Getting to the Bottom of Love: Part 2 (1 John 4:1–16)

redeemedIn Part 1 of this article, we discovered why love is such an important part of the life that is real. We looked at two foundational truths about God: (1) who God is (2) what God did. As we continue our study is John’s first letter, we will look at a third foundational fact about God.


At this point, it would be good for us to review what John has been saying about the basic truth that “God is love.” This truth is revealed to us in the Word, but it was also revealed on the cross, where Christ died for us. “God is love” is not simply a doctrine in the Bible; it is an eternal fact clearly demonstrated at Calvary. God has said something to us and God has done something for us. But all this is preparation for the third great fact: God does something in us! We are not merely students reading a book or spectators watching a deeply moving event. We are participants in the great drama of God’s love!

In order to save money, a college drama class purchased only a few scripts of a play and cut them up into the separate parts. The director gave each player his individual part in order and then started to rehearse the play. But nothing went right. After an hour of missed cues and mangled sequences the cast gave up.

At that point, the director sat all the actors on the stage and said: “Look, I’m going to read the entire play to you, so don’t any of you say a word.” He read the entire script aloud and when he was finished one of the actors said:

“So that’s what it was all about!” Once they understood the entire story, they were able to fit their parts together and have a successful rehearsal.

When you read 1 John 4:12–16, you feel like saying, “So that’s what it’s all about!” Because here we discover what God had in mind when He devised His great plan of salvation.

To begin with, God’s desire is to live in us. He is not satisfied simply to tell us He loves us or even show us He loves us.

It is interesting to trace God’s dwelling places as recorded in the Bible. In the beginning, God had fellowship with man in a personal, direct way (Gen. 3:8), but sin broke that fellowship. It was necessary for God to shed the blood of animals to cover the sins of Adam and Eve so they might come back into His fellowship.

One of the key words in the Book of Genesis is walked. God walked with men and men walked with God. Enoch (Gen. 5:22), Noah (Gen. 6:9), and Abraham (Gen. 17:1, 24:40) walked with God.

However, by the time of the events recorded in Exodus, a change had taken place: God did not simply walk with men: He lived or dwelt with them. God’s commandment to Israel was, “Have them make a sanctuary for Me and I will dwell among them.” (Ex. 25:8). The first of those sanctuaries was the tabernacle. When Moses dedicated it the glory of God came down and moved into the tent (Ex. 40:33–35). God dwelt in the camp; He did not dwell in the bodies of the individual Israelites.

Unfortunately, the nation sinned and God’s glory departed (1 Sam. 4:21). But God used Samuel and David to restore the nation; and Solomon built God a magnificent temple. When the temple was dedicated, once again the glory of God came to dwell in the land (1 Kings 8:1–11).

Then, history repeated itself: Israel disobeyed God and was taken into captivity. The gorgeous temple was destroyed. One of the prophets of the captivity, Ezekiel, saw the glory of God depart from it (Ezek. 8:4, 9:3, 10:4, 11:22–23).

Did the glory ever return? Yes—in the Person of God’s Son, Jesus Christ! “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling (“tabernacle”) among us” (Jn. 1:14). The glory of God dwelt on earth in the body of Jesus Christ for His body was the temple of God (Jn. 2:18–22). But wicked men nailed His body to a cross. They crucified “the Lord of glory” (1 Cor. 2:8). All this was part of God’s thrilling plan: Christ arose from the dead, returned to heaven, and sent His Holy Spirit to dwell in men.

The glory of God now lives in the bodies of God’s children. “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own” (1 Cor. 6:19). The glory of God departed from the tabernacle and temple when Israel disobeyed God, but Jesus has promised the Spirit will abide in us forever (Jn. 14:16).

With this background, we can better understand what 1 John 4:12–16 is saying to us. God is invisible (1 Tim. 1:17) and no man can see Him in His essence. Jesus is “the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15). By taking on Himself a human body, Jesus was able to reveal God to us. But Jesus is no longer here on earth.

How, then, does God reveal Himself to the world? He reveals Himself through the lives of His children. Men cannot see God, but they can see us. If we abide in Christ, we will love one another and our love for one another will reveal God’s love to a needy world. God’s love will be experienced in us and then will be expressed through us.

That important little word abide (or dwell) is used six times in 1 John 4:12–16. It refers to our personal fellowship with Jesus Christ. To abide in Christ means to remain in spiritual oneness with Him, so that no sin comes between us. Because we are “born of God,” we have union with Christ; but it is only as we trust Him and obey His commandments that we have fellowship with Him. In a similar way, just as a faithful husband and wife “abide in love” though they may be separated by miles, so a believer abides in God’s love. This abiding is made possible by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (1 Jn. 4:13).

Imagine the wonder and privilege of having God abide in you! The Old Testament Israelite would look with wonder at the tabernacle or temple because the presence of God was in that building. No man would dare to enter the holy of holies, where God was enthroned in glory! But we have God’s Spirit living in us! We abide in this love and we experience the abiding of God in us. “Anyone who loves Me will obey My teaching. My Father will love them, and We will come to them and make Our home with them” (Jn. 14:23).

God’s love is proclaimed in the Word and proved at the cross. But here we have something deeper: God’s love is perfected in the believer. Fantastic as it may seem, God’s love is not made perfect in angels, but in sinners saved by His grace. We Christians are now the tabernacles and temples in which God dwells. He reveals His love through us.

Dr. Campbell Morgan, famous British preacher, had five sons, all of whom became ministers of the Gospel. One day a visitor in their home dared to ask a personal question: “Which of you six is the best preacher?”

Their united answer was, “Mother!”

Of course, she had never preached a formal sermon in a church, but her life was a constant sermon on the love of God.

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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7 Responses to Getting to the Bottom of Love: Part 2 (1 John 4:1–16)

  1. Thank you Pastor Joe, God is indeed Love and when we are Perfected in Love so are we and because we don’t sin anymore we do not have to fear the torment of Hell, as clearly shown in the Scriptures below……

    1John 4:16-19 And we have known and believed the Love that God hath to us. God is Love; and he that dwelleth in Love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our Love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as He is, so are we in this world.There is no fear in Love; but perfect Love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in Love. We Love Him, because He first Loved us.

    Matthew 5:48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect.

    1 John 2:4-6 He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His Commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth His word, in him verily is the Love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in Him. He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked.

    Sadly this Scripture is not believed by some and so they make excuses or say we go on sinning till we die but are forgiven, which means they don’t do what God tells us to do through Paul (Romans 6:11) we are to aim for the crown of righteousness, putting to death our carnal flesh by The Holy Spirit which we ask for and for the gifts which are needed for building up the body.

    Galatians 24 -26 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. if we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.

    1John 3:9 No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he “cannot ” go on sinning, because he has been Born of God.

    1John 5:18-20 We know that no one who is Born of God sins; but He who was Born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him.

    John 8:34-36 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

    John 3:2 -7 Whosoever abideth in Him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen Him, neither known Him. Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as He is righteous.

    Christian Love from us both – Anne

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

  3. That’s really what this is all about…Love! Great Job Pastor Q. !

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

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