Focal Passage: I John 4:7-21
Many years ago there was a secular rock song entitled “I Want To Know What Love Is.” If that artist really wanted to know he should have checked I John 4:7-21 for the answer. John “the beloved” defines in absolute terms what love really is for his readers. However, centuries later we still really don’t know the love described by John. If you were to listen to the average American, you would think they are in love with everything. We have so cheapened the word that we are in need of a refresher course. John is the perfect one to give it to us.
John starts by sharing some key facts about love as it relates to God. He tells us in verse 7 that God is the source of love. You cannot fully love unless you fully know God. He tells them that love is a sign that we know God. Some might argue how unbelievers can really express love. The ability to do this originates with God and is a result of them being created in His image. Believers have the ability to love as God loves because of their relationship to Him. This will be the sign that sets believers apart because unconditional love is virtually unknown in today’s society. John states in verse 8, that people who are unable to love like that have not experienced a life- changing encounter with God.
John mentions this encounter in verse 9. God’s ultimate expression and example of love was the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This expression is so powerful because it was God’s plan of salvation. Verse 10 states that it was God’s love for man and not man’s love for God that prompted Him to act. God did not just say that He loved us but He showed it by His action. It is through our demonstration of love not our declaration of love that will get people’s attention. This action set the standard for unconditional love that all believers are to follow. Remember that if God is willing to love us like that, then how could we be willing to do any less.
John turns his attention to how the love of God is displayed in the lives of believers in verses 12-15. One of God’s goals in the life of a believer is His love for humanity to be on display in their lives. John refers to this goal as it is being reflected and perfected in their lives. This goal is accomplished through the work of the Holy Spirit. John reminds readers in verses 14-15 that the Holy Spirit will remain in them and make it possible to love like God loves.
John mentions in verses 16-18, how a believer not only knows but believes the love God has for them and the effect it has on them. As a believer grows in this knowledge then fear is replaced by love. Believers become so confident in God’s love for them that it drives out any fear they have of the day of judgment. If a person is fearful of the day of judgment it is an indication that this person’s love has not been perfected.
John concludes this chapter by showing how love for God and love for man should look in our lives in verses 19-21. It is a call to not only say we love but show that we love as well. A believer’s love for others is compelling evidence of his love for God. John’s reply to anyone who really “wants to know what love is” would be for them to come to know God. Final thought: The world may be confused about love because Christians have been negligent in demonstrating it.
— Styers is pastor of First Baptist Church, Grand Junction.