1 John (9): The Centrality of Love (4:7-5:5)
You May Know: An Exposition of First John (part 9)
The Centrality of Love
1) The Root of Love is the Triune God. In this section of 1 John we find simple yet profound truths revealing the nature of the Triune God of the Bible. "God is love" is revealed twice (4:8, 16). No other religious perspective can credibly maintain this. Many other worldview claimants do not even try to do so. For God to be love, He must be personal and "multi-personal" so that each person of the Godhead loves one another. John moves from the statement that "God is love" to the sending of the Son into the world to manifest His love (4:9). This is the foundation of our faith. It is not based upon our own ability to love, rather, "In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us." Our acceptance does not consist in our performance of love, but in God’s love for us through His Son who is the propitiation for our sins. Christ lived the life we could not live and died the death we should have died. The origin of this redemption is God’s very nature - love. God loved, therefore Christ came and died.
2) The Reflection of Love is our response to seeing God as He is. Grasping the Source of love is transforming. If we see how God has loved, then we "ought to love one another" (4:11). While natural eyes cannot see God, His reality is manifested in our loving. We are to be the image of God’s love in the world. Confessing that Jesus is God’s unique Son is the basis for abiding in God and He in us (4:16). Abiding in Him brings "confidence" (parrasia) in the judgment. There is a connection between judgment and love. We love the Judge and He us. When "love is perfected" "we may have confidence in the day of judgment." This is "because as He is, so also are we in this world." As we live in love, abiding in God, we have no need to fear since we are like God’s own character. God does not find fault in Himself. So this confident love "casts out fear."
3) The Result of Love is Obedience and Overcoming. God initiated love for us by His eternal plan of salvation and therefore He sent His Son for our sins. a) The result of believing this is our love for the brethren. John gives a very striking test: if we cannot love our fellow Christians visible to us, we cannot love the invisible God. There is a relationship between loving God and our brethren. If we love the Father, we love the Son and we love the sons (believers). Obedience in loving others brings assurance of our standing. b) The other result of God’s love in us is overcoming the world. John has reference to "not being of the world" ("of the age"). Assurance of overcoming the sinful world is in faith and love. Love and faith are not mutually exclusive but mutually supportive and co-mingled. John relates them in 5:3-5. Love = keeping His commandments = being fathered by God. These interrelated graces assure that we overcome the world. Faith is the victory that overcomes the world.
Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more