I John 4. Love's Essence.
Key Notes: Talking it through. Listening toJohn as if to an oracle.
We have discussed love and hate (IJn.2:7–11), love and compassion (IJn.3:11–18) and may wonder what more there is to be said. But LOVE is the cry of humanity. "Somewhere in the night there must be someone for me....""Where is love?" It is the subject of our songs, country or rock or bluegrass or German lieder--desire and ecstasy, flirtation, innocence and betrayal. I get no love, I lost love, men are unfaithful, women are fickle. It is the stuff of shelves of paperback novels. "I know true love is my destiny" said a famous actress; true love--not her face, her fame and fortune, or her many boyfriends.
John returns to the subject of love with such intensity in I Jn.4 that some commentators are numbed by it. "Love" is repeated 27 times in this chapter. It is hard to do justice to a passage in which so many outstanding statements are made.
We should not be distracted from John's main messages.
4:4 Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the World.
4:6 Whoever knows God listens to us.
4:8,16 God is Love.
4:10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us.
4:17 As He is, so are we in this World.
4:18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.
4:18 Fear has to do with punishment.
4:20 He who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.
This love is not easy. Love is not pity. God commands it (Deut.6:4) but we do not simply obey. Jesus said loving your friends does not qualify. (Matt.5:43). Love comes from God as we perceive Jesus' love for us and respond to it.
The format of this lesson is a somewhat irreverent conversation between a modern, informed, but immature Christian and the elderly saint John, who is like an oracle. The attempt is to try to follow John's reasoning (the text is marked) as if he were teaching the reader. Love is approached from several perspectives.
4:1–3"Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits....Many false prophets have gone out into the World".
You say we are to test the spirits of prophets to see whether they are of God, confessing that Jesus is truly human or denying that and hence being against Christ, like anti-christs.
Why do you bring this up again? We already talked about it before. IJn.3:18–21
4:4–6 "Little children, you are of God and have overcome them, for He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world."
Has the church ever overcome anything except a budget deficit? Paul says "the weapons of our warfare are not worldly but have divine power to destroy strongholds." (IICor.10:4). Why are we so helpless in the Fight? We are overwhelmed by false messages coming from every direction.
4:7 "Beloved, let us love one another. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. "
"By this all men shall know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (Jn.13:35)
You say all lovers are born of God and know God? Are you saying that love is the missing ingredient in the churches? I suspect that is a large part of our weakness. But which kind of love are you talking about? Aren't they all important?
4:8 "God is love"--agape--sacrificial love.
I like that. But if you say God is love, wouldn't you say Love is God, too? The Greeks made Aphrodite into a goddess, you know.
4:9–10 . God's essence is Spirit, not love. (John 4:24). Love is one of His attributes, as is Light.
"God's love is shown in sending His Only-begotten Son into the World so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins."
You are saying that we know love because we are loved by God. But our psychologists tell us that we need human love. I was raised in an orphanage and I didn't get love there and I don't get it now either. My step-father beat me. Christmas! Humbug! I don't like gift-giving. Nobody ever gave me anything. Can't love be found some other way?
4:11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
Ought! All very well to say ought! But how do you think that will change unloving people like me into the loving Christian you want me to be?
4:12 No one has ever seen God. God abides in us and His love is made complete in us.
I think you are saying that God abides in me and that is where the love will come from. That is a nebulous concept. How do I know that God abides in me? After all, He is invisible.
4:13 By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us by the Spirit which He has given us.
And how would I know if the Spirit of God is in me? Am I supposed to feel differently?
4:14–15 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent His Son into the World. Whoever confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in Him and he in God.
Then you are saying that the proof of the Spirit's indwelling is not my feeling but that I talk about Jesus--you said "testify" and "confess"--that Jesus is the Son of God and that God the Father sent Him into the World. I am supposed to talk about Jesus in my everyday activities? Is that right?
4:16 So we know and believe the love God has given us and he who abides in love abides in God and he in God.
If I hear you straight, you are saying that I will experience love from God as I know and believe what He said. But can you explain what you mean by "abiding"? You keep saying it. 4:12,13,15,16
"As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me and I in him, bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." (Jn.15:4–5).
Then abiding is staying so close to Jesus that His life runs through us like the juice from the root flowing into the branches. OK, and is that the bottom line?
4:17 In this is love perfected (4:12), that we have confidence for the Day of Judgment for as He is so are we in this World.
Wait a minute. I thought we were not going to be judged. Now you have me scared.
4:18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love.
Aren't we supposed to fear God. "The fear of the Lord is clean and endures forever." (Psa.19:9)
4:18 "This Fear has to do with punishment."
"There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus" (Rom.8:1).
"The fire will test what sort of work each one has done...though he himself will be saved but only as through fire." (I Cor.3:13)
So if I am able to love God sincerely, I should not have to be afraid of punishment on the judgment Day. Is that it? Is there more?
4:20 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.
Brothers? What about sisters? You should know my wife. She is irrational, totally frustrating. Who could love her?
4:21 And this is his commandment: he who loves God should love his brother also.
If you are going to command me to love my wife, you will have to give me something I don't have. I don't love her any more, or the kids either. It's over. Cold and dead. I have had it. I am ready to quit and she can have the kids too.
5:1 "Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is a child of God and everyone who loves the parent loves the child."
Your wife is God's child.
I give up. You are asking the impossible.
5:14 "And this is the confidence which we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will He hears us."
"The fruit of the Spirit is Love and Joy and Peace...." (Gal.5:22)
I must ask God for love? I will ask God for His love. It is my only hope.
Ask God for love. The fruit of the Spirit is love....Gal.5:22