1 John 4:7-11: Knowing God through Love
“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 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” (1 John 4:7-11).
For this study, I had planned to cover several more verses than what is presented here, but in reading and studying the Scriptures, it is better that we take our time and really see for ourselves the richness of what John is presenting us in terms of the foundation of what we should be, in terms of our attitude towards each other as brethren in Christ and towards Jesus Christ Himself. The key point here is defining love on God’s terms and conditions and not reliance on what we think the word means.
It is my conclusion, after many years of pastoral ministry and observing people in varied walks of life and conditions, that the word “love” is probably one of the most abused and misunderstood words in civilization. In terms of the rapidly decaying moral fiber of what once kept this country together, love is either an act of physical gratification without commitment, or celebrating oneself at the expense of establishing one-on-one relationships and developing a friendship or the start of a life together with someone. The internet is filled with websites of varied dating and relationship development for the purpose of dating or finding someone to love with the intention of eventually getting married. I know of a pastoral colleague who met his future wife on a Christian dating site, and they’ve been happily married for several years now.
However, the pedophile or pornographer can search the same websites promising love and a sound relationship, luring many lonely teens and younger to meet with these lowlifes under the pretext of being a teen themselves. The contacts are made and tragedy is the horrid result, with many children and teens becoming part of the sex trade that is a worldwide plague through abduction, isolated meeting places, or whatever scheme the pervert conceives as long as he scores with a victim. The rise of satanic activity in all areas of the nation results in the death of children and teens used as sacrifices to the devil. This is the ultimate act of self-love and gratification, using another human being to elevate oneself with alleged power and influence over a possible victim or situation.
The Scriptures tell us that love for God and each other will dwindle down to practical non-existence as we enter the last days before the return of Jesus Christ. Any utopian dream of a society based on a human level of defining love will never come, despite the effort of some.
Anything or any plan that we as fallen, sinful, and self-centered limited humanity dare to establish on a merely human concept of relationships – without the foundation of absolute standards outside our thoughts and unpredictable behavior – is an exercise in abject foolishness and will go down in flames.
Every person living on Earth today believes that his or her opinion and outlook should be the mindset to emulate. Almost all of us believe that truth and love are what you make of it, and that all ideas and opinions are valid – except, it seems, for the individual who has put his life and ideas into the hands of the Sovereign God of Scripture and the act of salvation found only in Jesus Christ. This sends people into a frenzy or an outburst of hatred towards the Christian that borders on demonic rage from hell itself.
That is plain to see today, but it is not a new direction in which the world is turning. From Eden onward, our nature has been entirely corrupted with evil and a hatred towards God, ranging from indifference to the satanic desire to kill Him if possible; and there are some individuals walking around today who are possessed by that frame of thought.
Now ponder this for a moment. It seems to our limited sense of observation and objectivity that there is a pattern of order in this universe. Nothing seems out of place, and the elements we live with seem not to vary in composition or structure, such as the proper level of oxygen and nitrogen that make up our atmosphere. It doesn’t randomly switch from day to day, nor do the established laws of nature that we take for granted. The thought that we are products of random chance and natural selection doesn’t really fit in with the orderly and set development we observe in animals, plants, and us, despite what you’ve been presented in high school or college biology.
We are a merely advanced form of animal life with seemingly no purpose according to some scientists and naturalists, but the Scriptures tell us that we are the crown jewel of God’s creation with purpose, meaning, and responsibility.
I believe that one of the prime reasons that Darwin’s Theory of Evolution is more acceptable to some than is the Genesis narrative of the Bible is that it is not merely a matter of perceived scientific principle, but is instead an inward desire to rid ourselves of the notion that we are a product of Divine Creation by a Being to whom we are accountable and expected to relate to and obey. To the evolutionist or behavioral specialist, the idea of love is merely a learned product of carnal interaction between species to procreate, exist, and soon return to the ground to rot and be forgotten, including any idea we have of the concept of divine affection, regulating it to a primitive form of learned behavior.
Every society, kingdom, and empire that has come across the path of history has defined love in terms of their societal makeup, relationships towards their respective deities, respective ideas of familial structure, the thoughts of philosophers, sages, and lusts towards one another, either of the opposite or same sex. Much of what we know about Rome, for instance, are the accounts of unbridled vice and sexual debauchery by the emperors and nobility. Roman ideas of love were based on physical gratification that bordered on pure perversion.
There was deviancy all throughout the ancient world. The value of life was practically non-existent. Things really haven’t changed. You would have to be incredibly naïve or gullible to see otherwise. The fact is that this kind of behavior will accelerate and become the norm for an increasingly godless world.
The apostle John writes about the fact that God is love. There is no relativistic or abstract notion from Him on how love is defined. His acts of love are found throughout the Scriptures (Deuteronomy 7:8; Job 14:15; Psalm 146:8; Jeremiah 31:3; John 3:16; 16:27; Romans 5:8; Ephesians 2:4-5; 1 John 3:1; 4:9, 16).
The gospels tell us of the love that Jesus had for His and all people (John 13:1; 15:9, 13; Romans 5:6-11; 8:31-39; 2 Corinthians 5:14; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 5:2; 1 John 3:16).
The fact is that the Sovereign Lord of All could have chosen to leave us to live without Him and die in our sins to be eternally punished in hell. We were His enemies (Matthew 13:28; Luke 19:27; 20:43; John 15:24; Acts 5:39; Colossians 1:21; James 4:4).
Yet, He is also merciful and quick to forgive, restoring us to an eternal relationship with Him. Christ’s mission was to make that possible through His sacrifice on the cross for our sins, taking upon Himself the just punishment we deserve. By acknowledging this act of love and surrendering your life to the Lordship of Christ, you will be given true life and forgiveness, your transgressions never to be remembered again (Psalm 103:12).
Millions of people throughout history have placed their faith in what Jesus did and said, and many have paid with their lives for remaining true to Him in the face of troubles and terrors from kings, popes, pagans, and in some cases, family members and peers. The apostles who followed the Lord Jesus discovered that was the price to pay for their loyalty as the years went on. Their only crime was to show Christ’s love and spread His message, with the results being that His words “turned the world upside down.” Now it was John who carried the torch for the sake of the gospel. He wanted to stress that God is the source of real love and that we should, as believers in Christ, live that way before our brethren and the people around them. We are to spread God’s word and be examples of what He expected of His children.
Verses 7-11 teach us the following truths that are still in effect today, despite the flood of wrath and hatred that is flooding the minds and souls of humanity:
- If we love God and one another, it shows that we are indeed of God. (v.7)
- If there is no love, then we don’t know God. It’s as simple as that. (v.8)
- God’s love for us was made manifest by the mission of Jesus Christ. (v.9)
- We love God because He first loved us. (v.10)
- If God loves us (and He does), then we should love one another. (v.11)
It is so hard these days not to be angry or hateful towards people, even if we are believers. The point is that we must remain focused on the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, remembering that these angry, vindictive people are not saved; and they are our mission field until that day when He comes back to take us home (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; John 14:1-3; 1 Corinthians 15:51-53).
We need to go back to what the Scriptures teach and not rely on our emotions or opinions. It is the LORD who directs our lives, and He is well aware of the situation and will take care of it in His time and manner according to the Word. As we read further in this chapter, we will see that God’s love and the love we should have for each other continues to be the main theme of John’s letter of instruction. Until later, keep looking up, for our Redeemer is coming soon.