There are many different outward expressions of love. One expression that is common through all cultures is the act of gift-giving. It is a thoughtful expression of ones feelings to take the time to find a gift that says I was thinking of you. God has given us a gift to demonstrate His steadfast love and constant thoughts towards us. He has given the Holy Spirit as gift to His followers as an expression of His love.
DWELLING IN GOD AND DWELLING IN LOVE (1 John 4:13-16).
It is impossible to fulfill the commands of Jesus to love others in the ways God’s people should. While it is impossible within ourselves it is very possible by the dwelling of the Holy Spirit in us. As a token of the possibility to show Christian love the Spirit of God has been given to us. The transformation that takes place in our lives is how we know “that we dwell in him, and he in us” (1 Jn. 4:13).
Equally assuring as the Spirit is that the apostles personally knew Jesus. They have the testimony of seeing Jesus and what He did. It is without a doubt that they knew “the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world” (vs. 14). The disciples knew for a fact that God was indwelling them and changing people because of the gift of the Holy Spirit and the real life Jesus lived in front of them.
The promise of salvation and the indwelling of the Spirit is for anyone we come to God. “Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God” (vs. 15) is the call of God to everyone through the mouth of this apostle. Several times this call goes out to people to come to faith in Jesus and trust in Him for salvation.
It is tempting to think that any type of love is proof of God’s dwelling in people. “God is love” (vs. 16) refers to a love that is special and unlike the love we experience between friends and lovers. The love of God is a sacrificial and steadfast love and to see that displayed in today’s world is a rarity. Much of today’s love is romanticized and results in what one can gain from another in satisfying their feelings and emotions. God’s love dwelling in people though expresses itself in ways that does not seek gain and self-interest.
WHAT LOVE DOES (1 John 4:17-21).
Love like God’s love is evidence in it’s own self for us. It is evidence that we do not need to fear the “day of judgment” (vs. 17). This reminds us of John’s earlier statements on love in 4:19-22. The love of God gives us confidence that we are God’s people and encourages us even as we come to the day of Judgment.
This love of God in us is called “perfect love” (vs. 18). In this instance the word perfect comes from the Greek “telos” which means “complete,” “mature,” or “full.” It is not implying a sinlessness but a love that has matured or become complete in its motives and actions towards God and others.
There is always the fear that if we love someone that they may not love us back. There is also fear that if we love someone they will take advantage of our trust. The truth of the matter is that “He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” Love that is perfected first is love that has cast out fear or rejection and abuse. This is why love towards God and others is made perfect because of the confidence we are to have that God and other brothers and sisters in Christ will not reject our love or abuse it.
Love of this magnitude is made possible only through the fact that God “first loved us” (vs. 19). John reminds us in 3:16 that we first and most notably understand God’s love in the death of His Son Jesus Christ. This lays down the foundation of Christian love towards God and towards others. It is a love that from God as its source and ultimate example.
A person’s claim to love God while being hateful towards members of the family of God proves that person to be “liar” (vs. 20). The writer points out the difficultly of serving and loving our unseen God along with the loving those people that we can see and touch. If it is difficult for us to get along and love somebody else that is physically close to us then how can we say we love one who is invisible. Again the reminds us of the ways love can be seen in physical ways (3:17-18).
BELIEVE, LOVE, OVERCOME (1 John 5:1-5).
The call again to all that would come to salvation rings out. The availability of salvation to all that would believe in the Son of God is not limited. By salvation being so readily available there must be a common denominator among those recipients. “Born of God” (vs. 1) is the language that all those recipients have a common Father and therefore should bear a resemblance to each other because of having the same Father. The resemblance is found in the love that they have. All those born of God in the Spirit loves all those born by the Spirit.
In an alternation of thoughts the writer says that not only do we know we love God because of our love for the brethren we also know we love the brethren because we love God. “We know” (vs. 2) implies that this is internal acknowledgment of God’s love at work in in us. As we are displaying our love for God and filling His commands it would only be natural to be sharing the love for the people of God.
Jesus told his disciples that if they loved Him to keep His commandments (Jn 14:15). The writer of this letter also told his audience that we know that we know God if we keep His commandments (1 Jn. 2:3). It is only logical then to continue the line of thought that we show our love to God by keeping His commandments. The “commandments are not grevious” (4:3) but simple. They are not hard commands or numerous. We are reminded that they are to believe on the name of Jesus and love one another (3:23). The gospel is a simple and we are the ones that add difficulties to it. Reality though is that if we would truly believe in God’s Son and seek to love others that there would be such a radical transformation in our lives and in the world.
The commandments of God are not hard to follow for the believer because “whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world” (vs. 4). While there is no doubt or ignorance towards the struggles in this life to live according to the commands of God there is also understanding that by faith we overcome the the world. The temptations to shortcut or ignore the commands of God are less than influence compared to the Spirit that lives in the believer. Since Jesus has already conquered the world (cf Jn. 16:33) we know that “Because believers stay in union with Him, they also have the potential to overcome the world. (Utley, The Beloved Disciples Memoirs and Letters, Bible Lessons International).
The writer again opens up the gospel call in answering who can partake of it. Those who have victory as overcomers in this world are those that have faith. John asks “who” these faithful ones are and then answers those that believe “that Jesus is the Son of God” (vs. 5). “The faith that provides strength for spiritual victory is the faith that Jesus is God’s incarnate Son. (Lea, The General Letters, Broadman & Holman Publishers).
John wants his audience to know the gospel is available to anyone that comes. He is also concerned that they come in faith believing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Yet, the way that belief comes out is in following Christ’s command to love others. This is still true for today.