Getting to the Bottom of Love: Part 1 (1 John 4:1–16)

the-love-of-god-duri-390x250For the third time in John’s first letter, we are considering the subject of love! This does not mean John has run out of ideas and has to repeat himself. It means the Holy Spirit, who inspired John, presents the subject once more, from a deeper point of view.

In our current section (1 Jn. 4:1–16), we discover why love is such an important part of the life that is real. Love is part of the very being and nature of God. If we are united to God through faith in Christ, we share His nature. Since His nature is love, love is the test of the reality of our spiritual life.

A person who knows God and has been born of God will respond to God’s nature. As a compass naturally points north, a believer will naturally practice love because love is the nature of God. This love will not be a forced response; it will be a natural response. A believer’s love for the brethren will be proof of his sonship and fellowship because “God is love.” Three times, in this section, John encourages us to love one another (1 Jn. 4:7, 11–12). He supports these admonitions by giving us three foundational facts about God.

1. WHAT GOD IS: “GOD IS LOVE” (1 John 4:7–8)

This is the third of three expressions in John’s writings that help us understand the nature of God: “God is spirit” (Jn. 4:24); “God is light” (1 Jn. 1:5); and “God is love.” Of course, none of these are a complete revelation of God and it is wrong to separate them.

God is spirit. This refers to His essence; He is not flesh and blood. To be sure, Jesus Christ now has a glorified body in heaven and one day we will have bodies like His body. But being by nature spirit, God is not limited by time and space the way His creatures are.

God is light. This refers to His holy nature. In the Bible, light is a symbol of holiness and darkness is a symbol of sin (Jn. 3:18–21; 1 Jn. 1:5–10). God cannot sin because He is holy. Because we have been born into His family, we have received His holy nature (1 Pet. 1:14–16; 2 Pet. 1:4).

God is love. This does not mean “love is God.” And the fact two people “love each other” does not mean their love is necessarily holy. It has accurately been said that “love does not define God, but God defines love.” God is love and God is light; therefore, His love is a holy love and His holiness is expressed in love. All God does expresses all God is. Even His judgments are measured out in love and mercy (Lam. 3:22–23).

Much that is called “love” in modern society bears no resemblance or relationship to the holy, spiritual love of God. Yet, we see banners saying “God is love!” displayed at many festivals, particularly where young people are “doing their own thing”—as if one could dignify immorality by calling it “love.”

Christian love is a special kind of love. Love that is born out of the very essence of God must be spiritual and holy because “God is spirit” and “God is light.” This true love is “poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom. 5:5).

Love, therefore, is a valid test of true Christian faith. Since God is love and we have claimed a personal relationship with God, we must of necessity reveal His love in how we live. A child of God has been “born of God” and shares God’s divine nature. “God is love” and Christians ought to love one another. The logic is undeniable!

Not only have we been “born of God,” but we also “know God.” In the Bible, the word know has a much deeper meaning than simply intellectual acquaintance or understanding. For example, the verb know is used to describe the intimate union of husband and wife (Gen. 4:1). To know God means to be in a deep relationship to Him—to share His life and enjoy His love. This knowing is not simply a matter of understanding facts; it is a matter of perceiving truth (1 Jn. 2:3–5).

Certainly many unsaved people love their families and even sacrifice for them. And no doubt many of these same people have some kind of intellectual understanding of God. What, then, do they lack? They lack a personal experience of God. To paraphrase 1 John 4:8, “The person who does not have this divine kind of love has never entered into a personal, experiential knowledge of God. What he knows is in his head, but it has never gotten into his heart.”

What God is determines what we ought to be. “In this world, we are like Jesus” (1 Jn. 4:17). The fact Christians love one another is evidence of their fellowship with God and their sonship from God, and it is also evidence they know God. Their experience with God is not simply a once-for-all crisis; it is a daily experience of getting to know Him better and better. True theology (the study of God) is not a dry, impractical course in doctrine—it is an exciting day-by-day experience that makes us Christlike!

A large quantity of radioactive material was stolen from a hospital. When the hospital administrator notified the police, he said: “Please warn the thief he is carrying death with him and the radioactive material cannot be successfully hidden. As long as he has it in his possession, it is affecting him disastrously!”

A person who claims he knows God and is in union with Him must be personally affected by this relationship. A Christian ought to become what God is and “God is love.” To argue otherwise is to prove one does not really know God!

2. WHAT GOD DID: “HE SENT HIS SON” (1 John 4:9–11)

Since God is love, He must communicate—not only in words, but in deeds. True love is never static or inactive. God reveals His love to mankind in many ways. He has geared all of creation to meeting men’s needs. Until man’s sin brought creation under bondage, man had on earth a perfect home in which to love and serve God.

God’s love was revealed in the way He dealt with the nation of Israel. “The Lord did not set His affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you … that He brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery” (Deut. 7:7–8).

The greatest expression of God’s love is in the death of His Son. “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).

The word manifested means “to come out in the open, to be made public.” It is the opposite of “to hide, to make secret.” Under the Old Covenant, God was hidden behind the shadows of ritual and ceremony (Heb. 10:1); but in Jesus Christ “the life was manifested” (1 Jn. 1:2). “Anyone who has seen Me,” said Jesus “has seen the Father” (Jn. 14:9).

Why was Jesus Christ manifested? “He was manifested to take away our sins” (1 Jn. 3:5). “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (1 Jn. 3:8). Where did Jesus take away our sins and destroy (render inoperative) the works of the devil? At the cross! God manifested His love at the cross when He gave His Son as a sacrifice for our sins.

This is the only place in the epistle where Jesus is called God’s only-begotten Son. The title is used in John’s Gospel (Jn. 1:14, 3:16). It means “unique, the only one of its kind.” The fact God sent His Son into the world is one evidence of the deity of Jesus Christ. Babies are not sent into the world from some other place; they are born into the world. As the perfect Man, Jesus was born into the world, but as the eternal Son, He was sent into the world.

But the sending of Christ into the world and His death on the cross were not prompted by man’s love for God. They were prompted by His love for man. The world’s attitude toward God is anything but love!

Two purposes are given for Christ’s death on the cross: that we might live through Him (1 Jn. 4:9) and that He might be the propitiation for our sins (1 Jn. 4:10). His death was not an accident; it was an appointment. He did not die as a weak martyr, but as a mighty Conqueror.

Jesus Christ died so we might live “through Him” (1 Jn. 4:9), “for Him” (2 Cor. 5:15), and “with Him” (1 Thes. 5:9–10). A sinner’s desperate need is for life because he is “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1). It is something of a paradox that Christ had to die so we may live! We can never probe the mystery of His death, but this we know: He died for us (Gal. 2:20).

The death of Christ is described as a “propitiation.” John has used this word before (1 Jn. 2:2), so there is no need to study it in detail again. We should remember propitiation does not mean we must do something to appease God or to placate His anger. Propitiation is something God does to make it possible for us to be forgiven.

“God is light,” and therefore He must uphold His holy Law. “God is love,” and therefore He wants to forgive and save sinners. How, then, can God forgive sinners and still be consistent with His holy nature? The answer is the cross. There, Jesus Christ bore the punishment for sin and met the just demands of the holy Law. But there also, God reveals His love and makes it possible for men to be saved by faith.

It is important to note the emphasis is on the death of Christ, not on His birth. The fact Jesus was “made flesh” (Jn. 1:14) is certainly an evidence of God’s grace and love, but the fact He was “made sin” (2 Cor. 5:21) is underscored for us. The example of Christ, teachings of Christ, and whole earthly life of Christ find their true meaning and fulfillment in the cross.

For the second time, believers are exhorted to “love one another” (1 Jn. 4:11). This exhortation is a commandment to be obeyed (1 Jn. 4:7) and its basis is the nature of God. “God is love and we know God; therefore, we should love one another.” But the exhortation to love one another is presented as a privilege as well as a responsibility: “If God so loved us, we ought also to love one another” (1 Jn. 4:11). We are not saved by loving Christ; we are saved by believing on Christ (Jn. 3:16). But after we realize what He did for us on the cross, our normal response ought to be to love Him and love one another.

It is important Christians make progress in their understanding of love. To love one another simply out of a sense of duty is good, but to love out of appreciation (rather than obligation) is even better.

This may be one reason why Jesus established the Lord’s Supper, the Communion service. When we break the bread and share the cup, we remember His death. Few men, if any, want their deaths remembered! In fact, we remember the life of a loved one and try to forget the sadness of his death. Not so with Christ. He commands us to remember His death: “Do this in remembrance of Me!”

We should remember our Lord’s death in a spiritual way, not merely sentimentally. Someone has defined sentiment as “feeling without responsibility.” It is easy to experience solemn emotions at a church service and yet go out to live the same defeated life. True spiritual experience involves the whole man. The mind must understand spiritual truth; the heart must love and appreciate it; and the will must act on it. The deeper we go into the meaning of the Cross the greater will be our love for Christ and the greater our active concern for one another.

We have discovered what God is and what God has done; but a third foundational fact takes us even deeper into the meaning and implications of Christian love.

To be continued…

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About Pastor Joe Quatrone, Jr.

Pastor Joe has been serving in Christian ministry for 15 years. He desires to nurture and disciple believers, helping them experience a deeper level of commitment and faith in the Lord. He is the author of "Back to the Basics: A Guide for Christian Living." Through a commitment to servant leadership, he strives to proclaim relevant Bible truth, equip the saints for effective ministry, and build up the body of Christ. Married eleven years, Pastor Joe and his wife live in New Jersey and have two children.
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37 Responses to Getting to the Bottom of Love: Part 1 (1 John 4:1–16)

  1. God’s Love, Pastor Joe as you said is very different from man’s fleshy love which is centered on self not others. God’s Love is not Saccharin sweet either, it’s genuine, no pretense and it does not fear showing Love, and being vulnerable, it’s honest and committed.

    Some think that those who Love never get angry or express displeasure but Jesus got the whip out and like John The Baptist called the Pharisees a brood of Vipers. The Viper snake, is interesting, their not in Australia and a few other countries, your Country has them, they size up their victim determining how much venom they will need, the bigger the threat the more they use , but not all at once, they slowly demolish their victim, which breaks down their body tissue so they can be eaten easily. So much like the Pharisees, they put Jesus to the test trying to find his weaknesses to use against Him and they also condemned those who sinned, Jesus never condemned anyone but He did not accept sin, yes He still Loved them even if He didn’t fellowship with them.

    Cults and even some Churches today do the same thing and claim they are doing what God asks them to do when He says to test the Spirit but they don’t know what this means , it’s all about Love not man made rules and regulations that have to be kept for acceptance, the Pharisees were well known for these, yes they looked the part, they even studied the Scriptures but there was no real Love, they did not know Jesus in their heart, their outward demonstration of love was phoney. it was all about them.

    Christian Love from both of us -Anne

    • Absolutely Anne! As always, you hit the nail on the head. God bless!

      • Thank you Pastor Joe, I have not forgotten the other link you sent me, I was running a bit behind in my Blogging yesterday and trying to catch up but I will read it soon and respond on your Blog, thank you again for your kindness in sending them and for your confirmation about Iron sharpens Iron and that correction when needed is good too Proverbs 27:4-6 we do need to have genuine Love.

        I wanted to mention Pastor Joe in reference to Loving God and others which I felt you expressed very well in your message, I have found that those who had bad Childhoods find it hard to Love freely because they see God in the same focus as they experienced their fathers love, provision and direction and their mothers nurturing and care, this than reflects on all their relationships, only Jesus can heal them.

        2 Timothy 1:7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of Power, and of Love, and of a Sound Mind. (KJV)

        Sadly some depend on Secular counseling, even given in the Church, where they focus mostly on the problem and not on the cure and so the person becomes self absorbed, yes we will remember our past but in Christ Jesus we will not have the pain that was part of it, which many still feel and respond to. We do what God tells us to do (see below) not man and than regardless of our past, we have a sound mind and Live in Victory, Joy, Peace, Hope and we rest in Jesus which is Eternal because as you also shared, when we are Born again we have God’s seed or Nature. 1John3:9

        Philippians 4:6-8 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

        What you said is so True Pastor Joe, this does not mean that life has no problems or hardships to deal with, I call them Storms as some Scripture refers to them but we have God’s assurance as we go through them that He is with us and gives us strength to endure when needed and He will protect our Soul and keep us strong to the end (Isaiah 43:1-3)

        Thank you again Pastor Joe and much Joy and blessings in Christian Love – Anne.

        • How does being a razor-sharped keen observer wash anyone’s feet? And unless you’ve suffered childhood sexual abuse yourself how do you profess to know anything about it? Why don’t you relate to Pastor Joe everything he felt at the moment of impact and thereafter? You can’t because “YOU DON”T KNOW” do you? It would pay for you to begin to listen as keenly as you observe before opining. I write because I don’t want for anyone to live what I have lived through. Unless you had been repeatedly raped and sodomized from the ages of six years old to 7 years old you are speaking in complete naievity and ignorance. You presume to know more than you do. I am grateful for everything I’ve experienced…and who I have become in Christ who sustains me and I am not ashamed to proclaim Jesus my Lord and Saviour only begotten Son of God who died and rose again and is seated at the right hand of the father. There is no viper known in the states or in your demographics that proclaim these truths.

          • And unless you’ve suffered childhood sexual abuse yourself how do you profess to know anything about it?

            I have Anthony…….

            Childhood -http://freedomborn.wordpress.com/2011/09/27/the-early-years-a-little-lost-girl/

            I have also asked Jesus to heal me……..

            Matthew 11:28-30 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

            1 Peter 2:23-25 Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously: Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

            I have also asked for the Holy Spirit……..

            Luke 11:13 how much more shall your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?

            I have also asked for God’s wisdom……

            James 15: If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering.

            And I have received them all from the Lord because He said I would and I believe Him …….have you asked Anthony?

            Christin Love – Anne

  2. Pingback: Getting to the Bottom of Love (1 John 4:1–16) | A disciple's study

  3. Paul faced a real trial when he was bitten by a poisonous snake. But, God in His mercy, fulfilled His promise in Mark 16:18 and spared Paul’s life. While that viper was a problem, Paul faced some far more deadly snakes that night, snakes that had the power to ruin his life and end his ministry. He shook off every single one of them. I want to point out the snakes Paul faced on Malta that night. I want to encourage you to recognize the snakes that can latch onto your life. I want to preach about Shaking Off The Snakes.

    http://www.sermonnotebook.org/new%20testament/Acts%2028_1-6.htm

    Snakes should be of no concern to a True Believer.
    Why give it any second thought or power?
    “Don Charisma” gave you some sound advice on one of the comments to his blog (“…so live and let live really!”).
    Good advice, but we seem to like to give it but can we accept any?
    You will always see Vipers, snakes, things that go bump in the night if that is your focus…capiche?
    Question is, do you sleep soundly at night, rest peacefully?
    Are you so easily shaken by the slightest breeze?
    Or do we hunker down in a storm, tip our hat, clutch our raincoat, gird ourselves in The Lord and inch forward? And if the storm knocks us down, do we get back up?
    How many times have you been pronounced D.O.A….pray tell?
    The much, we think we know amounts to nothing without Love.
    And a critical “I” is not Love but a hindrance and discouragement.
    Anthony Gomez

  4. What I am saying is this: it is not meet for the brethren to cast stones over walls of protection at others in the name of Christ then shrink back and hide behind Father and say “it is written” Pastor, do you condone this? We are not defenseless and meek. When Christ returns it will be in all His Glory, eyes of living flames as I have seen for myself. I did not ask to see this, question is Pastor…do you believe me? (Anthony)

  5. Reblogged this on Freedomborn … Aussie Christian Focus and commented:
    Thank you Pastor Joe for a very uplifting massage about the only Love that makes a difference Eternally, God’s Love sets us free…..
    Christian Love from both of us, to you and your Loved ones in your family and Church family and to all those you Minister to on your Blog – Anne

  6. Thanks for sharing a post that gives light, hope and yes, inspiration to love with all our heart. God bless.

  7. Ron says:

    Thanks Pastor Joe, an excellent dissertation on 1John`s theme of Love . I just loved that approach you took and some of you thoughts” Christians ought to become what God is , and God is love . To argue otherwise is to prove one does not really know God. ” and ” God is love and we know God , therefore we should love one another . The exhortation to love one another is presented as a privilege as well as a responsibility.”Thinking and teaching like this ,goes a long way to grounding one in the faith,

    Thank you!
    Ron.

  8. ” To argue otherwise is to prove one does not really know God. ” and ” God is love and we know God , therefore we should love one another . The exhortation to love one another is presented as a privilege as well as a responsible.”Thinking and teaching like this ,goes a long way to grounding one in the faith,”

    Excellent!
    This is Truth.
    Totally Contrary to the self righteous sanctimony by an “un-thinking, un-teaching” presence that had so recently sought to disrupt the comments page of my shared blog.
    “One flesh”
    Two plus one=ONE
    Thanks be to God.
    Anthony
    All Praise and Glory be to God.

  9. Pastor I have been following silently for quite some time, read your tstimony, listened to your sermon on the ten lepers which i have heard more times than i can count and yet was able to remain attentive through it’s entirety and enjoy it. That’s not easy to do when you’ve heard it in two different languages for as long as you can remember (no disrespect intended) I must go and remove some comments it grieved me greatly to make…thank you Joe, I would have settled for a I.D.K. and been quite satisfied.
    Blessings to you and your readers and your family and all our brethren in Christ, Amen, Hallelujah!

    • I already have forgiven you Anthony but didn’t know how to reach you, I knew you were hurting but not why, although I did feel in my Spirit that it was Childhood abuse but this was later.

      When Doug said not to respond to peoples comments, this reminded me of the rejection I have experienced in my life and still do. My Mum died before Christmas, her children, my Brother and Sister, told me and my other Brother that they didn’t want to know us, we are only Adopted and not really family, it hurt greatly because I Love them.

      Anthony we still have emotions they are God given and there is a time to laugh, a time to cry, to hate all types of evil …….. Jesus cried and got angry, He hated evil, we don’t have to be Happy Clappy all the time, we can be real, I’m crying now , I have been praying for you and me, God does not cause hard testing, Satan does this but my dear Brother, you have come through it and now you have the Victory in Jesus, if you can forgive me than you can forgive all those who hurt you and so walk in Jesus’ freedom.

      As I shared with you before Anthony you are very gifted and God assured me in my heart, He is going to use you greatly to Minister to others who have been hurt like us, you will be able to do what I can’t do because of being a woman, below is some Scriptures that God gave me to hold onto in the Storms of Life, how very True they are and so Isaiah 41:10 a message for us.

      Isaiah 43:1-3 – Do not be afraid Anthony , for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; Anthony you are mine. When you go through deep waters and great trouble, Anthony I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty Anthony you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression Anthony you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the LORD, your God Anthony, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour.”

      Jeremiah 29 :11-12 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, Anthony says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a Hope.

      Lamentations 3: 33 For God doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men.

      Christian Love Always dear Brother in Christ Jesus – Anne

      • And this my beloved sister is foot-washing of the kind that causes all of Heaven to rejoice.
        There is nothing to forgive that had not already been forgiven, you have one more family member to compensate for those you lost.
        I would be honored if you should ever feel inclined to view any of my offerings and perhaps go through the archives and make suggestions for what needs to go. You are an extraordinary, exemplary, exceptional example of Love in action! Your estranged family should truly see you as the Lord sees you, then they would be sure to embrace you as I do:)
        All Glory be to God!

      • Doug only said that about the not commenting to bill because of how arduous fatiguing on the eye it must be…please understand. thx

        • I understand now Anthony, thanks for explaining, my eyes also suffer, I do a great amount of reading, my heart longs to share the Hope and assurance I have, which I do more in comments than on my Blog. Sorry for misunderstanding Doug’s comment, but some do feel like I shared about and it is sad they do.

          I look forward to us sharing together, and also to reading your messages on your Blog maybe there are special ones you could give me the link to but perhaps I will not change anything, we can’t go back, yes as we know we can lean from our past but we look forward to the future and experience the present. God always leads us in what to write not only with the gifts He has given us but with the empowering of The Holy Spirit (1Corinthians2:9-16) and with His wisdom, which we ask for and receive, as Jesus tells us to.

          Thank you dear Brother you have made me feel so wanted, so needed and so Loved , yes I’m crying again but for Joy, you even have my name in yours, I just realized that, I have finally found my Brother, I Love you in The Lord, your Sister Anne.

  10. Thank you Pastor Joe for your wisdom and Love in Christ Jesus.

    Blessings – Anne

  11. Whatta’ ya’ say Pastor Joe? Church? One for the good guys?!
    I will never forget any of this for as long as I live…and that’s a loooong time…Amen?!
    Anthony

  12. Pastor Joe, it appears that you have brokered a sort of reconciliation between Australia and South Carolina. This demonstrates Jesus on the move and victorious more than any jousting over scripture verses or one upsmanship. At one time I fell prey to all of this nastiness together with Anthony. We came through it amazingly and started to see much of delightful wonder in each other’s insights and verses. I praise God for my friend AG. There were indeed many facts that I did not know about him. Over time he allowed himself to become much more transparent. So did I. That is the secret of men’s fellowship…not breakfasts or bowling nights. I have an ebook on issuu.com/dewane
    It is entitled Men With Men.
    It could become a useful resource for you and yours, with my blessings.
    And so “Salvoes in Faith” continues. Collaborative joy. Doug from Waterloo and Anthony from Moncks Corner. (Doug Blair)

  13. Pingback: Getting to the Bottom of Love: Part 2 (1 John 4:1–16) | Pastor Joe Quatrone, Jr.

  14. Pingback: Getting to the Bottom of Love: Part 3 (1 John 4:1–16) | Pastor Joe Quatrone, Jr.

  15. Pingback: God Loves Because He Loves

  16. Pingback: God’s Love in Action….. | Freedomborn … Aussie Christian Focus

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