Loving His Children (I John 4:7-12)
Topic: One Body: Love One Another Passage: 1 John 4:7–4:12
Signs of Life
Loving His Children
I John 4:7-12
(One Body: Love One Another)
February 25th, 2018
I. Spiritual Vital Signs
Just as there are vital signs for your physical life, so too are their vital signs for eternal life.
Remember what the Apostle Paul said about a person who is genuinely converted:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (II Corinthians 5:17)
In John 3, Jesus described this radical change in similar language, that of being “born again”, and described it as a work of the Spirit of God. Of course, those words were written down by another apostle, John, and it his first letter that we've been working through over the past three weeks.
What have we discovered in our study? We've discovered those spiritual vital signs. As we've talked about in every study, John made it abundantly clear why he wrote that letter: I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. (I John 5:13) How could they know? By considering the three signs of life that John describes in this letter.
The first we considered was this: those who truly possess eternal life are those who confess God's Son. As John makes clear, this is more than a verbal declaration. No, this confession was grounded in the truth, guarded by the Spirit, and thus gave rise to endurance. But there was a second sign: those who possess eternal life are those who keep God's commands. John is not pointing to moral perfection when he talks about keeping God's commands, but to a consistent pursuit of Christlike-ness and a regular conviction regarding sin.
This morning we look at John's third and final sign. Turn with me to I John 4.
II. The Passage: "Whoever Loves" (4:7-12)
Look with me at verses 7-12, and listen for another anchor of assurance. John writes...
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.
Did you see it there, John's third sign? In addition to confessing God's son, and keeping God's commands, we see in this passage (and in many others), an emphasis on loving God's children. Let's go back and consider the parts of this passage, and specifically, what they teach us about this third spiritual vital sign. So first, notice how in 7, 8, John is describing...
1. Love's DNA: “For Love is From God” (vs. 7, 8)
Notice the incredible statement John makes in verse 8 about the very nature of God: “God is love”. What does that mean? It means the very character of God defines the character of genuine love.
But from there, John begins to draw out the implications of that idea. And he does this with the language of what we would call genetics. When it comes to biology, a firmly established genetic principle is “like begets like”, that is offspring possess characteristics similar to those of their parents; that's true broadly in terms of species, and also specifically in terms of things like hair color, eye color, size, etc.
And so, if “God is love”, then (v. 7), the one who “has been born of God” is also going to love. Why? Because “like begets like”. Because “love is from God”. The point is also proven in the negative in verse 8: Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. It would be very difficult for me to claim I'm an elephant if I have neither trunk nor tusk. Why would my claim be hollow? Because that's what characterizes an elephant.
Notice how John connects sign #1 and sign #3 in I John 5:1...Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.
This is why John first expresses this idea in 4:7 as a call to action: Beloved, let us love one another...
Of course, sign #3 is also an expression of sign #2, since “love one another” is the new commandment Jesus gave his disciples in John 13. John makes this connection in 2:7–11...
Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard.  At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.  Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness.  Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling.  But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
Throughout this letter, John makes it clear that loving our brothers and sisters in Jesus is a clear indication we truly belong to Jesus. Similarly, the one who is indifferent to or despises his or her spiritual siblings calls their confession into question. As John says plainly in 3:14...
We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. [But in vs. 9-11, John also talks about...]
2. Love's Depth: “If God So Loved Us” (vs. 9-11)
Listen again to those next three verses, 9-11...
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.
If we work backwards, we know John is pointing them to the kind of love that God poured out on us: “if God so loves us”, that is, “if God loved us this much and in this way, then we should also love one another in light of that”.
And what was the look and level of God's love? In what way, and to what depth, did He loves us? In a world where there are so many claims made about what love is, what love looks like and feels like, John wants us to see past the counterfeits and clarify the traces of real love. Verses 9 and 10 both answer that question. John says, “If you want to know something about genuine love, look no further than the cross of Jesus.”
And when we look at the cross, we discover that love is self-emptying, self-giving, and sacrificial. The cross of Jesus helps us to define love in this way: Love is a passionate concern that gives, to whatever extent is necessary, in order to see God's best accomplished in another's life.
That is the kind of love God demonstrated to us, and it is the kind of love that God, through John, is calling his children to demonstrate. John talked about this in practical terms in the previous chapter. He encouraged his readers in 3:16-18 by explaining...
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.
Is that the kind of love we have for one another. That is the nature of genuine love, and that love helps us describe the nature of eternal life. Meeting the needs of others is certainly what John has in mind here. But his focus is both material and spiritual. In 5:16 and 17 he writes...
If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that.  All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death.
Now, this is a notoriously difficult passage, and we don't have time to resolve all the questions it raises. But in light of the immediate context and the context of the whole letter, I think it's fair to say that when John talks about “sin not leading to death”, he is talking about the failings of those who are normally faithful brothers and sisters, not those so-called brothers who have a settled disposition of worldliness. How can we love our struggling brothers and sisters when they are struggling? We can and should pray for them, that God would give them “life”. I think that's simply John's way of saying we should pray that God would revive them spiritually.
But there's one more point John wants to make about genuine love, that love defined by the nature of God, demonstrated by the cross of Christ, and described by John for the sake of those called to love. He also wants us to understand something about...
3. Love's Design: “His Love is Perfected in Us” (v. 12)
John writes in verse 12: No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
Don't you love that! Do you see what John is implying? When we love one another with genuine love, the love that comes from God, the invisible God is made visible in our midst.
But John says something else in this verse. He talks about God's love being “perfected” in us. You may remember we saw something similar to this last week when we studied 2:4, 5.
Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him,  but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected.
It's important to point out that the word perfected here could also be translated as “completed” or “fulfilled” or “accomplished”. When John uses it in his first letter, I think it's fair to say he's talking about how love has fulfilled its purpose or design. Or to be more specific, John is describing the circle of love being complete. When the love of God to us becomes love for God expressed through obedience, the circle is complete. Love comes full circle. When the love of God to us becomes the love of God through us to one another, the circle is complete.
Listen to how John describes it a few verses later in chapter 4. Look at verse 16: So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. [verse 17] By this is love perfected with us...
God's love for us. Us in God's love. God in us. Mission accomplished!
And if you continue reading, starting in 4:17, we find more explicit talk about assurance:
By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.  There is no fear in love [i.e. abiding in love], but perfect [complete, fulfilled] love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.  We love because he first loved us.  If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.  And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
Verse 18 may be a familiar verse to you. Sadly though, it is one of the most misapplied verses in the Bible. Notice the fear John speaks about in that verse is clarified by the context. He is not talking about the fear of others. And he is certainly not talking about the fear of God, which is a very good thing. He is talking about the fear of “punishment” (v. 18). Punishment when? On “the day of judgment” (v. 17). Remember this is about assurance. “Perfect” or complete love, God's love to us expressed by God's love through us, gives us assurance that on that day, we will not have to be afraid. By God's grace in Christ, God is truly in us.
III. Assurance: Please Read Instructions
Now, stop and ask yourself, “What does God want me to take away from this study?” Well, I believe, first of all, there is a clear call to action in the very first phrase of this section, in verse 7: Beloved, let us love one another... Whether directly or indirectly, a sizable part of this letter encourages us to do that very thing; to confront our indifference, to deal with unforgiveness, to inspire us to serve, and to pray for the eyes and heart of Jesus. I pray those very things will happen in each of us.
But as we've been talking about in this series, John's overall aim is assurance. Therefore, John's words about loving one another should have us stop and carefully consider our own lives. In fact, as we wrap things up this morning, I think it would be good to talk for a few minutes about how we use this knowledge God has given us through John, about what to do with these 'signs of life'.
I think the very first way we use these signs is to inform an honest assessment. It is so important that we regularly stop and take a careful, prayerful, courageous, look at our spiritual life. How often do you take your faith's temperature? Many of you know how easy it is to become spiritually complacent; how easy it is to become consumed with the things of this world; to be lulled asleep spiritually by the road noise of everyday life. That's why it is critical to look for the spiritual vital signs John is describing in this later. Is my life marked by confessing God's son in word and deed, by a desire for, a disposition of obedience, and by a love for my church family (and even beyond that to others).
A second way we should use these signs is through a humble application with others. This doesn't mean we become holier-than-thou 'fruit inspectors', waiting to pounce on a brother or sister at the first sign of sin. No! We should utilize this teaching about assurance when a brother or sister's overall orientation and settled disposition has grown decidedly worldly; when they seem to be insensitive to God's word and spiritual admonishment; or even when it becomes clear they do not understand the essentials of the gospel message, even though they live a fairly moral life. But again, this is a humble application. Therefore, we speak the truth in love, prayerfully, gently, carefully.
Finally, in certain cases, God may call us to use this knowledge to make a heroic affirmation, that is, a courageous defense of the truth. We've learn from this letter that John wrote to do just that. 2:26...I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. John's heart is evident in this letter: he desperately wants them to stand firm, to hold fast to what they were originally taught about the nature of new life. Sadly, there are many still today who want to give quick assurance and false assurance of eternal life; many who want to minimize sin, who want to soften the scandal of the cross, and who want to remove the cost of discipleship. Brothers and sisters, in humility, we need to speak the truth in love.
An honest assessment. A humble application. A heroic affirmation. Let's ask God to help us use these truths wisely and effectively, in light of our own hearts, and the hearts of others. And may God help us to never forget that John's words about assurance are not concerned with how we receive eternal life (by grace alone, through faith alone), but what it looks like when we truly receive it by grace through faith. Let's ask God to renew our hearts in a spirit of humility and gratefulness in light of these amazing truths.
More in Signs of Life
February 18, 2018Keeping His Commands (I John 2:3-6)
February 11, 2018Confessing His Son (I John 2:18-27)
February 4, 2018How to Know If You're a Christian (I John 3:19-21)