Commentary on 1 John 4:7-21
Preaching Series on 1 John (Week 4 of 4)
July 15, 2018
Preaching text: 1 John 4:7-21 We love because God first loved us
Gospel: John 15:9-11 As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you
This section of 1 John is one of the Bible’s great “love” chapters. At its core is that “God is love” (4:8, 16). God is the subject and love is the descriptor. God is a living being, whose identity is defined by love. We might want to reverse the sequence and say that “Love is God,” but that would mean elevating love — as a principle — to divine status. But here love characterizes God, whose expressions of love create relationships between himself and others.
The love that defines who God is, finds expression in what God does through the sacrificial death of his Son. In the Johannine writings, sin separates people from God. In human terms, the highest manifestation of love is to lay down one’s life for another (John 15:13). Therefore, to convey love in a manner accessible to human beings, God gives himself in love through the crucifixion of Jesus. That message is designed to overcome the separation that sin has created by awakening a new relationship of love.
Many translations say that God’s love is “perfected” when people love one another (1 John 4:12; cf. 4:17, 18). The Greek words here are based on the word “telos,” which means “goal.” The idea is that God’s love reaches its goal when it creates relationships of love with people and relationships among people. As an abstraction, love falls short of that goal. It is imperfect. When the love of God finds expression in human love, there the goal is reached.