1 John 4:11-21

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

Observation

  • We are to love each other.
  • If we love then we have been born of God.
  • If we love we know God.
  • If we do not love we do not know God.
  • God is love.
  • God’s demonstrated His love to us by sending his only Son into the world.
  • God sent His Son into the world so we might live through Him.
  • God sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
  • We should love each other because God loved us.
  • No one has ever seen God.
  • God lives in us if we love each other.
  • If we love each other God’s love is perfected in us.
  • John and those with him know that they lived in God because:
    • God has given them his Spirit.
    • They saw Jesus
    • They testified that the Father sent Jesus into the world to be the savior of the world.
  • God lives in whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God.
  • Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God lives in God.
  • Love does not have any fear in it.
  • Perfect love throws out fear.
  • The type of fear that John is talking about is the type of fear of punishment.
  • Those who fear punishment have not been perfected in love.
  • We love because God loved us first.
  • Anyone who says they hate their brother and loves God is a liar.
  • It is impossible to love God, who cannot be seen, and hate your brother, who has been seen.
  • If you love God, loving your brother is a commandment from God.

Interpretation

Verse 21, the ending sentence of the passage, is the summarizing thought of this passages and one of the major themes of the letter. “And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”

Love, true love, comes from God. I have often heard the people ask, “How can I be sure I am saved?” John answers that question in verse 7b and 8. Anyone who loves has been born of God. Anyone who does not love has not been born of God. And if they claim to be born of God and know God, they are simply lying.

God is love. If God is living in us then His love will be demonstrated in us. The type of love John is referring to is not a love that we can generate. It is not a worldly or fleshly love. It is God’s love. It is God loving through us.

God the Father’s love for his only son (v9) is the source of love. By giving His Son, the Father demonstrated to us what perfect love is. Jesus was the propitiation of our sin. That is, while we had nothing going for us, while we were in rebellion to Him, while we were undeserving the Father sent the Son to pay the price for our sinfulness. But if God is love why not just forgive us of our sin and simply let it go at that. If God is love, would not that be the loving thing to do. God is also just. And God’s justice demands a payment for the sin. We were and are paupers and cannot pay the price of our sin. Therefore, The Father’s love sent the Son to be our substitute. That allowed both God’s love and justice to be demonstrated.

John goes on saying that if God loved us that much. We have an obligation to love each other. This should remind us of the parable of the unforgiving servant. In Matthew 18:21-35. At the end of the parable when the servant is thrown into jail because after receiving a great forgiveness the servant did not forgive his fellow servant. Jesus concludes that parable with, “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matt 18:35)

God’s love is perfect. Our love is not. If the love of God is in us there is no fear because perfect love does not have fear mixed with it. The fear John is speaking of, is the fear of God’s wrath and judgment. We do not would fear God’s judgment because Christ has paid the debt we created with our sin.

The love of our brother is not our own love but God’s love He is expressing through us. No wonder the commandment is, “whoever loves God must also love his brother.”

Application

God’s love is pure. Our love is impure. God’s love is perfect. Pure and perfect love does not contain any fear. The most common reason someone is fearless is ignorance. As the saying goes fools rush in where angels fear to tread. That is not the kind of fearlessness John is referring to. Many have no fear of the wrath of God because they are ignorant of His justice and our sinfulness. If we realize how sinful we are the natural response is fear. The just response to our sin is would be punishment. But the Father has given His son as substitute or propitiation  for our sin. Now God can forgive our sins and while maintaining His justice. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1: 9) When we realize what we have been forgiven of our sin, our natural response is thankfulness and gratitude. We then express that gratitude by forgiving and loving others.

Many may react to this passage by responding, “I will be more righteous by loving more.” Let us not confuse the cause and the effect. We love because we have been made righteous. We are not made righteous because we love. Love is the fruit or result God’s love toward us and Him living in us, not the other way around. It is a gift from God. Our righteousness is not something we earn by loving more.

Since we are commanded to love, the answer as to how to do that is not to work harder at loving. Rather the answer as to how to love is to confess your sins on a daily basis, abide in Him so He will abide in us. Recognize what He has done for you. And God’s love will come through us to others.

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