Hello, welcome back to another blog post on 1 John! Today, we’ll be taking a look at 1 John 4:7-21. As always, be sure to read over the text beforehand or follow along as we go. If you are new here, this is actually the ninth post in the series, so if you’re interested in reading about what we’ve covered and learned so far…feel free to check the previous posts here. 

Today’s passage is all about love. The first couple of things that probably pop into your mind when you hear “love” likely involve romance, dating, marriage, etc. (I know it did for me! Ok, that was a joke, please laugh.) But today, we will be talking about a love that is much greater, much stronger, and much more powerful than any love we could possibly conjure up. And the answer to “What kind of love is that?” God. (Get it because God is love, so God’s love, hahaha…I’ll stop, you won’t be seeing any more of these for the remainder of this post). 

The text today explores the scope of God’s love and the implications of it: how that love was presented to us, how it was displayed in Jesus Christ, and how that love transforms and changes us.

A short warning: for the organizational purposes of exploring these three topics, the verses referenced in this post might be a bit out of order, so just be wary of that.

1 John 4:7-21

7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

13 This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

How God’s love is presented to us

The first thing I wanted to take a look at today is how the text answers the question of “How is/was God’s love presented to us?” There are two verses in particular that sort of address that question today:

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4:10)

We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19)

What is so special about these two verses? They both show the initiative of God. Who loved first? God loved first. This isn’t meant to be a dive into predestination or whatever, but to really take a look at the initiative that God takes in his love. And it’s significant, because it shows that God is not passive. He doesn’t just sit back and leave us alone to figure this sin problem out, but rather, he takes and is taking an active role in the redemption of his people. Let’s think back to the first couple of the books of the Bible and recall some of the events and characters there.

Noah and the ark. Who initiates there? It was God.

Abraham and his covenant. Who initiates there? Again, it was God.

Moses and the burning bush. Who initiates there? Once again, God. 

And once we realize this pattern in the Old Testament of God initiating and taking an active role, we can recognize that it doesn’t end there. As we keep flipping through the pages, God’s active role continues in the sweep towards the sacrificial work of Jesus on the cross.

How God’s love was displayed through Christ Jesus

And now, with God’s initiative in mind, let’s head into the second topic. We are able to really appreciate how God displays his love through Jesus. Let’s take a look at the text:

9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4:9-10)

How was God’s love displayed and made known to us? Through the death through which Jesus paid, and in return, the life that was given to us. His atoning death has led to the forgiveness of our sin. But what makes that love so grand and almost baffling? It’s that God is not obligated to send Jesus for the forgiveness of sin, he doesn’t have to do it, but he does willingly. He takes the initiative and loves first, even if it is for a people that do not––and may not––love him back.

God’s love transforms and changes us

The last thing I wanted to take a look at regarding this passage is how God’s love transforms and changes us. At the beginning of this post, I mentioned how powerful God’s love is, and this entire passage really brings that into focus:

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:8)

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. (1 John 4:11-12)

This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (1 John 4:17-18)

Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. (1 John 4:20-21).

Again, God’s love is not a passive love. And in that same way, God’s love does not act passively in us. It drives us, it transforms, and it changes us. It drives us to love one another (v.11), to care for our brothers and sisters (vv. 20-21), gives us confidence towards God even in judgement (vv. 17-18), and transforms us to be more like Christ (v. 17). If God was willing to take the initiative to love and sacrifice Christ for these people, then surely I can go out of my way to love them as well. 

God’s love does not act passively in us. It drives us, it transforms, and it changes us.

WIth a better understanding today of how God takes initiative in his love, how can we, today, take initiative in our love? What does it look like to take initiative to love a fellow brother or sister? A neighbour? A family member? Maybe it’s something small, like asking someone how they’ve been doing. Or maybe it’s something a bit bigger, like apologizing to a brother or sister, asking for forgiveness. Regardless, we do not love because it’s something we have to do, or because we are obligated, but because God’s love drives us to do it. If we follow Jesus, we serve a God who decided to take initiative to give his one and only Son as a ransom in exchange for many. And that should change us, and transform us, to take some initiative of our own. 

Thank you for reading, and hope to see you again for our next and final post on 1 John! 

Read more posts in Jason’s 1 John Series. 

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About the Author

Jason Cheong

Jason is a third-year economics student involved at P2C-S at UofT. While he’s not slacking off and distracting others to also slack off, he enjoys video games, eating out with his friends, reading the Bible, and making blog posts about them.

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