The First Letter of the Apostle John : Study No.12

Study No.12 (1 John 4:11-21)

Review (1 John 4:7-10)

If we belong to the family of God through faith in the Lord Jesus then God commands us to love our brothers and sisters in the Messiah. It is not an option that we decide whether we will take it or not. God’s love is the royal law of his Kingdom both in heaven and on earth in the hearts of His people in whom His love has been shed abroad in abundance by the blessed Holy Spirit of God (Romans 5:5). We cannot love God and experience His love but not love His children (1 John 3:11, 16-18). God’s love shed abroad in our heart by the Holy Spirit is the sure mark that we have been spiritually reborn from above and have received the very divine nature of God Himself (2 Peter 1:4) (Galatians 5:22-23).

If we do not know this love in our hearts and lives then we do not know God because He is love in its fullest and most perfected expression. He does not only give love but is love itself. He is Agape, a love that gives and is reciprocated and that without partiality. For agape to work there must be a giver and a receiver and it is a love that must be reciprocated. This is one of the reasons that God is triune in nature. Before anything was created God existed and He was agape and that agape was freely shared and reciprocated with the Lord Jesus and with the Holy Spirit all being one in nature, attribute, thought, feeling, purpose and action.

God demonstrates and shows us His love to the point where He was willing to send His one and only begotten Son into the world to die for our sins. He was made a sacrifice for our sin that we might receive His righteous nature (2 Corinthians 5:21). Only through His eternal nature dwelling in us by the Holy Spirit can we be partakers of the eternal life that is exactly the same as His eternal nature. It is not that we have done anything to deserve His love because by nature and by birth we are born into this world as rebels and sinners and need a new nature within us. In the work of the New Birth God does not patch up the old nature but imparts a brand new spiritual nature that loves God and desires to keep His commandments.

It is the agape of God freely given and freely reciprocated and that without restraint. God sent His Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. His sacrifice and shed blood turned aside the wrath of God from falling on us because it fell on Him instead. When we repent and turn by faith alone to the Lord Jesus to save us from sin, from hell and from this present evil age, God accepts us into His eternal family for the sake of his beloved Son. We are accepted by God in the beloved Jesus (Ephesians 1:6).

Exposition 1 John 4:11-21

(Vs.11) “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

Once again, the apostle of love who laid his head upon the breast of the Lord Jesus at the last supper reminds us all as the Body of Messiah that we should put that love into action by following the example of our Lord Jesus who laid down His life for us even though we did not deserve it, earn it or merit it because of our wilful sin and rebellion. We can easily love those who love us but how can we love those who oppose us, irritate us, persecute us and speak all manner of evil against us? How can we love that brother or sister in the fellowship who drives us up the wall with their difficult personality? How do we handle those closest to us, our wife, our husband, our children, our parents and relatives when they opposes us and frustrate us time and time again?

We cannot love unless God’s love through the Holy Spirit imparts and sustains that love in us and through us to others. With man this is impossible but with God all things are possible especially when it comes to loving those who are extremely difficult to love. As Paul writes in his first letter to the Corinthians that we can speak in tongues, prophecy, have spiritual knowledge and insight, and possess that faith that can move mountains and give to the poor yet without love achieve nothing of real spiritual value that counts with God (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).

(Vs.12-13) “No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.  

In the Old Testament there were people who encountered God on earth and even exclaimed “I have seen God face to face and yet lived” (Genesis 32:30) (Deuteronomy 5:24) (Judges 6:22–23) (Judges 13:22). In all such cases it was the Angel of the LORD who appeared to them and spoke to them. It was of course no ordinary angel but the Lord Jesus Himself before His incarnation as a man in Mary’s womb. Now we are told in the Bible that God spoke to Moses as a man speaks with his friend (Exodus 33:11).

At one time Moses asked God to show him His glory but God said that no one could look at Him face to face and live and that included Moses of course (Exodus 33:20). God then put Moses into a cleft in the rock and covered him with His hand until His glory had passed by Moses and then after God had removed His hand Moses saw only the back of God (Exodus 33:21-23). The cleft of the rock in which God put Moses figuratively pointed to the Messiah and that through Him and His atoning work at the cross, those who trust Him to save them will ultimately see God face to face in heaven.

When the Lord Jesus walked this earth men and women could see God face to face in the person of the Lord Jesus, the express image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15; 2:9) (John 1:14). In the Old Testament they saw God face to face in the person of the Angel of the LORD the pre-existent Messiah before He became flesh. The Angel of the LORD had the power and authority to forgive sin (Exodus 23:21). Only God can forgive sin as with man and angels this is not possible. When the Lord Jesus forgave people their sins He was showing to them that He was God and that He had equal authority with His Father to do just that (Matthew 9:6). And so John tells us that while no man still in his body living on earth has seen God face to face, He can be seen in the lives of His people, because His love has been poured out into their hearts by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5).

While in this life we cannot see God face to face we can experience His love and in this we can know by an inward revelation (Ginosko) what God is like. Having experienced that love as believers, we can know the inward assurance from the Holy Spirit that God abides and remains and lives in us and that as we walk by faith and obedience to that love it is perfected in us. Our faith is a faith that works by love (Galatians 5:6). The blessed Holy Spirit, who releases this love into our spiritually regenerated human spirit testifies supernaturally to the fact that we have God’s love and are accepted by Him in the beloved Jesus (Romans 8:16) (Ephesians 1:6). Only the blessed Holy Spirit can do this supernatural spiritual work in the human spirit. With man this is impossible but with God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26). And so John continues…

(Vs.14) “We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.”

Once again we see John testifying to the fact that the Lord Jesus was sent from heaven to earth at His incarnation to be the saviour of the world. He eternally existed with the Father and with the Holy Spirit and left heaven’s glory to tabernacle among men (John 1:14). John the Baptist testified to this fact when he said concerning the Lord Jesus; “He was before me” (John 1:15b).

(Vs.15) “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.”

Our confession of the Lord Jesus is part and parcel of our salvation. We believe and confess Him and as a result of what we believe in our heart and confess with our mouth our salvation is the result (Romans 10:9-13). Of course there must first be repentance before spiritual regeneration and renewal (Acts 3:20). To believe that the Lord Jesus is the Son of God is to believe in His divine origin and pre-existence with the Father. While all born again believers are called sons of God by virtue of adoption into His eternal family the Lord Jesus is the one and only begotten Son, not a created being as was Adam who was created without sin. The difference between Adam and the Lord Jesus is that Adam, the first man created was from the earth, but the second man from heaven (1 Corinthians 15:45-48).

Only God could die for sin. Scripture tells us that even though God was in heaven He was also in the Messiah at the cross reconciling the world to Himself (2 Corinthians 5:19). Of course God Himself cannot die in heaven but in the Messiah He could die physically yet in Sheol God was not dead and neither was the Messiah dead. While in Sheol the Messiah Himself as God the only begotten Son preached to the imprisoned spirits there in that place (1 Peter 3:10-20). If God abides in us then we also abide in Him. We are joined to the Lord and one in spirit with Him (1 Corinthians 6:17). The Lord Jesus lives in us by His Spirit and He Himself is our life. Apart from union with God through the Messiah we have no spiritual life in us at all (Colossians 3:4). Now let’s continue..

(Vs.16-17) “We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the Day of Judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world.

Because God abides or continues as a settled presence in our spiritually reborn inner spirit we have come to know and experience and believe the love which God has for us. While our feelings are changeable and often affected by circumstances deep down on the inside of us we have the assurance that He loves us as revealed in His unchanging Word.

We are also told that God is love. It floods His very being. Everything that He does is in love. This love is expressed towards all He has created. As the psalmist writes; “The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in loving devotion. The LORD is good to all; His compassion rests on all He has made” (Psalm 145: 9). While God loves sinners, which all of us are by birth and by nature, He is also a just God and every decision He makes is done in love.

Having said this all of us must give an account to Him for how we have lived our lives down here on earth. His salvation was the fullest expression of His love revealed at the cross. Those who reject so great a salvation will themselves suffer the consequences of rejecting what God in His infinite love has provided for their salvation (Hebrews 2:3). There is a hell awaiting people who are wilfully wicked and even nations that choose to forget God (Psalm 9:17).

If God let those who practice sin into heaven then heaven would become as spiritually polluted as the earth. By nature He is love but also righteous in His nature, just and fair in His judgements and dealings with fallen man, judgements which are already at work in this world (Psalm 105:7). It may look as if wicked men are getting away with their wickedness but He is still in control of everything that happens and the wicked we are told in God’s Word are here today and gone tomorrow. As it is written; “The wicked are not so, But they are like chaff which the wind drives away” (Psalm 1:4).

And again God says in His Word; “For evildoers will be cut off, But those who wait for the Lord, they will inherit the land. Yet a little while and the wicked man will be no more; And you will look carefully for his place and he will not be there” (Psalm 37:9-10). Also it is written; “But the wicked and enemies of the LORD will perish like the glory of the fields. They will vanish; like smoke they will fade away” (Psalm 37:20).

As born again believers once the love of God has been shed abroad in our heart by the blessed Holy Spirit we will be empowered by the Spirit to abide in God, to rest in Him and to draw continuously by faith upon His divine life and power in all the changing circumstances of life even with our conflicting emotions and times of tumultuous and turbulent circumstances that we all face from time to time in life. Just as the branch of the vine draws its nourishment from the vine itself to produce fruit, so as we remain connected to the true vine our Lord Jesus by faith and under the control of His love, we too will bear spiritual fruit for God (John 15:5).

The secret to this is abiding, resting, remaining in and continuing to live by faith in Him and by drawing on His love and allowing it to flow out from our regenerated spirit man into every compartment of our soul life. As we continually abide in God He also continuously abides in us. By allowing God’s love to remain in us as a living fountain of His divine life that love is perfected in us in that it increases in us to overflow to others. If we have this love and abide in it then we have nothing to fear on the day of judgement because practicing this love fulfils all the requirements of God’s laws and commandments (Romans13:8-10).

Because the nature of the Lord Jesus has been infused into our inner spirit by the indwelling Spirit of God, we are empowered to be as Jesus was in this world in that as He reflected the love of God we too like Him will do the same. We are told in the Bible; “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with Him” (Acts 10:38). If we are seeking to be conformed to the image of the Son of God in our daily walk as a New Covenant believer then we will have confidence before God in the day of judgement and not be condemned along with the rest of the unsaved in the world. And then we read…

(Vs.18-19) “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us.

When we give into fear and anxiety then God’s love is hindered from flowing out of us and our faith in Him weakened if we allow that fear and anxiety to control us.  This is why we must continuously cast all of our anxieties on to Him and roll all of our burdens onto Him because He cares for us and will sustain us in that time of anxiety and emotional turbulence (1 Peter 5:7) (Psalm 55:22). He will continuously save us and bless us and be our shepherd and carry us on His broad shoulders forever to out eternal sheepfold (Psalm 28:9). As we learn to accept that we are loved by God and yield to the control of that love in us then fear of judgement will be annulled because we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

As King David wrote; “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:16b).  If we have prefect love springing up out of our inner spirit man and controlling the soul then we have nothing to fear from God. We love God as a result of the inward revelation that He loved us first even when we were still living lives of sinful rebellion and were turned around by the work of the Spirit of God leading us to repentance and saving faith in the Lord Jesus. The result being that we love Him because He first loved us and was the appeasing sacrifice offered up before God on the sacrificial altar of the cross to atone for our sin. Now let’s read on…

(Vs.20) “If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.

To love God is to also love others, not just those who are likeable humanly speaking, or who do not make life hard for us, but for all men whether they are for us or against us. This is especially true concerning our fellow brothers and sisters in the Messiah our Lord Jesus. To hate is a very strong world. To dislike ones actions or personality is one thing but to hate the person themselves is something else that God does not approve of as it is against His nature. God hates sin of course and it cannot abide in his presence but He still loves the sinner.

Having said this, to hate another person especially a fellow believer in this context is to pursue that person with hatred and to detest them. It is a continuous action that does not check itself but runs its full course and is the same as physical murder, and he or she who hates in this way has no eternal life dwelling in them (1 John 3:15). One cannot profess to love God while at the same time harbouring or nurturing this kind of hate in their heart. To profess to love God while hating another is to not love God at all. While we can hate the actions of people we must make sure we do not hate them personally. At times this can be a very fine line between the two, however, vengeance belongs to God and when He exercises it then it will have its full effect according to His perfect, righteous and just nature, not out of vindictiveness (Romans 12:19). He is the judge of all the earth and when He judges it is just and perfect in His exercising of it (Genesis 18:25) (Deuteronomy 32:4).

As it is also written; “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you” (Psalm 89:14). When God executes righteousness and justice on earth this foundation of His throne of justice is supported by His love and faithfulness. Righteousness, justice, love and faithfulness are all fused together and operate in perfect harmony with each other within the very eternal being of God. So then if we cannot love those who we see then how can we love God whom we cannot see? To hate, to pursue and to detest another person, especially a fellow believer, is to violate the greatest commandment of all to love God with all of our entire being and to love our neighbour as we would love ourselves. Upon these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets!

(Vs.21) “And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.”

This command is not optional for a born again, blood redeemed, blood washed child of the Living God. When a fellowship of the Body of Messiah lives this kind of relationship the world will sit up and take notice. Did not the Messiah our Lord Jesus say; “A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you also must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35). Love is the royal law of heaven, it is at the very core of God’s being, it is commanded in His Word and incumbent on every born again blood purchased child of the living God and that without exception. To abide in love is to abide in the light but to abide in hate is to abide in the darkness and light and darkness have nothing in common. We are either walking in the light of God’s love and that by faith, or we are walking in the darkness in companionship with the devil. There is no middle ground in this matter.

As John writes; “This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses (is cleansing) us from all sin” (1 John 1:5-7).

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