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. 1 John 4:7-12 (ESV)
The Sending and Sacrifice of Jesus Shows us What Divine Love is Like
Here is how God showed divine love: In this the love of God was made manifest among us (1 John 4:9). He sent his only Son into the world.
One of the attributes of God’s love is that he is uninfluenced. There is nothing in us that influences God to love us. He loves us because he chooses to love us and because it is his nature to love. His love is not dependent. It is eternally independent of all causations other than his sovereign nature and choice to love. Verse 10 makes it clear, not that we have loved God but that he loved us. It’s easy to love people that love us. I tend to love people who love me. But to love without respect to the love or lovability of the other, that is a unique love.
We are most accustomed to love that is based on performance or family status or being lovable in some way. In the singles world, people try to get loved by being love-worthy. So they glam up or edit their eHarmony profile hoping that the best photos and descriptions of themselves in glowing terms will make them love-worthy. Please, somebody find me lovable.
God’s love could not be based on our lovability as God loved us before we even existed. Ephesians 1:4-5, in love he predestined us for adoption as sons. If God chose to love us before we even existed, how can we think his love is based upon anything in us? John will say later, we love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). Our love is a responding love. God’s is an uninfluenced, initiating love.
How do we see his love? There’s a beautiful description here of God’s love as saving activity for us through Christ. God sent his son. He was sent as a propitiation. Propitiation is God satisfying his own wrath against sin. It’s like the bank paying off the mortgage you owe it. God pays off his own wrath at our sin. Jesus’ death was our propitiation. That is love. Eternal. Self-denying. Self-dying.
The cross is where we see divine Trinitarian love directed toward us
It is as close to knowing what it’s like to be a part of the Trinity as we will ever have.
Where is John going with all this? He told us at the beginning that the application is let us love one another. (1 John 4:7) 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. (1 John 4:11-12)
When Christians love one another with God’s kind of love (Big Trinity), his love is made complete in us (little trinity)
Do you see John’s point? Since God is love and we share his nature as his children, when we love one another we are experiencing in our human relationships the joy and gladness experienced within the Godhead. Our little trinities reflect the divine one. Remember God’s purpose in all things is to glorify himself. He is glorified by the reflections of his glorious person in us. This includes holiness and truth, creativity and beauty, industry and stewardship, but there is one supreme attribute of God that is so central to who he is that it uniquely glorifies him: love one another.
Why is division in the church so damaging? Why is divorce in marriage so painful? Why are sibling rivalry and hatred so devastating? Because the church, and marriage, and family are gifts from God meant for harmony and joy and sin devastates it to our own agony.
But in love, God sent Jesus to take away sin’s pain and to restore us fully and we can know who has this spiritual life in them by seeing who self-gives for others. Beloved, let us love one another. It is an obligation but it is also our opportunity to experience the wonder of who God is in our lives. Love—not receiving, but giving.
Since the call to love one another is built upon the loving model of Trinitarian divine love, what is really at stake in our interpersonal relationships?
These relationships are not disposable. They have value for many reasons but one of them is that we are called to live out God’s love in us by loving one another with the same kind of love we have received. As we do, God’s love in us is completed; fully expressed. Your wife, your husband, your siblings, your family, your fellow church members are all places where this love ought to be displayed and when it is, it shows God’s saving love is in us. His application is simply, Let us love one another.
Love gives for the joy of others. God gives love to us in sending Jesus. Jesus gives love to us in dying for us. We give love to each other showing that divine love is truly in us. God’s love creates self-giving loving relationships. The Big Trinity creates little trinities that actively seek joy in the joy of others. Let us love one another!
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
©2013 Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.
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