A Call To True Christian Love
1 John 4:9-12
September 1, 2019
- In order for a local church to thrive, essential doctrinal agreement is required.
- That doesn’t mean everyone needs to agree on everything. However, it does mean that on key points of doctrine there needs to be agreement. Without it, it is impossible for a church flourish, because the points of disagreement will inevitably produce conflict, tension and dissension.
- That said, doctrinal unity is not all a church needs in order to thrive. You can have all the doctrinal agreement in the world, if the people fail to love each other, there is a problem.
- Illustration: Lessons from Jonathan Edwards church in Northampton, CT.
- While God’s grace is abundantly evident in how the members of our church love one another, we are wise to never lose sight of the biblical priority of love.
- The passage before us addresses the topic of true Christian love. It serves as a clear call from God to us as Christians to love one another.
I. True Christian love is defined by God’s love.
Love Is Defined By God Himself
Verse 7 – “love is from God”
Verse 8 – “God is love.”
Verse 10 “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us.”
- The Apostle John, could not be clearer, love is defined ultimately not by what we think love is, feel love is or what the culture thinks and feels love is. Rather love is defined by God Himself.
God Has Definitively Demonstrated His Love
Verse 9 –“ In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his Son into the world…”
- How can we be fully convinced that God truly is love? John says, ‘Here’s how. I will demonstrate it to you. God sent His Son into the world.’
- Application: The love of God and suffering.
Verse 9 –“…God sent his Son into the world ,so that we might live through him.”
- Apart from Christ, there is only spiritual death. Yet through through Jesus Christ there is spiritual life. There is life now in the present as the Spirit gives life to our mortal bodies (Romans 8:11).
- There is eternal life as well. “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10),” Jesus said.
Verse 10 – “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.”
- Propitiation is a little used word, yet it is a wonderful word, a glorious word, a word that properly understood should provoke our utter astonishment, amazement and joy.
- Explanation and application of the term “propitiation.”
II. True Christian love is inspired by God’s love
Verse 11 –“ Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
- God’s love doesn’t only define love, his love inspires our love as well.
- If it be true that God has indeed loved us with such great love—’well then’ — John says—’logically it follows—something else also is true. We who have received that love ought to love one another.’ The idea here is ‘God’s love rightly understood and experienced deep within one’s soul cannot be contained, rather like rushing river overflowing a dam, it ought to flow out in love to others.’
“The recipients of such love have no choice as to their response. Their sins have been taken away by this gracious act of God. He has loved them in such a way as to arouse adoring wonder at the magnitude of his sacrificial giving. They cannot do anything else but show love to one another. “
— I. Howard Marshall.
- Is your life characterized by “adoring wonder” at the enormous “magnitude” of your Savior’s sacrificial giving? It is safe to say we will only truly love others in proportion to how much our own hearts are filled with humble amazement, joyful celebration and worshipful awe at our Savior’s amazing love and sacrifice.
- Application to our life together.
III. True Christian love expresses God’s love
 “No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.”
- It seems that John is saying is that God who cannot in this present age be seen and perceived with physical eyes can now in a sense be seen and perceived through us as we love one another.
- If you think about what John is saying – we are literally agents of God’s love. We aren’t just showing what his love is like. We are actually showing Jesus’ own love to other people.
- Commenting on this verse John Stott says — “God’s love for us is perfected only when it is reproduced in us.”
- The sense of vs.12 is that God’s love hasn’t fully had it’s intended effect in our hearts, until such a point as God’s love flows steadily outward through us to other people.
What is your current experience of God’s love? How is it going with enjoying God’s love, savoring His love, delighting in His love ?
I invite every person here on this Labor Day weekend– turn your eyes upon Jesus. Prayerfully, consider Jesus, who He is, what He has done, what He promises yet to do and allow His love to so fill your heart that it overflows in love to those around you.
Questions For Discussion/Application:
- Re-read the text, 1 John 4:9-12. What initial observations and insights do you have from reading this text?
- What does it mean “God is love” ?
- What can we learn from this passage about what love is? How is God’s definition of love different from the world’s definition of love?
- How can what John says about love help us in times of trial, hardship and suffering when we might be tempted to doubt God’s love?
- Consider taking time to consider the word “propitiation” — what it means and how it applies.
- In what ways does God’s love “inspire” our love? What practically can we do to grow in our awareness of God’s love?
- How does our love actually express God’s own love to other people?
- What are one or two ways that you would personally like to grow in the area of love for others?
- Consider taking time to pray as a group for God’s help to be more aware of His love and more effective in loving others as well.