Have you ever seen a bumper sticker or a billboard that says God is Love? It sounds like really bad English does it not? I would never say my wife Kaley is love or you would never say my parents are love. So what does it mean that God is love? Today we will look at 1 John chapter 4 verses 7 through 12 to try to answer the question Does God Really Love Us? And to shine light onto what God is Love really means. Our passage for today says:
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.
The last three words of verse 8 form one of the most profound statements of the whole Bible and perhaps for many people today one of the hardest to believe. God is love. Looking back to the video that we saw called Indescribable by Louie Giglio we see just how big this universe we live in really is, and just how small we really are. And now, considering that the world’s population has just pass the 7 billion mark, it is hard to imagine how God can really meaningfully love us. And when we look at the world with all its evil and suffering, so many damaged and broken lives, how can there be a God who really loves? Yet, John insists, this is the very nature of God. We must realize that such an infinite yet personal Creator is not too great to be bothered with my tiny life. He is so great the he can be bothered with each of us individually. (Jackman, 1988)
John is not identifying a quality which God possesses; he is making a statement about the essence of God’s being. It is not simply that God loves, but that He is love.
Think of it like this: Assuming you are a True Christian that John has been describing in this book and you get up one morning, read your Bible, went to school and witnessed to a friend in your class at school, after school you went to the hospital and prayed for the sick, and then came home and fixed a dinner for your parents so that they could relax after work instead of worrying about dinner.
Now the next morning you get up and slam your alarm clock, cheat on a math test at school, after school go straight home and get in argument with your parents. Now on which one of these days does God love more? I hope you see that God still loves you the same on both days. Of course, as we learned earlier as we grow in sanctification our days should consistently look more like the first one, but the point is that we cannot earn more of God’s love than what we already have been freely given.
Therefore, to imagine that God does not love us or to consider His love conditional is to deny his true nature, to pervert his character. A conditional love that depends on the attractiveness or worthiness of the object for it to be exercised is to distort the free grace of God into something much less worthy. Divine love is utterly different. It cannot be earned; it cannot be deserved. God loves us because that is His nature. God is love.
John is also aware, however, that the word love needs definition and clarification. Most people define love as the feeling that they get when people make much of them. However, Love is not making much of, it is laboring and suffering in order you might make them eternally satisfied. This is love and it does not depend on how they respond to it, because they might turn around and kill you for bringing them the gospel, just like how many missionaries have found out, but that is love and that is how we are called to love because that is how God loves us.
John focuses on two great evidences, in which the love of God can be both seen and communicated. The first is in verses 9-10 that God’s love is seen in the cross of Christ. The seconds is in verses 11-12 that God’s love is seen in how Christians love one another.
GOD’S LOVE IS SEEN IN THE CROSS OF CHRIST (VERSES 9-10)
We see in verse 10 that it is not because we first loved God, but that because he loves us. This is no reciprocation by God, meeting a person halfway because he has shown some desire to be right with his master. The initiative is entirely God’s. He decides to manifest his love to those who do not love him and who do not want to love him, to enemies and to rebels armed to the teeth against him, to a world of lost sinners. Let us acknowledge once and for all that if it were not for the fact that God is love, we would have no expectation of mercy or forgiveness, no hope and no future. The initiative in the work of man’s salvation belongs entirely to the God of love.
In verses 9 and 10, John wants to give us a picture of this loving God in action. And he does it by pointing us to the cross. Now I do not believe that someone should ever appeal to the Greek text while Preaching or teaching. Mainly because I had a professor tell us that it should be like your underwear, there for support, but you should not be showing it to everyone. But the main reason is because I do not want you all to think that you have to learn a special language to be able to understand this book, because God will make it clear to you what He wants you to learn. However, I believe that this is important to point out because it is hard to mimic in English. When the Greek writers wanted to emphasize something they would repeat it. So a more literal translation of “He sent his one and only Son” would be “His Son He has sent, God has sent.” This is meant to increase the emphasis on the amazing fact that God should bother with human beings, the word God is repeated over and over again in this paragraph.
Not only did God bother with humans on this little bitty planet in His vast universe, but he sent his one and only son to die for them. Jesus died for our sins. It was because of our sins that Jesus died, for Jesus had none of his own. So the ultimate purpose of this sending and commissioning was that we might receive eternal life in the place of certain death. Not only are the rebels pardoned; they are made sons. And this is what the word propitiation means in this text.
Propitiation is the taking of a personal object for the appeasement of an offended party. Jesus Christ was our propitiation for our sins to appease us from the wrath and anger of a Holy and Just God.
I like to look at it like this: It is like being in a courtroom and you are on trial and you know that you are guilty and you know that you are before a just and holy judge. Satan the prosecutor gets up and rips you telling the judge all that you have done wrong in your life and accuses you of even the good that you have done was out of the wrong motivations. You are at your lowest because you know that you are guilty because Romans 3 tells us that there is no one righteous, not one. All looks dark for you.
But then, Jesus stands up on your behalf and he doesn’t say a word. He approaches the seat of the Holy judge and reaches out his two nail pierced hands and points to the hole in his side and the crown of thorns. And the judge rules INNOCENT, not because he is unjust, not because you deserve it, but because the punishment has been paid for. Now here is the good news. God the holy and just judge is not mad that he had to let you off, he is not like well I have to because the penalty is paid for. No, he is the one that provided a way for you to be able to come to him and have fellowship with him because he loves you. We could have never had come to the father unless he had prepared a way for us to be able to stand blameless in front of him.
GOD’S LOVE IS SEEN IN HOW CHRISTIANS LOVE ONE ANOTHER (VERSES 11-12)
The second way that John gives us that God’s love can be seen and communicated is by how Christians love one another in verses 11 and 12. If we are truly his children we will want to be like our father. This is not just an extra ingredient that we might add to our discipleship if we feel especially moved to do so. We owe it to the loving Father not to slander His name any further by denying his love in our human relationships. If we have appreciated something of the infinite price paid for our redemption, then we will see at once how vital it is that we do not continue to indulge ourselves in sin.
Therefore, the Christian church should be a community of love, unlike any other human society. It is true, as has been said, that the church exists for those who are not yet members, but it is also true that the love among its members should be one of its most powerful magnets.
The ultimate apologetic or defense for the faith should be the love that we have for each other, for orphans, for widows, and for the handicapped. Love is the family characteristic of the family of God. People should be able to see Christ’s love in our fellowships. Now we must think, do we express God’s love more clearly when we love people that are easy to love or those that the world deems unlovable?
Christ’s physical presence is no longer with us in this world, but if people want to see Jesus, they should be able to meet him in the churches. They should encounter his love in the love we Christians have for each other. It is the love that this world needs to see desperately, because it is the nearest many people will ever get to seeing the invisible God. Let us love others because our Father in heaven first loved us.