1 John 4:7-19
God’s Word has a way of causing us to think about our lives and if we are really living in the will of our heavenly Father. That is the convicting power of the Holy Spirit speaking to our hearts.
Are we comfortable just being church members on Sunday or are we known as Christians? The answer to this question is of great importance because it follows the teaching of Jesus and has a bearing on the way we live. In the gospel of John, the Savior gave His disciples a new commandment, “That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another” (John 13:34).
We are told in Leviticus 19:18 to “love thy neighbor as thyself,” so the command to love other people was not the thing making this new. What made this a new commandment was when Jesus said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” For the first time love became the distinguishing characteristic of Christ’s followers. With the Savior’s words in mind, John exhorted believers to “let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18).
With this foundation, we come to 1 John 4 for guidance and a look at the how and why of Christian love, and understand that if we are actually going to love one another, we must think about what John tells us about God.
First, John said “God is love.” The problem is we leave it at that, but there is so much here that is precious to us. God is love because everything He does is motivated by and filled with love. For example, we can see God’s love in His blessings and even in His discipline.
It is only because God is love that we are able to exist, and we are told, “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23).
If a person does not love, John said, he not only does not know God, he never was acquainted with God.
Secondly, because God is love He sent His “only begotten Son into the world.” God showed love to the world in giving Jesus to die on the cross for us. Paul said of His love, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). What more could God do to show His love? This is our example and motivation. If God, who is holy and whose love is holy, would do this for us, then we ought to be motivated to love one another.
John said believers are “born of God,” an expression of the great privilege we have in our relationship with Him. We should be always growing spiritually to resemble God who has loved us sacrificially.
John said, “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” What God did for us through Christ Jesus was a result of His love for us, not our love for Him. As the propitiation for our sins, Christ Jesus takes away the penalty for our sins.
Finally, John wrote, “No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.” If we have love, then God’s Holy Spirit lives in us and His love is, as John wrote, perfected in us. God could have perfected His love in any way He desired, but He chose to perfect it in sinners saved by His precious grace. People will know we are followers of Christ if we are obedient in this and love one another.
The Sunday school lesson is written by Ed Wilcox, pastor of Centerville Baptist Church. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org