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1 John 4:7-11: No Love, No God; Know Love, Know God!

“In the days when the great evangelist D.L. Moody was preaching in Chicago, a man, partially under the influence of liquor, seeing the warm lights of Moody’s tabernacle, staggered up the steps to the front door. Upon opening it, he saw no one within, but he did see the motto hanging above the pulpit: ‘God Is Love.’ The man slammed the door, staggered down the steps, and muttered to himself, God is love? God is not love. If God were love, He would love me, and He hates me.’ He continued his uneven walk around the block, still muttering to himself. But those words began to burn images into his benumbed thinking. A power seemed to draw him back to the tabernacle. With the throngs that were now making their way into the tabernacle, he soon found himself seated inside, and Mr. Moody was preaching.

The sermon over, Moody made his way to the door to shake hands with the people as they left. But this man didn’t leave. He continued to sit in his seat, weeping. Moody came over to him, put his arm on the man’s shoulder, and asked, ‘Is there something that I can do for you? What was it in my sermon that touched your heart?’

‘Oh, Mr. Moody, I didn’t hear a word that you spoke tonight,’ the man responded. ‘It’s those words up there over your pulpit—‘God Is Love.’ Moody sat down and talked with him for a while, and soon he gave his heart to Moody’s God. My friend, God is love. All His ways and acts are love.” –L. E. Tucker, These Times, November 1974; via the May 2006 Signs of the Times E-mail Newsletter

“The church father, Jerome, said that when the apostle John was in his extreme old age, he was so weak that he had to be carried into the church meetings. At the end of the meeting he would be helped to his feet to give a word of exhortation to the church. Invariably, he would repeat, ‘Little children, let us love one another.’ The disciples began to grow weary of the same words every time, and they finally asked him why he always said the same thing over and over. He replied, ‘Because it is the Lord’s commandment, and if this only is done, it is enough’” – Steven J. Cole, Flagstaff Christian Fellowship, cited by John Stott, The Epistles of John.

“1 John is the great book of love. Love is mentioned 46 times in this book. One of the reasons John is writing was to combat a heresy known as Gnosticism. The Gnostic believed that knowledge was power. They felt that they had a special knowledge of God and His ways. John is writing to put them into their place! And, as he does, he tells the rest of us about a great God with a great love for great sinners. It's that great love of that Great God that I want to tell you about…”–Adapted from

Verse 7a: “Beloved” in Greek is agapetos, it is used only of Christians who are united with God and with each other in love. So here John is addressing believers with a tender word of exhortation, even as he assures them of his own love for them. It's easy to call someone a tender name, but John clearly practiced what he preached. His life matched his lips. His behavior was in harmony with his words. Could we say the same, beloved?

Verse 7b: “let us love one another…”

Do you think this is important? In 1 John 4:7-11, “Love/beloved” is found 13 times in these 5 verses:

See also:

John 13:34, “ A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”

John 15:12, “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

John 15:17, “These things I command you, that you love one another.”

Romans 13:8, “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.”

1 Thessalonians 4:9, “But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another.”

1 Peter 1:22, “Love one another fervently with a pure heart.”

1 John 3:11, “For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.”

1 John 3:23, “And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.”

2 John 1:5, “And now I plead with you, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment to you, but that which we have had from the beginning: that we love one another.”

Verse 7c: “…for love is of God…”

When John commands us to “love one another” he is commanding us to love without any regard to merit. He is commanding us to love even those who have mistreated us. Why is John requiring that we love one another in this manner? Because this is the way God loves. John actually takes this one step further when he states in verse 8 that “God is love.”

The origin of true love is in the nature of God. And because true love is bound up in the very essence of God, we, as human beings, are incapable of fabricating this on our own. This is why John can say that those who practice agape love are born of God, while those who do not practice agape love demonstrate that they are not born of God. The Spirit of God is the Spirit of love. And the new nature in the children of God is the outworking of his love.

Verse 7d: “Everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.”

Real love is only attained when one is “born of God and knows God.”

“There are people who are unloving, unkind, always criticizing, whispering, backbiting, pleased when they hear something against another Christian. Oh, my heart grieves and bleeds for them as I think of them; they are pronouncing and proclaiming that they are not born of God. They are outside the life of God; and I repeat, there is no hope for such people unless they repent and turn to Him.” –Martyn Lloyd-Jones

The world’s ideas about love and God’s word are diametrically opposed to each other. The sappy, syrupy, self-centered worldly love does not compare with the love of God. Now I love my wife in every Greek definition of the word “love.” Eros, the Greek word for desire is an exulted and beautifully idealistic love, usually between a man and woman. I love her with phileo love. If Eros is the love of the body, phileo is the love of the soul. Phileo is a friendship type of love, and she is my best friend. Storge, is a familial love, it is cherishing one's kindred, the mutual love of parents and children and wives and husbands; loving affection; prone to love; loving tenderly; with reciprocal tenderness. And agape love puts my beloved first! Agape’ sacrifices pride, self-interest and possessions for the sake of that beloved. This is the love that God has for us which inspired him to sacrifice His son and for His son to obey and sacrifice himself. It is the kind of love we are commanded to have for one another.

It is true what the song says:

What the world needs now is love, sweet love

It's the only thing that there's just too little of

What the world needs now is love, sweet love

No, not just for some but for everyone

–Burt Bacharach and Hal David–

But how about this song about loving yourself, the “Greatest Love of all” by Whitney Houston:

I decided long ago, never to walk in anyone's shadows

If I fail, if I succeed at least I'll live as I believe

No matter what they take from me they can't take away my dignity

Because the greatest love of all is happening to me

I found the greatest love of all inside of me

The greatest love of all is easy to achieve

Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all

And an oldie but goodie: “What Is This Thing Called Love,” by Cole Porter:

I was a hum-drum person leading a life apart

When love flew in through my window wide

And quickened my hum-drum heart

Love flew in through my window I was so happy then

But after love had stayed a little while love flew out again

Do you get the idea that the world’s definition is a bit different than God’s?

Here’s a great old hymn, “The Love of God.”

The love of God is greater far than tongue or pen can ever tell;

It goes beyond the highest star, and reaches to the lowest hell;

The guilty pair, bowed down with care, God gave His Son to win;

His erring child He reconciled, and pardoned from his sin.

O love of God, how rich and pure! How measureless and strong!

It shall forevermore endure the saints’ and angels’ song.

–Frederick Lehman and his daughter, Claudia F. Mays–

Or another: “O Love that Wilt not Let Me Go.”

O Love that wilt not let me go, I rest my weary soul in thee;

I give thee back the life I owe, that in thine ocean depths

Its flow may richer, fuller be.

–Albert L. Peace and George Matheson–

Verse 8a: “He who does not love does not know God…”

No love, no God; know love, know God! A stranger to love is a stranger to God.

John gives a clear marker by which we can all test our profession of faith in Christ. Children of God should emulate their Father. Since He is love, His children should demonstrate His love. To never demonstrate love indicates that one is not a possessor but a pretender.

“Those whose lives are not characterized by love for others are not Christians, no matter what they claim. The Jewish religionists (scribes, Pharisees, and other leaders) of Jesus’ day, as well as the false teachers in the church of John’s day, knew a lot about God, but they did not really know Him (cf. 1 Timothy 6:20; 2 timothy 3:7). The absence of God’s love in their lives revealed their unregenerate condition as conclusively as did their aberrant theology.” –John MacArthur

Verse 8b: “God is love.”

John is not writing here about one of the attributes of God. Love is what God is essentially. At the greatest depth at which you can speak of the nature of God, you will speak of love. Everything He does, everything He is, all of His attributes are filled with love. We can speak of the activity of God, such as creation, when He spoke into existence that which did not exist. But His essential heart of love was prior to that activity, prior to any attributes that we discover in observing him. He is love by nature. There is no touch of Him, no knowledge of Him, no awareness of Him that will not have love in it.

“A farmer placed a weather vane inscribed with the words God is love on top of his barn. One day a traveler stopped by the farm and watched the weather vane moving with the breeze. Then, with a smirk on his face, he asked, ‘Do you mean to say that your God is as changeable as the wind?’ The farmer shook his head and replied, ‘No. What I mean to say is that no matter which way the wind blows, God is love!’

The statement God is love implies much more than that God demonstrates His love regardless of the circumstances. It means that love is the essence of God’s character. We will never be able to plumb the depths of His love—not even in eternity. But the apostle John pointed out that we can begin to understand it as we view the cross (1 John. 4:9-10). As we see Christ dying there for us, we catch a glimpse of the beauty of the loving heart of God.

“John went on to point out that if God is love, His children should resemble Him (verses 11-21). Consequently, if there is no warm glow in our hearts for our brother, if we do not thrill to the lovely name of Jesus, we may well question the reality of our conversion experience.” – Henry G. Bosch, Our Daily bread, April 2, 1998

Verse 9a: “In this…”

In what? Not our love for Him, but clearly His love for us, because it describes God’s action in sending his Son into the world. The true nature of God’s love is now seen, so we can appreciate that God gave all He had so we can have all He has!

Ephesians 2:4,5, “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).”

“There is love in our creation; there is love in providence; but most of all there is love in the gift of Christ for our redemption. The apostle here seems to say, ‘Now that I have found the great secret of God’s love to us; here is the clearest evidence of divine love that ever was or ever can be manifested toward the sons of men.’” –C.H. Spurgeon

Verse 9b: “…the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world”

“Manifested:” in Greek, phaneroo visible, conspicuous, to give light, become visible, to come out in the open, to be made public, literally was brought to light and so conveys the sense that God's love, by itself not clearly visible, was made clearly visible in the incarnation. God clearly revealed His love making it abundantly clear that the coming of the Messiah into the world as a Man was unmistakable evidence of divine love.

Verse 9c: “God has sent His only begotten Son into the world.”

John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

Three times in this section John writes that the Father sent His Son: Verse 9, “that we might live through Him,” Verse 14, “as the propitiation for our sins, and Verse 14, “to be the Savior of the world.” Jesus fulfilled all three of the goals for which He was sent, as His cry underscored, “It is finished” (John 19:30).

God gave his Son to die; not primarily to live or to teach or to exhort or to be an example but to die. He gave his Son to die for sinners. “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8). He did not come to die for righteous people or loving people or kind people or pretty people, or good people, but He came to die for sinners! He came to die for me…and you!

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,

That saved a wretch like me.

I once was lost but now am found,

Was blind, but now I see.

– John Newton (1725-1807)–

Verse 9d: “…into the world.” John writes in his Gospel "God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him” (John 3:17).

Verse 9e: “…that we might live through Him.” And if we live through Him, we will be enabled by His Spirit to love like Him.

Romans 6:11 NLT, “So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.”

1 Thessalonians 5:9,10 NLT, “For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us. Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever.”

1 John 5:11,12 NLT, “And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life.”

Verse 10a: “In this is love, not that we loved God…”

Before we were born again, we absolutely did not love God. In fact Romans 5:10 says “we were God's enemies.” Fallen mankind does not naturally love God, contrary to popular opinion! It follows that natural man, those still dead in their trespasses and sins cannot express the supernatural love about which John is writing.

“In us there was no love; there was a hatred of God and goodness. The enmity was not on God’s side toward us; but on our side toward him. ‘He loved us and sent his son.’ The gift of Christ; the needful propitiation for our sins, was all of love on God’s part. Justice demanded the propitiation, but love applied it. God could not be just if he pardoned sin without atonement; but the greatness of the love is seen in the fact that it moved the Father to give his Son to an ignominious death, that he might pardon sinners and yet be just.” –C.H. Spurgeon

My outrageous statement before I came to Christ was: “If there is a God somewhere, He doesn’t love me.” So it was obvious that I had no love for Him, but on that October morning in 1958 for the first time I learned that God is love! And that he loved me! That’s when I gave my life to Him.

Verse 10b: “but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

So that we don’t get our focus on ourselves, or get puffed up with pride over how loving we are, John directs us back to God’s love as seen in His sending His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Fallen humanity would never have known this love apart from the fact that God took the initiative in revealing His love to mankind. Love is God, love starts with God. And if anything we feel or do can be called love, it will be because we are connected with God by the new birth.

Verse 10c: “…the propitiation for our sins.”

The word propitiation (Greek, hilasterion) appears in the New King James Version of the Bible in four verses: Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17; 1 John 2:2; and 1 John 4:10. In each case the word is used to express the grace of God, which allows Jesus’ sacrifice to be the means by which our sins can be forgiven. Hilasterion is also to translate the Hebrew term “covering” or “mercy seat,” which was the lid of the Ark of the Covenant where the sacrificial blood was placed for the atonement of the sins of the people. Hebrews 9:5, “and above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat (hilasterion).”

“The word “propitiation” carries the basic idea of appeasement, or satisfaction, specifically towards God. Propitiation is a two-part act that involves appeasing the wrath of an offended person and being reconciled to them." –Theopedia

Romans 3:25, “…whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed.”

Since no verb is used, the expression could read, “His Son propitiation.” John says in 1 John 2:2, “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.”

He was not sent like the high priest under the Mosaic Law, who could sprinkle the blood of the lamb, to be a covering (mercy seat) for the people’s sins for another year, but of, this man Jesus God declares, “Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. He, Himself became “the propitiation (covering) for our sins” by shedding His own blood for the remission of sins.

“Christ's self-sacrifice for sins made full atonement for all sins, thus enabling God to pardon at His own cost the sins against Himself of those who believe and to restore them to acceptance and fellowship with Himself. In the words of Pentecost, The death of Jesus Christ did not change the heart of God, as if One who hated us now loves us; rather it opened the floodgate so that the love of God for sinners could be poured out to them through Jesus Christ.” –D. Edmond Hiebert

That’s the sum total of the gospel. God out of his love sent Jesus Christ to be the sacrifice for our sins, a substitutionary sacrifice satisfying the justice of God, which by virtue of our sin perfectly, justly sends men to an eternal separate from God. The gospel is God-is-love manifested in the sending of his Son to be the propitiation for our sin.

Verse 11: “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

“Ought” means we are bound by a moral obligation to love, a sense of indebtedness to someone for something. And it is in the present tense, indicating a continual moral obligation.

“We ought to love each other, means the way fish ought to swim in water and birds ought to fly in the air and living creatures ought to breathe and peaches ought to be sweet and lemons ought to be sour and hyenas ought to laugh. And born again people ought to love. It’s who we are. This is not mere imitation. For the children of God, imitation becomes realization. We are realizing who we are when we love. God’s seed is in us. God’s Spirit is in us. God’s nature is in us. God’s love is being perfected in us. God’s Christ-sending Love is our internal impulse. Yes, there is the external impulse of seeing in history the Son of God laying down his life for us and constraining us in this way. But what’s unique about the Christian life is that there is also the internal impulse that comes from being born again and having the very love that sent the Son into the world pulsing through our souls by the life of God within. The new birth enables us to experience the manifestation of God’s love in history as an internal reality of God’s Spirit within us.”–Adapted from John Piper

**NOTE: Unless otherwise noted, the New King James Version of the Bible was used. Also The New Living Translation (NLT); The New American Standard Bible (NASB); The Message (MSG); The New Century Version (NCV); The Amplified Bible (AMP); The King James Version (KJV), The New Life Version (NLV); English Standard Version (ESV); J.B. Phillips New Testament; Easy to Read Version (ERV); Common English bible (CEB); NET Bible (NET) and The Living Bible (TLB).**

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