Reading the Word
1 John 4:7–21 (ESV)
7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have 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 ever seen God; 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 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his 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 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for 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. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he 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: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
Understanding the Word
In this passage, John returns to the theme of love. Now he tells his readers that they ought to love one another because they have been born of God and “God is love”. John goes on to give examples of the love of God.
God’s love is evident when we consider that he sent his only Son into the world for our benefit. Jesus died as the payment for our sin so that we might have eternal life through him. If God loved us in this way, we should love one another in the same way.
Applying the Word
The statement that “God is love” is often understood as if you could reverse it and say that “love is God”. This is not true. What John is telling us is that God is, by very nature, loving. We see his love on display in the gospel.
However, love is not God. While it is true that God is loving, it is also true that God is more than this. He is just, holy, righteous, etc. He is a personal being, not just a concept or moral category.
Those who have been born of God should display the likeness of their Father, just as we resemble our earthly fathers. One of the key characteristics of God is love, so it should be evident in our lives also.
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