1 John 4:12-21
Stephen Caswell © 2001
Treated Like A King
King Abdullah, the ruler of Jordan since 1999, has been known to disguise himself and go out into public places. His purpose is to talk with ordinary people and find out what they are thinking, and to check up on civil servants to see how they are treating his people. He has visited hospitals and government offices to learn what kind of service they are giving. The king got the idea while in New York. He couldn't leave his motel without being mobbed, so he slipped out in disguise. It worked, so he tried it at home. He reported that once this practice was begun, civil servants started to treat everyone like kings. In the same way, God wants us to minister to people in love. How we treat them is really how treat God.
Tonight we will look at perfect love. The key word in this section is perfect. It is used four times in these 10 verses. God wants to perfect in us His love for us and our love for Him. The word perfect teleiow means mature, to complete, to finish. 1 Corinthians 13:8 says that God's love never fails. John has spent a lot of time examining love and in this passage he talks about perfect love. God’s love is proclaimed in the Word; God is love and proved at the cross. But here we have something deeper: God’s love is perfected in the believer. Tonight we will see two things that perfect love accomplishes in a believer's life. Firstly, Assurance Of God's Presence, Secondly, Assurance At Christ's Judgment.
Firstly, Assurance Of God's Presence
The word abide is used 5 times. As we have seen abide menw means to remain, to indwell, to continue. There are three things we need to observe about the abiding presence of God.
a. God Abides In Us
1 John 4:12-13: No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.
Firstly, perfect love allows God to abide in us. Believers who love one another enjoy the presence of God to the full. God is love isn't simply a doctrine in the Bible; it is an eternal fact clearly demonstrated at Calvary. God has said something to us, and God has done something for us. But all this is preparation for the third great fact: God does something in us! We are not merely students reading a book, or spectators watching a deeply moving event. We are participants in the great drama of God’s love!
In order to save money, a college drama class purchased only a few scripts of a play and cut them up into the separate parts. The director gave each player his individual part in order and then started to rehearse the play. But nothing went right. After an hour of missed cues and mangled sequences, the cast gave up. At that point, the director sat the actors all on the stage and said: Look, I’m going to read the entire play to you, so don’t any of you say a word. He read the entire script aloud, and when he was finished, one of the actors said: So that’s what it was all about! And when they understood the entire story, they were able to fit their parts together and have a successful rehearsal.
When you read 1 John 4:12–16, you feel like saying, So that’s what it’s all about! Because here we discover what God had in mind when He devised His great plan of salvation. To begin with, God’s desire is to live in us. He is not satisfied simply to tell us that He loves us, or even show us that He loves us. Perfect love involves God loving a lost world through believers. Paul prayed the Ephesians would experience this.
Ephesians 3:14-19: For this reason I pray that God would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height — to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Faith, love and the fullness of God working together make us complete and effective to minister to the lost.
Originally God had perfect fellowship with man in the Garden of Eden. Unfortunately, sin entered the world and this fellowship was broken. Yet, God still desired to have fellowship with man. So He had the children of Israel build the tabernacle and later the temple. These places of worship became God's dwelling place. But again man's sin caused the Lord to leave. Then Jesus Christ came to earth and dwelt among us. Through His finished work on the cross Jesus has made it possible for God to dwell with man again, only in a more intimate way.
The glory of God now lives in the bodies of God’s children. 1 Corinthians 6:19: Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? The glory of God departed from the tabernacle and the temple when Israel disobeyed God, but Jesus has promised that the Spirit will abide in us forever. He will never leave us nor forsake us. The Spirit is God's seal of ownership. He has promised to complete His good work in us at the day of Jesus Christ.
b. Christ's Testimony Abides In Us
1 Joh 4:14-15: And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.
Secondly, perfect love allows us to witness for Jesus Christ. When Jesus came to mankind He preached the Gospel of God's love. Shouldn't we do the same? Absolutely! Perfect love motivates us to reach the lost with the Good News. Why? Because we are concerned about them. We love them and want them to believe in the Savior! 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, 20: For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.
Three different witnesses are suggested in these verses: 1. The witness in the believer by the Spirit. v 13. 2. The witness through the believer that God is love and that He sent His Son to die for the world. v 14. 3. The witness of the believer that Jesus Christ is God’s Son v15. These witnesses cannot be separated. The world will not believe that God loves sinners until they see His love at work in His children’s lives. If God's love is perfected in us we will both tell people about God's salvation and show them the reality of it through our deeds.
Showing God's Love
A Salvation Army worker found a derelict woman alone on the street and invited her to come into the chapel for help, but the woman refused to move. The worker assured her: We love you and want to help you. God loves you. Jesus died for you. But the woman did not budge. As if on divine impulse, the Army lassie leaned over and kissed the woman on the cheek, taking her into her arms. The woman began to sob, and like a child was led into the chapel, where she ultimately trusted Christ. You told me that God loved me, she said later, but it wasn’t till you showed me that God loved me that I wanted to be saved.
c. God's Faith & Knowledge Abide In Us
1 John 4:16: And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.
It Pays Better
A popular and influential novelist of our day espouses a philosophy that is godless and totally self-centered. She is the hero of one of her early novels where she says this, The word we must never be spoken .... I see the face of a god, and I raise this god over all the earth. This god will grant joy, and peace and pride. This god is I. The author says that pride is the sum of all the virtues. A discerning reviewer made this statement about this novelist. She seems to be one of the unhappiest persons who ever lived. If we love ourselves like this woman does we will never know the joy of living with God. He will not abide with hatred, pride and selfishness. God abides with His children when they are humble, loving and giving.
Finally, perfect love enables us to grow in faith and knowledge. The more we love God, the more we understand the love of God. And the more we understand His love, the easier it is for us to trust Him. After all, when you know someone intimately and love him sincerely, you have no problem putting your confidence in him. If God is love, will He abide with people who hate? No He won't, because that would go against His very nature. It is because we know that God loves us that we can love Him and our fellowman. God showed us what love really is through Jesus Christ.
The Preeminence Of Love
If love is the soul of Christian existence, it must be at the heart of every other Christian virtue. Thus, for example, justice without love is legalism; faith without love is ideology; hope without love is self-centeredness; forgiveness without love is self-abasement; fortitude without love is recklessness; generosity without love is extravagance; care without love is mere duty; fidelity without love is servitude. Every virtue is an expression of love. No virtue is really a virtue unless it is permeated, or informed, by love. 1 Corinthians 13 reveals this!
God perfects His children through love. Are you enjoying His presence in your life? Are you witnessing for Jesus Christ? Do you back it up with loving deeds? Are you growing in faith and knowledge? Is your love for God growing as you learn how much He loves you?
Secondly, Assurance At Christ's Judgment
a. Love Brings Boldness
1 John 4:17: Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world.
Hebrews 9:27 says: It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment. But a Christian does not fear future judgment, because Christ has suffered his judgment for him on the cross. John 5:24: Truly, truly I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. Romans 8:1: There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Through the new birth we become part of God's family. If God loved us when we were sinners how much more does He love us now we are His children?
For a Christian, judgment is not future; it is past. His sins have been judged already at the cross, and they will never be brought against him again. The secret of our boldness is, As He is, so are we in this world. 1 John 4:17b: Positionally, we are right now as He is. We are so closely identified with Christ, as members of His body, that our position in this world is like His exalted position in heaven. This means that the Father deals with us as He deals with His own beloved Son. Is Christ's work sufficient? Then, shouldn't we be confident?
b. Love Banishes Fear
1 John 4:18: There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.
Fear is actually the beginning of torment. We torment ourselves as we contemplate what lies ahead. Many people suffer acutely when they contemplate a visit to the dentist. Think of how an unsaved person must suffer as he contemplates the day of judgment. But since a Christian has boldness in the day of judgment, he can have boldness as he faces life today, for there is no situation of life today that begins to compare with the terrible severity of the day of judgment. God wants His children to live in an atmosphere of love and confidence, not fear and torment. We need not fear life or death, for we are being perfected in the love of God.
Paul experienced perfect love in his life. He wrote this in Romans 8:35,37-39: Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The perfecting of God’s love in our lives is usually a matter of several stages. When we were lost, we lived in fear and knew nothing of God’s love. After we trusted Christ, we found a perplexing mixture of both fear and love in our hearts. But as we grew in fellowship with the Father, gradually the fear vanished and our hearts were controlled by His love alone. An immature Christian is tossed between fear and love; a mature Christian rests in God’s love.
c. Love Began With God
1 John 4:19: We love Him because He first loved us.
Up to this point, the emphasis has been on Christians loving one another; but now we turn to a deeper, and more important topic: a believer’s love for the Father. We cannot love our neighbor or our brother unless we love our Heavenly Father. We must first love God with all our hearts; then we can love our neighbor as ourselves. John has already told us that we cannot love both the world and the Father. It is one or the other. Now John reminds why we love God. Because He first loved us.
A believer is not only to grow in grace and knowledge, but he is also to grow in his love for the Father. He does this in response to the Father’s love for him. In other words, the Christian life is to be a daily experience of growing in the love of God. It involves a Christian’s coming to know his Heavenly Father in a much deeper way as he grows in love. How much does God love us? Enough to send His Son to die for us. The reason we love God is because He first loved us. As we have seen already God loved us while we were still His sinners. It's because God treated us this way when we were His enemies that we love Him.
Friendliness To Enemies
The Civil War had just ended and some of the more ruthless Northerners began to lord it over their fellow Southerners. A hot blooded contingency of die hard former rebels gained an audience with President Lincoln. His gentle, friendly manner soon thawed the ice and the Southerners left with a new respect for their old foe. A northern congressman approached the president and criticized him for befriending the enemy. He suggested that instead of befriending him he should have them shot as traitors. Lincoln smiled and replied, Am I not destroying my enemies by making them my friends? This is what God has done for us!
d. Love Between Brethren
1 John 4:20-21: If someone says, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.
Here it is for the seventh time: If a man say ..... ! We have met this important phrase several times, and each time we knew what was coming: a warning against pretending. Fear and pretense usually go together. An immature Christian who is not growing in his love for God may think he has to impress others with his spirituality. This mistake turns him into a liar! He is professing something that he is not really practicing; he is playing a role instead of living a life. Talking about love our for God is empty if we hate our brother or hold a grudge!
We can't claim to love God and hate our brother at the same time. It's just impossible. If God's love is perfected in us we must love God and our brother also. God never fills our heart with love for Him and hatred for our brother at the same time. Love and hatred can't live together. Jesus said the Law and the prophets were summed up in two commandments. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart soul and mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself. Consequently to break either is to break the whole law. Do you love or hate?
William Barclay said: More people have been brought into the church by the kindness of real Christian love than by all the theological arguments in the world, and more people have been driven from the church by the hardness and ugliness of so-called Christianity than by all the doubts in the world.
A well known child psychologist spent many hours constructing a new driveway at his home. Just after he smoothed the surface of the freshly poured concrete, his small children chased a ball across the driveway. They left many deep footprints in the new concrete. The man yelled at them with a torrent of angry words. His wife was shocked and said to him, you're a psychologist who's supposed to love children. The fuming man shouted, I love children in the abstract, but not in the concrete. We may laugh at this statement, but how true it is for all of us. It's easy to talk about love, but much more costly to practice. Do you love people with pious words or in deed and in truth?
Are you confident about the judgment day? Or does fear and torment trouble you? God wants us to have boldness in the day of judgment. But we can only experience this as we are perfected in love. Is your love for the Lord growing? Do you love Him with all your heart, soul and mind? Do you love your neighbor as yourself? Will you allow God to perfect His love in you?
Tonight we saw two things that perfect love accomplishes in a believer's life. Firstly, Assurance Of God's Presence, Secondly, Assurance At Christ's Judgment. Will you allow God to perfect His love in you?
2 Corinthians 13:14: The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.