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.

Understanding And Applying the Text

The last sentence of the passage summarizes not only this passage but is 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 people ask, “How can I be sure I am saved?” John answers that question in verses 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 lying.

God is love. If God is living in us then we are a demonstration of that love. The type of love John is referring to is not a love that we can generate. We only create 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 sins. We had nothing going for us. We were in rebellion against Him. We were undeserving. Yet 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? If He loved us that much He could let it go. Would not that be the loving thing to do? That ignores the fact 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 sins. So, The Father’s love sent the Son to be our substitute. That allowed God to show His love without violating His justice.

John goes on to say that if God loved us that much we must 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, the master throws the servant in jail. The servant is jailed because He received forgiveness of a great debt. But the servant did not forgive his fellow servant of a small debt. Jesus concluded, “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 fear God’s judgment because Christ has paid the debt we created with our sins.

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

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 their sinfulness and His justice. If we realize how sinful we are the natural response is fear. The just response to our sin would be punishment. But the Father has given His son as a substitute or propitiation for our sin. Now God can forgive our sins and maintain 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 that God has forgiven of our sin, there is a natural response. That 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 Christ has made us righteous. We are not made righteous because we love. Love is the fruit or result of God’s love toward us. It is the result of Him living in us. It is a gift from God. Our righteousness is not something we earn by loving more.

Christ commands us to love. How do we do that? It is not to work harder at loving. The answer is to confess your sins daily and 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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