Are you in the faith? The answer to this question has far-reaching consequences. There is more to this life than the here and now. However, many people are not living in light of eternity but rather for the moment and the world. But how can one know if he is in the faith? While there is not a single answer to this question, John gives his readers something to ponder. In John 4:7-8 John instructs his sheep that if they are true believers in Christ, they will evidence this reality by their love.
First, we read the command. Scripture says, “Beloved, let us love one another…” (KJV, 1 John 4:7-8). Elsewhere we read of the two greatest commandments, “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matt. 22:37-39). God is highly concerned with the love of the Christian. God has called the Christian to love God and man, and there is no avoiding the matter.
At the outset of John’s epistle, the reader is informed of the deception that may creep into his heart. John tells us, “He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him” (1 John 2:9-10). John tells of how the one who hates his brother is in darkness and dwelling in a lost state because the darkness blinds his eyes.
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But the question may arise, “What is love?” When John uses the word love, he uses a Greek word that denotes sacrificial love. This means that John was concerned with a love that is not necessarily based upon feeling and emotion but rather sacrifice. The love of Jesus was, first and foremost sacrificial. Jesus died to self and loved others as a result. John knew that love was fickle without recognizing that one is to love because it is his duty. As a result, the love that God speaks of is a choice and direction of the will.
The first reason
But why must the Christian, “love one another?” John goes on to say, “…for love is of God…” (1 John 4:7). Here we see the first reason why the Christian must express love. God loves, and therefore, the Christian must love as well. Why does the Christian love God? The Bible tells us that the Christian loves God because God first loved the Christian.
God is the initiator of love, and He is the perfect example. God and love are so inextricably connected that the Bible could say God is love. But what does love look like in everyday life? Paul can help us at this point.
First Corinthians 13 is filled with practical application points concerning love. The reader is informed that love is patient. This means that love has a long fuse rather than a short one. Love does not blow up around others and cause destruction. Instead, love is patient. Love is also kind, which means that love seeks the good of others. Love is selfless as it does not insist on its own way. Paul has more to say on the topic of love in 1 Corinthians 13, but we will end with love, “beareth all things…” (1 Cor. 13:7). Love is enduring and perseveres. Love does not give up but persists. In Paul’s list of practical application points concerning love, the sacrificial nature of agape love is on display for the reader, as is the nature of God.
The second reason
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As we move forward, we are given the second reason why the Christian must “love one another.” John says, “…every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God” (1 John 4:7). John’s epistle is written in black and white. There are no grey areas for the reader to hide. John tells us plainly that those who express biblical love are born of God.
John’s epistle is also full of ways the Christian can assure himself of his faith. First, John tells his readers that when they walk in the light, they will have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus will cleanse their sins (1 John 1:6-7). Later, John says that when someone recognizes and confesses his sin, he will receive forgiveness and cleansing from God (1 John 1:8-10). Next, John informs his sheep that they can know that they know God if they keep his commandments (1 John 2:3-5). Finally, we read of the way that when someone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him (1 John 2:15). John has more to say concerning the subject of assurance, but in 1 John 4:7-8 we are given a test yet again, “…every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God” (1 John 4:7).
John then moves toward a warning as he presents his message negatively. John says, “He that loveth not knoweth not God” (1 John 4:8). Once again, we are not met with an isolated teaching on the matter. Love is a keyword in 1 John; thus, it is one of John’s major teaching points.
John has already told us that when someone hates his brother, he is deceived and is in the darkness. Later, John tells his sheep that they must love one another. Then John tells of Cain’s bad example: Cain hated his brother Abel and killed him. John says, “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death” (1 John 3:14). While the example of Cain may appear extreme at the outset, John speaks of the one who hates his brother in the same light as Cain. John says, “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him” (1 John 3:15). John echoes the words of Christ from the Sermon on the Mount.
God is concerned more with the condition of the heart than outward acts. The Pharisees were highly religious, but their hearts were far from Christ. When someone hates his brother in his heart, it is equated to murder in God’s eyes. The root of murder is hatred. Thus, when someone has the root, they are charged with the fruit.
Finally, we are told, “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love” (1 John 4:8). What is the connection? Why does Paul say that God is love? For the one who does not love, he can’t be a Christian because God is love.
John has already told us that when someone is born of God, God’s seed abides in him. This means that the life of God dwells within the believer. When someone plants a garden, there is life in the seeds. The seed that is planted will bring forth a certain type of plant.
It is ridiculous to assume someone can plant an apple seed and get a plum tree. The same is true in the Christian life. When God plants His seed within the believer, he is planting His very nature. When God plants His very nature, the natural outcome will be that Christ’s likeness will begin to form.
God is love. Therefore, when God plants Himself in the believer, the believer will bring forth a love that resembles the love of God. The logical conclusion is relatively simple. Since God is love and since God dwells within the Christian, then the Christian will love as well.
John is not simply saying that the Christian must love because God loved him, and he needs to figure out how to love as a result. Instead, John is saying the love of God is placed into the heart of the believer at the new birth. Thus, the Christian will love as the seed of God grows.
Father, I thank You for loving me and placing Your nature in me. Help me to love as You love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.