God is love – 1 John 4

Twice in 1 John 4 we’re told that God is love. John is going to teach us about truth and love and about God. He will stretch your understanding of God and yourself.

God’s love is held up for you to gaze at and think about. But then, surprisingly, he shows you there’s something missing. Sometimes there’s a gap in God’s love where there shouldn’t be one.

The good news is that there’s a way for you to fill that gap!

These notes accompany a sermon on YouTube. You can find more in the series in our Sermon Index.

The Spirit of Truth (1-6)

There are lots of people who consider themselves very ‘spiritual’ – maybe with an established religion, maybe just feeling the vibes coming up from mother earth or some such. Going further, there are many people who would call themselves Christian, but aren’t. Read 1 John 4:1.

There are many false prophets and teachers in the world. Whole church buildings filled with people going to hell. Led by sincere – but false – religious leaders.

It would be arrogant of me or us to say we’re right on every matter. There are faithful, Christ-honouring churches right here in Wirral who might take a different view from us on some things: E.g. baptism of infants, church governance, robes… Christians don’t have to agree over everything. But there are certain non-negotiables. Read 1 John 4:2.

Does anyone say that Jesus didn’t have a real body? Historically, yes, it’s a well-known heresy (“Docetism”). There are still plenty of examples, such as A Course in Miracles: Christ is God’s Son as He created Him. ²He is the Self we share, uniting us with one another, and with God as well. ³He is the Thought which still abides within the Mind that is His Source. – Absolute rubbish. Christian words given wholly new meanings. More specifically (biblically), it’s of the spirit of antichrist. Read 1 John 4:3.

Why does Jesus’ humanity matter?

Remember by “anti-”Christ we mean both instead of (a substitute that lures to falsehood) and away from (keeping you from truth). Why does it matter so much that Jesus was actually human?

  1. At the very least, the Old Testament set the expectation that Messiah would be a descendant of David.
  2. More, if Christ is to be your substitutionary atonement you need flesh for flesh, soul for soul, life for life. Human.
  3. And how is a High Priest to represent you in heaven if he’s nothing like you? Jesus qualified as High Priest by becoming human (see Hebrews 5:8-9).
  4. And wrong thinking about Jesus’ humanity leads to all sorts of wonky thinking about the Lord’s Table and his presence.

Jesus is human. Flesh and blood. (We own Christmas!)

Thankfully, although the spirit of antichrist is very much active in the world, it’s not in control of God’s people. Read 1 John 4:4.

God the Holy Spirit lives in every Christian. So the voice of antichrist (luring into falsehood, away from Christ) will be great to people in the world, but rubbish to anyone with the Spirit of Adoption in them. Read 1 John 4:5-6.

  • So the world will lap up Dan Brown’s fiction about Jesus and get caught up in conspiracy theories.
  • They’ll love Richard Dawkins having a bash at God and any and all religion.

But some of the spirit of antichrist does creep into the wider church. Remember John spoke about antichrist denying the Father and the Son. We noted that the Father and Son are eternally unchanged, and that the Son is in eternal, loving submission to the Father. Worldly thinking has caused some theologians to refute that – specifically so that worldly morality can be accepted by the church. But it’s the “spirit of deception” (v6).

The Church must speak into the world

Teaching about Jesus that sits well with the world is often “of the world” – deception, not truth.  The church is meant to be “prophetic” – speaking God’s word into culture, not the other way round.

It’s always an error to create God in your own image.

It’s always an error to create God in your own image. There is one God and one truth. He even had it written down for you. But the heart of God’s law isn’t punishment, it’s grace. Your sin draws just punishment – because God is just.

But if you turn from your sin to God, to truth, to life – and ask him for forgiveness he will grant it – along with eternal life in union with him! You can turn to him right now, as he calls you.

God’s Complete Love (7-10)

Read 1 John 4:7-8. John is still urging us to love one another – he’ll come back to that shortly. First, he gives another reason why you should.

God is love.

  • Now, love is an action. It always has an object.
  • Love is always other-person-oriented.
  • Who does God love, outside of Creation?
    • The Father loves the Son, the Son loves the Spirit, and every other permutation! God is love even independent of his Creation.
    • Also, he loves his people. In love, he chose you before the foundation of the world. 
  • And so in love for one another, Father Son and Spirit worked together in perfect harmony for the people he loves eternally – because love is an action and always has an object.

The election, salvation, and glorification of his beloved people is an expression of the love that exists between the Father, Son and Spirit. He is love. So: If you love other Christians, that is also an expression of God’s love being worked through you to his people.

If you are a Christian, God is in you and you must necessarily love others. Read 1 John 4:8. How do you know if someone isn’t loving? There’s no action, no cost, no effort, no sacrifice. The example is given in 1 John 4:9-10.

The height and depth of love

How much does the Father love you? He sent his one and only precious Son to the world.

How much does the Son love you? He became human, and died an awful death for you – though you were an undeserving rebel.

How much does the Son love the Father? He was obedient to death so save a people for the Father.

We could go on but you see how love is costly and active. And you see how important it is to see both the deity and the humanity of the Son of God. That’s why we need the Spirit of Truth to show us the true Jesus – wholly God and man. And it is in the wonder that God came down to earth to save you that you turn and receive eternal life.

John has some rich theology for us to think about. But he never separates theology from the realities of daily life. Even so, his next move is surprising.

Complete God’s Love (11-21)

Read 1 John 4:11.

God is love. If you’re a Christian, you’re his child. His “seed” is in you (1 John 3:9). Your spiritual DNA is altered. That means you simply can’t go astray into eternal outright rebellion against him.

And yet v11 is still a reminder that “we surely ought to love each other.” Meaning, we don’t always love as we ought! Even when we do love, we’re often quite poor at it, often conditional, and pretty limited in how far we’re prepared to sacrifice our time or money or energy.

So John wants you to see how your love for other Christians is intimately and profoundly connected to God’s love for them, and for you – to spur you on to love! Read 1 John 4:12.

  • Literally, “If we love one another God remains in us and his love is made complete in us.”
  • God’s love is incomplete until you love other Christians and they love you.

God is love. The Son is the representation and communication of God’s love to you. He who sees the Son, sees the Father. As you become a child of God, you experience his great love for you. His Spirit is in you, to grow you in Christlikeness. The Spirit in you is Christ’s advocate in the world, working through Christians to bring Christ’s love and gospel to all. As you love another Christian (that is, in action, not just nice thoughts), God himself is expressing love to that person

You express love for God in obedience. You express love for others in action. God’s love is expressed and experienced by the person you are loving. And, as we saw last time, that’s acted out in the mundane things of everyday life – phoning around, hospitality, doing a bit of shopping, babysitting, etc.

God’s love is like a circle

So there’s a kind of circle:

  • God’s love to you; God’s love through you to another Christian; that person then loving God for his goodness.
  • And, obviously, the circle goes both ways as you’re also loved by other Christians.
  • But that circle of God’s love has a gap if you are not acting in love towards another Christian. His love flows down to you, but stops there. 
  • Your lack of love for others prevents them from experiencing God’s love, not just yours.

The God of infinite love is in you, and you are in him.

The thing is, you’re saved – and kept – in love. Read 1 John 4:13-16 a. Again, your salvation is an expression of love between Father, Son and Spirit, and God’s great love for you. And that God of infinite love is in you, and you are in him. Your very hope of salvation is rooted and bound up in his love – love within the Trinity of God, and towards you (because you don’t deserve salvation).

So there’s no room for one Christian “not speaking” to another. There’s no place for “me first”. Obviously you will still have particular Christian friends (people you’re just closer to). But you can’t possibly have Christian enemies, or people you avoid or don’t speak to.

Some people are difficult. All the more reason to express love towards them, rather than avoid them.

Ultimately, expressing God’s love towards other Christians is a test of your salvation – and, hopefully, an assurance of it. Read 1 John 4:16-21.

Assurance of salvation

We love others in practical demonstration of God’s love in us – you make him visible as you love others. His love came first. So your love assures you of his work in you and for you.

  • You have no fear of punishment for sin, because you’re trusting his love – which worked life for you by the Son’s sacrifice for your sin, in love, on the cross.
  • If you fear punishment from God, it’s because you’re not trusting in Christ’s work for you, or not trusting his Person as God and man, messiah saviour.

So is there another Christian you can’t stand, don’t speak to, find awkward – or even hate? Pray for them, serve them, love them. Jesus did, and he is in you.

All this is true particularly, if I may say so, of older Christians. Godliness isn’t measured by growth in stature and importance, so that younger Christians “ought” to serve you. Godliness is measured in service and love; you ought to serve by nature and be examples of loving service to younger Christians.

So all of us need to speak more to more people. Ask more questions so that you can care more, serve more, and pray more lovingly and intelligently. And be sure to pray with others too, so that they feel and experience your love.

God is love. God is in you. You are his child. You’ll be like him. Love is action. Don’t let God’s love stop at you, but flow through.