This article is a part of an extended series of articles. If a particular statement seems to be lacking sufficient support or clarification, we encourage you to go back and read the previous articles, as well as commit to reading the following articles as they are published. Thank you for your patience.
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.
1 John 4:7-8
The connection between 1 John 4:1-6 and the seemingly abrupt change of subject in 1 John 4:7-8 stems from 1 John 3:23, which says, “This is [God's] commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as he commanded us.” In 1 John 4:1-6, we saw an explanation of the first part of that commandment: The necessity of properly confessing the name of Jesus Christ. And in 1 John 4:7-8, we discover an explanation of the second part of that commandment: The necessity of properly loving other brothers and sisters in Christ.
“It is imperative that the Christian properly confess the name of Jesus and properly love the people of Jesus.”
Now before we can truly understand the command found in 1 John 4:7-8, we must first attempt to accurately define the term “love” according to the Scripture. Based on several biblical texts (John 3:16, Ephesians 5:2, Ephesians 5:25, 1 John 3:16-18) we see this: True biblical love is a self-sacrificing commitment to seeking the eternal good of others in tangible ways.
“True biblical love is a self-sacrificing commitment to seeking the eternal good of others in tangible ways.”
First and foremost, biblical love must always be understood as a commitment. This explains why it is appropriate for love to be commanded. It is difficult to command feelings, but is fairly straightforward to command choices. Biblical love is a choice. This is not to say that biblical love is a choice devoid of any feeling. True biblical love is a caring commitment which includes both duty and delight.
THE SOURCE OF LOVE
Remember, according to our definition, the goal of biblical love is always the highest good of the object of our love. This can be nothing less than the person's eternal salvation and conformity into the image of Christ. In verse 7 of our text, John clearly states that “love is from God.” Unbelievers may demonstrate sacrificial love for others. Unbelieving parents often sacrificially love their children. Unbelievers may even perform great acts of heroism by laying down their very lives for their fellow human beings. However, while certainly worthy of our respect and admiration, these loving deeds merely stem from God’s common grace. While such love may be caring and self-sacrificing, it can never be properly categorized as true biblical love, because it does not seek the eternal good of the one who is being loved.
“While unbelievers may behave in caring and self-sacrificing ways, this behavior can never be properly categorized as true biblical love, because it does not seek the eternal good of the one who is being loved.”
Unbelievers are not seeking the salvation and sanctification of the individuals they are loving, and therefore, unbelievers are not truly loving according to biblical standards. John wants us to recognize that whenever we see genuine biblical love, it did not originate with the person who is exercising this love. God is the only source of true love in this world.
Almost everyone readily embraces John's statement in verse 8 of our text when he says, “God is love.” However, this statement is often misunderstood and taken to unbiblical extremes. Some misconstrue this statement to mean that because God is love, he chooses to overlook our sin and is completely incapable of ever condemning anyone to the eternal punishment of hell. However, the Bible clearly teaches that the love of God never compromises the holiness and justice of God. Remember, in 1 John 1:5, the apostle John opened his letter by saying, “God is light (holy), in him there is no darkness (sin) at all.” The holiness of God and the love of God equally belong to his divine essence. Neither negates the other. So while it is biblically faithful to say, “God is love,” it is equally true to say, “God is holy, holy, holy.”
1) What attribute of God is mentioned most in the Bible: The love of God? Or, the holiness of God?
2) Do you agree with the definition of love presented in this lesson? If not, what would you change?
3) In what ways are you currently failing to love by biblical standards? In what ways are you currently succeeding to love by biblical standards?
Would you prayerfully consider partnering with Right Response Ministries by giving a one-time donation or becoming one of our Responders?