The Epistles of John part 7

1 John 4: 7 - 21

This passage chiefly concerns God's love for us and our love for God. We saw that in the Greek, the first two words of verse 7 were: 'Agapetoi Agapomen'. This literally means: 'You who are loved, you should love...' This truly sets the tone for the passage as it implies that before we can love, we are to receive God's love. Remember that this pasage is 'descriptive' more than 'prescriptive'.

We also looked at the Commandment that reminds very much of the content of the passage before us, as stated in Mark 12: 28 - 31, regarding our love for God and our neighbour. We also read that most beautiful passage in 1 Corinthians 13 : 1 - 13 which describes the characteristics of divine love.

We started by looking at the question: "Do you feel that God loves you?" The genaral (honest) answer to this was that we do not always feel that God loves us and the suggestion was made that the question should rather be asked "Do you know that God loves you?" because feelings can often be misleading, and if we rely on our feelings, it will be a bit of a roller coaster ride. However, this knowing that God loves us, should be taken apart in its components in order for us to be certain what we mean by that statement and what the foundation for it is. With this I mean that there is a difference between that statement being made as a positive affirmation (like a mantra) almost as if, as long as you say it often enough you can convince yourself of the fact, or the statement being made on an academic level (from the head), or that statement being made based on a sure knowledge, deep in the heart, that it is so.

There are several reasons that people give for why they know that God loves them. Some say they know that He loves them because He takes care of them. Some say they know, because in some deep distress, God comforted them and they could almost "feel" Him with them. Some others again make the statement as part of a collective Christian consciousness in the sense of: "Shouldn't all Christians just know that?". Others again state that as long as you just believe it, it will be so.

Now, all of the above have some degree of truth in them. We know from Scripture that God is '...the God of all comfort'. (2 Corinthians 1: 3 - 4) We also read in 1 Peter 5:7 "Cast all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you..." Often, we are exhorted to "just believe" that God loves us, and of course this too, is true...

However, if we look at the passage before us, there is given us the original and supreme reason by which we are to know that God loves us. This is found in verse 9: "This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins". This is to be the very foundation of our knowledge that God loves us...

The question is, do we now repeat this phrase over and over, 'just believe' it, or how does it work that we come to a full, personal understanding of this statement. I have come across many Christians who have the 'correct answer' (verse 9 and 10 above) quickly at hand, as if magically, that is going to make it true in their lives practically. But dear friends, can we be satisfied with that kind of (almost) glib answer? Are we going to, when we arrive in heaven one day, be given a theoretical exam, and as long as we quote the correct answer (with chapter and verse reference and all) everything will be fine?...or is there more to this? Yes friends, there is much more..."The kingdom of God is not a matter of words, but of power..." - 1 Corinthians 4:20

Let us look at verses 9 & 10 more closely, especially the part about God "...sending His only begotten Son, to be an atoning sacrifice for our sins". I want to state categorically, that without a genuine, personal persuasion of our own sinfulness and lostness, we will never, ever, fully comprehend this statement and as a result, we will never truly come to a full understanding and genuine knowledge of the love of God toward us. Being 'rescued' makes no sense at all outside of a real situation where the one being 'rescued' knows that if it was not for the rescuer, they would most certainly have died. The very term 'rescuing' implies a desperate situation. To take it even further, In the case of Jesus Christ, He actually gave his own life, in our rescue!

If not seen against the above backdrop, 'salvation' can at best be called 'lending a hand, helping a bit, giving a hand up' etc. Sadly, many churches today peddle a cheap gospel that requires one only to 'accept Jesus as your saviour' and Halleluja!! welcome to the kingdom of God! or to simply become a member of the church...However, the person has no clue why or how or what, and has no understanding of why they needed "saving" in the first place.

Dear friends, those two verses above speaks of a problem so big, that it required the living God to make the ultimate sacrifice...This can never simply remain on an academic level and be something we 'recite' and so get into heaven. That is ludicrous. We need to ask the living God to, by His Holy Spirit, convict us of our own lostness, our desperate need of being saved. Only when we are faced with our personal sinfulness, pride and all the filth lurking just below our sweet exterior and realise that we have a one way ticket to Hell, can we fully appreciate the Hand that is stretched out to us, and gratefully grasp hold of it. Only then, when we realise that He gave His life for ours, will we fully know and believe His love for us, because we can look into the glorious face of the risen Christ and say "My Rescuer, my Saviour, my Lord and my God! Outside of this dear friends, the whole concept of salvation will make no sense whatsoever, and will remain just mouthed words, repeated like some magical mantra, from the head but not the heart...

Now, how does this love then overflow to those around us? For this we looked at a beautiful scripture from Luke 7:44 - 47. and especially the last part "...but he who has been forgiven little, loves little". We also looked at the parable of the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18 from verse 23 onwards. These two scriptures make it abundantly clear that the love and mercy which flows from us, is a direct result of our realisation of how much we have been forgiven...Let us think on this each one personally this week dear friends.

Next we looked at verses 17 and 18 which speak of us having great boldness and confidence on the day of judgment and the absense of all fear. Fear is only present where there is no assurance of the love God has for us. So, again, without that which we have discussed above, where we come to God in repentance having been convicted of our state, cried out for forgiveness and cleansing, and gladly accepted His Lordship and being reconciled to God, we can not be free of fear and assured of His love. Fear implies that there is still unfinished business in our hearts. We looked at the example of marriage where one partner is not fully convinced of the love of the other one, even though that one has done all that can possibly be done and we saw that the problem lies in the heart of the one who doubts as he/she is not fully persuaded of the other one's love.

It became clear to us in verse 16 that as we become fully persuaded about God's love for us, knowing what He has saved us from and what it cost Him, we firmly 'believe' and rely on the love He has for us and then a wonderful thing happens - more and more He pours out His love into our hearts (Romans 5:5) and His love is 'perfected' in us (verse 17), resulting in us being filled to the brim with a genuine love which naturally overflows to others, which they can feel and see, even when we speak to them about that which displeases God in their lives. That love spoken of in 1 Corinthians 13.

What a glorious passage, what a matchless love.

 

© 2011 Werner Schreiber

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