When you think of God, what descriptive words come to mind?
We could probably spend an hour just looking at all the ways that people have tried to describe God. Often, it is in light of their circumstances, messages or life experiences.
In this morning’s passage, we have two times that John says “God is” something. Lets read it together and see if you can tell me “what God is” from this passage:
7 Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his one and only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 10 Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God. If we love one another, God remains in us and his love is made complete in us. 13 This is how we know that we remain in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and we testify that the Father has sent his Son as the world’s Savior. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God—God remains in him and he in God. 16 And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him. 17 In this, love is made complete with us so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment, because as he is, so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. So the one who fears is not complete in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and yet hates his brother or sister, he is a liar. For the person who does not love his brother or sister whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And we have this command from him: The one who loves God must also love his brother and sister. // 1 John 4:7–21 CSB
Of all of the ways to describe God, I think it interesting that John selected LOVE to describe God. Perhaps that is, just like you and me, John was describing God through his experience. After all, John is “the disciple whom Jesus loved”, so for him, love would be one of the primary characteristics of God.
In the Greek there are 3 different words for love:
The word for love used here is agape. God is a God of unconditional love. How true this is! Let’s unpack how John demonstrates that God is, indeed, love by going through our passage together.
GOD HAS LOVED US: God gave love through Jesus (9-10)
It is the very essence and nature of God that He IS love. When he does things, even judgement, he does so as an expression of his character and nature: LOVE.
God showed his love by sending Jesus to die for us. We read about this in our passage:
9 God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. 10 This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. // 1 John 4:9–10 NLT
The proof of God’s love is that He sacrificed Jesus for us.
9 The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. // 2 Peter 3:9 NLT
16 For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. // John 3:16 CSB
This was the completion of the promise from Genesis 3 – that God would provide a way to restore our relationship with Him. The promise of the Messiah, the Savior. God demonstrated his love for us in providing a perfect sacrifice for us when there was nothing we did to deserve it (agape love).
8 But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. // Romans 5:8 CSB
God has loved us. He proved it about 2,000 years ago when he gave his only son to die on a cross for our sins. Jesus was the proof of that love.
16 And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him. // 1 John 4:16 CSB
The word for “remain” or “live” (depending on your translations) is the word “meno”. Other forms of this word are translated as steadfast, endure, abide, continue. The idea is that God’s love is offered to us as the air we breathe. It is meant to be something that we live, abide, endure, reside, remain in. This is a present situation, not past nor future.
It is the nature of God to love. He proves his love for us each and every day.
NOTICE: it is not our love for God, not even our love for others, but HIS LOVE FOR US. It is the gospel, the love of Jesus that sent him to the cross, that must remind us of what true love is. It must permeate our lives. It must saturate our souls. Knowing how God has loved us must then remind us of the reality of his present love in our lives:
God continues to love us, all the time. We do not always feel like it. We can sometimes even mistake our poor circumstances for a lack of God’s love. Our present circumstances will never change the character of God.
17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. // James 1:17 CSB
God does not change. His character does not change. If God is love, then he does not cease to be loving in the moment. If our circumstances make us think that He is unloving, then we have believed a lie and have unbelief about who God is.
Because God is love and God does not change, we know that nothing we will do will ever change his love for us. He will love us in the future as well. No matter what.
17 And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. 18 Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. // 1 John 4:17–18 NLT
Even if I mess up, I am still his child. My adoption does not change. I may be disciplined, be he does not leave me nor abandon me (Hebrews 13:5) . I made walk away from Him and shame him, but he is still my Father who loves me and embraces me when I return to him (Luke 15).
God HAS loved you: he sent Jesus. God IS loving you, through the Spirit. God WILL love you, because He will always be your Father. You will always be adopted into the family.
35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. 38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. // Romans 8:35–39 NLT
God does not change, and his love does not fail. God will love you, no matter what.
We struggle sometimes doing the things we know we should do. Isn’t that true?
Anyone ever been told to clean their room? How many are happy about it and go skipping off to the bedroom, whistling and thanking your gracious parents for giving you the privilege of cleaning your room?
21 And we have this command from him: The one who loves God must also love his brother and sister. // 1 John 4:21 CSB
As John floods us with the reality of the amazing love that God has for us, he then reminds of this this command: love your brother and sister.
Yeah, sometimes that is all you and I need. A simple reminder that we are commanded. I know some of you heard that command and immediately your heart was filled with live and joy and you will go skipping out of church thankful for the privilege of being able to sacrifice your life for others ?
Most of us are not that way.
I remember when my kids got old enough that just telling them to do something was not enough. The “why” phase cam into existence.
“No, you cannot take the car and go to the movies with your friends”
“Because you are 12”
John understand that we really do not ever grow out of he WHY stage. Do we? We still want to know why, especially if we are being asked to do something that is not fun, difficult, costly or painful.
12 No one has ever seen God. If we love one another, God remains in us and his love is made complete in us. // 1 John 4:12 CSB
When we love others, God’s love is made complete in us. In other words, the reason God gives us love is so that we can give it to others. UNTIL we do that, God’s love is not complete. Not perfected. It has not intended what God designed it for.
PONDER THIS: as we love OTHERS, God’s love is made complete IN US. Not through us, as though we are able to perfectly demonstrate God’s love. Not FOR us, as if our motive to love others is so that we can feel loved. When we love others, God’s love in perfected IN US – it changes us and conforms us to be more like our Father.
I have learned that sometimes I just need a command. Other times I need a reason. However, I find that I am most greatly influenced by examples, role models.
9 God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his one and only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 10 Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. // 1 John 4:9–10 CSB
God is the ultimate role-model. As a dad, I know I have things that I hope my boys learn from me, from my lifestyle. I also have things that I hope they DO NOT model from me!
God is the perfect Father and the ultimate role model. He demonstrated what love is by loving us when we could not love him back, when we did not want to love him back.
If we were to love others the way God loves us, what might that look like in:
11 Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another. // 1 John 4:11 CSB
Boom. Mic drop. If this is the way God loves us: past, present and future; if this is our role-model, we MUST love others. How can we not?
We often think, if I am to love others I need to first learn how to love God. I mean, the 2 great commandments, in order, are to love God and love others. So I need to start by loving God, right?
20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and yet hates his brother or sister, he is a liar. For the person who does not love his brother or sister whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. // 1 John 4:20 CSB
This verse just wrecks our logic. It says this: you CANNOT love God apart from loving others. If you cannot love the people you can see, how can you love the God you cannot see?
God has loved us, is loving and will love us. We have a command to love others the way God loves us, a reason why and an example to follow.
16 This is how we have come to know love: He laid down his life for us. We should also lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. // 1 John 3:16 CSB
You and I are called, saved, gifted and have the privilege of living a life that reflects God’s love on this earth. Wow. How amazing is that?! But we do not see this in most churches. Why? Perhaps because we have not developed the kind of family/body model that God intended.
PRAY: God, help us to love the way you love. Help us to be in close relationship with you and each other. Help us to understand your love more each day so that we can share that love with the world around us.