Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. – 1 John 4:7-12
As my old professor, Simon Kistemaker puts it: “God initiates love, showers it upon His people, and expects that in turn they express this same love to each other.” And because the LORD has set His love upon us, even now He is doing the work of renewing His image in us – transforming us into the likeness of His Son. Therefore, “The person who is born of God is a window through which the love of God shines into the world (Kistemaker).” That is both beautiful and profound, but we still have a bit of a challenging in understanding what John is talking about. What does John mean, exactly, when he tells us that “God is love”? You won’t have to discuss the connection between religion and morality with too many of your neighbors before one of them says: “Well, my god is a god of love.” Yet, even though they are using nearly the same words – they mean exactly the opposite of what John is teaching. When your neighbor says: “My god is a god of love,” he or she means that their imaginary god is endlessly indulgent and that he doesn’t take sin all that seriously – because he loves you just the way that you are. Beloved, that’s not love. That is simply indulgence. So, how do we know what true love is? Verses 9 and 10:
In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
“In this is love.” And John doesn’t continue by talking about warm fuzzy feelings. John tells us what God did. “God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.” And this wasn’t a response to our prior love or good works. This was entirely God’s initiative:
In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
When John writes: “God is love” he hasn’t forgotten that in chapter 1 he wrote: “God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” The Loving God John is talking about is utterly unwilling to look upon sin without condemning it. So, because He has set His love on you in Jesus Christ – He sent His own Son into this world to deal decisively with sin and to put away every bit of guilt that you have ever had. And this God, the True and Living God – loves you far too much to leave you the way that you are. Rather, He is committed to conforming you into the likeness of Jesus Christ – and He is already at work inside of you both to will and to do this.
MEMORY WORK – Shorter Catechism Q/A 92
Q. 92. What is a sacrament?
A. A sacrament is an holy ordinance instituted by Christ; wherein, by sensible signs, Christ, and the benefits of the new covenant, are represented, sealed, and applied to believers.