The Unique Love that Defines God and His People (1 John 4:7-21)
WONDERFUL THING IN THIS PASSAGE – God has blessed us with the capacity for love and affection in a wide range of relationships and feelings. We love our families, our friends, beautiful sunsets, and Bluebell Homemade Vanilla ice cream. This ability to love is a major part of what it means to be human.
However, there is a particular kind of love that is unique to God. It’s a major part of what it means to be God. The Greek word agape is the Bible’s term for that kind of love. God is its only source, and he alone can implant it in his people. Today’s passage speaks of this agape-love 27 times in 15 verses:
“Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God … Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another. No one has ever seen God. If we love one another, God remains in us and his love is made complete in us …
“God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him …We love because he first loved us … the person who does not love his brother or sister whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And we have this command from him: The one who loves God must also love his brother and sister” (1 John 4:7-21)
Agape is the love with which God loves us. It is expressed by sacrificially giving of oneself to another. God’s ultimate demonstration of it was sending his Son to die for us: “he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
Agape is the love God places in his children for each other. “God is love.” If we have God in us, we have his love in us, and we will express it: “Let us love one another, because love is from God … God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him.”
WONDERFUL THING IN OUR LIVES – Agape-love is also God’s primary plan for revealing himself to the world. John outlines that two-phase plan in two verses that begin with the same words: “No one has ever seen God.”
In phase 1, Jesus revealed God’s love by what he said and did in his physical body: “No one has ever seen God. The one and only Son, who is himself God and is at the Father’s side – he has revealed him” (John 1:18). As he told his disciples, “The one who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). But he was here only briefly and few saw him.
God had an extended plan to reveal himself for the rest of history. That plan is you and me displaying a love for one another that the world recognizes could only come from God: “No one has ever seen God. If we love one another, God remains in us and his love is made complete in us” (1 John 4:12). Jesus knew this plan, and just before his departure, he asked the Father “that they may be made completely one, that the world may know you have sent me” (John 17:23).
Dear friends, you and I can be part of the answer to Jesus’ prayer. We can love one another fervently, sacrificially. The world longs for that kind of love, and God is willing to display it through us.