Loving One Another
7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 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. 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 has been perfected in us.1 John 4:7-12
This is the third time John focuses on the theme of love and in particular this section deals with loving one another. In John’s first treatment of this theme John showed love to be a matter of light versus darkness (2:7-11). In his second discussion on the topic the contrast was between life and death (3:10-14). Now John points out that “God is love”. Loving one another is a common command in John’s writings (John 13:34,35; 15:12,17; 1 John 3:11,23; 4:7;11-12; 2 John 1:5) and by the apostles Paul and Peter (Rom. 12:10; 13:8; 1 Thess. 3:12; 4:9; 1 Peter 1:22; 4:8). John places a great emphasis on love in this epistle.
The term “world” is mentioned three times in 4:4-21.
Love One Another Because God is the Source of Love
John opens up telling the “Beloved” or loved ones to love one another. John includes himself in this command using the pronoun “us.” The reason given for loving the brethren is: “for love is of God” (4:7a). If there is not God, there is no love.
Love One Another Because It Proves We Know God
The next reason Christians are to love one another involves two factors. First, “everyone who loves is born of God” (4:7b). The children of God must be like their Father. Love was part of how we became His Children. Love on God’s part and faith was our part. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12) This regeneration or being born again begins at baptism (John 3:3-5). The second factor for loving one another is that “everyone who loves…knows God” (4:7c). A knowledge of facts about God is important but just knowing about God is not enough to really know Him. Knowing God is being in an intimate relationship with Him. It involves a personal experience of who God is. With salvation one experiences the love of God.
Love One Another Because God is Love
To reemphasize his point, John tells us of the opposite consequence of the one who does not love “does not know God, for God is love” (4:8b). Failure to love others is proof one has not experienced the love of God. Knowing God is to understand His nature, that is, He is love. If He is loving, we will be loving. What He is will determine what we will be.
Notice John did not say “love is God” or “love is a characteristic of God.” He said, “God is love.” Love is an essential and binding part of the very nature of God. Take love out of God and God is not God. Love is a part of who He is. This does not mean that love alone defined God. God gives us the definition of what love really is. No man could truly know agape love without God. Love is not just an emotion any more than God is just an emotion. God’s love demanded He made a choice and act upon that choice coming from His free Will. It is the nature of God which caused Him to choose to save us in the action of sending His Son. Nothing and no one compelled Him to do so.
Love One Another Because God Sent His Son
God has revealed His love for man in a variety of ways. He created the world and universe for man. He picked out Israel and cared for them because of His love (Deut. 7:7,8). God has demonstrated His love for us in “that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world” (4:9a). This is the greatest manifestation of God’s love. This is the third time John uses the word “manifested.” Christ was manifested to take away our sins (3:5). Secondly, He was manifested to destroy the works of the devil (3:8). The term means to make public what has been hidden, to bring into the light what was previously unknown in the darkness. God has revealed His love by what he has done. No one cannot look at person and see whether they really love them. They can say “I love you” verbally, however, demonstrating love by a selfless giving act can show love previously hidden from their view.
“Only begotten” is used in Hebrews 11:17 in reference to Isaac, Abraham’s only son of promise. The term implies uniqueness. It was used in the Gospel of John to describe Jesus (John 1:14).
The motive behind God sending Christ to this world is “that we might live through Him” (4:9b). This verse compares with John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Since God made such a great sacrifice to love us, Christians should also go to great lengths in loving one another.
Love One Another Because God Loved Us First
Man was lost in sin and enemies of God, but God loved us. He made the first move to reconcile us back to Him. Sinful man could do nothing for he was “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1). The means of loving us was sending “His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (4:10b). The term propitiation” is the same one used in 2:2 and refers to Christ being the atoning sacrifice needed to meet the just demands of the law concerning sin. Paul wrote, “but God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. …for if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Rom. 5:8,10). The death of Christ was no accident; it was done by the purposeful planning of God.
Love One Another Because It Is an Obligation
Loving one another is not just a forced obligation. It comes out of a sense of ought to because of what God and Christ have done for us. The manifestation of God’s love by sending Christ is motivation for the Christian to love his brethren. Just has He has shown love, we must show love. Our love for others is not out of fear for what God will do if we do not obey Him but out of appreciation for what God through Christ has already done for us. The better a Christian understands what Christ did for him on the cross the easier it will be for him to be moved to love the brethren. “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:32).
The motivation for our loving one another is not because they initiated by loving us first or they have necessarily earned love from us. But the motivation is what God is and what He has done for us before we could every respond in love. We are obligated to love others as God has loved us. Agape love is not shown on the basis of mere feelings cultivated by the other persons attractiveness or lovableness, but because they are in need of love.
God is not visible to the world (1 Tim. 1:17). “No one has seen God at any time” (4:12a). John wrote in his Gospel, “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him” (John 1:18). However, He can be seen today through the actions of the saints when they love one another. It is one thing to talk about the love of God it is something else to show it.
Love One Another Because God Abides in Us and Love is Perfected in Us
John concludes this section on loving one another by two final reasons which are coupled together like inseparable Siamese twins. First, “God abides in us” (4:12b), so we must keep on loving the brethren. “If we abide in Christ, we will abide in His love. If we abide in His love, we must share this love with others” (Wiersbe 519). Second, “His love has been perfected in us” (4:12c). Perfect is the key word in the next section and it is used here to bridge the two sections on love together. It does not carry the idea of sinless perfection. John has already noted in chapter one that Christians will sin. Neither can it mean Christian will practice loving another flawlessly. Love will be made complete or mature. This takes place when we love one another.
– Daniel R. Vess