Sunday Sermon: ‘God is Love’

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Today we begin a new series of sermons for the month on the subject of love. To begin, let’s look at our memory verse for the month once again.

1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.

I chose this verse because it tells us a lot about love. It tells us where love comes from and it tells us why you and I should be people of love. So let’s begin.

I. Love is… OF GOD

1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God…

A. “Beloved”

The first thing I want to call your attention to is the title John used to address his readers – ‘Beloved.’ Beloved was a favorite term for John and he uses it throughout this letter. I’m not sure where John first came up with that title, but perhaps he adopted it after hearing God the Father use it towards His Son. “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17)

What does the term ‘beloved’ mean? It simply means – “those who are loved.” In essence John was saying – ‘those who are loved, should love.’

B. ‘Beloved, Let Us Love One Another’

1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God…

‘Let us’ is written in such a way as to suggest that this may or may not happen. Sometimes we as Christians aren’t as loving as we should be. Sometimes we allow personal preferences or disagreements to get in the way of us loving others. When John wrote ‘let us love…’ he was saying that we have to make the choice to love. We have to choose to be loving people. So why should we love each other?

1. ‘Love is of God’

One leading Bible resource says: ‘love flows from God.’ [1] Love comes from God.

The Bible says in the beginning God created light. “Let there be light” the book of Genesis says. The Bible also says that God created life. God created plants and animals and even man. But it wasn’t until this week that I realized that love also comes from God. I’m not sure where I thought love came from. I suppose I thought that it just developed on its own; yet John tells us that love is of God. Love flows from the heart of God.

That should not surprise us because John tells us something else very important about God and love.

1 John 4:8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.

2. ‘God is Love’

Love is a part of God’s eternal nature. Love did not evolve on its own. Love did not come out of nowhere. Love comes from God because love is a part of who God is.

Love is one of God’s attributes. An attribute is a characteristic of God’s nature that has always been and always will be. For instance:

a. God is holy, just, righteous and pure

These are what might be called God’s ‘Moral Attributes.’ God always has been righteous and pure and He always will be. There’s never a day when God gets up and isn’t holy, righteous, just and pure. God is always holy, righteous and pure.

b. God is eternal, unchanging, self-sufficient

Children sometimes ask, “Who made God?” The Bible says that no one made God. God always has been and God always will be. He is God.

c. God is all-powerful and all-knowing  

The Bible says that God declared the end, in the beginning. (see Isaiah 46:10) God knows everything there is to know; even the things that haven’t even yet happened. How can God know this? He’s God!

But there’s another of God’s nature that is equally magnificent.

d. God is merciful, kind, gracious and loving

Love flows from God because God is love. God not only loves, God is love. Everything that God does flows from His love.

How can we know that God is loving? Look at what John says –

1 John 4:9 In this was manifested (revealed) the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. 10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

John is saying – ‘This is what real love looks like. God sent His Son to this world to die on the cross for our sins.’

The word ‘propitiation’ is a big word, but it’s a very important word. A few moments ago I told you that God is kind and loving, yet I also told you that God is holy and just. Here’s the big question – ‘How can God be kind and loving towards those who have sinned against His holiness and justice?’ Does He sweep our sin under the rug and pretend that it never existed? There are at least a couple of reasons why God couldn’t do that:

a. The infraction against God’s holiness would still exist. Sweeping it under the rug didn’t do away with it. It would only try to hide it.

b. We have an adversary called the Devil who is also an ‘Accuser of the brethren.’ (see Revelation 12:10) As surely as God would try to hide our sin under the rug, the Devil would pull it back out.

So how can God be kind and loving towards those who have sinned against His holiness? Here’s what God did.

1 John 4:9 In this was manifested (revealed) the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. 10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Note two things:

a. God sent His Son into the world

b. God caused His Son to become our substitutionary sacrifice. What does the word propitiation mean? Perhaps the simplest way to explain it is – ‘Christ became our substitute.’ Christ took our place on the cross. Instead of God punishing us for our sins. God punished His only begotten Son. Friend, that’s love.

1 John 4:10 Herein is love…  (i.e. – this is what real love looks like) …not that we necessarily loved God… (Not that we would respond to God’s love with love) …but that God would love us… (even though we were sinful and had not loved Him)

C. What is Love?

In the English language we pretty much have only one word for love. We say that we love everything from pizza to our families. Is there a difference in the way we love pizza and the way we love our families. You better believe it. We’d die for pizza! Ha!

In the Greek language, there was more than one word for love. For instance, they had a word to help describe what we might call sensual, passionate love. Perhaps the closest English equivalent might be the word ‘lust.’ They also had another word to describe the love between two friends.

But there was also another word in their language that they almost never used. There is only a small handful of ancient Greek documents that contain this word. Perhaps some of you know what that word is. It’s the Greek word – agape.

Here is an amazing fact. The word ‘agape’ almost never appears in Greek literature outside of the Bible. But when the New Testament was written, it was the word used at a ratio of almost 10 to 1. The Greek word for sensual love is never used in the New Testament and the word for friendship love is used only a handful of times. But the word ‘agape’ is used over and over again. It describes God’s love for us and our love for Him. It also describes our love for each other as followers of Christ and even our love for our enemies.

So what is agape love? Next week we’re going to dig into Paul’s definition of agape love as found in 1 Corinthians 13. In brief, I think that we can say today that agape love is: ‘selfless, giving, and caring.’ From John’s explanation of agape love, I think that we might also say that it can be sacrificial.

Unlike the other two types of love, agape love is not based upon what we can get, but instead upon what we can give. Agape love is independent of the circumstances. God loved us even though we weren’t very lovely.

It’s also a choice of our will. For instance, it is the word Jesus used in His Sermon on the Mount when He told us to ‘love even our enemies.’ (see Matthew 5:44) Jesus was not saying, “Love them because they are lovely,” or “love them because you feel like loving them.” “Love them because they need to be loved.”

I would submit to you that we (mankind) needed to be loved by God. We needed agape love. We needed God to love us so much that if necessary, God would even sacrifice His own Son as a substitute for our sins. We didn’t deserve such love; but we sure needed it. Or perhaps I should say – “we still do need it.” I still need God to love me unconditionally for I fail Him often.

II. Love is… THE NEW NATURE OF THE BELIEVER

1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.

John addresses us as ‘those who are loved.’ ‘Beloved’ is title for those who are the recipients of God’s great agape love.

Beloved, since God has loved us, we should now love each other.

A. Love Flows From the Heart God

Love flows from the heart of God like water flows from a well. God is the fountain head of agape love.

B. Love Flows into the Heart of the Believer

Love flows into the heart of the believer. Notice that John is writing to those who have been ‘born of God.’ ‘Born’ was a favorite term of John. He uses it as a reference to our relationship with God no less than six times in this letter. The epistle of 1 John is a letter about whether or not we have been born of God.

I’m sure that John first learned this truth from Christ’s conversation with Nicodemus. Jesus said, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” “Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.” (see John 3)

The term ‘born again’ could be translated as ‘born from above.’ Salvation is not turning over a new leaf. Salvation is a new birth that is produced by the Holy Spirit based upon what Jesus did on the cross. On the cross Jesus suffered as our substitute. Salvation occurs when we put our faith and trust in his substitutionary death and God declares us forgiven and righteous in His sight. At that moment, the Holy Spirit of God comes into us, bringing with Him the nature of God. The Bible says –

“If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation…” 2 Corinthians 5:17

Therefore, based upon this new birth and new nature, consider what John writes –

1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth  is born of God, and knoweth God.       

John tells us two very simple but important truths about us loving others:

Everyone who loves (with agape love) gives evidence that they have received a new nature from God

Everyone who doesn’t love (with agape love) gives evidence that they haven’t

1 John 4:8 He that loveth not – knoweth not God; for God is love.

III. Love is… ESSENTIAL to OUR CHRISTIAN LIFE

At this point I want to only introduce to you where we are going next week. Take a moment and look with me at 1 Corinthians 13. I am including this portion of scripture to help us see that love is essential to our Christian life. Love is not something only for a select few in the church. It’s not for those to whom it comes natural and easy. Every believer must be a person of agape love in order to be in the will of God.

1 Corinthians 13:1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

Paul originally wrote these words to a church, who although they had lots of activity, they had very little love. Instead of being a church full of love that flowed from God, this church was filled with anger, division and rivalry that flowed from hearts full of selfishness and pride.

Why is there sometimes a lack of love in the church? I think that there are two primary reasons:

A. There Are Some Who Have Never Received a New Nature From God

The Bible teaches us that not everyone who says they are a Christian is a Christian. (see Matthew 7:21-23; 1 John 3:7-10) It is possible to be a member of the church and not a born-again believer. We will never be able to live the Christian life until we have experienced the new birth.

One of the quickest ways to test whether or not we are a true Christian is how we react to those who aren’t lovely. Sometimes, in my human nature, it is easy for me to get upset and angry. Someone does something against me and I immediately want to retaliate. But after my initial reaction, the Holy Spirit begins to speak to me. Rather than encouraging me to be angry and upset, the Spirit calls upon me to be loving and kind. That work of the Spirit is evidence that I am a true believer.

B. The Love of God is Being Squelched in Our Lives

There is a second reason why we may not be demonstrating love the way we should. It may be because we are hindering the work of the Holy Spirit.

Paul tells us in Galatians 5 that this love is a part of the ‘fruit of the Spirit.’ In other words, love is a part of the way the Holy Spirit manifests His presence in our lives. Agape love is not us doing something special on our own, it’s the Spirit bearing His fruit in and through us.

The potential to love with agape love is present in the life of every born-again believer. The new nature came with the new birth. However, not every believer is exemplifying this new nature. John wrote, “Beloved, let us love one another…” That phrase ‘let us’ was written in such a way as to indicate that it may or may not happen. The potential is there, but the result doesn’t always happen. Why do believers not exemplify agape love?

I think that it is because we are sinning against the Holy Spirit. The Bible tells us that we can commit two sins against the Holy Spirit. We can quench Him or we can grieve Him.  To grieve the Holy Spirit means to sin against Him and His will for our lives. As the Spirit would call out to us to love, we may instead hold on to our anger. When we hold on to our anger, we are sinning against the Holy Spirit, and thus we are grieving Him.

The Bible speaks also of ‘quenching’ the Spirit. To quench the Spirit means to hold the Spirit back. No doubt there are times when the Spirit cries out to us to do some radical things. He may call upon us to without our anger whenever someone offends us. Or He may call out to us to seek reconciliation. Or He may encourage us to do something kind for someone who needs our help, or perhaps doesn’t even deserve it. Agape love can be radical and if we are going to let the Spirit live and work through us, we may do some radical things.

CONCLUSION

What would happen if we allowed the Spirit to have His way in us? What would happen in our homes and marriages? What would happen in our church? What would happen in our world?

Jesus said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35) It is by our demonstrations of Christlike love that we prove to the world that we are indeed followers of Christ.

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[1] Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words

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