1 JOHN – SERIES : NR 13
Scripture: 1 John 4 : 7 – 21
Theme : Reasons why Christians love fellow believers
We are now familiar with something of the Apostle’s way of writing. He sometimes returns to themes he had addressed earlier and expands on them a little. His mind follows a kind of circular route.
He already discussed the fact that Christ-believers are people who love. And specifically, love fellow Christians. The Christ-believer experience a special cohesion with other followers of Jesus. And it overflows in everyday practice. Your choices and priorities are influenced by it. And it becomes visible in things like online habits. Particularly where no one sees you and controls it. You love people who wholeheartedly live for Christ. You want to be connected to them and learn from them, and visit with them and talk together about spiritual things and pray together, etc. It is the elemental nature of all people in whom the Holy Spirit dwells. And from that – when you notice it in yourself – it strengthens your assurance that you truly are a child of the Lord.
That is more or less a summary of what the apostle has already said about love.
Now one wonders: What exactly does he want to say in verses 7-21. It almost sounds as if he is just repeating everything. But if we look carefully, we can see that he is giving motivation for what he already said about Christians’ love for each other. He gives FIVE REASONS of why Christians love.
We are just calmly going to walk through this paragraph to find these five reasons, one verse at a time. Once your eyes open to it, you will clearly see it. FIVE GREAT GODLY REASONS why a true follower of Christ Jesus, love other people who also are followers of Christ. Five reasons that say: It MUST simply be true. Disciple of the Lord, you MUST and SHALL feel attracted to other people who have the same heartbeat as yourself.
READ VERSE 7 AGAIN
Here is a clear explanation of the first reason why Christians love. It is because love comes from God! And when the love flows to other Christ-believers and they are people with whom you want to be, you know that you became a child of God – that you are born from Him. Because where else would that attraction has come from? Of course: It comes from the Holy Spirit that came to dwell in me. Before I was rather allergic to Christians who so overflowed of the Lord, but now everything has changed. And the reason? The love that comes from God.
READ VERSE 8 AGAIN
This is still the first reason – but only more expanded: God IS love. His being is love. Not only does it come from Him, but He is it! The true God is the essence of what love is. The agape-love is inherently in everything that He is and does. Even His wrath and judgment and holiness are perfectly in harmony with His love. Love is not a sentimental, insipid, and self-serving emotion. It is the purposeful unselfish reaching out to others, focusing on the other person’s salvation. And He establishes it in the born-again person.
The Apostle is therefore correct when he says that someone who confesses that he/she is a Christian believer but does not reveal this agape-love (particularly) towards other Christians, does not truly know the Lord. Because God IS love and it shall overflow in the heart and life of the person who is born of God (as verse 7 says in Greek).
That is REASON NR 1 why Christians love. Because God himself is the essence of that love.
And here is now the second reason: READ VERSE 9 AGAIN
The fact that God himself is the essence of love, is not just theory. It is not merely words/lip service. God proved it by actively and purposefully sending His only (begotten) Son – Jesus Christ – to the world – with the sole purpose that we may have (eternal) life through Him. THAT is the purest revelation of God’s love. Because keep in mind that God did that for the benefit of His ENEMIES – people who at best deserve eternal condemnation.
God’s love has therefore truly MANIFESTED. It came forth in Word and deed. An act of absolute sacrifice. The judgment and wrath of God that should’ve fallen upon sinners, fell upon His beloved Son who suffered the dreadful SUBSTITUTING death on the cross. That means: In the place of everyone who would ever believe/come to faith.
God did not send an angel. He sent THE one who has been in a unique relationship with Him from all eternity. The Son is from all eternity. That is what is meant with ONLY SON. It means He is absolutely unique. Only one of His kind. It was precisely Him whom the Father sent to the world as the greatest gift ever. And – obviously – there is no other way in which a person can gain eternal life other than by this only Son who was sent.
Verse 10 does not give the third reason why Christians loves but expands a little on verse 9.
READ VERSE 10 AGAIN
Real, true love is not THAT which the Christ-believer has but true love is the love that GOD actively SHOWED by sending His Son.
The love which a Christian has is nothing more than a reflection of the love of God. Because, Romans 5:5 teaches that by the Holy Spirit, God has poured out His love into the hearts and lives of all true Christians. It is inside of you. And you merely reflect it. But it is not about what we reflect. It is about HIS love that turned into action – to the advantage of people who deserve eternal condemnation. Because millions of transgressions of the holy God’s law and will demand eternal punishment.
But the atonement death of Christ comes to PROPITIATE the wrath and vengeance of God. Christ came to work ATONEMENT. The Greek word means SATISFY/PLACATE. God saves the believer from His punishment and wrath by way of the sacrifice of His Son which He had planned and considered and put into effect!
Christ’s innocent death, His death as the eternal Son of God, happened in the place of the person who comes to faith in Christ. Christ takes your place before God’s vengeance. He stills the wrath of God on your behalf. And when you begin to trust upon that sacrificial death, there does not exist any wrath about you and your sins any longer. You find yourself in the embrace of eternal love.
THAT is REAL love, says the Apostle. And it washed over the person who began to hope in Christ Jesus. You suddenly realise: He loves me – the one who is not loveable – with an eternal love – in His Son Jesus of Nazareth. He did not wait until I first considered how to make a plan with my thousands of sins, no, He brought this sacrifice WHILE I was still at my very worst.
What logically and spontaneously flow from this?
READ VERSE 11
What flows from God’s action of love, is the SECOND REASON why Christians love. The fact that God so wonderfully came to show His love. As simple as that.
God who sent His Son, is not only the believer’s salvation and deliverer, but it also provides the pattern by which the believer must live a self-sacrificing and unselfish life. Something which the world needs so desperately to receive. God’s love washes through the believers to others.
Verse 12 teaches us the THIRD reason why Christians love.
READ VERSE 12 AGAIN
What is the third reason why Christians love?
Love is the heartbeat of the Christian’s witness to the outside. If you ARE a Christian, then you automatically HAVE a witness to the outside. And the heart of that is love.
No one has ever seen and felt how God loves. The ONLY demonstration of that is how the church expresses/lives it.
The agape-love STARTED with God. It is MANIFESTED in His Son Jesus Christ. It is DEMONSTRATED by His saved people.
The heartbeat of Christians’ (the church) witness to the outside – to the lost world – is how they demonstrate the love of God. “If you love one another, the people will know that you are my disciples Jesus himself said.
When the Lord Jesus was on earth, He was the visible, tangible manifestation of the Deity. He was also the manifestation of God’s holiness, but also His love.
But since then all Christ-believers are included in Him and filled with His Spirit and love (Rom 5:5). It is in this way that God now makes Himself visible and tangible – by His love that flows through the Christians. That is why Paul could say to the Christians in Corinth that they are visible letters for other people to read – written not with ink, but with the Holy Spirit (2 Cor 3:3).
Christian believers, therefore, bear a great responsibility in and towards the world.
Summarised are the first three reasons why Christ-believers love other Christ-believers:
1 > God himself is the essence of love
2 > God showed love with action
3 > Love is the heartbeat of their witness to the outside
The fourth reason is spelled out in verses 13-16. And that is as follows: That love for other Christians is the Christian’s assurance.
READ VERSE 13 AGAIN
Note the word KNOW. It is about certainty. Assurance.
If one reads through verses 13-16 for the first time, you may not get the dots to join together very easily. You do not immediately see the 4th reason why Christians love. You do not immediately see how the love-for-other-Christians is the Christian’s assurance.
But let us read verses 13-16 once more as a unit!
READ VERSES 13-16 AGAIN
Now, look carefully at how the Apostle puts it here.
HOW do I know (assurance) that I am His child? Put differently, that I live in Him and He in me? That the separation that sin brought about has been removed forever?
I know it for three things:
1 > The Holy Spirit has been given to me (READ VERSE 13 AGAIN)
2 > I believe the testimony of the apostles that God the Father sent the Son as Saviour of the world and therefore for me too! READ VERSE 14 AGAIN. “World” in the sense of “no longer only the Jews, but all the nations” meaning all God’s elect who is spread throughout all the nations and the world.
3 > I confess my belief that Jesus is indeed the Son of God. And therefore God lives in me and I in Him. READ VERSE 15 AGAIN. That faith was not always there. God has allowed the rebirth in me and therefore I now trust Jesus as the Son of God.
There are the three things from which I KNOW.
But now look at the surprise in verse 16. READ VERSE 16 AGAIN.
Those three things mentioned are grouped under one head: The love that God has for the Christ-believers. That love combines the other three. It ties them together.
Whether I now say: The Holy Spirit dwells in my life. Or whether I say: God has sent His Son as Saviour to the world and I am included in it. Or whether I say: I confess my belief that Jesus is the Son of God and that I am in Him and He is in me. WHAT I AM ACTUALLY SAYING is: God loves me and I know it and I believe in it and I remain in it and therefore I live in Him and He in me. Because His being is love.
God’s love is the combining factor for all the other. Therefore I can say: the Lord’s love is my assurance. And my motivation why I love. The reason why I love it.
The fifth and last reason why Christians love other Christians, we find in verses 17-20. And that is: Love is the Christian’s confidence on the Day of Judgment.
READ VERSE 17 AGAIN
Why is love the Christian’s confidence on the Day of Judgment? It is because love knows no fear. If you love someone, are you afraid of him/her? If you love the Lord Jesus Christ, are you afraid of His second coming or the final Judgment? Unthinkable. The two ideas exclude each other.
The entire main purpose of God’s love for his child is to enable that person to live in fellowship with Him for eternity. That love overcomes judgment. Otherwise, love has failed! No, it cannot fail. It offers ETERNAL victory!
READ VERSE 17 AGAIN
LOVE means GOD’S love that manifests in/through the child of the Lord. And the most precious words ever: WE (meaning the child of the Lord in which the vital signs register positively) HAVE NOTHING TO FEAR ON THE DAY OF JUDGMENT. Think about it: NOTHING TO FEAR on judgment day.
How can it be? Because love drives out fear. And it is NOW ALREADY the case with all Christians. AS HE (CHRIST) IS, SO ARE WE IN THIS WORLD, it says in Greek. The NAT reads: “In this world, we already live through the love just like Jesus”.
The NAT tries to describe the Greek. But it is not a TRANSLATION, but more of an explanation of what the Greek means. One would rather expect it as a footnote.
But, the explanation is correct, because what is meant by AS HE (CHRIST) IS, SO ARE WE (CHRIST-BELIEVER) IN THIS WORLD?
It means: The Lord Jesus himself lives through the love for His Father and his children, and exactly like that the Christian-believer also does it already.
And if that is the case, and you die and stand before the Lord in judgment, what fear is there then, because you have indeed lived by the same love as through which He lives!
Of fear ,there can therefore be no sign.
READ VERSE 18 AGAIN
Very significant verse and truth, is it not?
Love does not expect punishment. But fear expects punishment. Love drives out fear. Fear and love cannot co-exist in the same heart. And as love drives out fear, the punishment is driven out. Love, therefore, gives confidence on judgment day. No fear any longer. Because love held on to the death on the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and His love is poured out by the Holy Spirit in the life of the person who clings to His death on the cross. Overwhelmed by God’s love for me and mine for him, there is no longer room for fear. If He loves me, He will care for me. Also after death. Also on the day of Judgment. Love produces peace that exceeds all understanding. And it drives fear out.
THAT is the fifth reason why the Christian person loves other Christians. Whoever shares the same love and whoever shall have the same confidence on judgment day is bound to each other. It cannot be otherwise. Where there is the same heartbeat, such people are bound to each other.
It is simply not possible to love God, but not love other Christians (brothers). Such a person is a liar! Look, it is written there…
READ VERSES 19-20 AGAIN
It is absolutely impossible to be allergic to a devoted Christ-believer whom I can see and touch, but then to love the living God whom I cannot see and touch.
We cannot directly and tangibly prove our love for God. We cannot buy or serve a meal to the Lord. We can however show tangible love to fellow believers.
And to think that the Lord’s love was FIRST. Our love for Him is merely a weak reaction. But everything, everything comes from Him first. His initiative of free grace.
That is why it stands to reason: Whomever loves God, MUST love the fellow believers. It comes as a command.
READ VERSE 21 AGAIN
There are in other words, 5 reasons why a Christian loves.
1 > God himself is the essence of love
2 > God showed love with action
3 > Love is the heartbeat of their witness to the outside
4 > That love for other Christians is the Christian’s assurance
5 > Love is my confidence before God on the day of judgment
Conclusion: It is impossible for a Christian not to love!
Translated by Marthie Wilson