By: Pastor Roy L. Crane
The following two definitions of love go together, and form a BIBLICAL understanding of what true love is…..
1. LOVE IS: An ACT OF WILL that results in an ACTION.
2. LOVE IS: A state of being where the NEEDS and WELL-BEING of another are more important to you than your own.
The Apostle John emphasizes that love is a duty, consistent with the character of God. As has been mentioned previously, John is not thinking of love that is common to all men, but of that love to the children of God which has been implanted in those who have been born again. Love is of God as to its origin, 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 the verses that follow, we have a description of the manifestation of God’s love in three tenses. In the past, it was manifested to us as sinners in the gift of His only begotten Son (4:9–11). In the present, it is manifested to us as saints in His dwelling in us (4:12–16). In the future, it will be manifested to us in giving us boldness in the day of judgment.
First of all, then, we have God’s love to us as sinners. God has sent His only begotten Son into the world that we might live through Him and to be the propitiation for our sins. We were dead needing life, and we were guilty needing propitiation. God’s love was not shown to us because we first loved Him. We did not; in fact, we were His enemies and hated Him. In other words, He did not love us because we loved Him, but He loved us in spite of our bitter antagonism. And how did He show His love? By sending His Son as the propitiation for our sins. Propitiation means satisfaction, or a settling of the sin question.
God’s love is manifested to us at the present time in dwelling in us. The apostle says, “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.” In John 1:18 we read: “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” In John’s Gospel we see that the invisible God is made known to the world through the Lord Jesus Christ. Here we have the expression “no one has seen God at any time” repeated in John’s Epistle. But now God is manifested to the world, not through Christ, for He has gone back to heaven and is now at the right hand of God. Instead God is now manifested to the world through believers. How stupendous that now we must be God’s answer to man’s need to see Him! And when we love one another, His love is perfected in us. This means that God’s love to us has achieved its goal. We are never intended to be terminals of God’s blessings, but channels only. God’s love is given to us, not that we might hoard it for ourselves, but that it might be poured out through us to others. When we do love one another in this way, which is proof that we are in Him, and He in us, and that we are partakers of His Spirit. We should pause to marvel at His dwelling in us and our dwelling in Him.
The blessing of being indwelt by God Himself is the privilege of all who confess that Jesus is the Son of God. Here again it is not the confession of merely intellectual assent, but a confession that involves the commitment of one’s person to the Lord Jesus Christ. No closer relationship is possible than for a person to abide in God and to have God abiding in him.
Love has been perfected among us in this. It is not our love that is made perfect, but God’s love is made perfect with us. John is now taking us on to that future time when we will stand before the Lord. Will it be with boldness and confidence or will it be with cringing terror? The answer is that it will be with boldness, or confidence, because perfect love has settled the sin question once and for all. The reason for our confidence in that coming day is given in the words “because as He is, so are we in this world.” The Lord Jesus is now in heaven, with judgment completely behind Him. He came into the world once and suffered the punishment which our sins deserved. But He has finished the work of redemption and now will never have to take up the sin question again.
Because we have come to know God’s love, we have no fear of perishing. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear. It is His perfect love that casts out our fear. I am assured of the Lord’s love first of all, because He sent His Son to die for me. Secondly, I know He loves me because He indwells me at the present moment. Thirdly, I can look to the future with confidence and without fear. Truly, fear involves torment, and he who fears is not made perfect in love. God’s love has not been allowed to operate in the lives of those who are afraid of Him. They have never come to Him in repentance and received the forgiveness of sins.
John emphasizes the futility of professing to love God while at the same time hating one’s brother. As spokes get nearer to the center of the wheel, so they get nearer to one another. Thus, as we get closer to the Lord, the more we will love our fellow believers. Actually, we do not love the Lord a bit more than we love the humblest of His followers. John argues the impossibility of loving God whom we have not seen if we do not love our brothers whom we have seen.