of God. God is also spirit according to Jo. 4:24 and light according to 1 Jo. 1:5. Now John adds love to the mixture of what God is. But that doesn’t mean God’s love trumps all His other attributes. God is love, but don’t confuse the idea by saying love is God because it’s not. The defining principle of love is not some changing, shifting, or worldly concept of love. The defining principle of love comes from a holy, perfect, righteous, and living God who is the source of all love.
Just to be clear, v. 9 provides some similar elements found in Jo. 3:16. Let’s look at some key principles in this incredible verse. Manifested means make clear or obvious so John is saying the love of God was made obvious. It was obvious because He, “Sent His only begotten Son into the world.” This love is love in action. It is love demonstrated so everyone could understand and embrace that perfect love. Sent is the verb form of the word apostle indicating someone who is sent as a representative of another for a particular mission. It’s in the perfect tense indicating something that happened in the past with results effective for today. The word “only” here really should be translated one and only. So in a nutshell, here is what the verse really says: God made His love obvious for the world to see by sending His one and only Son Jesus Christ on a particular mission as God’s representative at a point in the past but is producing results that are effective for today. And why did God do this? “So that we might live through Him.” We were physically alive, but spiritually dead. Jo. 11:25 says, “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies.” Mark 2:17, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Do you want to hear something that will make you shout? Eph. 2:1-9 says, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast The life we enjoy is all because of God’s great love that He demonstrated through Jesus Christ. We who were dead now live through Christ!” Wow!
Real love. I want you to understand the great love of God. V. 10 begins, “In this is love, not that we loved God.” In our natural, sinful state, we have no love for God or His Son. At best, we’re indifferent. Even though we don’t have love for God, “He loved us.” It wasn’t enough for God just to talk about His love; He did something to prove it to anyone willing to pay attention. God’s love is amazing, it is incredible, it is unfathomable, it is unending, it is unearthly, it is beyond comprehension. Real love is always demonstrated. God loved us so much that He, “Sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” Now that is a big time word – propitiation. The emphasis is not on incarnation, but on atonement. The emphasis is not on Jesus’ birth, but on His death. 1 Jo. 3:5, “You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin.” Even though we didn’t show God love, He demonstrated His unconditional love. You can’t talk about the birth of Christ without talking about why He came. You can’t focus on the sinless life He lived without talking about why that’s important. You can’t just say that God is love without talking about how that was fleshed out in Christ. You can’t talk about how great a teacher Jesus was without talking about what He taught. “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit.” (1 Pet. 3:18)
Humanity is spiritually dead. But we don’t have to stay that way. “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ His Son.” (Rom. 6:23) We’re not condemned to remain spiritually dead. God made a way for us because of His incredible, matchless love for us. Eternal life with God is a free gift. All we have to do is receive it by faith and allow the transforming power of the Holy Spirit work in us, on us and through us. Tomorrow does not have to be like today.
If you are a child of God, not only do you have the capacity to love, you have an example of love. God’s love was demonstrated in the person of Jesus Christ. Real love is always demonstrated so how are you demonstrating love in your life? God’s love is primary. Our love is a reflection of His love in our life and an outpouring of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives.