“Love and Knowing God” 1 John 4:14-21
How important is it that we love God? How important is it that we love our brothers and sisters in the Lord? It is vitally important. Look at the incredible amount of verses the Apostle John,under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, dedicated to this subject. People who have a real growing relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ and God the Father, love one another also. John finally concludes his admonition in two parts. we can love our brothers and sisters because God loves us (v. 14-16). Second, we learn what God-given love accomplishes (v.17-21)
We can love our brothers and sisters because He loves us (v. 14-16)
“We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.” (1 John 4:14-15). With these words, the Apostle John turns our attention to the source of our ability to love our brothers and sisters in the Lord.
John begins at the beginning. If we are going to love our brothers and sisters in the Lord, we first must be saved. So, he begins by asserting that the Father sent the Son into the world to save us.
Salvation begins with an understanding of the facts. The Father did send the Son into the world to save us. Still, salvation is always more than just an assent to the facts. We are saved, according to Romans 10:9-10 because our knowledge and belief in the facts involves a confession from our hearts of the truth to God. “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised [the Lord Jesus] from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” God must work in our hearts for us to truly believe and receive Jesus.
Salvation means that God lives in us and we live in God. The Spirit of God takes up residence in us and we begin the process of sanctification. The Holy Spirit starts changing us from the inside out. God’s indwelling, life-transforming presence makes loving our brothers and sisters in the Lord possible. Because God lives in us we can love others.
Then John writes, “And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.” (1 John 4:16). We can love because we know by experience God’s love for us.
Here is the point. We know God’s love for us. As John says, we are remaining and abiding, (i.e. living) in His love. Because He loves us, we love Him and because He wants us to love our brothers and sisters in the Lord, we want to and do love them, first because He loves us.
The love that allows us to love our brothers and sisters as God wants us to can only come from God Himself. There is no other source.
When we love like this, what does it accomplish in our lives? “Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us. If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.” (1 John 4:17-21).
The first result of our experiencing God’s love and loving one another is that we gain confidence. We can really look for “the Blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” (Titus 2:13). We know that we know God because His present love is real to us, and based on that love, we complete the circle by loving God and His children.
I remember the days when evangelists terrified us about the return of Christ. I can’t remember them ever talking about building such a real fellowship with Christ that His coming no longer terrifies us. It becomes a great comfort for which we yearn.
The second thing accomplished by experiencing the love of God and reaching out to love others is that it helps us overcome terror. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:19).
This is not an unlimited generality. The fear that John is talking about here is not the Old Testament concept of the “fear of God.” Deuteronomy 10:12-13 says: “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the LORD and His statutes which I command you today for your good?” The idea of fearing God in Deuteronomy includes the concept of awe. We are aware that He is far greater than we can conceive. It also gives the idea of great respect and honor that is due Him. In the New Testament, one aspect identifying the lost is “there is no fear of God before their eyes.” Romans 3:18. The point is that this is not the fear that is eliminated by perfected love.
Perfected love eliminates terrifying fear. Fear like Martin Luther knew before his conversion by faith. When we love God in return and are confident that He loves us, we can love others and have confidence in our own relationship with the living God.
Third, when we can love, we understand that our love comes from God. “We love [Him] because He first loved us.”
John concludes his discussion of the importance of our loving God being visible in loving our brothers and sisters in the Lord with a summary statement. “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.” (1 John 4:20-21). If we claim to love God and we do not love our brothers and sisters in the Lord, we are self-deceived about our relationship with God. Loving Him causes us to love them.
We can only love with God-given love if we have first come to know that love in salvation.
Loving like God commands us to love makes us confident and not fearful of the Lord’s return. We are delivered from terror in this life. If God is for us, who can be against us?
Finally, when we think there is no way we can love our brothers and sisters in the Lord, we must remember. We love because He first loved us. If He provides the ability to love, we can love one another.