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The Source and Evidence of God's Love
These comments are not based strictly from our text in 1 John but are from selected texts found elsewhere in the New Testament. As I was meditating on God's Love as found in this portion of scripture, several connections were made with other scripture verses. Let me share them with in a topical format.
We Receive and Show God's Love from the Indwelling Holy Spirit - Rom 5:5.
Two metaphors are used to describe how the Love of God is demonstrated in the life of the believer. The first is that of a gushing spring of water or a torrential down pouring of rain. This is the meaning of the text in Romans 5:5 - the phrase "shed abroad." Jesus also referred to this metaphor of water in the gospel of John 7:38, 39 in connection with the Holy Spirit. The point of these two portions of scripture is that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit will produce an abundance of an outward manifestation of His presence. This will be in the expression of His Love, Mercy, Compassion and Graciousness. It is inconceivable that a believer can have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and not have God's Love noticed in these ways by himself and others.
The next metaphor that comes to mind is the fruit-bearing plant. This is found in Galatians 5:22, 23. Many Bible students believe that the grammar and order of this list is such that God's Love is further defined by the other qualities as found herein. I have heard this scripture quoted many times as a definition of God's Love, but a point that Dr. Strong makes has apparently been missed by many and that point is this; this fruit is to be plucked and enjoyed by others. In this metaphor, fruit is never meant to merely mature, ripen, fall to the ground and turn rotten - not to be enjoyed by others. No, we must not only have God's Love within us but others around us must enjoy it! This is precisely John's point in 1 John 3:17. The indwelling Holy Spirit will, if He is filling the believer, show God's Love to others by means of loving, gracious, and merciful acts.
We Receive and Show God's Love
Here is a remarkable narrative of a principle that Jesus, Himself states that the sinner's heart which has been forgiven of many sins - the sinner who has been delivered from a desperate life of sin and is very grateful to the Lord for saving him - this sinner will, from a grateful heart, evidence love for his Lord to a greater degree than a person whose life the Lord has not greatly impacted. We need to be careful not to confuse the issue. Whether the less grateful person in this narrative was saved or merely a self-righteous unsaved person is not divulged by Christ. However, the point was not missed by Simon the Pharisee - he was the ungrateful person - saved or not, he was smug in his self-righteousness and did not love the Lord sufficiently to show Him acts of devotion. The woman, who was probably a former prostitute with no small financial means, but who understood Jesus' teaching about His upcoming passion before the rest of the disciples did loved the Lord greatly because of a deep sense of gratitude for salvation from her sins and was compelled to perform this act of devotion to her Lord. It is possible that she still harbored some sense of guilt because of her former life and thus Jesus' words of comfort, "Then Jesus said to her, "Your sins are forgiven.... Jesus said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace." (Luke 7:48, 50) She left Simon's house justified in her heart and in the sight of all by the Lord, Himself - Simon was left with his jaw hanging down having witnessed the Love of God in action, both by the Lord and the woman who had been forgiven of her sins.
The Love of Christ Inaugurates
For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. (2 Cor 5:14, NIV)
Actually, the word "inaugurates" might not be the best choice - the Love of Christ compels the believer - the force of the original is to be carried along as in a mob - helpless to do anything else - that's what the Love of Christ does to the believer. When Paul wrote this to the Corinthians, the force of his thought was that he could not help but share the Gospel with others. In fact, Paul had left his life-time role as Pharisee, the guardian of the Torah and had given himself to become an ambassador for Christ. The gospel had seized him and was carrying him along with such a force.
This is the first step toward Christian service - not going to a Bible college - but first, considering all that the Lord has done in forgiving us from a sinful life and delivering us into a personal relationship with Him, love Him and serve Him out of Love and an appreciation of the Gospel. Then the next step is preparation for Christian service whether it be as a minister of the Gospel or ministry in "tent making" while sharing Christ with a dying world - it is the Love of Christ - this powerful outflow over which we have no control when we are being filled with the Holy Spirit that compels us to serve Him and to Love others at the same time.
The Love of God - Part Two.
1 John 4:1-6 presents itself as an interlude - John is weaving in the tapistry of his epistle a warning to test the claims of those who say they love God. That is covered in 1 John 4:1-6. We pick up the topic of God's Love from 4:7 which is equal in every way to Paul's dissertation of God's Love in 1 Corinthians 13. There is a mystery to the true nature of God's Love that we may never understand until we are in heaven. Paul said in his dissertation (1 Cor. 13:12) "Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." (NIV). If we read the context we discover that we are like children not fully understanding God's Love - we only know that It is there, always, and though we do not have the maturity to fully understand It - It will never leave us, nor fail us.
We should not in our limited capacities try to reduce God to terms that are fully rational. Rather, we should be willing to conserve the Mystery of God, accept that which we can never understand now and thus not reduce Him to an erroneous concept. So it is with His Love. We will never fully understand so intrinsic an essence of God as His Love, at least in this life - let us be careful of our use of the one-liners that give the rationalistic bent of our mortal minds satisfaction. Rather, let us leave the rationalistic "bleacher seats" and join in the "playing field" desiring to enjoy His Love in fellowship with Him and in sharing this new-born capacity to Love one another as enabled by the Holy Spirit, who indwells us.
The Gnostics were willing, in their error, to cheapen God's Love by bragging that they knew and loved their "true god" through knowledge (gnosis) of their inner origins. The difference between them and the believer is that God's Love is poured into the believer in an overflowing torrential downpour by the indwelling Holy Spirit so that they might be genuinely Loving as God Loves. This is the reality of the conversion experience. God's Love is not a natural resource of the human experience and so should not be defined in such a frame of reference. The Love of God is poured out to overflowing in the heart of the believer by the Holy Spirit starting at conversion. It then becomes a resource of the believer in as far as he is under the infilling of the Holy Spirit. The gospel songwriter has penned; "The Love of God is greater far than pen or tongue can ever tell..." Even though God's Love defies definition, It is recognized by It's "products" as described in 1 Cor. 13 and Galatians 5:22, 23. Having introduced this subject, let us determine to be awed by It - live in It. Let us continue with John's teaching on God's Love - part two.
The Source and Energy of God's Love - 1 John 4:7, 8.
Beloved, let us be loving one another because this love is from God. And everyone loving has been born from God and knows God; the one not loving did not know God because God is love. (1 John 4:7, 8, Lenski)
John returns to the subject of God's Love by using the term "Beloved" - not children, nor any other expression of filial relationship. The term "Beloved" is used in the sense that we are "Beloved" by God and that we are to be vessels of that same Love toward each other. There is no other expression that expresses such a magnitude of intimacy - "Beloved." Do not accept your fondness for another as a substitute for God's Love for that same person. Any fondness or human love we might have for another depends on reciprocation. There can come a time when, if the object of our human love or fondness either rejects that expression or offends us that the "connection" will be broken. We will find that it will be difficult if not impossible to express the same degree of affection toward that person. However, if the Love of God is the motivator, we will find that we do not depend on circumstances or reciprocated love to show graciousness - affection or concern for that person, for God, Himself is Loving him, or her, through us. Marriage is a wonderful setting for the expression of God's Love. That is not to say that we should not love our spouses in the way God has intended from the beginning of time, but with God's Love expressing Itself along with our marital bond, the Christian marriage has a wonderful resource of stability and expression of grace that the unsaved marriage does not have. A wonderful "spin-off" of the Christian marriage is the children witness this grace and after having been saved themselves will find themselves expressing that very same grace towards each other and their parents
As we will see, John's Love for them is an expression of Love directly from God, Himself. When John introduced his epistle the grand theme of it was Jesus Christ, the incarnate God, the Son and the wonderful prospect of having fellowship with Him and the Heavenly Father. This was unheard of by all religions including the apostate religion of the Jew of John's day. The Jew and Gentile, alike had rejected Jesus Christ as God, the Son - had crucified Him in their rejection but, ironically, this very rejection has become the greatest demonstration of God's Love to a lost and hell-bound world.
1 John 1:3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.
The wonderful theme of John's letter to his friends was that not only did the disciples enjoy loving fellowship with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ, but that all of us might enter into a personal relationship with Him and enjoy a mutual love that only God can supply - God's Love. Thus John's urging his friends and us to continue to be loving one another in this fellowship that God has made possible through the propitiatory work of Jesus Christ on the Cross. 
John picks up another piece of material previously used in 3:10, 11, 28 and like a skillful artisan braids into this circular tapestry truths centering around the essence of God's Love.
"...this love is from God..." The original places the article before agape - this love - and for good reason. This is called the articular use and it points to the source of this Love, God's Love rather than being a commentary on love in general. This is important because man will insert his own experience of an earthy love - a love based on a reciprocal function and one based on a mutually exchanged earthy love. This is not God's Love but a cheap substitute - a sham that does nothing but promote man's sinful, legalistic approach of trading favor for favor.
The simple fact is that God, Himself is the source of this Love. Man and Satan have no point of reference, no capacity to imagine this Love - God, alone is the progenitor of His attribute of Love. As is with all of God's beneficence - He alone can give His Goodness - He alone can be Forgiving in the sense of remission of sins, He alone can with His command create reality from nothing. And so it is that He alone can give His Love to others to whom He in beneficence determines to do so. The infusion of His Love into the life of a sinner saved by grace is no less an act of His creative genius!
The problem with us is that we can think only of one subject at a time - we must slice, dissect by rational nature. God's essence is indivisible. So when we attempt to isolate the Love of God we must remember that the rest of His attributes are always in view: His Omnipotence, His Omniscience, Omnipresence - all of His attributes. So why, then, should we attempt to make His Love a general commodity that all of the world shares or has a piece of somewhere deep within themselves, only to be discovered through some sort of discipline or religions experience? No! Only God in His indivisible essence possesses this Love. The important point we must take note of is that He generously pours out His Love within the heart of every believer so that we might have the joy of fellowship with each other and with Him. This is fundamental to understanding the fellowship that John is sharing with the reader.
God's Love is energetic in nature. Not all of His attributes are. His Eternality, His self-existence is quiescent - that is, His Eternality is a fact of God's existence but does not imply any need for action on His part. God is, He always will be. However, His Love is energetic. God's Love is always giving, reaching out - always showing action on the part of God. God so loved the world that He gave.... He demonstrated His Love to the world while the world was His enemy by sending His Son to the Cross. He manifested His Love by the Incarnation of His Son knowing that in the end most would reject His son. All of these actions of God's Love resulted in salvation for man. And so with His children, His Love in us - if we are being filled by His Holy Spirit - by essence gives, reaches out in beneficent actions to fellow children of God. This same Love - though not discussed by John in this epistle - reaches out to a lost world as ambassadors for Christ with the Gospel message.
God's energetic Love affects mankind. Let me try to illustrate this from my own family. I am presently 62 years of age. I have a teenage son who is 17 years old. He as a teen has all the this energy that required a new dirt bike. As a result of his energy and his relentless requests for same I was affected to purchase not just one but two bikes and now find myself bouncing and lurching about on back woods trails in his company. I have been affected by my son's excessive energy and will probably never be the same because of it.
Another illustration from my family, if I may. My Bride and I took a weekend off from the usual and customary weekend activities and "got away from it all" - we took a weekend trip off together and toured the roads of Vermont. I called home at our sleep-over place and asked my son how things were going. He said "boring." Upon further probing it was found that because of our absence from the Brown household, things had become quite uneventful - hence "boring." Actually, I took that as a complement as it turned out that Mom and Dad do positively affect the family. Mom and Dad's presence is an energetic presence in that we provide a good "give and take" with the rest of the family and we are missed when we are gone. The excessive energy of God's Love has affected mankind. As a result of His energetic Love - the giving, the demonstrating, the manifesting of His Love - mankind now has the wonderful opportunity to be saved from sin, to have fellowship with Him and for believers to share in this fellowship and to, in turn affect others around them with God's Love.
1. Eph. 5:18 [Back]
2. Eph 5: esp vs' 2, 18-20. [Back]
3. 1 John 4:10. [Back]
4. This is certainly not a complete list of His attributes. [Back]
5. 1 John 1:4. [Back]
6. John 1:11. [Back]
7. 2 Cor 5:14-20. [Back]
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