Many times, it is the simplest truths that are the most profound and the simplest truths that are most easily forgotten, such as the truth “God is love.” The truth is so simple that people hear it and ignore it. “Of course, He is,” they say, “What else would He be?” And yet it is profound to think that the holy God could love sinners.
What does it mean that God is love? How do we know that this is true? What has He done to demonstrate it? And what does it mean for you and for me, as sinners? As believers in Christ? These are important questions, which 1 John 4:7-11 answers for us.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
So, here are four conclusions concerning the truth that God is love.
God’s gracious, saving work in the heart of a sinner is the only means to true love (vv. 7-8a).
In the New Covenant, which was inaugurated by the Lord Jesus, God gives us a new heart at the moment of our conversion. “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances” (Ezekiel 36:26-27). Because we are born sinners we are spiritually dead. Only by the miracle of the new birth can we be made new. Jesus said, “You must be born again.” This new birth takes place by means of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God (John 3:8; 1 Peter 1:23).
God’s nature is to love (v. 8b).
Love began with God and ends with God. Without God, it is impossible to even have love present anywhere in our world. Love is part of God’s essence, an integral part of who He is. Love is what moved God to initiate His rescue plan for sinners: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:16-18). God takes no pleasure in the death of sinners (Ezekiel 18:32). Instead He patiently waits, calling them—calling us—to repent of our sin and believe in Jesus as the only Savior (2 Peter 3:9).
God’s love has already been shown and proven to us (vv. 9-10).
Scripture makes it clear that the Cross of Jesus Christ is the greatest demonstration of the love of God for sinners. “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8). By means of Christ’s death on the cross, God manifested both His love and justice at the same time. He punished sin and provided the one and only way for us to be reconciled back to Himself. This is love.
God’s expectation for believers is that we love one another (vv. 11-13).
God’s command to believers to love one another is one of the most important themes in the book of 1 John. For example, see 1 John 3:11-18.
For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. (See also 1 John 4:7-12).
This love for one another is a fruit of God’s grace in our lives and one of the means by which God is made visible. It is one of the most powerful elements of our gospel witness to the world (John 13:35).
The central message of the Bible is actually very simple, yet profound. God loves sinners and has done everything to rescue us from the eternal consequences of our sin. As the angel announced, there has been born for us a Savior. He is Christ the Lord. In His great love, God has given to us Jesus Christ. He and the salvation He brought are God’s gifts to us as sinners. Have you responded to God’s love? Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” If you have not repented and returned to God by faith in Jesus Christ, please come to Him today.
Dr. Paul Tautges has been in gospel ministry since 1992 and currently serves as one of the pastors of Cornerstone Community Church in Mayfield Heights, Ohio. He has written or edited over 40 books. Paul also serves as series editor for the LifeLine mini-books from Shepherd Press. Paul blogs regularly at www.counselingoneanother.com.