Cornerstone EPC Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734 January 6, 2019
“Now This Is Love”
1 John 4:7-10
We heard in December, during Advent, messages concerning hope, peace, and joy. Now, to complete belatedly the Advent series, we hear a message today concerning love. The Apostle Paul, led by the Holy Spirit, reminds us that the greatest of faith, hope, and love is love (1 Corinthians 13:13). Yet, what is love? Our culture, and we occasionally, become confused over this. Is love the stuff of Snow White and Prince Charming? Is it the stuff of modern-day romantic movies, books, and songs? Whatever love is, we hear much about it in our popular arts. Perhaps this is best expressed by the rock group Foreigner’s 1985 smash hit entitled, “I Want to Know What Love Is.”
Indeed, to be and to feel loved is fundamental to our well-being. It is glorious when we are and feel loved—and it is miserable when we think we aren’t loved. We who are in Christ are loved with an everlasting love; the Lord says so, through His prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31:3). Let’s look more at this love as we hear today’s text—a text printed for us in paragraph form, but occurring in my edition of the Greek New Testament in stanza form.
(HERE READ THE TEXT)
We begin by defining our terms. The Greek words translated into English as love (Greek verb agapao [agapaw], Greek noun agape [agaph]) connote a high, sacrificial, other-centered love. This is the love present between the Persons of the Godhead within the Trinity. This is the same extended from God, in Christ, to us. Yea, this love is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, Whom God has given to us (Romans 5:5). This love also is the love to be characteristic between fellow believers in Christ Jesus (John 13:34). With love, as used in today’s text, thus defined, let’s now learn more about it from today’s text.
First, love is from (literally out of) God. It originates from God, not from ourselves. It simply must, for our God is both infinitely vast and perfectly holy in His being. Should it rise from us, it must be less that God’s divine intent for it. Second, God is love. Note that the reverse, namely, love is God, is not true. Our culture errs here and erects what it thinks love is as an idol. Because love is of God, He relates to Himself, His creation, and His covenant people, redeemed by Christ, with perfect, infinite love.
The Apostle John, led by the Spirit, shows us what love is—saying, in effect, “Now this is love.” The fundamental fact is not that we love God, but that God loves us. After all, we only love God because He first loves us (1 John 4:19)—and, were this untrue, then we would have neither capacity nor inclination to love Him. Here is the evidence that God loves us: He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, into the world. The Father sent His Son, Jesus Christ, in order that we may live through Him: both abundantly (John 10:10) and eternally (John 3:16)—for he who has the Son has life, but he who has not the Son has not life (John 3:36, 1 John 5:12). God also sent His Son in order that He may be the propitiation (NIV sacrifice of atonement) for our sins. Jesus, by His death, both satisfies divine justice and appeases the holy wrath of God poured out on sin. This incredibly gracious provision and act rises, once again, out of God’s love for us, as it is written in Paul’s letter to the Roman Christian households, “For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would even dare to die—but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:7-8).
In view of all the foregoing, then, my fellow beloved in Christ, let us love one another. Let us show forth to our fellow believer that other-centered, sacrificial love which will glorify God and edify our fellow Christian greatly. Let’s love one another when we feel like it, and, especially, when we don’t.
Our love for one another displays that we are born of God (cf. John 1:13) and that we know God—not in a distant, aloof, or cavalier way, but personally and experientially. Our love for one another also displays to the world that we are Jesus’ disciples. The world will not know that we are Jesus’ disciples by our bumper stickers or by our insider lingo. The world will not know that we are Jesus’ disciples by our attainments in Him or by our seniority in Him. They will know that we are Jesus’ disciples by our love one for another.
Our love for one another testifies favorably to the world. Some will see the love that we give to and receive from our fellow Christians, and they will be hungry for Christ. Then, when we point those hungry souls to Jesus, we have heightened credibility with them because we have loved our fellow Christian well. Now this is love; now, beloved, let us love one another.