God's Love Displayed

WELCOME:

Good morning! If you are visiting with us today, I want to welcome you once again to Grace Bible Fellowship Church. It’s an honor to be worshiping with you today.

John continues his instructions once again on the topic of love. In the past two sermons we have learned that we can be assured of our salvation and that we are commanded to be discerning. Now John returns to the topic of love for the third time in this epistle. Obviously, this is a very important topic. In 1 John 4:7-21 John says….

1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 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. 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. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 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. 13 By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. 14 We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this, love is perfected 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; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. 19 We love, because He first loved us. 20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.

INTRODUCTION:

In today’s message, I hope to show the relation of the perfect love of God to God’s character, Jesus’ return, a Christian’s claim of faith and the final Day of Judgment. But I am going to start with an overview of the doctrine of the Trinity to help us understand the perfect love of God.

The doctrine of the Trinity is truly beyond our human comprehension yet it is definitely a part of scripture. Though the fullness of the Trinity is profound and difficult to understand, there is no doubt this is how God has revealed Himself – one God existing in three persons. Many have studied this doctrine and found it to be very weighty. For example, Jonathan Edwards, the famous pastor and theologian, noted after studying the topic extensively, “I think it to be the highest and deepest of all Divine mysteries still, notwithstanding anything that I have said or conceived about it. I don’t pretend to explain the Trinity.”

The Bible is very clear that these three persons together are one and only one God. In John 10:30, Jesus says, “I and the Father are one” which validates that the Father and Son are one. First Corinthians 3:16 says, “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” This highlights that the Father and the Spirit are one. Romans 8:9 makes clear that the Son and the Spirit are one when Paul says, “However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you…” And finally, John 14:16-18 and 23 demonstrate that the Father, Son, and Spirit are one; Jesus says, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you…. Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.”

Now let’s take a look at the Old Testament which highlights the idea of the Trinity in several ways. The title Elohim (“God”), for instance, is a plural noun, which can suggest multiplicity. This corresponds to the fact that the plural pronoun (“us”) is sometimes used of God. For example, in Genesis 1:26 God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” In Isaiah 6:8, Isaiah says, “Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!” There are also passages where all three persons of the Trinity are seen at work. In Isaiah 48:16, Israel is being reminded of their promised deliverance by each person of the Trinity: “Come near to Me, listen to this: From the first I have not spoken in secret, From the time it took place, I was there. And now the Lord God has sent Me, and His Spirit.” In Isaiah 61:1 it says, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, Because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives, and freedom to prisoners.”

The New Testament clearly distinguishes the Trinity as three persons who are all simultaneously actively at work. For example, in Matthew 3:16-17 which highlights Christ’s baptism, all three persons were simultaneously active with the Son being baptized, the Spirit descending, and the Father speaking from heaven. In Matthew 6:9 where Jesus gives us the model prayer, Jesus Himself prayed to the Father. In John 14:26, Jesus says, God will send the Holy Spirit in His name. And in John 17:5, Jesus asks the Father to glorify Him. All these actions would not make sense unless the Father and the Son were two distinct persons. In other portions of the New Testament, the individual activity of the Trinity is highlighted. Such as in Romans 8:26 where the Holy Spirit intercedes before the Father on behalf of believers. Also in 1 John 2:1, the Son is our Advocate. In John 14:6, John reminds us that Jesus said the Holy Spirit would abide in believers. Again, in 14:18 and 20-21, Jesus Himself said He would abide in believers. And then in verse 23, the Bible states that the Father would abide in them. Each person of the Trinity is found distinctly working in a person’s life. There are other verses that can be highlighted but I hope that you are now convinced that God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son and the Holy Spirit are One God manifested in three persons of the Trinity.

The doctrine of the Trinity is crucial on an infinite number of levels since it is at the very heart of the doctrine of God. This doctrine is so significant, that the Trinity has implications not only for what believers think about God but also for how they relate to Him and to one another. It is the truth of the Trinity that explains God as a relational being.

Based on that flawless relational model of the Trinity and God’s perfect desire and purpose to have fellowship with His creatures, the triune God designed us to be relational beings. Because God created us in His image, we therefore have the capacity to love others. This is perfectly demonstrated through our fellowship with God and with other human beings. Although human love falls far short of God’s love, it is a reflection of the perfect love that exists between the three persons of the Trinity.

The New Testament mentions many kinds of love, but the supreme love is the perfect and complete love that comes from God at salvation. In Romans 5:5 Paul wrote, “The love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” It is a love that does not derive from gushy feelings or a magical moment, nor is it attached to emotional romanticism; but instead it is the love that originates in salvation. Romans 8:28-30 highlights what true love looks like:

Romans 8:28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

This type of love demonstrates itself in the good works of sanctification and according to Hebrews 10:24 it stimulates us to love and good deeds. However, the fullest expression of this love occurs when believers obey the Lord.

1 John 2:5 Whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected.

As I mentioned earlier, this passage is actually the third time John discusses love in this letter. First in 2:7–11 he presented love as a proof of true fellowship. Then in 3:10–17 John discussed love as evidence of believers’ sonship. This third discussion of love is an example of John’s cycling back through the letter’s moral and doctrinal proofs of salvation, each time providing his readers with greater depth and breadth.

In this passage, John discusses the nature of perfect Trinitarian love as it relates to 1) the character of God, 2) the coming of Christ, 3) the Christian’s claim of faith, and 4) the Christian’s confidence in judgment.

Let’s take a look at how….

PERFECT LOVE AND THE CHARACTER OF GOD RELATE

1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

John begins this passage by stating “beloved” which means “loved ones.” He then urges them to love one another as “loved ones.” But John is referring once again to agapē love—unconditional, self-sacrificing love. He is not talking about some emotion based, physical attraction, or friendship type love, but instead he is talking about the love of self-sacrificing service. It is the love granted to someone who needs to be loved not necessarily to someone who is the cutest, most attractive or even someone who is lovable. Why do we need to extend love to one another? Because love is from God. Just as God is life and the source of eternal life, He is also the source of love according to 1 John 4:16. Therefore, those who possess new life and walk in His light, they will also possess and manifest His love, since everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Because we are God’s children and are manifesting His nature, we will love one another.

Those who possess the life of God have the capacity and ability to love. However the one who does not love does not know God. No matter what an individual claims, if their life is not characterized by love for others, they are not Christians. It’s not enough to know about God, you have to know God. The Jewish scribes, Pharisees, and other leaders knew a lot about God, but they did not really know Him. The absence of God’s love in their lives revealed their lack of a real acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior; therefore, they had no real love for others.

God by His very nature is love, thus He defines love; it does not define Him. We can’t impose a human view of love onto God, He transcends any such human boundaries. Because God is love, it helps to explain a number of things regarding a proper biblical worldview. For example, it explains the reason God created us. In eternity past, within the perfect fellowship of the Trinity, God the Father purposed, as a love gift to His Son, to redeem a people who would honor and glorify the Son. Therefore, He created a race of beings out of which He would love and redeem those who would in turn love Him forever. Jesus says in John 17:

John 17:7 Now they have come to know that everything You have given Me is from You; 8 for the words which You gave Me I have given to them; and they received them and truly understood that I came forth from You, and they believed that You sent Me. 9 I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours; 10 and all things that are Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine; and I have been glorified in them.

Also, the truth that God is love explains human choice. He designed sinners to know and love Him by an act of their wills although it is not possible without the work of the Holy Spirit. According to Mark 12:29-30, God’s greatest commandment is that people love Him with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. This reaffirms that our choice to love Him is an act of our will, but to know Him is to love Him.

As part of a biblical worldview, the reality that God is love also explains His providence. He orchestrates all the circumstances of life in all their wonder, beauty, and even difficulty, to reveal evidence of His love. We know this because in Romans 8:28 the Scripture says, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” By His divine providence, all things, from the minute and mundane, to the most significant and eternal, are all controlled by God’s hand.

Lastly, because God is love it explains the divine plan of redemption. If God operated only on the basis of His law, He would convict all of us for our sin and commit every single one of us to spend eternity in Hell. And He would be just in doing so! But His love provided a remedy for our sin through the atoning work of Jesus Christ on behalf of all who repent of their sin and trust in His mercy. Galatians 4:4–5 says, “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” John 3:14–15 says, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.” And then in the most well-known statement of His earthly ministry, Jesus said:

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

We have talked about ways God’s love is manifested through a biblical worldview, but what about His love for mankind in general. Well, He expresses His love and goodness to all through common grace. According to Psalm 145:9, the psalmist wrote, “The Lord is good to all, and His mercies are over all His works.” As part of this, God reveals His love through His compassion, primarily through His restraint of His final judgment against unrepentant sinners. His compassion is further expressed in His countless warnings to sinners of their ultimate judgment and through His continued offer of grace and mercy to all.

However, this general love of God is limited to this life. After death, unrepentant sinners will experience God’s final wrath and judgment for all eternity. But God has a special, perfect, eternal love that He lavishes on all who believe and accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. This is the love Jesus displayed to the apostles when they were in the upper room:

John 13:1 …having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.

It is the type of love that Paul writes about in Ephesians 2:

Ephesians 2:4 God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”

John has covered how this perfect Trinitarian love relates to the character of God and now he says that this….

PERFECT LOVE AND THE COMING OF CHRIST ARE RELATED

1 John 4:9 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. 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. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

Jesus Christ is the dominant manifestation of God’s love in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Jesus Christ is God’s only begotten Son who came into this world. He came to earth in the flesh to live a perfect, sinless life so that He would be our perfect sacrifice. The incarnation was the supreme demonstration of God’s divine love toward us. It is a love that seeks those who believe. It is a sovereign love because of God’s will. It is a seeking love because it is in search of those who would believe. It is not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. The term “propitiation” refers to a covering for sin. Jesus Christ became our covering so when God looks at a believer, He sees Jesus Christ His Son. The prophet Isaiah foresaw His propitiatory sacrifice hundreds of years before its fulfillment. In Isaiah 53:4-6, Isaiah said:

Isaiah 53:4 Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 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. 6 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.

By this the perfect love of God was manifested in us. God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. John’s point is that since God, in sovereign mercy, graciously displayed His love in sending Jesus Christ to us, we should surely follow His example and love others with sacrificial, Christ-like love. God not only gave His children a perfect love when He redeemed us, He also gave us the ultimate model through His Son of how that love functions in selfless sacrifice. The cross should compel, even drive, us to love others. That is why John is encouraging all of us when he says, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” John is re-emphasizing what he said back in 3:16: “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” No one who has ever truly been saved, believed in Christ’s atoning sacrifice and follows after Him, can return permanently to a self-centered life. Instead we should try to:

Ephesians 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; 2 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.

John has covered how the perfect Trinitarian love relates to the character of God, the coming of Jesus Christ and now he says that this….

PERFECT LOVE AND THE CHRISTIAN’S CLAIM OF FAITH ARE RELATED

1 John 4:12 No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. 14 We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

Right off the bat, John makes a very emphatic yet simple point: No one has seen God (referring to the Father) at any time. Because we have never seen God the Father and the fact that Jesus is no longer visibly present here on earth to manifest Him, we will not see God’s love unless believers love one another. If we love one another, God is going to be on display to others and it will be a testimony that He abides in us and His love is perfected in us. In other words, the “unseen” God reveals Himself through the visible love of believers. This is the love that originated in God, was manifested in His Son, and is now demonstrated in His people.

In this passage John also sets forth several significant proofs to remind us once again that we can know we are saved. Assurance begins with the work of the Holy Spirit. We know this because Ephesians 1:13–14 says, “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.” John assures us that we can know we abide in God and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.

John has already focused on the perfect love of the Father and the Son, now he emphasizes the role of the Spirit. By noting the work of each member of the Trinity, John stresses that perfect love originates from the Trinity. This perfect love is accomplished through the work of each member of the Trinity and subsequently manifested in the lives of believers. Those who abide in God will reflect His love, because God abides in them and His Spirit is at work in their hearts.

Jesus compared the Holy Spirit to the wind and said people can see only the Spirit’s effects. The Spirit’s work is not visible but the impact is. The reality of our faith enables us to know we have the indwelling Spirit. John says, “We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.” This doctrinal test of belief in the gospel provides evidence of the Spirit’s ministry and presence in a believer. So saving faith is possible only because God grants it. Ephesians 2:8 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” In John’s case, his own experience of seeing and being with Jesus verified his faith. He bore witness that the Father has sent the Son to be Savior of the world. However, he would not have believed had the Father not chosen him and the Spirit opened his eyes to the truth.

John says, “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, knows that God abides in him, and he in God.” A true believer has discerned the presence of the Holy Spirit, and has come to know and believe the love which God has for us. A true believer understands the eternal love of God, who is love, for He is the source of all love. Therefore, we can rest confidently in the assurance that the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. We will also further demonstrate the genuineness of our salvation by loving the Father and the Son, loving righteousness and fellow believers rather than the world’s system. In summary, we will increasingly love the way God loves as he transforms us into the image of Jesus Christ.

Well, now John has covered how the perfect Trinitarian love relates to the character of God, the coming of Jesus Christ, the Christians claim of faith; and lastly he says that this….

PERFECT LOVE AND THE CHRISTIAN’S CONFIDENCE IN THE JUDGMENT ARE RELATED

1 John 4:17 By this, love is perfected 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; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. 19 We love, because He first loved us. 20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.

Believers are to have confidence in the Day of Judgment because they have an accurate grasp of the gospel and other biblical doctrines and love is perfected in them. The Day of Judgment refers in the broadest sense to the final day of reckoning before God. John says we can live our lives with confidence as we look to the day when Christ returns and we stand before God to give account. Second Corinthians 5:10 says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” All believers can have a boldness as we stand before God. John declares that boldness and lack of fear should characterize our thoughts as we consider the Day of Judgment.

Why can believers have such confidence? John says, because as He is, so also are we in this world. This is an absolutely stunning and sobering statement. John says God the Father treats believers the same way He does His Son Jesus Christ. God clothes believers with the righteousness of Christ according to Philippians 3:9 and grants us Jesus’ perfect love according to John 13:1 and His obedience according to John 4:34. To think that we will stand before God’s throne as confidently as Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior is overwhelming to me. When we reach our final accounting, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is (1 John 3:2).

Believers who possess this perfect love demonstrate the reality of their salvation; therefore, they should not fear the return of Christ or God’s judgment because perfect love casts out fear. This real love dispels fear because fear involves punishment. However, believers perfected in love will not face final punishment. Romans 5:9 says, “…having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.” Anyone who fears God’s judgment is not perfected in love. So anyone who professes Christ but fears His return evidences that something is seriously amiss. That’s because 2 Timothy 4:8 says that all true saints should love His appearing.

What is it that is motivating believers to have this incredible assurance of the future? Well it should be obvious: We love, because He first loved us. It was God’s perfect love that sovereignly drew all believers to Him and enabled them to reflect His love to others.

John says, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.” It’s absurd to claim to love the invisible God but at the same time not show love to His children. John continues with a closing command: “this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.” True love seeks nothing in return, unconditionally forgives, bears others’ burdens, and sacrifices to meet their needs. Philippians 2:3–4 really emphasizes this well:

Philippians 2:3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

APPLICATION/CLOSING:

God’s perfect love is a blessing for us to know and a joy for us to exhibit to others. Although perfect love enhances and enriches the emotional love we have for other people, this perfect love surpasses any kind of feeling the world experiences. It is a complete, mature love that reflects the essence of God and the work of Christ as it flows through believers to those in need. This applies especially to those who are a part of God’s family. We are to bear one another’s burdens and to do good to all especially to those who are a part of the household of faith. This love, which has characterized the triune God from eternity past, is also the mark of His children. John 13:35 says, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Because this love so clearly comes from God, those who love like Him can be assured He is our Father.

John says….

1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 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. 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. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 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. 13 By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. 14 We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this, love is perfected 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; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. 19 We love, because He first loved us. 20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.