Summary: When it comes to love, God has set a high bar, Himself.
We Must Love as God Loves
Last week, we were asked to test the spirits. This is because not every spiritual event comes from the Holy Spirit. There is a spirit of error which comes from the antichrist as well as the Spirit of Truth which comes from God. The Holy Spirit never promotes Himself but proclaims Jesus Christ. And message which claims to come from the Holy Spirit which is not centered in the person and work of Jesus Christ is to be rejected as not coming from God. The Holy Spirit is sent to lead us into all truth. And we know that Jesus’ own statement in John 14:6 says that Jesus is not just a truth but “the truth.” It is by the Spirit which testifies of the work of Jesus Christ on the cross for us which lets us know we are overcomers.
Exposition of the Text
Verse 7: Beloved, we must love one another because love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been begotten of God and knows God.
The King James translates the start of this verse “let us love one another”. But the force of the Greek subjunctive in the first person plural (ἀãáðῶìåí, ah-gap-oh-men) is meant to be a command and not just a wish. This is not a take it or leave it proposition. It is the very proof that we are God’s children.
People want to be with people that they love. Those who had left had shown they did not love the ones they left behind. If they had loved them, they would have remained with them. Those who had left loved something else more. If we follow what John had said earlier, they were in love with the world and the approval of the world. And John has called the world, the very spirit of the antichrist.
The true source of love comes from God. This is how the Greek preposition ἐê, ek, is to be translated here. This love is demonstrated by the fact that God did not leave us to perish in our sin. As God and Creator of all, He had and has the perfect right to destroy the human race. And He would not even have to get actively involved. Left to our own devices, we are perfectly capable of destroying ourselves. And this seems to be exactly where we are currently headed. But God so loved us that He sent His Son to die on the cross for our sins. And not only this, He has promised us eternal life. The person who loves his/her brethren truly knows God as well. The person who loves God loves God because he/she knows what God has done for him/her. And the person who has received of God’s love must give of the same to others as well.
Verse 8: The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
It is very important to get this verse right. It does NOT say “Love is God.” This is what the world says. It makes a god out of love. In Greek, the phrase clearly shows that God is the subject (ὁ èåὸò ἀãÜðç ἐóôßí, ho the-os ah-gah-pee es-tin). The article ὁ (ho) is masculine and goes with God. It also comes before the word for love, ἀãÜðç, which is feminine. Love describes the character of God, not God the character of love. Duke Ellington was not right when he said “God is a three letter word for love” and “Love is a four letter word for God.”
This verse is the natural conclusion that has to be made from verse 7. If one knows God and loves God by loving God’s family, then it is equally true that the one who does not cannot either know or love God. These people might know something about God, but they do not know Him.
Verse 9: This is how the love of God has been shown to us that God has sent His only-begotten Son into the world in order that we might live through Him.
John keeps circling around love like a hawk circles in the sky looking for its prey. The Spirit wants to make it clear how important love is to the Christian. Sound doctrine and love are kept together in the person of Christ. If anyone wants to know what love truly is, they need look no further than the cross. In fact, the suffering of Christ for our sins is the very definition of love.
It is very important to notice that at the end of the verse it says that we might live “through Christ. In the Greek, the phrase is äé᾽ áὐôïῦ, dee-ahv-too, “through him”. The Greek could have said äé᾽ áὐôïí, dee ahvt-on, instead which is translated “on account of Him” or “because of Him.” The change of one letter means this. If it were “because of Him” we live, it would be as if one were pulled out of a burning car by a stranger and then each went their own way without any further interaction. That saved person could reflect from time to time and be thankful that a stranger cared enough to risk life to save him. That person could rightly say that the only reason he is living today is because of the heroic deed of someone who pulled him from the fire.