The Love of God – 1 John 4:19-21

Love One Another, For God Has Loved You

19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

Lasting Love

God’s very character is love, for God IS love.  So, which love is John talking about?

  1. agapao – This is the love of God.  It is the love that is unconditional, sacrificial, and volitional (born of the will rather than emotion).  This is love that is born from the heart, that supersedes emotion, and is lasting regardless of circumstances.
  2. phileo – Also known as brotherly love, it a love that is born from strong emotional bonding, as love born through years of friendship and trials together.  This is the type of love that is shared between close people, such as when soldiers go into combat, and come out as “brothers in arms”
  3. eros – This is the word where we get our word “erotic” from.  And it has the same meaning
  4. storge – This is a familial bond type of love, such as between spouses, parents and children, or brothers and sisters and/or cousins.

In this passage, John refers to agape love.  God has loved us with a lasting, eternal love.  The love that God shows to us is born out in the death of His Son, who died for us while we were yet sinners.  God consistently shows His love towards all of us insofar as He gives us every opportunity to be reconciled to Him.  He doesn’t withhold the sun or rain from any of us, and He pours out His grace and mercy upon us every moment of our lives.

John also points out that the reason that we are able to even engage in agape love is because God shows us how to love in this manner.  He is the ultimate example for how we are to treat one another, and by implication, that we need an example because we are unable to completely and properly model this type of love ourselves.  It should be noted that God did provide women with an innate ability to love others selflessly in both duty and desire.  Mothers especially are capable of loving their spouses and children regardless of how they feel about them.  But because of our sin nature, they are unable to model this love in its purest form.

Lack of Love

John warns us that if we cannot agape love others who we can see, we are certainly unable to love God who we most certainly are unable to see.   Our love is to be on public display, not carefully concealed in our minds, wrapped up in how we feel.  Unrequited love is not really love at all.  Love is used in the verb form specifically to show us that we need to act upon it to give it power.  If we do not express our love in actions, we relegate the word love, and any emotions, desires, or accompanying mental states to the status of that of a trophy placed in a closet.  It is pretty to look at, but has no real value.

And if we cannot show love to others, we are certainly not showing love to God.  Some may say that they love God, but hate people.  By implication, you cannot love God and hate people, because people are image-bearers of God.  If a person hates people, they are hating the one who created them.  We cannot love God without loving people as well.

Clear Command

Because of the extraordinary outpouring of love of God, we are to love one another as God loves us.  In order to experience God, we must partake in God’s character.  This is what transforms us into His image – the alignment of our character with the character of God.  This occurs through the indwelling, power, and motivation of the Holy Spirit in our lives to conform us to the likeness of God through the word of God.  Without experiencing the character of God, we will be unable to grasp and take hold of the lessons needed to move the intellectual understand of God into a practical expression and experiential knowledge of the character of God.  We must therefore love as God loves, for we are image-bearers of God.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I loving the disciples of Christ as God has loved me?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You show me through Your constant display of mercy and grace that You are love personified.  Thank You for modeling love to me.  Help me to love others as You love me.  Transform my heart – all that I am – into a better representation of Your character.  Help me to forgive others and myself that I may love as You love me.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Love of God – 1 Peter 1:22-25

Love One Another

22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. 23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. 24 For,

“All people are like grass,
and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
25 but the word of the Lord endures forever.”

And this is the word that was preached to you.

Preparation for Purity

Throughout the Bible, there is a recurring theme – obedience.  It takes different forms, but keeps reappearing.  When Abraham believed God, it was credited to him as righteousness.  When you believe something, you act in accordance to your belief.  If we have faith, we will be obedient.

There is an intimate relationship between faith and obedience.   James says that faith without works is dead.  The works come from obedience to the belief in faith.  It is the obedience to what faith teaches us that leads to the works that God desires for us to accomplish – the works that He has prepared for us to do since before the creation of the universe.

Peter now ties purification – sanctification – to the obedience of truth, which is the word of God.  Our faith dictates that we believe the word of God, and therefore, our obedience to it will bring about our purification.  And when we are obedient, God will make His home in us, and we in Him.

Lavish Love

There are four Greek words for love, and this one is agape.  We are to love unconditionally, volitionally, and sacrificially.  Here we see “one another” used again.  We are to love one another deeply from the heart.  When we see “one another”, we are to take it as if the other person is The Lord Jesus Christ Himself.  We can be assured that when we love one another as Christ has loved us, we will indeed be lavishing love upon each other.  Jesus never held back His love for us, and neither should be hold back our love for one another.

Surviving Seed

Peter reminds us that we are like seed, to die and grow and bear fruit.  And the fruit that we bear is imperishable.  The seed we sow will take root  and grow, and bear more seed.  For the word of God does not come back void; it always has its intended effect upon the soil of the heart.  If the soil has been prepared, it will yield back one-hundred fold.  If the soil is hard and dry, it may not yield any seed at all.  Either way, our seed is being manifested from soil that has grown deep roots that are drinking deeply from the living water of God.  And, through brokenness and yielding to the Holy Spirit, the seed being born is from Him.

Perfectly Permanent

We know that we are like a mist.  We appear for a short while, fragile yet beautiful.  Yet in a short while, the mist is no more.  But since it is the word of God that is within us, and we are being obedient to the word of God, it is the word of God that will endure.  The obedience of faith leads to the permanence of the seed, for the seed does not come from us, but from the word of the Living God, and God endures eternally.

If the seed is from us, and not from God, it will not stand the test of time, for anything that we do in the flesh, and not in obedience to the Spirit of God, will burn up like wood, hay and stubble.  Only that which was planted by the Spirit of God will endure the test of time, trial, and fire.  The only way to ensure that our work will stand the tests is to be sure that God is the one working through us, for God is eternal, and His work lasts forever.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question: Am I allowing God to show His love through me in my obedience to Him?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.  You endure forever.  You have no beginning, and no end.  All that You do lasts for eternity.  Help me to yield myself to You completely in obedience to Your word.  Guide me and guard me as I am being pulled by my own evil desires to embrace that which does not come from You.  Help me to cling tightly to You, so that in obedience to Your word, You will bear Your fruit through me.  Help me to be a useful tool for You.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Unity with God – Ephesians 5:21

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Ouch.  There’s that word – submission.  Yielding your preferences, desires, goals, way of doing things – to someone else.  Admit it – it’s HARD to submit.  We greatly desire to have our own way.  Very few things chafe us more than having to do something someone else’s way, especially if we are certain our way is better.

But we see something else at work in the Bible.  When Jesus put on flesh (became fully human and fully God), He submitted Himself to the Holy Spirit, became nothing, and took on the nature of a servant.  Jesus also said that in order to become the greatest among us, we should become a slave in serving others.  We are also to submit ourselves to the ruling authorities.

Mutual submission helps us to grow in character to become more like God.  There is a sense of submission to each other of each of the three persons in the Trinity.  Additionally, as we interact and submit, we are constantly being refined – “Iron sharpens iron.”  Mutual submission to one another in the body builds a unity within the body that cannot exist elsewhere, for it is not possible with us, but through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.  As we submit to one another, we are becoming one in purpose.  People will know we are Christians when we love one another.  And love does not seek its own interests, but the interests of others first (the JOY principle – Jesus, Others, You, in that order…).  Since God IS love, do we not demonstrate this when we love one another?   Paul says that we should devote ourselves to one another.

Imagine how winsome the Church, the Body of Christ, would look if ALL Christians submitted ourselves to one another?  No more division would exist between us!  The world would see a unified front of love extended inward AND outward.  People might actually WANT to become a Christian by our example, rather than be turned off by division and rancor within our own ranks.  Families would grow in love and grace as they submit to one another in Christ as well!

So, let’s ask the question.  Are we submitting ourselves to one another?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have shown us in Your word that submission is a good thing, unlike what the world and culture make it out to be.  Submitting to one another In Christ draws us closer to You, and reveals Your nature to the world.  Help us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds through Your word.  Change us into what we should become, that glory would be brought to Your name.  Help us to shed those things that hinder us as we try to better reflect your glory and light in a dark and unbelieving world.  Grant us mercy and grace as we struggle with these things, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?