************ Sermon on 1 John 4:8-9 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on March 15, 2020
1 John 4:7-12
1 John 4:8b-9
"God is Love"
Love is mentioned nine times in our Bible reading and twenty-one times in verses 7-21. It should be no surprise, then, that love is our theme as we continue to observe Lent.
I have three points. First, complete or perfect love. Second, God is love. Third, the love of God in Christ.
I Complete/Perfect Love
A Love, love, love, love. But not just love in general. John has in mind perfect love, or love that is complete. Listen to what he says in verses 12, 17, 18:
(1 Jn 4:12) No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.What is perfect love? What is love that is complete? It is love to which nothing can be added. It is love that cannot be improved upon. When Jesus said from the cross, "It is finished" (Jn 19:30), He used a form of the word complete or perfect. He was saying His work was complete, it was perfect; nothing can be added to it; nothing can improve upon His work.
(1 Jn 4:17) In this way, love is made complete among us ...
(1 Jn 4:18) There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear ...
B Perfect love. Complete love. I can't tell you the number of times I've been asked to use our Bible reading for a wedding sermon. However, no matter how pure and how strong is the love of a bride and groom for each other, we all know this love is not complete and perfect. There is always room for something to be added. There is always room for improvement.
We also know that the love between brothers and sisters is not complete and perfect either -- whether it is a physical family or the family of God. There is always room for something to be added. There is always room for improvement. That's why John keeps instructing us and commanding us to "love one another" (1 Jn 2:7-11; 3:11-15; 4:7ff).
There is only one love that is complete and perfect. That is the love of God. And that is the love we are focusing on today as we continue to observe Lent.
II God is Love
A Our second point is that "God is love." Love is God's nature. Love is the essence of God's being. And, when Christians are called to love, they are called to be like God. If you are going to call yourself a Christian, if you say you belong to God, then you imitate God. The children of God imitate God. They imitate His light, His life, His love.
Remember the problem with the Gnostics -- this is the heresy John was working against. They emphasized knowledge, knowing, secret knowledge revealed only to them. And, they made no attempt to imitate God; they made no attempt to love as God loves. In spite of their knowledge, John would say they don't really know God. Because if they know God they would imitate God's light, God's life, God's love.
B "God is love." Some people turn this around and say this means that "love is God." In the Greek, the word "God" has an article in front: "the God." The God; NOT the love. The emphasis is on God. Meaning what? Meaning love does not define God, but God defines love. "The God is love." We can't impose the human view of love on God. It is the human view of love that says, "If God is really a God of love, why does He allow the coronavirus, why did He allow Hitler and Stalin, why did He allow AIDS, why did He allow the swine flu?" God, not us, defines what love is.
C We see proofs of God's love all around us. Creation is proof of God's love. God is complete and perfect in Himself. He didn't and doesn't need anything outside of Himself. And yet, out of love, He fashioned this vast universe. Out of love He made plants and trees. Out of love He made fish and birds. Out of love He made living creatures. Out of love He made man in His image, His likeness.
And, out of love God cares for His creation. Again, God is complete and perfect in Himself. There is nothing in God that requires Him to spend an ounce of energy on what He has made. But He does. He upholds heaven and earth and all creatures. He so rules them that nothing comes to us by chance but only from His fatherly hand. He makes springs pour water into the ravines and give water to all creatures. He makes grass grow for the cattle and plants for man. He commands the sun to rise and set and the moon to mark off the seasons. He does all of this out of love.
The love of God also explains redemption and salvation. If God is only holy and just, He would leave us in our sin and guilt and resulting judgment and punishment. In that case, God's law would hold sway, the body will die, the soul will appear before God, and we would be forever damned. But God is love. Therefore, He does not desire or delight in the death of the wicked.
The love of God explains the evangelistic mission of the church. The well-meant offer of the Gospel is proclaimed to the ends of the earth and all are told to repent and believe.
The love of God explains our government and its agencies, our roads and bridges and sewers and irrigation canals, our courts and prisons, our hospitals and medical clinics and the CDC, our national parks. God's common grace is bestowed upon us so all can enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
"God is love." I hope you see the all-encompassing, general, universal love of God for man. I hope you see God's complete and perfect love. Don't credit any of this to nature, to natural law, to the government or any other power. The credit for all of this goes to the God. The God of love.
III The Love of God in Christ
A This brings us to our third point, the love of God in Christ.
God is love. We see this in creation, providence, redemption, evangelism, common grace. God is love. There are so many expressions of Gods love; I am sure you can think of some I have not mentioned. But I need to mention one more, the one mentioned by our text. We especially see the love of God in Christ:
(1 Jn 4:9) 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.God sent His one and only Son, His only begotten Son, the Son that He loves. There is no greater gift. This is God's unsurpassing gift. He sent His Son into the world. Remember what John said about this in chapter one?
(1 Jn 1:1) That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched ...We heard Him. We saw Him. We examined Him. Our hands touched Him. He was sent by God into our world. He was sent in the flesh, in our flesh. He was like us in every way, except for sin. He left the glories and perfections of heaven and was sent to this sin-filled and sin-ravaged earth. We are looking at this in tonight's message -- the sending of Christ. What a gift. What a gift of love. Why? So we might live. So ours is eternal life.
Think about this. It tells us what God wants. What does God want? He wants us with Him forever. He wants to spend eternity with us. The God, the holy and awesome God, wants us! Not because we are so desirable. Not because we are so lovely. Not because we are such nice creatures. But because the God is love.
B God is love. You all know the word for love: agape. Agape love is a giving love. A love that gives for the sake of the other person. A love that seeks nothing in return. It is unconditional. It is generous. It is unearned. It is undeserved. Agape love is complete and perfect. Agape love is love to which nothing can be added. It is love that cannot be improved upon. It is love to the max. It is love over the top.
What does that love look like? What does it do? Look at Jesus. Look at why the God sent Jesus out of love. Listen to what John says in verse 10:
(1 Jn 4:10) This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.All of the Bible is the Word of God. But this is one of those verses which kind of sticks out. One of those verse I am sure that many here have memorized. The God sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice. Other translations use the word "expiation, propitiation."
Atoning sacrifice, expiation, propitiation. It means to appease, satisfy, placate an angry God. God says the wages of sin is death. That means unless God's wrath is appeased, unless His justice is satisfied, every man and woman and child will surely perish.
We, none of us, are able to do this. None of us are able to appease God's wrath. None of us are able to satisfy the requirements of God's justice. We are lost. We are helpless. We are doomed. We are headed for hell.
But God does something out of love. God does something in Christ. God sent Christ as "an atoning sacrifice for our sins." God sent Christ as a propitiation, as an expiation. God said "I will accept blood shed and blood poured out as a substitute, as a satisfaction for sin." That blood is the blood of Christ. That sacrifice is the sacrifice of Christ. That substitute for you and me is Christ Himself.
Isn't this the marvellous message of Isaiah 53 and other passages? You know these verses. You have heard them dozens of times.
(Isa 53:3-10) He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. (4) Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. (5) But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. (6) We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (7) He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. (8) By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. (9) He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. (10) Yet it was the Lord's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering ...
(2 Cor 5:21) God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
(Gal 3:13) Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree."
"God is love." Love that is complete and perfect in every way.
"God is love." That's why He made us and cares for us.
"God is love." That's why He sent His Son. That's why His Son died on the cross as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
"God is love." And, if you truly know Him, you are love too. As John puts it in verses 7-8:
(1 Jn 4:7-8) 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.
"God is love." That's what we remember and celebrate in this season of Lent.
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