If you have been studying with us for the last few months as we have been going through the epistle of 1 John, you will know that the theme of this book is fellowship. We were created for fellowship with God. Another way of saying that is we were made to be in union with God, to have communion with God. We were created in God’s image, according to His likeness, that we might be, as it were, the bride of God. That He would abide with us, and we would abide with Him. But sin broke that bond of fellowship. And without God as the source of life, we are spiritually dead, and condemned to eternal separation from God.
But though we were separated from God, God still loved us. So God sent Jesus to be our propitiation, which means our payment for sin, that we might be reconciled to God. Trusting in Christ’s atonement for our sins is the basis for our salvation, and is the basis for our relationship, being restored to God. But forgiveness is just the beginning. The goal is that we would have fellowship with God, both now and forever. Through Christ we are a new creation, and in this new creation we are remade in the likeness of God spiritually, able to have fellowship with Him, and one day we will be remade physically when we see Him, then we will be like Him completely and be with Him forever.
So all through this letter, John has been teaching us the basics of fellowship. He has told us how to have fellowship with God, how to be like God, and how to please God. And John has taught us that true fellowship with God naturally results in love for God and love for one another. Jesus said that is the foremost commandment; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. And the second greatest commandment He said was like the first; you shall love your neighbor as yourself. So if, we have fellowship with God, we will love God, and love one another.
Now as the once popular song goes, love may be a many splendored thing, but it is also something that although very much desired, is very little understood. Popular culture does it’s best to elevate love as the epitome of human experience through songs, movies and poetry. By far, love is what most people desire the most. But for many of us, love never quite measures up to our expectations. It is an ideal which is rarely ever met.
But even though the human ideal of love is a standard many fall short of, the apostles add insult to injury by saying that even if the ideal human love is experienced, it still falls short of God’s standard of love. They reserved a different Greek word just for God’s standard of love, the word agape. It means a sacrificial love. Human love is often self serving, or at it’s best a give and take kind of love, but God’s standard of love is more noble. It is the highest expression of love, the love of sacrificial giving, and that love is God’s design for us. That we would have the kind of sacrificial love that God has for us. True fellowship with God will produce this more noble love, in a love for Him and for one another, which is described by John in vs.12 as perfect love.
Now as we look at this text, we are going to see that John has given us 10 principles of this perfect divine love, so that we might know what it is and how to employ it. Ten principles of divine love that are the product of fellowship with God. There is a little overlap in some of them, but that is the method that John uses to teach us. He uses a certain cyclical method of teaching, which serves to add further details each time he references them again. So bear with me as we go quickly through this list, and hopefully it will serve to teach us more fully how love looks from God’s view point.
The first principle of love we see is in vs.7, is what I have called the mandate to love. The mandate to love. You know the New Testament is full of commandments. A lot of people think that in the new covenant there are no commandments anymore. We are just free people, we can do whatever we want, with no consequences, because we are under grace. Paul said in Romans 6:2 that is an abuse of grace. How can we who have died to sin still live in it? But though we are free from the penalty of sin by Christ’s propitiation, yet we still have commandments that we are to operate under. And John makes it clear in this epistle that if we love God we will keep His commandments. 1John 5:3 “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.”
So as we begin this text, we see this commandment spelled out in vs. 7. “Beloved, let us love one another.” John says it in a nice way, by calling us beloved. But don’t be fooled by his kindness. This is not a suggestion, but a command. For instance, in 1John 3:11 he says “For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.” And in 1John 3:23 he states it even more clearly: “This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.” Twice in the same verse John says it’s a command.
Now that’s the mandate, the law, the commandment. Next John is going to show us where this kind of love we are supposed to exhibit comes from. The second principle then is the origin of love. Where does one get this kind of divine love which we are supposed to show? It’s not a natural, human love. It’s another level of love than what we often think of, when we think of love. So we need to know where it comes from. Well, vs 7 again, tells us the origin of love; love is from God. “1John 4:7 “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.”
Skipping ahead a little bit, in vs19, we read, “We love, because He first loved us.” God is the originator of love. God loved us before the world was created. And He formed us out of that love, and formed us for love with Him. God desired fellowship with someone who would love Him in return. And so He created man in His likeness, in His image, that He might have fellowship and communion with us. God created in us that capacity to love, that desire for love, that we might find love’s fulfillment in Him. That innate desire for love in us can only find fulfillment in Him.
Some of you might be familiar with the Westminster Shorter Catechism, which asks a series of questions. And the first question speaks to this purpose of man. The question is; What is the chief end of man? And the answer; Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever. Our life finds it’s fulfillment in love, which is the chief end of fellowship with God.
So God is the origin of love. Thirdly, that leads us to the fellowship of love. Now I have already alluded to the relationship between fellowship and love again and again in previous messages. But I want to expand upon it today this way; we can only have that fellowship of love if we are born of God. That is how we come to know God on an intimate level. Vs 7 again, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.”
Listen, you cannot love God until you are born of God. You cannot know God until you are born of God. Jesus told Nicodemus who came to Him to enquire about God, Jesus said, “You must be born again.” Your spirit must be born again. When God created man, He made him in HIs image. God exists in three persons; the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. So He made man, spirit, soul and body. But when man sinned, his spirit died, and God’s order was overturned. The flesh now ruled over man’s soul. And his spirit; that part of man that was designed for fellowship with God was dead in his sins. So man is born the first time carnal, and he must be born again the second time so that he becomes spiritual. So when we are born again by faith in Christ’s propitiation, God gives new life to our spirit. Furthermore, His Spirit dwells with our spirit, and through this regeneration, God’s order is restored. This new man is now ruled by the Spirit, which governs his soul, and subjugates the flesh. Therefore, if you would know God intimately, if you would love like He loves, then you must be born again. In your present carnal nature it is impossible to please God. You must be born again by the Spirit of God, so that you die to your old nature of the flesh, and your mind, or soul, is regenerated and renewed. Only in that spiritual capacity can we love as God loves.
Fourthly, John tells us that natural kind of love falls short of God’s love. In vs.8, he gives us the antithesis of love. “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” Here is the evidence of being born again, the evidence of truly knowing God intimately, we will love like God loves. And negatively, John says the one who does not love with this divine love, does not know God.
So many people place their confidence in heaven on the basis of things other than what God says is necessary. Some think they know God because they belong to a particular church. Some think it’s because they have participated in some rite or ceremony. Some place their confidence in some experience that they had. Some think that God will accept them because they are sincere in their efforts. Or because they are good people. But God says that the evidence of whether or not you are born again is you will love like God loves.
The fifth principle John gives us is the standard of love. What is that standard, you may ask? Vs.8 says, God is love. Love is an attribute of the essence of God, that He is love. But we must be careful with this verse. John does not say that God is only love. Furthermore, you cannot say this verse in reverse. It is not true to say love is God. God cannot be defined by one word. When Moses approached the burning bush, God told him to take off his sandals because the ground he was standing on was holy ground. And shortly thereafter, Moses asked God His name. But if you remember, God would not give His name. A name in Moses’ culture was a means of defining you. Moses was trying to put God in a box, by calling Him a name which would limit Him and thereby he might manipulate God. But God said, “I Am.” That is who God is. He is the great “I Am.” And as we examine God’s word by which He describes His nature and His characteristics, we see many attributes which are the nature of God; He is holy. He is righteous. He is just. He is merciful. He is Spirit. He is light. He is love. And we could go on with that list. But I want to make the point that God is love. But He is not only love. But His love is compatible with all His other attributes without contradiction.
In fact, all those attributes of God’s nature, His holiness, His righteousness, HIs justice, His mercy, even His judgment, were revealed in His great act of love, which was to send His Son to be our propitiation for sin, by dying on Calvary’s cross. We see all those characteristics revealed in God giving Christ for our sakes. Vs.9, “By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.” This is the standard of love; that God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16) This is supernatural love. This is giving, sacrificial love. This is love most noble, most divine. And this love is the standard for our love. The standard was that God loved us when we were unloveable. When we were not lovely. He loved us when we were yet sinners. He loved us when we were in rebellion. This is love, and this is the standard for love.
That brings us to the 6th principle, the life of love. Notice how the last phrase of vs.9 corresponds to the last phrase of John 3:16. Vs.9 says, “ so that we might live through Him.” And John 3:16 says, “whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” When we read the fairy tales they always end with “and they lived happily ever after.” We grow up hoping that will be the case when we find love. But as the divorce rate indicates, most of us don’t find that to be true.
But God’s love is perfect. God’s love is the real deal. When we love God, then God gives us not only joy and peace and blessings in this life, but He gives us eternal life, where we will forever be with the Lord. Jesus said we should comfort one another with those words. We will be forever with the Lord. There will never be separation. In this life, even if you have the best marriage you could ever hope for, one day there will be a separation. But in our marriage with Christ, we will be with Him forever. He will never leave us nor forsake us. He will love us till the end, to the uttermost.
But there is another implication in this 6th point, the life of love. And that is we can only live this life of love through Him. Notice what John says in vs. 9, “By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. His love was revealed to us, and manifested in us, that we might live out this love through Him. Once again this reiterates the fact that we must be born again, so that He might live in us, and live through us by His Spirit. In our flesh we cannot love like God, but through His Spirit in us, we can love like God loved us, sacrificially loving one another.
So on to principle #7, we come to the definition of love. Let’s read vs.10, “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.” What John is saying, is that love is not defined by us, but it is defined by God. This is tremendously important in today’s culture that wants to redefine everything. One of the most popular statements today in modern culture is “love is love.” We think we can define love any way we want. Well I got news for you. The Bible says God is love. And love is defined by God sending Jesus to die for our sins.
Isaiah 53 says, “But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him. … But the LORD was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, (that’s propitiation!) As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities.”
O ladies and gentlemen! That doesn’t sound like “if it feels good do it”, does it? That doesn’t sound like it’s my body, my choice. It’s my life. No, He bore our sins on the cross so that we might be reconciled to God. That is the definition of divine love, and that is the love which we are required to exhibit towards one another. Listen, those ridiculously high divorce rates which we spoke of earlier; those are true for Christians as well. Christians have just as high a divorce rate as the world. And yet if we would just learn to love as Christ loved the church and gave His life for her, then we could bring that divorce rate down to single digits in no time. Try loving your wife like Christ loved you. Try loving your husband as Christ loved you. It will change your marriage. And beyond marriage, try loving that rebellious teenager like Christ loved you. Try loving that hateful coworker the way Christ loved you. Try loving a stranger like Christ loved you. And I will guarantee that if we practiced sacrificial agape love for one another, we could change the world.
That leads us to number 8, the product of love. Look at vs.11, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” If God loved us when we were yet sinners, when we were hateful, when we were unlawful, rebellious, ungrateful, if He loved us when we were like that, then we ought to love one another, not because they deserve it, not because we are attracted to them, not because we can get something out of that relationship, but because God loved us when we were unloving, and we show our love for God by loving one another.
Eph. 5:1-2 says “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.” Paul says our agape love for others is a way of offering sacrifices to God. Ephesians 5 is the passage that I often use when I preach at weddings. And the key point that Paul makes when he tells us to love someone is that he says we are to do it “as unto the Lord.” That’s the key to a successful love relationship. Love one another as unto the Lord.
Whenever I counsel married couples I always use the illustration of a triangle. Every human relationship is like a triangle. The two people in the relationship are at the base of the triangle, and God is at the top. As the two people draw closer to the top of the triangle, closer to God, they will also draw closer to one another. The triangle is a very strong engineering concept. That’s why it is used to support roofs or trusses. But a flat line is the weakest engineering principle. A marriage without Christ in the center is like a flat line. It cannot stand much pressure or stress without cracking, But weak relationships are made strong when both people draw close to the Lord!
The ninth principle is the manifestation of love. Look at vs.12, “No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.” Jesus said “God is Spirit.” He is unseen. No man has seen God the Father at any time. What man has seen was Jesus Christ who was the manifestation of God. Jesus told Philip in John 14:9, “If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father.”
But if the Spirit of God abides in us, if we have fellowship with God, if we have the love of God, then John says that the world will see Christ in us. That is the manifestation of love. When we show that kind of divine, unnatural, sacrificial, noble love of God towards one another, then the world sees Christ in us. I have said it many times before, there is no greater testimony than the testimony of a transformed life. We can have our entire car covered with Christian stickers, we can carry a Bible as big as a suitcase, we can put Christian memes all over our Facebook page, but nothing will cause your friends to see Christ more than seeing you love like Christ loves us. Our love makes the invisible God visible to a watching world. Jesus said in John 13:35 “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
And when we do that, then we achieve the 10th principle; we have the perfection of love. Don’t get defensive over this word “perfected” that John uses. The word translated perfect is from the Greek word teleioō. It comes from the same root word as the word Christ cried out from the cross; “tetelestai!” It is finished! He completed His mission, He completed His work which He came to earth to do, to be the propitiation for our sins.
So this word perfected is better rendered completed. Now what does that mean in this context? Let’s read vs.12 again; “No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.” What he simply means is that when we love one another we have fellowship with one another. And when we love one another, He abides in us, that is we have fellowship with God. And when we love one another, HIs love is completed in us. That means that we complete the cycle. God loves us, then we love one another. We complete the cycle of God’s love when we love one another as God loves us. That’s perfect love, when we love others as Christ loved us. We complete love’s purpose.
Listen, let me remind you in closing of the first principle again. Let us love one another. It’s a mandate, not a suggestion. Let’s ask God to help us do it. God has given us of His Spirit that we might have the encouragement and strength of God, and the leading of God, the conviction of the Holy Spirit to help us to love one another. Let us love one another.
But let me also remind you that you cannot do this in your natural flesh. You must be born again. You must receive the love of God to love like God. You must be born of God to be able to love like God loves. That salvation has already been paid for through the atonement of Christ, but you must receive it. You must confess that you are a sinner in need of being forgiven, in need of transformation. And when you accept by faith Christ’s propitiation for your sins, you receive new life through His Spirit. So now you can be the person that God designed you to be. But first you must be born again. If you are here today and you cannot say for certain that you have been born again by the Spirit of God, then I urge you to trust Christ for your salvation today. Call on Him right now, ask Him for forgiveness, receive Him as your Lord and Savior, and be born again. Christ came for this purpose, to reconcile you to God. That you might have fellowship with God forever. Today is the acceptable day of salvation.