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The Love Blog: 1 John 4:11-21

April 3, 2007

I like to preach the Sunday after Christmas.  The Advent series is over and I don’t want to start up the 2 Corinthians series again because so many are still out of town, so I get to pick a text that I’ve been hungering to study for the sake of my own soul.  This year I’ve chosen the well known “God is love” passage in 1 John 4, because while I was studying the book of Romans this fall, the Lord impressed upon me the importance of two things.  I’ve become more deeply convinced than ever that we receive strength to live a joyful God-glorifying life as we exult in two things:  justification by faith alone, and the unfathomable riches of the love that God has for us.   Now you know that I have been able to spend much time studying the former.  I have been blessed as I have dug deep into the wellspring of justification and imputed righteousness and you have heard of that in several recent sermons.  But until this week I had not found the time to study more purposefully on this great theme of the love of God.   We need to know how much God loves us.  Paul prays for the church that we would be “strengthened with power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge– that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”  It is to put myself in the path of blessing along which God is pleased to answer that prayer, that I have chosen to study 1 John 4:11-21. 

But there is another reason why this text is a fitting text for the Sunday after Christmas.  The text begins in 1 John 4:11 “Beloved, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another”  and we ask “how has God so loved us?”  and we look up to verse 9 and read “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.”  There’s Christmas.  God sent his only Son into the world.  So now the rest of the chapter will tell us what we are to learn from the Christmas message and how we are to respond to it. 

Verse 12 continues “No one has ever seen God.”  John uses the same phrase in the first chapter of his gospel “No one has ever seen God, but God the Only Begotten, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.”  Jesus came to make the Father known, He is the image of the invisible God.  And John declares that he has seen his glory.  As one of the twelve apostles he declares to us what he has seen, what he has looked at and his hands have touched.   But we weren’t there.  We’ve never seen Jesus, the Word made flesh with our physical eyes.  Is that just too bad for us?  We have to take John’s word for it?  No, the book of 1 John is all about how we can know things.  John wrote this book to give us assurance of the truth of our faith.  So John writes in verse 12 “No one has ever seen God” as he wrote in his gospel, but then he says something remarkable instead of saying what we might expect “No one has ever seen God, but Jesus has come and made him known”  he says “No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.” 

Do you hear what John is saying?  This is astounding.  Jesus Christ came historically in the flesh, but now that he has ascended to the Father, his presence is manifested in this world through Spirit-indwelt saints loving one another.  Being in a Spirit-filled loving fellowship of saints is the closest you can come to seeing God in this world.  Sometimes we need to get away from people and seek solitude and the refreshment of seeking God up in the mountains under the stars.  The heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of his hands.  But don’t forget that the most Godlike thing in all creation is sitting next to you.  Mountains aren’t made in the image of God, people are.  And in the case of a brother or sister in Christ, it is a person who is being progressively transformed into the image of Christ.  So seek God through the means of grace we call fellowship, as well as through solitude and study.   When we love one another in the power of the indwelling Spirit, we see God.

Our love for one another is so important, it actually manifests God’s presence in the world.  Isn’t that what Jesus taught in John 13, the world will know you are my disciples when you love one another.  God’s love is perfected in us when we love one another.  That word “perfected” of course doesn’t mean that there was ever anything imperfect about the love of God.  Perfected here means “achieves it’s ultimate goal”  The ultimate goal of God’s love is to glorify Himself through creating a community of people who love one another with the very love that indwells them by the Holy Spirit.  A people who manifest His presence by loving one another with the love that is Himself.  God is love.  And where we love one another in the power of the Spirit, God is seen.  That’s His eternal plan, that’s the way he is manifesting and radiating His glory: By sending His Son to be an atoning sacrifice for our sins, to purchase for himself a people of his very own, indwelt by His Spirit, loving one another and thus radiating His presence.

These two final phrases in verse 12 provide the outline for the rest of the chapter.  God abides in us, and his love is perfected in us.   That phrase “God abides in us” will be repeated three times in the next paragraph, verses 13-16.  And the word “perfect” occurs three times in the final paragraph, verses 17-21.   First…

I. God abides in us (read 13-16)

(more to come…)

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