Print This Page Print This Page

‘IF GOD SO LOVED US …’ – 1 John 4:7-12

Posted by Pastor Greg Allen on February 14, 2016 under 2016 |

Bethany Bible Church; a Valentine’s Day message; February 14, 2016 from 1 John 4:7-12

Theme: The love that God has shown us in Christ should motivate our love for one another.

(Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version; copyright 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc.)

Today is Valentine’s Day. (And guys—I hope you already knew that. Otherwise you won’t be concentrating on the sermon very well this morning!)

Our thoughts are already turned to love. And so, I ask that we focus on some words that have been given to us through the apostle John. He’s come to be known as ‘the apostle of love’; and he had some important things to say about love in 1 John 4:7-12.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

As you turn to the little letter of 1 John, let me tell you something about it. Love is a major theme of this letter. John wrote it in order to help his readers know how to be certain that they are saved and are in a genuine relationship of love with God through Jesus Christ. He structured his letter around three basic themes: the truth of who Jesus truly is, the holiness that a profession of faith in Him requires, and the love for one another that ought to spring forth from that faith. Those give us three great, objective ‘tests’ that we can use to see if we are truly saved. We can ask ourselves: (1) Do we believe whole-heartedly the truth about Jesus that the apostles taught us? (2) Do we turn from sin and walk in moral purity as Jesus Himself walked? (3) Do we love one another as His followers? The ‘test of truth’, the ‘test of holiness’, and ‘the test of love’—these constitute the three great themes of this little letter.

And that very important ‘test of love’ is something that is found all over this letter. If you were to read it on your own—and I hope you will; because it’s not very long, and that would be a great way to celebrate Valentine’s Day—you’d find five individual passages in it that deal specifically with the theme of love. I looked through 1 John and counted 46 times in which the word “love” appeared—29 times as a verb, and 17 times as a noun. So; if we want to know something about love, I’d say we’d better get to know this little letter!

One of those passages about love is 1 John 4:7-12. It’s not so much about ‘romantic love’—which is what most people are thinking about today. Rather, it’s talking about a much higher kind of love—a love that only comes through a relationship with God. John wrote,

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we 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 seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us (1 John 4:7-12).

* * * * * * * * * *

I was reading the other day from a commentary written by my old teacher from Bible college—Dr. John Mitchell. He introduced his thoughts about this particular passage with a remarkable statement. Please consider carefully what he wrote:

The reason why so many people despise the God of love and have so little appreciation of the God of love is that they have never seen that God is righteous. The more we see the holy character of God, the more we will appreciate His love. There could be no display of His love without first of all a display of His righteous character. The gospel message does not reveal that God is love apart from the truth that God is righteous (John G. Mitchell, Fellowship: Three Letters from John [Portland, OR: Multnomah Press, 1974], p. 119).

How very true those words are! Let’s expand on Dr. Mitchell’s thoughts on this and let them sink in. Unless we truly understand how holy and pure God is, then we cannot understand how sinful we are before Him. And if we don’t understand how dreadfully great our sin is before such a holy God, then we cannot appreciate how desperately great our need for salvation is. And if we don’t grasp how great our need for salvation is, then we can’t appreciate the value of the cross—where Jesus, God’s own Son, paid the death penalty for our sin to remove our guilt before God. And unless we understand what God has done for us on the cross of Jesus, we really cannot appreciate how truly great God’s love toward us is. So; the more we understand His holy character in the light of our own sinfulness, the more grateful we become for the cross—and the more we are transformed by God’s love toward us in Christ.

There was a story in the life of Jesus that I believe helps illustrate this. If you’ll keep a finger in 1 John 4, please also turn to Luke 7. It’s there that we’re told the story of how a Pharisee named Simon once invited Jesus to his home for dinner. There was a woman in town who had a reputation as a sinner. But something had happened to her somewhere along the way. She had apparently met Jesus; and Jesus forgave her many sins. And when she heard that Jesus was there—while everyone was eating—she came wandering into this morally upright Pharisee’s home.

What happened next in this room of dinner guests was considered scandalous. This sinful woman—a woman of the night—began to weep; and she washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, and wiped them with her hair, and opened up an expensive bottle of perfume and anointed His feet with it. And the greatest scandal of all—in the mind of the Pharisee, anyway—was that Jesus allowed her to do it! The Pharisee said to himself, “This man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner!”

And that’s when Jesus caught the attention of this Pharisee—whose name was Simon—and told him a story. He said,

There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?” Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.” And He said to him, “You have rightly judged.” Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little” (Luke 7:41-47).

What a great spiritual principle! Whoever is forgiven much—and knows it!—ends up loving much. That’s the transforming power of God’s love for us in Christ. Love begets love. Great love shown begets great love in return. And I believe that that principle is key to understanding this morning’s passage. Once the pardoning love of God shown to us in Jesus Christ gets a grip on your heart—the love that has moved Him to forgive us of all our sins, wash us clean in His sight, and draw us to a depth of relationship with Himself—it simply has to transform you! You can’t help but be changed by it. It must—by necessity—transform you in the way you love God the Father and Jesus His Son.

But it does more. It must also transform the way you love others. I believe that’s the great point that the apostle John is seeking to make to us in this morning’s passage. The love that God has shown us in Christ should transform us and motivate our love for one another.

* * * * * * * * * *

Let’s look at this morning’s passage a little closer and see how John expressed this to us.

First, notice how he began. He began by calling the readers of his letter “Beloved”. That’s a truly wonderful greeting. It may be that he was simply expressing his own deep love for his Christian readers. But I believe there’s more to it than that. I believe John was telling them what they truly were in the sight of God. They were His “beloved ones”. God had demonstrated an infinite and everlasting love toward them by sending His Son to die on the cross for them and redeem them to Himself. It can’t help but transform you when you know that you are the beloved of God in Christ! It changes everything!

And so; what did John want his readers—these beloved of God—to understand? The first thing he told them is that . . .


To be the beloved of God means that we must love everyone else who is the beloved of God. The two realities go together as the two sides of one coin.

Look at how John said this in verse 8. He wrote his word of instruction: “Beloved, let us love one another . . .”; and then he gave the reason for it, “for love is of God . . .” Now; you wouldn’t be able to tell this from the English translation, but what John really says is, “for the love is of God”. He’s not talking about any ol’ love. He’s not talking about the kind of romantic, sentimental, feelings-oriented love that we celebrate on Valentine’s Day—as wonderful as that is. Rather, he’s talking about “the love”—the love that has its source in the person of God. It’s the kind of love we find in 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.”

This is agapā love in its highest form—a sacrificial love that is willing to give its all for the good of the one loved. And this kind of love has its ultimate source only in God; because, as John says, “for the love is of God”. And may I just pause for a moment and offer what is—I hope—a sanctified social commentary? The world is striving right now to bring about that kind of love. You’ll agree, I’m sure, that we’re living in a time of greater division and hostility than most of us have ever seen in our lifetimes. Hatred is everywhere. And all of the politicians and civic leaders of our day are trying desperately to make people “love one another”. They’re trying to ‘legislate’ love for one another. May I suggest that worthy goal cannot be brought about by politics, or education, or economic equality, or any of the other ways it is being sought? If “the love is of God”—and if this love can not come about by any other way than by the transformation of the human heart by the love of God through Jesus Christ—then the greatest need of our day is that the gospel of Jesus Christ be faithfully proclaimed. People need first to be made right with the God who is the source of “the love”; and then, by the transforming power of God’s love through a sincere faith in Christ, they will grow increasingly to love!

John went on to explain; “and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” Since love can only come through a relationship with the God of love, everyone who truly loves shows themselves to have been “born again” by God. They demonstrate that they have been brought into new life by Him. They know Him. They have a relationship with Him. They are God’s own children; and like good children, they behave like their Father. They love with the love that comes only from Him. And to show that this is absolutely necessary, John went on to express it in the opposite way: “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”

Have you ever thought about that phrase “God is love”, by the way? It’s an amazing one; isn’t it? Dr. Harry Ironside, an old preacher from many years ago, gave an easy way to remember where to find that phrase in the Bible. He said to remember that four twice is eight; and eight twice is sixteen. You’ll find that phrase “God is love” in 1 John 4:8 and 16. (There you are—a little math with your sermon!)

But what does it mean that God is love? I used to think it meant that God is love in a symbolic kind of way—that He is so identified with the love that He shows us, and is so great in His love, that we can say, “God is love”. That, of course, is true. But I now cannot help but think of this phrase as an expression of God’s actual nature as Triune. God is presented to us in the Bible as one God in three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And God has always existed in an eternal union of being. The Father forever loves the Son and the Spirit; the Son forever loves the Father and the Spirit; and the Spirit forever loves the Father and the Son. These three are one in a union of eternal love. So in a very real, very objective sense—in terms of the very triune being of God—God truly is love!

And if that’s the case, then how can anyone be in a genuine relationship of love with God and—at the same time—hate those whom God has also brought into union with Himself? It is simply not possible! John puts the matter pretty clearly at the end of the fourth chapter:

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.

Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him (1 John 4:20-5:1).

* * * * * * * * * *

So; that’s one reason why God’s love for us must motivate us to love each other. Our love for one another cannot be separated from a true relationship with the triune God of love.

And then, John went on to give another reason . . .


Simply put, if God has shown such great love for me, as terribly sinful and unworthy as I was, then my reception of that love obligates me to love others.

Look at how John explained this. Follow his line of reasoning carefully. In verse 9, he wrote; “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.” Notice how John refers to Jesus: as God’s only begotten Son. That’s not meant to say that Jesus was “begotten” in the sense that He was created; or that He didn’t exist until He was born in this world through His incarnation. It’s a way of expressing His great value to the Father. As God’s only begotten Son, Jesus was that which was most dear to the Father’s heart. When God gave up His Son for us—sending Him to take all the cursedness and guilt of our sin upon Himself and die in our place; and even to the point that God the Father had to turn from the Son as He hung on the cross, and that the Son had to cry out in anguish, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”—He was performing the greatest act of sacrificial love for us that the universe could possibly know.

What’s more, God did this on His own initiative. In verse 10, John wrote; “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us . . .” We didn’t get God’s attention by first loving Him and attracting Him to us. In fact, we were in a state of enmity toward Him. The way that the apostle Paul put it is this: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). He didn’t wait for us to take the first move. He didn’t look upon us and see that we had proven ourselves worthy of His love. He took the initiative while we were still very unlovely in our sin. His own love made the first move.

And note further that He did this in such a way as to remove any barrier that could stand between Himself and us. John wrote that God took the initiative of love toward us, “and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins”. For Jesus to be “the propitiation” for our sins means that He was sent—and went willingly in obedience to the Father—to become that which satisfied the just wrath of God for sin on our behalf. He became the atoning sacrifice which completely removed whatever it was that stood between a holy God and sinners like us. In love, God has removed all the barriers that stood in the way, so that we can now enter into a relationship of love with Him in all purity and joy.

It’s wonderful isn’t it? What great love it is that the Father has shown to us in His Son! It is “the love”! But look at what John then went on to say in verse 11. Look at the consequence that must follow: “Beloved”—and there’s that name again!— “if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” How could you and I grasp such a great love—and enter into the experience of it—and then withhold love from our brother or sister in Christ afterward? God’s love for us places us under a continual, moral obligation of love for one another.

Consider what it would mean that we ought to “so . . . also love one another”. Break it down into its parts. If God first so loved us that He sacrificially for us—even of the very best and most precious of His heart; His only begotten Son—then aren’t we now obligated to love one another sacrificially? John wrote elsewhere;

By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? (1 John 3:16-17).

And if God first took the initiative in love toward us—loving us even when we were unworthy sinners—then aren’t we obligated to be the ones to take the initiative to love one another? We shouldn’t wait for our brother or sister to prove themselves worthy of our love first. Shouldn’t we serve each other without any concern about whether or not anything could be done for us in return?

And if God first took the initiative with us to remove any barrier that stood between ourselves and Him, then aren’t we obligated to do whatever we can to remove whatever barriers might exist between each other? Shouldn’t we be the first ones to go to our brother or sister and ask their forgiveness for any way we might have hurt or offended them? And if they have hurt us, shouldn’t we be the first ones to set aside all offense and prove ourselves eager to forgive?

* * * * * * * * * * *

And that leads us to one more reason John gives for why the love of God should be the motive for our loving one another. It’s that . . .


You might say that our love for one another is the greatest apologetic we can give to the world for the truth of the Christian faith. Our words about our faith are important, of course; but our words backed up by the undeniable evidence of our love for one another become powerful!

Look at how John explained this. In verse 12, he wrote, “No one has seen God at any time.” And you might read that and think, “But wait a minute. I thought that there were people in the Bible who did see God. Didn’t God once come to meet Abraham? Didn’t Moses talk to God face to face? And what about Samson’s mother and father?” But it might help to remember what John said back in the Gospel of John—in John 1:18. He wrote this about Jesus: “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” It would seem, then, that what those Old Testament saints saw of God was revealed to them in the preincarnate appearance of the Son of God Himself. Remember what Jesus once said?—“He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9)?

So; no one has seen God the Father at any time. Jesus came and revealed the Father to us, and died on the cross to save us, and has returned to the Father. And no one has seen Jesus on earth for nearly twenty-one centuries either. But God the Father has not left this world without a clear testimony that He is real. It’s through us—His redeemed followers—in our love for one another in Jesus. John wrote; “If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.”

Think of what that means. If we love one another, God abides in us. That means that our mutual love for one another in Christ is a proof to the world that we are indwelt by Him. It’s that demonstration of “the love”—the agapā love that can only come through a relationship with God, and that transcends every human barrier and difference between us, and that unites us in Christ—that shows the world that we really are the dwelling place of God on earth!

And it also means that if we love one another in this way, God’s own love has been perfected in us! God loves us with a perfect love; but to some degree He allows that love to be ‘incomplete’ until it finds its fulfillment in our love for one another. It’s as if our love for one another ‘completes the circuit’ of God’s love and brings it to the fulfillment of its purpose. Do you remember what Jesus said when He gave us His “new commandment”? In the Gospel of John—in John 13:34—He told His disciples;

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

Look at that! He said that we are to love one another, “as I have loved you”—and that gives us the pattern; “that you also love one another”—and that gives us the purpose! He loved us with a self-sacrificing love so that we would do the same toward one another! And then, in verse 35, He added, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

* * * * * * * * * *

What a great love it is that God the Father has shown us in Jesus! It’s a love that we should think about the most on a day like this—a day dedicated to love!

Let’s let ourselves be impacted by such a great love. Let’s think much about it. Let’s let it sink in and deeply change us from the inside out. And most of all, let’s remember:

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another (v. 11).

  • Share/Bookmark
Site based on the Ministry Theme by eGrace Creative.