The following sermon was prepared by Ps Lucas Stoltz. Click here: 1 John 4:7-12, to download or stream the audio sermon, or click here: 1 John 4:7-12. for the video version. Alternatively, you can read the notes below, or follow along as you watch or listen.
1 John 4:7-12, The Assurance of God’s Love, pt1:
- Well, 1 John has been full of great assurances! And this morning we get to the pinnacle of this assuring letter, as John points us to God’s love displayed through the outworking of love in practice. Now I get it, there are numerous supposed definitions of what love is. Love, it has been said, has many faces. People see it in all sorts of shapes and sizes.
- However, listen how to how children answer the question, “What does love mean?” A six year-old girl said it is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs.
- A four year-old expressed, love is what makes you smile when you’re tired. A seven year-old boy said, love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is OK.
- A five year-old said that love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen. A four year-old girl said, love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day.
- It’s really cute getting a child’s perspective on love, but it is even better to get God’s perspective. Now there are several places in the Bible where God gives us His thoughts on love. Song of Songs 8:5–14, 1 Corinthians 13, and here in 1 John 4:7–21.
- But our text is unique in that John will take us to the very origin and source of love: God Himself. In fact, love is His very nature, and acting in love is His essential character. How do we know? The cross! The cross is an everlasting monument to the truth that our God is love.
- But how can we have the assurance that such love is for us? 1 John 4:7-21 gives us six truths that assure us of God’s love. This morning we’ll spend our time looking at the first 3, starting with…
1. Love is from God:
- Text – 1 John 4:7-8
- Explanation – Let’s begin by first establishing that unbelievers can love. Sadly, they sometimes love better than some Christians do. Don’t forget that all people are made in the image of God. Therefore, in spite of their depravity and sinfulness, all people will give reflections of the One whose image they bear.
- And to add to this, our culture love is often understood in selfish and sexual terms. So natural can be, and often is, misguided. One commentator said, “Human love, however noble and however highly motivated, falls short if it refuses to include the Father and Son as the supreme objects of its affections.” Such love unfortunately fails to honor the greatest love command of all, the command to love God with all that you are (Matt 22:36–38).
- So let’s establish this first truth, as loving others gives evidence we have been born of God. Look at verse 7. Why are we to “love one another”? The first reason John gives is this: “because love is from God.” Love always has its source in God.
- And whoever loves with a “God kind of love” gives evidence that they have been born of God. See, when we’re saved, our selfish hearts are replaced with a loving heart so that God’s life becomes our life and His love our love.
- Illustration – Piper puts it well by saying, ‘Love is from God the way heat is from fire, or the way light is from the sun. Love belongs to God’s nature. It’s woven into what He is. It’s part of what it means to be God. The sun gives light because it is light. And fire gives heat because it is heat. So John’s point is that in the new birth, this aspect of the divine nature becomes part of who you are.
- God’s nature is love, and in salvation that nature becomes part of who you are. And so love has its very origin and source in God, and it is evidence that we have been born of God.
- Application – Now in addition, loving others also gives evidence we know God. So not only do those who love with a God-like love give evidence that they have been born of God, but they also demonstrate in an ongoing habit of life that they know God. They don’t simply know about God, they know Him intimately and personally.
- To summarize verse 8, if your life is not characterized by a God-like love, a love that even cares for its enemies, then you don’t know God. And therefore you have not been born of God. Why? “Because God is love.”
- Conclusion – It is God’s nature to love. “God is love” does not equal “love is God.” Love does not define God, but God does define love. An so John’s train of thought is this, (1) God is love. (2) Those who have been born of God and know God are God’s children. (3) God’s children have God’s nature. (4) And God’s children therefore will love.
- Bridge – Love’s source is in God, and as we love like God loves, we give evidence we are connected to the source. We demonstrate by a life of love that we know God. This brings us to a second truth assuring us of God’s love…
2. Love is Revealed in Jesus:
- Text – 1 John 4:9-10
- Explanation – So how do we know that we are loved and will always be loved by a God? He sent His Son. God sent His Son for you. God’s love became supremely visible in Jesus Christ. Let us love, John says, on the one hand because we share the love of God in sharing the life of God, and let us love because of what we’ve seen God do in expressing His love.
- God sent His Son from heaven, where He was in eternal existence with His Father and in loving communion through the Holy Spirit. The triune God existed in perfect, loving community and communion. God was not lonely; He was loving. He sent His Son into enemy territory, into a world of sinners on a search and rescue mission. He came looking for us even when we were not looking for Him.
- Illustration – And why did He come? He came “that we might live through Him.” Scripture says we were dead in our trespasses & sins. Therefore, God sent His Son while the world was in rebellion against its loving Creator. God sent His Son, while the world was not looking for God and even hated Him.
- And what does it mean to “live through Him?” It means to be born of God and to know God. It means to experience His love and share that love with others. It means to enjoy fellowship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It means to walk in the light, enjoy fellowship with one another, confess and receive forgiveness of sins.
- Application – God took initiative in loving us. But He did not send an angel. Nor did He just send His Son to live. He sent His Son to die. And this was not an ordinary death. It was the death of a Savior dying in our place and bearing our punishment – that’s propitiation.
- Romans 5:8 says, “but God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!” So God sent His Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. The word “propitiation” means to turn away the wrath of God by means of an offering.
- Conclusion – It means that in Christ, God Himself made the satisfaction, the atonement, as He offered Himself in His Son. 2 Corinthians 5:19 says, “In Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them.”
- Now propitiation is more than a fancy word meaning anointing sacrifice. And the fact that God provides the satisfaction Himself teaches us several truths about God. Propitiation teaches us that God personally hates sin. Propitiation teaches us that sin is serious. Propitiation teaches us the greatness of God’s love in which He provided the offering to turn His wrath away.
- Bridge – Therefore, the assurance of God’s love is seen through Christ’s sacrificial work that enables us to not only experience this love, but to become the embodiment of love. This brings us to the third truth assuring us of God’s love…
3. Love is the Christian Duty:
- Text – 1 John 4:11-12
- Explanation – If we love one another, God is on display. In John 13:34-35, Jesus said “By this shall men know that you’re My disciples if you have love for one another.” And yet, I’m sad to report that Christians are not often known for their love of others. Sometimes the criticisms are unjustified. Unfortunately, at other times we are guilty as charged. Recent research by Lyons and Kinnaman reveals that Christians are often seen by the lost as “hyperpolitical, out of touch, pushy in our beliefs, and arrogant.”
- Further research suggests, that we are particularly viewed by young Americans who do not attend church as antihomosexual (91%), judgmental (87%), hypocritical (85%), and insensitive to others (70%). And yet, Jesus said love for others is how people know we are His disciples (John 13:35).
- Illustration – He also says to love our enemies and to pray for those who hate us and would harm us if they could (Matt 5:44). The great and challenging application to these commands is that we must go to those who don’t want us there. We must share a gospel they don’t want to hear. We must love those who may hate and even kill us in return.
- Listen, we are connected to Jesus through the new birth, therefore we must go and live like Jesus among our friends and our enemies. When we were in darkness, God sent His light. When we were dead, God sent His life. When we were in sin, God sent His Son. When we were in despair, God sent His love. Therefore it’s now or duty to love.
- Application – Look at verse 7 again. John 17:26 also says, “I made Your name known to them and will make it known, so the love You have loved Me with may be in them and I may be in them.” A great way of applying this truth is to understand that it says when you walk in the reality of being born of God, knowing God, and having experienced the love of God, you will love one another.
- Now we close with verse 12. Let’s deal with this opening phrase. The word “seen” is from the Greek word theaomai. This is where the word “theater” comes from. It implies a careful observing, or a close examination. So John says, no person has seen God “up close and personal” in His unveiled essence, glory, and majesty.
- To do so would certainly be our death. In the Old Testament, Moses on Mt. Sinai (Exod 33:22–23) and Isaiah in the temple (Isa 6) only saw a glimpse, which are visions or revelations of God. They could see this glory, and could barely handle it without being consumed. If they saw anymore of God’s glory, they would have been vaporized.
- Conclusion – But John’s argument takes a beautiful turn. He says no one can see God in His essence, but we can see God through the lives of those who demonstrate His love to others. John Stott expressed once, “the unseen God, who was once revealed in His Son, is now revealed in His people … when they love one another.”
- John makes his point by stating that when we love one another, (1) it is proof that God abides continually in us, and (2) His love for us is perfected. After all, God is the source, its maintenance, and the perfection of love. It is all of God from beginning to end!
- Bridge – God didn’t just give us love, He gave us an example of love. And then He made love the way in which He discloses Himself to those who could never see Him. We have the capacity to love, the example to love, and the responsibility to love, because that’s how we prove we belong to God.
That’s how you express His love in sacrificial service to others, and that’s how you witness to the watching world. Love then becomes core to our Christian experience.